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Proven by fire

A continuing look at the Apostle Peter's first letter. 1 Peter 1:5-7


 1 Peter 1:5-7 RV (the chosen of God) who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold temptations, (7) that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perishes though it is proved by fire, might be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: 

 One of the internal conflicts I have had, was with the concept of tribulation.
 I have found myself directing my sarcasm at an imaginary voice which was whining about their tribulations because they could not get a new racing propeller for their boat (I have actually known a person like this).



 Let's set something straight. Tribulation traditionally implies that you are about to be imprisoned or killed, have your home burned to the ground, and your family viciously molested


 Now that we have that clarified you should know that Jesus told us it is going to get worse, much worse! 


 How is that even possible? In order for it to get worse it has to increase exponentially, globally, and that is exactly what is coming; much like what Noah and Lot's neighborhoods experienced, judgment.
 
But there is hope, and Peter give us two scriptural reasons for that hope that we are to be rescued from the “great tribulation” that is coming.
  • 1 Peter 2:21 .. Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example.. 
  • 2 Peter 2:9 CJBSo the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and how to hold the wicked until the Day of Judgment while continuing to punish them,
 I have to interject a comment for my detractors. We are not, as a general rule, escaping from the daily idiocy of brutal god haters. I understand that, and I believe that most of you understand that concept as well. 

Mary and Joseph escaped the slaughter that Herod was about to bring, thanks to an angel's warning (sent by God), by going to Egypt. I would not go there now, but perhaps you get the picture. If I could tell you where there was a safe place to run I would. At the moment the United States is not experiencing the onslaught of brutality against Christians, but we are on the verge, and I do not believe that this country will stay safe for much longer.

Here is the context of 1 Peter 2:21:
1 Peter 2:19-21 CJB For it is a grace when someone, because he is mindful of God, bears up under the pain of undeserved punishment. (20) For what credit is there in bearing up under a beating you deserve for doing something wrong? But if you bear up under punishment, even though you have done what is right, God looks on it with favor. (21) Indeed, this is what you were called to; because the Messiah too suffered, on your behalf, leaving an example so that you should follow in his steps.

 If you are minding your affairs, and living out your “Christ like” ways, whether verbally, or otherwise, then you are doing right, because, aside from being contrary to religious demands, Jesus did not go about stealing, killing and maiming others with car bombs. He went about doing good and healing all that were afflicted by the devil. To be accosted for doing good is a demonstration of Satan's hatred for anything that looks like God, and there are plenty of people who thrive on maliciousness to fulfill Satan's demands.

 If we cannot escape from life's common and daily brutality then what are we hoping in?
 
1 Peter 1:3 CJB Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who, in keeping with his great mercy, has caused us, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah from the dead, to be born again to a living hope,

 A hope that is alive, guaranteed, fresh, clean, constant, never running out, AND NOT A FALLACY

I am telling you this because someone has to have a backbone, declaring that God is not a made up fictional story. THIS IS REAL, AND REALITY. Jesus had a backbone, and used it to declare, I am going to prepare a place for you, if it were not so I would have told you. (John 14:2)

Dear Lord he is real! How can I get you to see that. This is exactly what the writer of Hebrews was telling us.


Hebrews 11:35-38 NIV Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. (36) Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. (37) They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- (38) the world was not worthy of them. 

 How do you face all this abuse, with a mindset that this world is not worthy of you, without having a solid hope that what God said is true.

 Consider what we are reading, 1 Peter. He is trying to re-establish HOPE in us; that said, there is good news.
  1. We have hope!. Why? Because Jesus died and rose, as he said. Granting us a place with him in glory.
  2. We also have the promise of being caught up and rescued. Peter was very clear, using Noah and Lot as examples of God deliverance of righteous men from the destruction was about to happen upon the earth. Lot specifically has the angels tell him we can do nothing until you are out of here. At which point they physically removed his family from the place. (Jesus made you the righteousness of God when you accepted him as yours.)
  3. Nothing can damage or disrupt our destination, heaven. There is the implication here that nothing should be able to damage or cause to fade away, your rightful anticipation of a future glory.
  4. God has an established a track record of faithfulness. To those who scoff: Jonah, the prophet, was told to go to Nineveh and declare their doom. Judgment was coming. But he fought against God, because, if you read the story, Jonah had said “you will show them mercy and not do what you say.” How would Jonah have known that God was willing to show people who deserved judgment, mercy? A proven track record! The people of Nineveh repented and God did just that, showing them mercy, that is, until many years later they reverted back to their godless state and they were turned to powder, just as he said and in the way he said it.
 Enough with the introductory speech, let's get to the meat.
 1 Peter 1:5-7 NIV who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (7) These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

  I almost think it would be more correct to show who the “who” is in verse 5. Peter starts this letter off by addressing the Mediterranean Churches, but he also uses the term “the elect of God”. That term alone takes all of us in, for it means those chosen by God, and we all fit that category. There is no benefit to a social class going on here. 


 I had the opportunity to stand in as bible study leader on a couple of occasions. On one of those, an educated man, an educator, supposedly a member of our Church, rejected what was being said, by pointing out that the Apostle Paul was writing to a specific body of people, and not intended for us today. While I understand the logic, I also know that all scripture is inspired and useful for building up (2 Timothy 3:16). Is it possible that building up also conveys the giving of hope. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, therefore the two are intertwined, just as these letters, compiled into what we call a bible, written to Church bodies long since gone, are meant for our benefit too. I had to disagree with the man for he was speaking explicitly about the book of Romans. Dear Lord that book alone is a foundation of who we are in Christ, and how God sees us. It is in the Letter to the Romans that the declaration is made: Jesus, died for a world undeserving, freeing it from the bondage of the sin debt that it owed. How does one support some form of exclusivity with a statement like that? 


 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
 who through faith are shielded by God's power Let us ponder this for a moment.

Faith is the basis for this, much like a Chef that uses chicken stock as the starting point for they are cooking. It just makes everything taste better. OK, that was overly simplified. It says that we that have come to know God's love and have a relationship with him, through faith are shielded by God's power. But is it our faith? Yes, and yet at the same God's faith. 

 Our faith struggles and often falters, while God's faith is boundless and unfaltering. My faith seems, at times, to be small, barely holding on, while God's is like the mountain that I am barely holding on to, and that is what makes this concept of being shielded because of faith an odd picture for me, because if God shields me according to my faith, then I am doomed, and doesn't that put us back into the competitive playing field where some great TV evangelist, who declares his great faith, and has the money to back it, stands a greater chance of being shielded than I do. Not at all. 

 My faith toward this: hope/salvation/shielding, and really the outcropping of his love toward us, may have started as a small mustard seed, but has clearly grown. How big? I do not know, but it is definitely bigger. Maybe my faith is now as big as a small seedling that has just emerged from the ground, it does not matter, for this really is about you having applied enough faith to accept God's love toward you. (That in itself is a mountain if you really think about it, but all you had to do was step on the first rock, on your way up, and trust that it would support you, and it did.)

 God, who is the one with the Lion's share of faith, has no trouble applying that faith toward you. So it is working from two directions. You receiving and him retrieving.

What are we shielded from?
That is a great question. Obviously not everyday life, which often includes emotional turmoil, daily stresses, and deathly tribulations. 

What! Do not get me wrong, God steps into our lives on a daily basis, shielding us and we did not even know it. 

I was stupid enough to verbally tangled with some drunk guys who came into the store one late evening. I have no idea what they could have done, most of the people who come in to shop have some sort of knife on them. The point is I may have been shielded. I have also had the annoyance of missing my turn to get on the freeway, only to find that during that time that I was trying to get back on the freeway I missed being involved in a horrific car crash, and I might have been in the middle of it. You have no idea how many times God has shielded you already.
But everyday affairs is not what we are talking about here. 


Look again at 1 Peter 1:3,4 “.. he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,...” (4) “..an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,..”


While the NIV translation uses the term shielded, the King James version uses the term kept. The Greek word is: phroureō, and means: to guard, protect by a military guard, and to prevent hostile invasion


This is all about being shielded from what is coming during the Great Tribulation, and if we take the admonition from Peter seriously, then we can say that God is protecting us in a militaristic fashion. In other words, he is very serious about this concept of keeping us safe while awaiting our salvation.

 I just had a small discussion with my mother. I was trying to show her something I noticed in scripture that intrigued me, and she, as usual, developed that into a bizarre, generalized statement about tribulation, noting that people everywhere are going through it. What I noticed about her comment was the same thing I hear most people say, and that is that tribulation is constant and an aspect of God's coming. While that is true, tribulation is all around us, it is not the Great Tribulation that Jesus, shockingly stated, would be something that no one would survive if God did not shorten time, and he will.

 Tribulations, or afflictions are really quite common.
  • 2Corinthians_6:4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 
  • 1Th_3:3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 
  • 2Ti_1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 
  • 2Ti_3:11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 
  • 2Ti_4:5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 
  • Heb_10:32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 
  • Heb_10:33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazing stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 
  • 1Pe_5:9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
 Peter tells us that we are protected “until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” The (CJB) puts it this way, “Meanwhile, through trusting, you are being protected by God's power for a deliverance ready to be revealed at the Last Time.”


 Salvation is the Greek word sōtēria and means 1) deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation 1a) deliverance from the molestation of enemies


How many ways can I say this. It is God's intent to deliver us prior to any judgment coming.


Rejoice in this, even though you have to experience grief through trials.


1 Peter 1:6 CJB Rejoice in this, even though for a little while you may have to experience grief in various trials.
If I have any reason to rejoice, it is in the fact that there is a salvation. 

An obvious fact is that Christians have looked for his coming for two thousand plus years. I do not see that as a negative but an act of living in positive anticipation, which is what we have been called to do. I can tell you what it has done in me just within the past two years. It has changed me and my way of thinking. Everyday is much more exciting to me, for I now watch and wait for him. This anticipation has my changed my approach to prayer. I have become less afraid of what man can do to me, and much more bold in sharing what I now consider a passion of mine. I have gained a greater understanding of what Islam believes, and take their impact on the world very seriously.

 ...even though for a little while you may have to experience grief in various trials...
I am hoping by now that God's intent is clear; he is very focused on pulling those that remain, out of here before unleashing his fury upon the earth. Using Lot as an example, I feel confident in saying that he will send his angels and escort you, should you move to slowly. 

By the way, God's desire is that every man come to a knowledge of him, and he is not changing his mind about that, but the world's choice to blatantly ignore his offers of mercy will not prevent his judgment from coming.
We already touched on Jonah's angst over this merciful aspect of God. Jonah clearly had a prejudice against these people, and wanted the people of Nineveh gone. Did you ever wonder why? I have heard things put out there as a motivation for Jonah's hatred of these people, such as offering their children as sacrifices, but history records that they were a violent people.

(Nahum 3:1 Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims!); the wall carvings represent the king in the act of putting out his captives' eyes, and dragging others by a hook through the lips and a cord. Other cities have revived, but Nahum foretells "there is no healing of thy bruise" (From Fausset's Bible Dictionary)

In spite of depravity, these people repented at the prophetic word from God, and God relented from bringing destruction upon them. (They were eventually wiped off the map.)


...you may have to experience grief in various trials...
 While I came off rather hard-core about tribulations, there are certainly things in life that will throw us completely off kilter. I am going through one as I write this. 


Vine's New Testament Words defines grief as "pain," of body or mind.
Well, I am there, and I, especially with my rants about what tribulations really are, keep thinking that these things that bring me emotionally down, distracting me from daily function, are “light afflictions.”
Look, if the same word for trials is tests then ask yourself who is doing the testing? God? I do not think so. Consider that while the world was messed up and hopeless, unable to even understand love, God sent his own Son to die for us. Why then would he abuse us?


No, I think that the testing comes more from the world and Satan's direction than God's. Sure, from a human standpoint I would want to know where your allegiance lies, but God was not concerned about that at all when he gave us life. 


Why would Satan be interested in testing us? He probably isn't, but then there is that Job episode. The whole basis for Satan attacking Job seemed to be in his belief that Job would turn his back on God. Isn't that what Satan did? 


So this brings me to another struggle that we Christians bang our heads into quite often. How far can we go and lose our salvation, our place in the kingdom? Honestly, I do not know. I know how far I have gone, and I can tell you that God was never out of my thinking. Jesus told us that no one can take those that belong to the Father out of his hand. Well I suppose then the question would be, how do I know I am in his hand? If you have accepted that he poured out his grace toward you and has a place for you in his kingdom, then you are his. Plain and simple. Reject that completely and God help you. I do know what the god of this world's destiny is, and not because of love, he is taking people there with him.


I think the bottom line here is that Satan is attacking anything that looks and acts like God. If he can shut you up or get you to stop responding, as you are focused upon your own pain then he has done what was needed, and taken you out of the fight. What are we fighting for? Souls. 


1 Peter 1:7 LITV so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than perishing gold, but having been proved through fire, may be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

 so that the proving of your faith, much more precious than perishing gold, but having been proved through fire
The NIV states that these varied trials have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The Source of Testings
The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
Copyright © 1993 by Craig S. Keener
Jas_1:12. James uses the beatitude form common in ancient literature, especially Jewish literature: “How happy is the person who….” Distresses were viewed as temptations, providing opportunities to sin. The term translated “trials” (NASB, TEV; cf. NIV) or “testing” did not necessarily mean “temptation” (KJV, NRSV) in the modern sense, however; the tester could be interested in the distressed person’s perseverance, rather than his or her defeat. Famines, poverty and oppression were among events viewed as testings.
Jas_1:13-16. God clearly “tested” people in the Bible and later Jewish literature (Gen_22:1; Deu_8:2; Deu_13:3; Jdg_2:22), but he never tested them in the sense that is implied here: seeking for them to fail instead of persevere.Jewish texts distinguished between God’s motives in testing people (in love, seeking their good) and Satan’s motives in testing them (to make them fall). In most Jewish texts, Satan (also called Belial and Mastema) fills the role of tempter. Although James does not deny Satan’s indirect role (Jas_4:7), he emphasizes here the human element in succumbing to temptation. He personifies “desire” (NIV, NRSV, TEV) or “lust” (KJV, NASB) as enticing a person, then illegitimately conceiving the child “sin,” which in turn brings forth “death”; Jewish teachers occasionally applied the rhetorical technique of personification to the “evil impulse” all people had.

I so want this aspect to be exclusively testing by Satan. Perhaps because school was not easy for me, and it seems that I have failed so many of life's tests that have been thrown at me. I would not want to fail God's test as well. The absurdity of this thought continually takes me back to a God that loved me when I was unlovely, and gave his life for me. 

Satan, however might well test us to see if we will collapse under the stresses of battle. I have been reading a book about the battle for Iwo Jima while writing this paper. One of things you see is men conceiving great goals for the day, only to squeak out mere yards in their advance toward the goal. Marines, in the initial attacks died steadily, averaging one about every 50 seconds, and yet they did not give up. Sadly, even the frightened, emotionally stressed, who in one case sat in the bottom of a shell crater sobbing, incapable of attack, had a mortar land between his feet, exploding, and ending his life. The enemy is indiscriminate about who they mark for destruction. In the case of Satan, it would seem that even the representation of God upon a human life is a target. 

Considering the volume and quantity of testing we take from him, it is easy to relate it to being proved through fire.

Proving is equal to refining, and though God might certainly want to do that with many of us, me included, there is the possibility that setting’s fire has the ability to refine if we will respond appropriately and let it.

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