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Grace Under Fire

August 14, 2011 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: This Grace in Which We Stand

Topic: Grace Passage: 1 Peter 1:1–1:9

Last week our family (minus Jenn) went camping with Janice’s brother and two sisters and their families. We had a great time and God was kind to give us really good weather (with a few soggy exceptions), and although by the fourth day I think we were all feeling like we were ready for home, nevertheless one of the things we enjoyed the most about our time was being closer to nature. From things like the deer that every day would walk though camp just a few yards from us, to going to sleep to the night sounds of cicadas and crickets, to the small snake that we saw one evening and as Matthew and I approached it to get a better look at, it suddenly coiled up ready in a striking position, to the bear that we never saw, but always knew were out there, waiting for us to leave food or toothpaste lying around so they could come and eat it, we enjoyed being closer to God’s creation.

Nature is not only beautiful and fascinating, but God has lodged many spiritual lessons within His creation. For instance, did you know that bees (such as the bees that stung Jared and Matthew and their cousin Nick while they were gathering firewood for our campfire) are trichromatic like humans, only instead of seeing color in combinations of blue, green and red, they see in combinations of blue, green and UV light. They have been equipped to see UV light as a color and God has designed flower pedals with lines and patterns that can only be seen in UV light and that guide a bee to the nector in the flower. It’s like a built in landing strip for the bees that we can’t even see because we can’t see UV light.

Faith is like that for us. Faith enables the believer to see what cannot be seen with the natural eye. Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith sees the hand of God in every circumstance and traces the lines of grace that lead us to God’s good purposes in everything, including the hardships, trials, and even sufferings that Christians face in life.

We have been in a series entitled This Grace In Which We Stand and this morning we’re gonna look at the place of grace when we’re going through trials.The title of this message is Grace Under Fire. Let’s pray and then read 1 Peter 1:1-9

Peter is writing this letter to churches that are facing severe trials. If you read through it you will find he has much to say about suffering well and imitating Christ’s example in suffering. God allows trials and even suffering into the lives of His children for good purposes but we need eyes of faith to trace the lines of grace in those trials. Consider three lines of grace this morning:

I. God uses the fire of trials to purify our hope (3-5)

Peter wastes no time in reminding them that they have a hope that reaches far beyond this world and this life and to the life and kingdom beyond.

He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you

The hope we have as Christians isn’t of this world nor will it be fully realized in this world. The Christian’s hope isn’t ultimately in God giving us a happier life or healing us of every sickness or providing us with financial prosperity. God can certainly bless us with those things, but the Bible is very clear that that simply isn’t where the Christian’s hope is found. As God’s adopted and beloved children we have an inheritance waiting for us, an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. That means it’s gonna blow us away for eternity. It’s gonna feel as new to us after 20 billion years as it did on the first day. It won’t ever go bad and we won’t ever get bored. In a world where everything eventually goes bad, everything fades, everything is defiled, our hope reaches beyond this world.

If you follow the stock market at all, you know that this has been a rough week for the market that included four days of 400 point plus swings in a row – the first time that has happened in its 115 year history. But it highlights a truth, not only about the stock market, but all of life: no one knows what the coming weeks, months, or years will hold. In 1929 economist Irving Fisher predicted that “stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Shortly after he made that statement the Great Crash of 1929 occurred and businessmen and investors jumped out of windows to kill themselves because they lost everything in just a few days. Everything that was of value to them had been taken from them and they felt they had no reason left to live. We need to remember that anything in this life can be taken from us and taken from us quickly: our health, our loved ones, our job, our reputation. Anything and everything in this world can and will eventually come crashing down.

But for the Christian, our hope can never crash or be taken from us. Vs 4 says it is being kept in for us and verse 5 says we are being kept by the power of God for it. By His power God is keeping it safe for us and keeping us safe for it. That’s our hope!

But it’s a hope that takes eyes of faith to see. Let’s be honest, apart from faith things in this world seem more real than things promised in the next: a promotion with added benefits and a bigger salary in this world will feel much more real to us than the promise of eternal treasure in the next. Relief from pain and distress in this life – even if it’s just for a short time – will feel more real to us than the promise of a pain-free, distress-free eternity. The natural thing is to hold on tight to this life cause it’s the life we know – it’s the life that seems so real right now.

So God in His wisdom uses trials to loosen our grip on this life and tighten our grip on our eternal hope. God uses trials to pry our fingers loose by stripping our earthly treasures from us and replacing it with a hope that is stronger and deeper. With the natural eye all we might see is how tough the trial is, but with eyes of faith we see a line of grace that leads us to a better and a purer and a forever hope – and in that hope we rejoice even in the midst of really tough trials!

II. Rejoicing in hope and grieved by “various” trials at the same time (6)

But I love Peter’s honesty here. He says we rejoice in this living hope, but there are times when we grieve too because of trials. Rejoicing and grieving aren’t necessarily contradictory. In the way that storms can whip up the surface of the ocean but not affect the deepest depths of the ocean, we can grieve and hurt and cry over the trials in our life and still, in the deepest part of our soul feel a strong joy that is unaffected by the storm. We can be trusting God in the trial and still be honest about the pain we’re going through.

And trials come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Both Peter and James says that we’re gonna face “various trials”. Trials come really big, but they can be small and still be a trial to us. They can last for long periods of time, but they can also pass through fairly quickly. Small and brief can still be very real and painful to us when we’re walking through them.

Have you ever talked with someone who, no matter what troubles you share with him answers, “that’s nothing, you should hear what I’m going through”? Not very comforting, is it? Let’s just get this right out in the open right now: no matter how bad you’ve got it, someone in the world has it worse! Somewhere there is someone who has it worse than anyone else in the whole world, but for the rest of us, we’re not the worst off, but we still have trials. And God cares about the size trials we’re facing and their effect on us. God doesn’t say, “that’s nothing. You should see what my child in Ethiopia is going through.”

Parents – for some reason really feel to say this: be careful that you don’t belittle the trial that your teenage son or daughter are going through. Yeah, you went through the same thing and yeah, you know now that it will soon pass. But enter into their trial where they are and how it’s affecting their soul. And try to help them see the lines of grace God provides in that trial. That is counsel for all of us: enter into the trial.

III. God uses the fire of trials to refine our character

Trials have a refining effect on our character. There is something about going through trials that strengthen our faith and our character and one of the things it produces is steadfastness.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness (James 1:2-3)

Have you ever been in a trial and been tempted to just give up? Just quit? We all have! Here’s the thing about trials: they try us. They tire us. They make us feel like they’ll never end, and we’ll never make it. Discourage us and weary us and scare us. And all the time they whisper, “give up. Quit.” But God wants us to see with eyes of faith the lines that lead us to His grace in the middle of that temptation to quit: we learn to be steadfast in our faith. As Paul says in Romans 5, our suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character. Endurance, steadfastness, not giving up, is an important part of godly character and it’s an important component to faith.

ILL: I remember reading about a lifeguard and he was sharing that with all the people he had rescued, it was the ones he wasn’t able to get to that haunted him. He told of a group of young people who got caught in some kind of undertow near a jetty and he went out over and over again pulling young people in, and there was one young man he was headed out for, but while he was only yards away from this young man, he saw a look of quiet despair in his eyes and he just gave up. The lifeguard dove again and again in the spot, but couldn’t find him.

Often wondered – only seconds away, why couldn’t he keep going? Isn’t there always a couple more strokes in you? A little more energy to stay afloat? We know that God’s purposes in the trial isn’t to sink us but to strengthen us – ask God for strength and keep going. If God chooses to allow the trial to go on for a year, trust God and keep doing good for a year and a day.

In the end, genuine faith is enduring faith because God keeps us by His power. We may fail, we may falter. We may backslide, we may deny knowing Jesus. But God will by His power bring us back to faith in Him if our faith is genuine saving faith. And that is more precious than refined gold because it results in praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. And don’t think that just means Jesus gets the glory. He does, but so do we. When we honor Jesus with our faith and with our lives, his glory becomes our glory, his honor becomes our honor, his praise becomes our praise. When Jesus says to us, “well done, my good and faithful servant” it will be an honor that we will absolutely enjoy, all the while knowing that it was his grace alone that enabled us to be faithful.

IV. God uses the fire of trials to deepen our love for Jesus (vv. 8-9)

There is a tenderness to verse 8 –Though you have not seen Him – unlike Peter, these believers did not walk with Jesus when He walked the earth. They have come to faith since His ascension, and they have never seen Him with their natural eyes. Yet they love Him. The trials aren’t leading them to doubt Jesus, they are stirring their hearts to love Him.

ILL: even as a young Christian, I remember going through trials and finding my love for Jesus grow as I realized my need for Jesus more in those trials. If you are in a trial right now, allow that trial to make your heart love Jesus more, to make you see your need for Jesus more. You don’t see him now, but by faith you do – faith gives us eyes to see him and to love him. There is nothing on earth more precious than loving the Savior.

Greatest desire isn’t for relief, or for a change of situation. Greatest desire is for Him. He is the reward that is more precious than all other rewards. He not only gives grace in adversity, He is the grace He gives. And God uses trials to help us see that more clearly.

Going to ask Jordan to come and share a special song with us, and afterwards we want to close by praying for those who are going through a trial right now – if you want prayer we will simply ask you to raise your hand and the people around you will lift you up in prayer. 

More in This Grace in Which We Stand

September 4, 2011

Standing Firmly on Future Grace

August 21, 2011

Friendships Take Grace

August 7, 2011

God Gives Grace to the Humble