Good afternoon! Today, I want to speak about JOY. Now, joy and examinations (which are around the corner, sorry to remind you) are not normally associated with one another. How many of you, when you think of examinations, immediately think of joy? Unless you are a sadistic teacher who derives pleasure in failing students (which I’m sure none of your teachers are), you don’t normally think that. But there is a secret in having joy even in the midst of difficult and stressful circumstances. As we begin, shall we look to God in prayer and ask that He would speak to us through His Word today? [Let’s pray]
1Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
This year, I celebrate my 9th wedding anniversary. Next year, it will be 10 years. Suppose next year, I decide I want to celebrate it with a bang. Suppose I decide to get my wife a diamond ring from Tiffany. I don’t have budget for that, but suppose. Use your imagination. Ok so, I go to Tiffany and browse the diamond ring section. The salesgirl shows me the range of rings and I see one I think my wife will really like, so I ask the her how much it costs. It’s quite a bit above my budget, $5000. But suppose I decide because it’s my 10th wedding anniversary, I’ll get it anyway. Suppose.
The salesgirl says, “Good choice sir!” And she takes the ring, puts it in a plastic bag and hands it to me. No way right? Nice diamond ring, must put in a nice box. She takes out this really pretty box, wraps it up with ribbon and places it into a Tiffany carrier. I’m now very excited as I head home. I reach home, fling open the door and shout out, “I’m home honey! I’ve got a surprise for you!” My wife comes to greet me and says, “What is it?”
Tadaa! I present her with the gift. She squeals with delight, unwraps the gift, takes the ring, tosses it aside says, “I love you, thank you for buying me such a lovely box!” How would you react? Siao ah! It’s the ring that’s important and precious. Yes, the box is nice, but it’s the ring that’s important and precious. We laugh, but we do that all the time. We forget what’s really important, what’s really precious. Our salvation is precious. Eternal life is precious. God is precious.
1. We rejoice in God’s salvation (v. 3-5)
The first secret in having joy in difficult circumstances is we rejoice in God’s salvation. “1Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” We are born again. We are saved. We are Christians. Praise God!
The passage we read today reminds us there are at least two aspects of God’s salvation we can rejoice in. The first is that…
- we are born again.
God had mercy on us. The only reason why we are saved, why we are Christians, why we are born again is because of God’s mercy. There is absolutely no good reason for God to save us. In fact, the gospel tells us the opposite is true. Hell is something we all deserve. But in God’s mercy, in God’s grace, in God’s love… He saved us. Instead of hell, we have heaven. Instead of eternal suffering, we have eternal joy. More than all these, we get God, we get to be with God. We can rejoice in the midst of life’s difficulties because we know what lies ahead.
Let’s be honest though, if you’re like me, eternal life is not something we think about a lot. But I’m going to attempt to help us think about it a little today. [Rope illustration. This short part marked red is our life on earth. This long part – which I want you to imagine extends beyond your eye can see – is eternal life. This short part may be tough. This long part is pure joy – no ore pain, no more sickness, no more sorrow, no more death, no more sin, in the presence of God Almighty!]
But even saying this is inadequate, because eternal life in the Bible is not something we enjoy only after we die. In fact, it’s something we are enjoying now. Eternal life according to the Bible is knowing Jesus. If you know Jesus, if you have a friendship with Jesus, if you’re walking with Jesus, you have eternal life.
We all need a friend in life. A friend who’s faithful. A friend who’s loving. A friend who’s supportive and strong. Jesus is our friend. That’s why today’s passage says we have ‘a living hope’. The book of Hebrews in the Bible says God will never leave us nor forsake us. How we need Him and how we can depend on Him when we take our examinations, when we go through tough times. He will be with us, He will provide for us, He will guide us.
The second aspect of God’s salvation we can rejoice in is…
- we have a glorious inheritance.
“v. 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,”
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with envy sometimes. Students, do you have friends who come from well to do families, and they have all the advantages you don’t? They’re smart, they can afford tuition teachers, they are driven to and from school, they go on vacations to exotic locations and they do great in their studies. And you? You struggle like crazy just to pass your papers.
Teachers, don’t you wonder (especially when you’re setting papers or marking papers) whether you should just quit teaching? Move on to something less stressful, less tiring, pays better? You see your friends driving nicer cars, living in luxurious condominiums and you wonder, perhaps I deserve to have those as well.
Students, teachers, God has called you to be where you are for a purpose. And friends, the Word of God encourages us today that we have an inheritance that is far more glorious than anything this world has to offer.
We do not know exactly what this inheritance is, the Bible only hints of what it may. I suspect it’s even more glorious than our minds can imagine. But contrasted with earthly possessions, this inheritance is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away. It is eternal. It could refer to our dwelling in the new heavens and the new earth. It could be our reward for faithful service to God here on earth. But it most definitely refers to our inheritance as God Himself. He is our treasure. He is our reward. Friends, we don’t have to envy. We don’t have to compare. We can rejoice in God’s salvation.
2. We rejoice in God’s sanctification (v.6-9)
The second secret in having joy in difficult circumstances is we rejoice in God’s sanctification.
“v. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
God’s sanctification is the process by which God makes us more like Jesus Christ. Now, let’s make a distinction between justification and sanctification. When we place our faith in Christ, we are already fully justified. Our sins are forgiven. Our salvation is secure. We are clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness and we can have confidence when we stand before God on judgement day. However, while we are still on earth, we are not perfected yet. We do not yet experience the fullness of our salvation. And God, through His Holy Spirit working within us, desires to make us more and more like Jesus Christ. When Jesus returns, we shall be like Him. But for now, we are being made like Him.
What process does God use? He sometimes uses Trials. Testing. Difficulties. When we undergo trials and we choose to place our trust in God, He will do His work in us and our faith will be purified and will shine forth like gold. The process of refining gold, removing the impurities, is the process of undergoing fire. And in the fire of trials, our faith is purified and refined. Our adversity is God’s opportunity.
One of the members of the church small group I lead, works as an auditor in the public service. Once she shared that her team was in the process of completing their auditing when their superior gave a last minute request that was to be completed by the end if the next day.
It was a seemingly impossible request because my friend said that to pull together all the information required from the various departments normally takes a few days. The deadline was the very next day. And it was already the end of a very long day for the team.
What would you do? How would you react to such a demanding, stressful situation? What my friend did was she pulled together the Christians in her team, and they prayed. And they went home. The next day, as they began working, what do you know… the departments whom they required information from, started giving it to them at very short notice. The audit started coming together and miracle of miracles, the report was done before the end of the day.
God showed up. God came through. God did a miracle. And the Christians who prayed and trusted God? I’m quite sure their faith was strengthened. And more than that, those who were not Christians on my friend’s team also would have noted this. Perhaps some of them will wonder, does God exist? Is He real? Can I know Him? Perhaps some of them would come to faith in Jesus.
Dear friends, it’s not always easy nor pleasant to go through testing, examinations. But if you place your trust in God, walk in obedience and faith, God will work in your life. Your faith will be strengthened. And you will see God’s presence and reality in every situation.
As we come to a close today, God wants us to be able to “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible” (v. 8) in all situations. And the secret to having this supernatural joy is in rejoicing in God’s salvation, and in rejoicing in God’s sanctification. Shall we pray?