These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. — 1 Peter 1:7
On July 18, A.D. 64, a fire broke out in the ancient city of Rome, destroying more than half the city. Great numbers of citizens lost their lives. Even though the emperor was out of town at the time, rumors circulated that he had ordered the blaze to accomplish his own purposes. Tacitus, the Roman historian, tells us that Nero “put forward as guilty, and afflicted with the most exquisite punishments, those who were hated for their abominations and called ‘Christians’ by the populace.” “After scenes of great cruelty,” Tacitus continues, the Roman people began to feel sorry for the Christians whom, they believed, were suffering unjustly “to gratify the cruelty of Nero.”
News of these events no doubt traveled rapidly throughout the provinces of the empire, where many Christians were living. So the apostle Peter, who, along with Paul, would die at the hands of the murderous Nero, wrote a letter of encouragement, perhaps assuming that similar persecution would break out in the provinces. Peter wrote, “If your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7).
The thought of being torn by dogs, crucified, or “burned as torches to light the night,” as Tacitus reported, was enough to panic the bravest soul. So Peter reminded his readers of three principal Christian truths that would serve to strengthen them for the ordeal.
First, Christians must not forget what God had done in their lives. Peter wrote, “God the Father chose you... the Spirit has made you holy... and [you] are cleansed by [Jesus’] blood” (1:2). Including himself, Peter added, “God has given us the privilege of being born again” (1:3). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had all been actively involved in their salvation. So they should take heart, for they were safe in the keeping of the triune God.
Second, Peter’s readers needed to remember what God had promised to do. “God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children... beyond the reach of change or decay” (1:4). Should their circumstances change dramatically and should they suffer death and their bodies decay, nothing would change their promised eternal inheritance.
Third, they must bear in mind what God was doing. He was permitting the trials so that their faith would be “tested as fire tests and purifies gold” (1:7). It is possible that Peter’s readers might have preferred to save their skins rather than test their faith, but Peter reminded them that “faith is far more precious to God than mere gold” (1:7). Their faith was even more valuable than their skin!
The thought of persecution can cause one’s heart to miss a beat. Knowing what God is doing through the trials helps God’s people not to miss a step!
For further study: 1 Peter 1:1-12
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.