By Grant Walker
1 Peter 1:5 (ESV)
Many years ago, during a time that running and biking felt good (and not a near death experience) I did a triathlon. If you aren’t familiar with triathlons, first you start with the swim and then you bike and then you run. As I started the race, I was feeling pretty confident. I had been consistent in my training, and fairly disciplined in preparing. The first part of the swim was going well. Then midway through the swim, my body began feeling heavier and heavier. My muscles started to tighten up. I started to have intermittent cramping, and my breathing was becoming more labored. My whole body was feeling terrible. But the worst part about it was knowing I still had to bike and run. Yes, my body was tired, but then my mind started going into panic mode because I was having some serious doubts as to whether or not I had the strength to go the distance and actually finish the race.
Church, maybe some of you are sensing emotional fatigue, tightness, and heaviness similar to what I experienced in the swim. Maybe you’re in a hardship and feel like you are just barely staying afloat, gasping for air. Maybe you’ve gone into panic mode and are wondering if you really have the strength to continue on. Spoiler alert, you don’t have the strength. But we have a strong God whose strength is more than enough.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
As the passage in Peter states, how does God guard us? We are being guarded through faith. Having faith in God means so much more than just believing He exists. Faith means to trust, rely, depend, or rest upon. Putting your faith in God means trusting in and resting on who He is and what He has accomplished.
All of us apart from God have trusted, relied, and depended on something or someone, instead of God, to save us. We have trusted our good works or being a moral person. We have rested in the faith of our parents and family. We have depended on jobs or careers to give us our fulfillment. And we have trusted our money and wealth to give us comforts and pleasures. But in Christ we have a new faith.
God guards us by strengthening our faith and he strengthens our faith through hardships. It’s when we experience various trials that our faith is tested, purified, and made stronger.
So, Peter says we are to rejoice in this new life, new hope, and new faith that we have. But he also acknowledges that some stuff is going to happen. Peter is being real with us. He’s not saying that when you come to Jesus, you will always be happy, healthy, and wealthy. Here are three things I would like to point out about trials or hardships we face:
1. We should not be surprised by them.
1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)
Now, if we could be honest, most of us can’t believe it when hit with a hardship or trial. It catches us off guard. When we experience pain, we believe something strange is happening. And we might think: what did I do to deserve this? But Peter says “do not be surprised”, they’re coming.
2. Trials are temporary
3. Trials test, purify, and strengthen our faith
When you are happy, healthy, wealthy and comfortable, you might not realize the heart issues that you actually have. But when a trial puts you under stress; watch the anger that rises up; watch the anxiety that leaks out of your heart; and watch the selfishness that flares. Here’s where we misunderstand things a lot of the time: It’s not the trial that is making you angry—you have anger in your heart that is being revealed by the trial. It’s not the trial that is making you anxious—you have anxiety in your heart that is being revealed by the trial. It’s not the trial that is making you selfish—you have selfishness in your heart that is being revealed by the trial. God uses trials to expose our heart issues, so that those issues can be dealt with, repented of, and redeemed. In this way our faith will be strengthened.
Praise God! We are guarded through a faith that is strengthened by trials.