Question: Please explain I Peter 4:12 which reads, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” Also I Peter 1:6, which says, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” Please explain in detail about “strange thing happened unto you” what all this implies and “season” how long a time the Bible means when it said “for a season.”
Answer: These two texts are closely linked together and are component parts of the general teachings in the Scriptures on the doctrine of God’s corrections, chastisements, and preparation of His children for heaven and also for living their lives more to His glory. Trials are a normal part of a Christian life and we should not think them strange when they come. The devil would like to get us to consider them this way. If he can succeed in this, he has gained a great advantage. He would like to have us think that no one else ever had a trial like we are having. That kind of thinking is very devastating to the person who accepts it and it produces a self-pitying, self-sympathizing attitude which is one of the most destructive things to faith and the spiritual experience. I admonish this questioner and everyone else who reads this to resist these kinds of thoughts with all the power God gives you. And if that is not sufficient, humble your heart and earnestly pray that God will add to your faith and increase His power in your soul to be able to resist that kind of thinking until it flees from you. This is one of the most important places where the Christian must fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life.
I Corinthians 10:13 says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:…” Then you can be sure that whatever kind of trial or temptation you are having, there are others having that same kind of trial (perhaps many) and there are, no doubt, people living around you who have already overcome that same kind of thing who could be a help to you if you would confide in them. I Peter 5:9 says, “Whom [the devil verse 8] resist steadfast in the faith, KNOWING THAT THE SAME AFFLICTIONS ARE ACCOMPLISHED IN YOUR BRETHREN that are in the world.”
Every trial or temptation that our heavenly Father permits to come to us has its special purpose and is a part of God’s purging, purifying process in our lives. We may think we are pretty good folks and doing quite well in our Christian lives, but God looks down in the depth of our hearts and sees something there that would not fit in heaven and He could not take us to heaven with, so He goes to work to purge that out of us because He wants us in heaven and the trials that come to us are His process of doing this.
A few select texts from God’s Word will confirm all that has been said. Job 23:10, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Psalms 66:10, “For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.” Isaiah 48:10, “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Malachi 3:3, “And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” I Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.
Now I would like to add this comment in regard to Malachi 3:3 purging and purifying the SONS OF LEVI. Levi was the head of the Levitical Priesthood in ancient, literal Israel. Only those who were of the tribe of Levi were permitted to administer about the holy things and offer sacrifices and they had to go through a process of ceremonial cleansing before they were eligible. The text in Malachi 3:3 is actually a prophecy of Christ and His work and the effects of His gospel and therefore could have no possible reference to the literal sons of Levi. But Israel after the flesh was a type of Israel after the spirit the New Testament Church (spiritual Israel) in this dispensation. And the sons of Levi (the priesthood of ancient Israel) were a type of the spiritual priesthood (us) in this dispensation. Salvation through faith in Christ makes every redeemed soul a priest unto God. (Revelation 1:6 & 5:10 and I Peter 2:9). Therefore this purging and purifying of Malachi 3:3 is going on in US by the Word of God (the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God) and the operation of the Spirit of God in our hearts and lives.
This brings us to the consideration of the second verse in this question (I Peter 1:6) “…for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The key words in this text are the words “IF NEED BE.” This is very important in understanding this question and the whole scope of God’s dealings with us to purge and purify us and prepare us for heaven. Let us realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows things about us that we never knew we had on hand. Psalms 19:12 says, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” We are certainly not so constituted as to be able to see ourselves as God sees us until He reveals ourselves to us. And He usually does this by shaping up certain circumstances in our lives and sending some special, peculiar kind of trial to us which will touch the thing He wants to purge out of our lives and bring it out and make it manifest itself.
The reason for this is that our will and consent is involved in all of God’s dealings with our souls and our wills cannot possibly act in regard to things we have not seen or do not know about. Hence the text says, “IF NEED BE.” It is God who determines when we need a trial and what kind of a trial we need to deal with something in our lives which He sees and maybe we don’t.
The season referred to here in this text does not refer to any specified period of time such as a day, a week, a month or a year but just whatever time is necessary to accomplish the purpose of the trial. If we will just humbly, quickly and wholeheartedly submit to God and give Him the full consent of our will for Him to work in us as He sees fit to purge out of us the thing that has surfaced and manifested itself, we can shorten the duration of the trial. Failure to do this will prolong the duration of the trial. So the very best thing any of us can possibly do when a trial or test hits us is to quickly submit ourselves to God without any reservation and give Him a free hand in working His works in us. However, in a more extended sense the “season” here might refer to our entire lives because the working of our own salvation is surely a lifetime job.