Peter acknowledges the reality and grief caused by trials (1 Peter 1:6). He makes an interesting observation about them with this phrase — “if necessary.” What are necessary trials?
What if we began each day with the opportunity to opt in our out of trials? My guess is that all of us would opt out. But many trials do not give us a choice. Illnesses and injuries are the kind of trials that once we have the problem, we can’t opt out of it. We must see the illness or injury through. It is like being on the first big hill of a roller coaster and saying, “I want off.” The only way off is to finish the ride.
But some trials do have an opt out possibility, and I think it is those trials with which Peter is concerned. They are the trials in which to stop the pain the Christian might be tempted to compromise or abandon his faith. Peter provides us with a number of scenarios in his letter that fit these situations.
Peter pictures Christians who are slandered (2:15), mistreated (2:18, 3:17), and maligned (4:4). He uses the example of Christ’s suffering to prepare these Christians for their own trials (2:21, 3:18, 4:1). He warns them “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you” (4:12).
So what is a necessary trial? It is one in which to be true to our faith and to Jesus, we must suffer the trial. We must do good even if someone is doing evil to us. We must not revile if reviled. Evil is overcome by good not by returning evil in kind. We must maintain the integrity of our faith at all costs.
What happens when we endure trials with faith? Peter compares our faith to gold that is tested in the fire. When gold is put in the fire, what is really gold remains, the impurities are burned off. Such testing proves gold’s genuineness, but it also makes it more pure. The same thing happens to faith when it is tested by trials. Faith that can face the test is genuine faith. Faith that is tested is stronger, purer faith.
None of this sounds pleasant, but Peter reminds us that trials are temporary — “for a little while” (1:6). Trials may have seasons to them. I trust God to prevent me from being tempted beyond what I can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). But anything we experience in this life is temporary in comparison to eternity. Heaven is worth it all.
May our faith be found genuine when faced with necessary trials.