Lessons 38—Fiery Trials
Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-13
Lesson Goal: To learn the outcome when the true believer is put to the fiery test.
We begin today’s lesson by looking at 2 Timothy 3:12: “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Please notice the word “all.” Some interpreters may try to qualify the word all to be a select period of time, a certain generation or a given people, but the word means exactly that—ALL! “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” As the end times approach, certainly this persecution will become more prevalent and more universal. True believers must understand this truth and never be astonished or shocked about these inevitable events as we draw closer to the last days. Peter seeks to convey this truth as he writes in verse twelve.
(Verse 12) “beloved”
Greek word agapetos conveys tenderness, compassion, affection and care. It is a term of endearment that the writer has for his readers. In this verse, it also serves to begin a new section in the writing that will again speak to the problem of suffering. Peter begins the new section on suffering by using a pastoral word that conveys his love and care for his readers.
“Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you as though some strange thing happen to you.”
Persecution and suffering should not come as a surprise to the true believer. Peter very clearly informs true believers to expect persecution and suffering. He used the Greek word zenizo, which means “to be surprised or astonished.” Believers should never be shocked by persecution. Jesus explained to His disciples that they would face opposition and persecution. In fact, they should expect it from the world (see John 15:18-16:4).
“concerning the fiery trial”
The Greek word is purōsis; this term figuratively portrays a painful experience or persecution; it is also used of a furnace melting down metal to purge it of impurities. We are living in a day when popularity and prosperity are being preached in many pulpits across this nation. The message, and often the messengers of such a perverted message, becomes the voice of infatuation to the multitudes. In a world that hates Christ, the biblical condition of the church is one of rejection and persecution, not popularity and prosperity. This was just as true in Peter’s day as it is today (Read again 2 Timothy 3:12).
➢ What is the greatest persecution you have ever encountered because of your faith in Jesus Christ?
➢ Explain your answer to the following question. Is today’s church in America a spoiled church? Please answer prayerfully.
➢ When you are squeezed, what is on the inside always comes out. Explain this phrase with reference to verse twelve and “the fiery trial which is to try you.”
(Verse 13) “but rejoice”
Our first response to Peter’s instruction is to think of the impossibility of such a task. We may also question Peter, wondering how he could even write such words. Let us remember an occasion in his life when he and some of the other apostles had defied the powerful Sanhedrin. They were locked up when prayers were fervently offered for them. An angel opened the locked doors and they stepped into freedom, preaching boldly the name of Jesus. The Sanhedrin sent officers to arrest them and bring them before the court with the intent to kill them. Gamaliel spoke and their lives were spared, but they each received the customary thirty-nine lashes. After they had been beaten, they departed. But notice carefully how they departed (Please, please, please read Acts 5:14-41).
Peter does not offer words lightly or casually. It is from his own experiences of life and inspiration of the Holy Spirit that he can write, “Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings.”
“[The true believers’] suffering for righteousness proves them, refines them and earns for them an eternal weight of glory so that the greater their suffering the stronger their hope and the richer their joy” (MacArthur).
I close today’s lesson with the words of C. S. Lewis, concerning the impact of fiery trials:
I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of works that tickles my vanity to-day, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys.
In the midst of trials, we learn a dependency upon God and God alone. But once the trials have subsided, life becomes business as usual, thus setting us up for another surprise attack when the fire comes once more into our lives.
Questions for Life Focus
Can you remember a time in your life when the fiery trial came and you found the wonderful all-sufficient grace of God supplying your strength? Please explain.
Why should true believers not be surprised when these things come?
How is it possible to rejoice during such times?