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Scripture

1 Peter: 1:6-11

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.


Spend some time in worship.

 

 

Observation

Peter, continuing his letter to the scattered Christians, knows that many of them are going through hard times. In spite of that, he writes, they can continue to rejoice in the fact that God will keep their faith strong when they are being tested in any way. Not even the person we consider to have the strongest faith is exempt from trials in life. The word used for ‘various’ trials means many-coloured and was used to describe the skin of a leopard, the veins of colour in marble or an embroidered robe. All kinds of trials can be experienced by all people, even those who follow Jesus.

These tests of faith arise, not because God does not know how strong our faith is, but because we are not aware of the kind of faith we possess. A trial in which we persevere in faith reveals the quality of our faith and can be regarded as an honour that we can bring glory to God through such faith. Just as gold is tested and purified so our faith has to go through such testing to show us whether it is sincere and true and how strong it is. Faith is purified by the trials it has to withstand. The end of our faith refers to that moment we shall see Jesus, either at His return or at our death. Until that moment we need to endure the testing of our faith with joy because, even though we have not yet seen Jesus, those who follow Him love Him. The joy that trials bring is described as ‘inexpressible’. It is the only time such a phrase is used in the New Testament and describes a joy that is so deep it cannot be described. It is not just earthly joy – it is much more than that.

Peter emphasised that this was not new teaching, but had been taught by the prophets in earlier times. This gave far greater importance to the fact of the salvation Peter’s readers had received even in the times of the hardships they were experiencing. The Old Testament prophets knew a certain amount about the suffering and glory Jesus would experience – but Peter’s New Testament readers knew what Jesus had gone through for them. In fact the Old Testament prophets were ministering to people who came long after they lived and ministered, and the concepts about which they spoke should have been far more important to those who came after who understood that they were speaking about Jesus and when these things had occurred.

Icebreaker:

When have you witnessed someone experiencing some trial or hardship with strength, courage and joy? What did their witness say to you about them, about their faith, about the God they worship? How did it impact you? Briefly share the story with each other.

Application

  • How have you responded to people when they ask you why God allows suffering up to now? Were you satisfied with your answer? Were they? Why/why not?
  • Suffering is not from God but can be used by God to refine our faith. When have you found this is true in your life? How has suffering changed you for the better, as gold is purified by fire?
  • How people endure suffering confirms their faith. Have you found this is so? Is your faith stronger because you have endured – and survived – suffering? How have you been aware of God’s presence as you undergo trials and suffering?
  • One response to the question why God allows suffering is that it is a consequence of sin. Read Job 1:1-3; 1:18-19, 22; 6:8-10. How does Job’s reaction impact such a response? Where have you witnessed God’s goodness, mercy and power in the midst of suffering – your own or that of others?
  • Another response is loneliness. Some people do not understand what they are experiencing and they feel deserted by God. How can you help such a person at this time? How can they help you? Do the following verses help? Mark 2:1-11; Mark 28:20. What comfort does this offer to you and/or to the person with whom you are talking?
  • How do you respond when you are hurting – do you tell everyone about it or do you withdraw into yourself? What are the advantages/disadvantages to either response?
  • Will your response to the question why God allows suffering change as a result of this discussion? If it will, in what way will it change? If not, why do you think this is so?
  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

Prayer
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group. Spend some time praying for those known to you who are suffering – and for any global issues that are heavy on your heart at the moment where people, especially children are suffering..

Service
How can you offer support to someone in your circle who is suffering this week? Spend some time asking God to show you who He wants you to reach out to, and how He wants you to support them. Be prepared to share what happens next week.

 

Bibliography

1 Peter Chapter 1

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