What is more valuable and precious than gold? Gold doesn’t corrode, tarnish, or rust like other metals. Archeologists have recovered items made of gold from ancient empires and peoples. Gold is advertised has a hedge against inflation and the only safe currency when everything else fails. Unlike paper money or the even more illusory digital versions of currency, gold has an inherent value. It doesn’t represent value but, like land and other tangible assets, it has value. Then we run into the Apostle Peter’s seemingly unscientific evaluation of gold.
Welcome to the third installment of our walk through 1st Peter. This week we are considering – “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6–9, NASB95) Faith is the focal point of these verses. To better unpack Peter’s meaning we’re going to take things in a slightly different order.
What is faith? Is faith a blind leap or a reasoned step? How are belief and trust woven into faith’s fabric? Hebrews reminds us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NASB95) I see faith more as a trusted and sure step than a blind leap. Like climbing a ladder without wondering or worrying if the next rung is missing or weak. Peter defined our faith in Jesus as, “though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him.” Isn’t that where we all live as followers of Jesus? Unlike the first followers, most of us haven’t seen Jesus although we may have felt His presence at times or looked back and saw His hand on our lives. Yet, without the tangible proof of our senses, we love Jesus and believe in Him.
Peter compares faith in Jesus with gold. Something seemingly intangible with something tangible and inherently valuable. Peter declares that faith in Jesus is more valuable than gold and adds something that seems unscientific and contrary to our thoughts. That gold is perishable. We simply don’t think of gold that way. Bananas, apples, green beans, bread, stored grain, paper, wood, preserved meat are all perishable. We know all these things have a limited shelf life of a few days to a few centuries, but in time it all corrupts. We know that some metal rusts and corrodes as it interacts with various elements, but not gold and a few other precious metals. Gold seems permanent yet in God’s eyes gold is fleeting while faith remains for eternity. In God’s economy gold is just part of creation, but faith is the stuff of heaven.
In comparing gold to faith, Peter is also reminding his readers of how gold and faith are refined. He doesn’t go into detail but simply links the two processes together. In the same way that gold’s shine, gleam, and glory are enhanced by the refiner’s fire so is our faith. Peter wrote that faith, “even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In this Peter is using the broadest terms. He could have specifically said persecutions, struggles, trials, or problems but uses a term which encompasses them all. Faith’s testing may be savage persecution or just a bad day. In any event, it is that heat which purifies our faith and brings more and more praise, glory, and honor to Jesus as He is revealed in our lives.
Let me be practical for a moment. Our prayer’s matter. What we say and how we say it have an effect. We can give God our plan on how to fix the problem, how to remove the pain or ease our discomfort. Or we can ask God what He wants us to learn in the midst of this trial’s heat. What habit does he want to change? In what way does my life need to change? What new revelation am I to glean? What in me is getting in the way of His plan? What sin is God trying to show me? Many times we want God to fix all the external things that frustrate, anger, stress, or cause pain instead of asking God to fix us.
One more comparison can be made between faith and gold. There is a confidence of value that stands behind gold. Its value may rise and fall, but it is never worth zero. In the same way, faith is never worth zero. Some may exercise bushels of faith while others have one seed but God is the multiplier and grower. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matthew 17:20b, NASB95) Many of us will look at that and wonder if we have any faith at all. When is the last time you moved a mountain? But mountains are not just made of stone but of pain, words, anger, bitterness, sin, disappointment, broken promises, offenses, failed hopes, sickness, and disease. Faith’s confidence isn’t measured by how much faith we feel we have but where we place it and how we use it.
Peter strongly connects salvation and joy with faith. He begins by recognizing the joy of his readers in their salvation that is yet to be revealed. “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5, NASB95) Peter quickly recognizes that this joy is occurring in the face of trials. So much for equating joy with happiness. He observes this again at the end of this section, “you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” Now, we do need to be careful and remember that faith doesn’t cause or earn salvation but opens the door to it. Faith trusts God to meddle in our hearts and souls. Peter reminds his readers that faith, loving and believing in Jesus, results in a joy that can not be put into words. It is a felt joy that requires more expression than words allow.
We tend to connect faith with a lot of things like sacrifice, prayer, austerity, creeds, ceremony, solemnity, and reverence. Those things may aid faith at times, but they aren’t faith’s reward. Effervescent, heart-pumping, uncontainable, inexpressible, overflowing, unstoppable, unmistakable joy is faith’s reward. Life may be full of momentary troubles but our joy in Christ eclipses them all.
So, would you rather have a mountain of gold or a seed of faith?