The three verses under consideration - verses 6 to 9 - are all about faith. You would not think so from the internet sermons and commentaries on the short passage. I have written several expositions on faith - especially in the series on Hebrews. I especially enjoyed writing an introduction to the examples of faith the author of Hebrews uses. See Faith Defined.

It is as well to commence this exposition with a straight forward definition of faith in general. It is:

* Confident that a certain (a) Attitude of mind is reasonable and legitimate and/or a certain course of action will lead to a desired result. Faith is not the same as wishful thinking! It is evidence based. David had faith that he could take on Goliath and win. His faith was in God who had delivered him from the lion and the bear. Listen to what he had to say to King Saul: "The God who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine. 1Sam17v37.

* Committed to a course of action which leads to the desired result. David went forth, wearing no armour, but equipped with a sling and five smooth stones. He whirled the sling and released a stone in faith - believing it would account for the Philistine giant.

* Constant in pursuing the course of action leading toward the desired result in spite of obstacles, set backs and scare tactics. David's older brother Eliab was not very encouraging! Saul dismissed David as a bit of a lad. Goliath expressed contempt for Israel's secret weapon. But David's belief in his expertise and his God remained constant.

Bearing this in mind let us examine what Peter has to say about the Christian's faith.

(1) Faith's co-existence. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief and all kinds of trials. v6.

Moses had faith that God would set free his people to travel to the Promised Land. He would lead them out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Canaan. Yet Moses received one obstacle after another: Pharaoh's intransigence, the Israelite's fecklessness and the jealously of his own brother and sister. Seldom has any great leader experienced such lack of appreciation.

Job believed in God. He attributed the many blessings he enjoyed before tragedy struck to God. They were an acknowledgment from God that he, Job, was a righteous man.

Job never lost his belief in God and his commitment to righteousness but his faith had some dreadful fellow travellers: appalling material loss, extreme pain, loss of respect and three friends who provided no comfort. See exposition on Job29to31.

David had great faith in God. I love the words of the 23rd Psalm: Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Yet David had innumerable enemies all through his life. His brothers were envious of him; Saul jealous of his star quality; his own son, Absalom, rebelled against him; Joab his army chief was a baleful influence. David gave strict instructions to his loyal forces poised to put down Absalom's rebellion that they should spare the young prince. Joab took the law into his own hands and killed Absalom as he hung by his hair from the branches of an oak. See 1Samuel18.

The same is true of us. Last year I conducted six funerals. I used to do this in faith - confident in my own ability and God's help. Now it is something of an ordeal. My ability is not what it was and I need to rely on God's help alone. My faith in God is accompanied by apprehension - fear that I shall lose my way, break down and fail to meet the expectations of the mourners.

(2) Faith's worth. All kinds of trials .... have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold ... .

There are some things no amount of money can buy:

* The love of a good woman.

* Reconciliation with someone you have wronged.

* Membership of an elite cricket team or professional organisation.

* The ability to sing like Pavarotti.

Likewise it is impossible to buy your way into God's favour. There is only one way to be acceptable to God and that is by grace and through faith. God has made our forgiveness possible by accepting the sacrifice Jesus offered to atone for man's sin on the cross. If we wish to be forgiven and adopted into God's family we must have faith in Jesus and his saving work. We must believe in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Jn3v16.

Faith is very precious - far more precious than gold - because it is the only way to enjoy the gifts of God: Forgiveness, reconciliation, a new family, a heavenly helper, resurrection and a glorious future.

(3) Faith's genuiness. These (manifold trials) have come so that your faith ...... may be proved genuine.

Faith is shown to be genuine by how it responds to testing. I used to have considerable faith in my technique as an opening batsman. The team I enjoyed playing against most was Lakenheath because they had a group of excellent fast bowlers. These bowlers put my faith to the test. If I could score a century against Colin Rutterford and his men my faith would prove justified.

Well, our passage is not about faith in ourselves but faith in God. Peter tells us that it must be tested to be proved genuine. This is the message of Job. God said to Satan at a meeting of the angels: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him, he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."

"Does Job fear God for nothing," Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? So that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." Jo1v8to11.

Job's faith in God could only be proved genuine if it survived the loss of family, servants and flocks. He was able to say: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. Job1v21.

Abraham's faith in the promises of God - wonderful promises to make of his seed a mighty nation - was severely tested when God asked him to sacrifice his only son Isaac on a mountain top in Moriah.

Nehemiah's belief that it was God's will for the wall of Jerusalem to be rebuilt had to withstand the threats and intrigues of Jewish enemies Sanballat, Tobiah and their allies. Nehemiah rallied his people saying: "Dont be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome." Neh4v14.

Peter and John's faith in Jesus was tested when they were arraigned before the Jewish Sanhedrin and ordered not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John replied: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." Acts4v19and20.

My brother Paul believed God called him to be the minister of a rundown Grace Baptist church in Clapham, London. My father was disillusioned after many years pastoring the Grace Baptist church at Brockley, Suffolk. He thought his son Paul had better prospects as a probation officer in the capital. Soon after Paul accepted the invitation to pastor the church in Clapham the majority of the aged members left. His faith was put to the test. Was his father right after all? Paul persevered and eventually much blessing followed.

I can remember speaking one summer's afternoon at the Waldringfield ladies meeting in East Suffolk. A small group of visitors from the U.S.A. were there. One of the visitors gave a few words of testimony. She spoke of her charming father. He was very successful in business, very wealthy and a devotee of the church. Sadly the ladies father was made redundant. He lost his income, he lost his status and he lost his faith. He stopped attending church the day he was made redundant.

(4) Faith's associates. These (trials) have come so that your faith may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

During my 37 years as a teacher I taught some children who had faith in me as a teacher. As a result these pupils passed their A level Geography exams with flying colours and had a life-long interest in branches of the subject like Geomorphology. Now the pupil's success meant that I, their teacher, was praised. I still get cards at Christmas from old scholars praising my teaching style. Those students who had faith in me honoured my teaching ability. They who mastered the subject I taught were my glory and my crown.

If our faith in Jesus survives every test and so becomes stronger and stronger - it will reveal him as our saviour, brother and friend. We, by remaining true to him, will bring praise, honour and glory to Jesus. Let us never forget the words of Isaiah: He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied. Is53v11.

(5) Faith's compensations. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy .... .

There is a well known saying: 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder.' It seems scientists have discovered the truth of this statement. However, I do not think it is always the case. I am a devotee of the American comedy series, MASH - a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in the Korean War. In some of the episodes a wounded man's recovery from injury and surgery is not helped by receiving a 'Dear John letter'. This is a letter informing the soldier that in his absence his fiancée has succumbed to the charms of someone more available and wants to break their engagement off.

I think that if you love someone, really love them, you cannot see enough of them. The absence of a loved one does not help the relationship.

However, the fact is that those of us who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and love him for all he has achieved on our behalf, are from time to time filled with inexpressible and glorious joy.

A few weeks ago I gave the address at Dorothy Underwood's funeral. She was a dear Christian sister whom I had known almost my entire life. I applied Psalm 121 to her long life - a Psalm she had chosen as the reading at her funeral. This is how I concluded my address:

At Christmas – the last card I had was from Jeanette in Australia – an old college friend. She suffers from Parkinson’s disease amongst other things. Jeanette complained a little in her card about her husband and children: ‘They expect me to smile and carry on,' she wrote. Jeanette ends her card: 'So John, consider your-self as an old friend whose shoulder I have used to cry on and who understands the full implications of Parkinson’s disease as few others do. Thanks dear friend.'

Dorothy had a friend who knew what it was like to be human – a dear, dear friend whose shoulder she used to cry on – the shoulder of Jesus who protects us from all harm and watches over us – the friend who sticks closer than a brother, the friend who will never fail us – as he never failed Dorothy on her pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem.

          Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed Redeemer.
          Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet and Priest and King.
          Death is vanquished! Tell it with joy ye faithful.
          Where is now thy victory, boasting grave?
          Jesus lives! No longer thy portals are cheerless.
          Jesus lives! the mighty and strong to save.

As I closed my tribute to all Jesus meant to Dorothy and to all Jesus has done for Dorothy with the words of the well known hymn I waved my clenched fist in the air full of triumph and inexpressible and glorious joy. Jesus lives, the mighty and strong to save - what joy!

(6) Faith's goal. You are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. v9.

In the introduction to this exposition I emphasised that faith always has a goal in view. This was true of Moses faith. See exposition on Moses faith: Hebrews11v23to29.

Faith has a goal and it is instrumental in achieving that goal. This was certainly true of Moses. His goal was to lead God's people out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. To achieve this goal he needed much faith to overcome the numerous, severe obstacles he encountered on the journey.

What was true of Moses was true of all the other heroes of faith dealt with in the Old Testament. They had a clear goal to achieve. David's goal was to kill Goliath. Nehemiah's goal was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Esther's goal was to save her people from genocide. Rahab's goal was to save herself and her family. And Job? What was his goal exactly? It seems likely that his goal was to live righteously; to please God and to enjoy the benefits of God's approval. Job never abandoned this goal. He may have underestimated God. He thought God needed to be made aware of his situation. He wanted to have his predicament out with God. But I do not believe Job ever abandoned his goal and in the end his faith was rewarded.

The Christian pursues their goal by believing in the finished work of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. So long as they have faith in Jesus they are on course for achieving their goal. Salvation is the Christian's goal. It is the gift of God but it is only received by faith. If our faith is strong and constant we are assured of salvation; we are saved whatever our circumstances; saved for time and eternity.

          Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
          Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!
          Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
          Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.

          This is my story. This is my song
          Praising my Saviour all the day long.

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