“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:12–13, AV)
Years ago, I oversaw a team of college students working on a Habitat for Humanity home. It was a rewarding experience for us all. The principle for this work was that Habitat would build a home for a family. However, for the family to get the home, they would have to put in some sweat-equity. The new homeowners were required to work alongside the volunteers so they would have some ownership and a sense of accomplishment in their new home.
The psychological impact of the sweat-equity would be enormous. When they moved in, their net worth immediately increased. Moreover, they had a part in it. You can imagine when the project was done, that they could look at the finished work and think, what a blessing to have a house and the knowledge that they poured their energy into its construction.
Sweat-equity is not a new expression. It has the idea of putting energy into something and reaping the rewards of the energy expended. There is a similar principle in the Christian life when it comes to faithfully negotiating fiery trials. Peter wrote of that here.
First, believers should not be surprised when severe trials come their way. Jesus stated, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, AV). There are two things to note in this. Jesus stated that we will experience tribulation, distressing episodes of life. It is not a matter of if, but when. We will all endure some sort of struggle in our lifetime. However, the good new is that it is possible to overcome in the midst of the trials. If it were not so, Jesus would not have said, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” As Jesus has overcome, so will we in Him and by His strength in us.
The second thing to note in these times of trials is that as we overcome them, there is the promise of an associated future blessing. Those who suffer for the sake of Christ have the blessed assurance of a time of rejoicing when the glory of the Lord is revealed. The fact that we suffer now for Christ gives us assurance that there will be a future experience of glory for us. Paul wrote regarding these sufferings.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, AV)
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;” (2 Corinthians 4:17, AV)
In Paul’s writing to the Corinthians, he states that in relative terms our present afflictions are achieving for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The phrase, “far more exceeding,” is the Greek kath huperbolen eis huperbolen. The phrase gives an interesting picture of the enormity of the glory that we shall experience. The word huperbolen, literally to throw beyond refers to something beyond measure. Paul used this word twice, “beyond measure into beyond measure,” to emphasize that the glory that shall be revealed in us goes infinitely beyond anything that can understand or comprehend now.
Look to this future promise when you experience the fiery ordeals of the Christian life. It will help you to negotiate them and experience God’s grace in their midst.