I woke up this morning to sirens, which is not too uncommon in my neighborhood, but this one stopped soon after passing my house. Due to the regularity of such moments, I pushed it out of my mind until I heard another fire truck, and then another fire truck. In due time I was walking two blocks down to find my road blocked off and flashing lights everywhere. No false alarm this time. Smoke was billowing out of a house. I asked a neighbor who had been watching it all unfold if they knew if anyone had been inside. The answer, fortunately, was no. But there were still casualties. When the firemen opened the door, the oxygen gave way to flames, setting some on fire. The fire was put out, but according to his report, one firemen taken out on a stretcher with burns on his arm.
In the original Greek, 1 Peter 1:3-12 is all one sentence, a feat worthy of an award from C.S. Lewis himself. (John may run faster, but Peter can string words together longer. Who’s talent is cooler? You decide.) There in the midst of his 2 paragraph run-on sentence on salvation and resurrection, Peter calls his readers to embrace the trials and persecutions that come their way, which is a common message found all throughout the New Testament. For it is the tests that come our way that prove to us how real and legitimate our faith is.
Here Peter reminds us that “the tested genuineness of your faith [is] more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire.” But this kind of tested faith is not typically the faith we strive for. Many of us were given a prosperity gospel where once we accept Jesus, everything will be hunky-dory and a straight shot up to success, wealth, and greatness. We don’t want to be tested. We want a faith that gives us something, not a faith that requires something of us. But if our faith can’t be tested, there’s no way to know that it’s real. Sure, you may be able to believe when times are good, but anyone can do that. It’s the faith of the one who can believe even in the midst of trials and questions that is genuine; for that’s the kind of faith that asks us, “How bad do you really want Jesus?” And it’s in that moment that many are surprised to find their answer to be: “Apparently not bad enough.”
Since the pandemic hit, the spiritual houses of many Christians have caught on fire. I’d imagine that nearly all of us have had our faith tested, even if just in the simple question of, “God, where are you right now?” Some have had their faith burned down to ashes and there is nothing left of the house. But I have seen others come out the other side miraculously victorious. Indeed, I have seen some fires rage in such a way that I feared there would be nothing left of the house when it was over, but then after an impossible amount of time, the fires subsided as friends helped put them out and the owners emerged victorious. You would have expected them to fall to the flame, but as they held tight to faith, they supernaturally survived the whole thing, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Sure, they have some healing to go through, but their faith is more solid than ever. The house may require some deconstruction and reconstruction, but it’s still standing. Precious worldly things like gold may not survive the fire, but faith is built to survive anything. Indeed, even when gold is tested by fire, it is actually refined by it, and faith operates in the same way.
My liturgical devotion today is based off of the themes of 1 Peter 1:1-12, found at CommonPrayer.net.