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Greater Worth Than Gold

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:4-7

Peter’s praise of God seems pretty spot-on.  That is an overwhelming list of all that we’ve been given by God:

  • New birth
  • A living hope
  • An imperishable inheritance
  • Shielding by God’s power

So because of all of this, we can greatly rejoice.  That part makes sense, at least in my head.  Because if I’m honest there are a lot of days that I don’t really feel like rejoicing.  There’s a lot of chaos in the world, our country, and my own life.  I suppose this is why Peter feels the need to write this letter.  His readers were Christians being persecuted by the government, in danger of losing possessions, homes, and their very lives.  They were indeed “suffering grief” by their “various trials”.

Our trials certainly are various right now!  They might include the sudden impacts of COVID and its various tentacles.  They might be the craziness of our country with the political drama, social media insanities, or feeling that the moral fabric is being ripped to shreds.  And sometimes they’re even more insidious.  Sometimes our biggest trials come through a lack of suffering.  Before you write me off, hear me out.  I’m convinced that the more deadly of trials to us is actually in the ease of life, when things are going our way.

Wealth as a test

Aesop tells the fable of the North Wind and the Sun.  They had a competition to try to decide who was the mightier of the two.  They decided to try to make a traveler take off his coat.  No matter how hard the wind blew, the traveler just wrapped it around him more tightly.  When the sun shone brightly, however, the traveler was overcome with heat and took off his coat rather quickly.  We often fear the stormy gale, not realizing that the blaze of the sun can affect us just as much if not more.

It’s often said that it’s easy to trust God when things are going well with us.  But I think it’s more appropriate to say that it doesn’t require any faith in God when things are going well with us.

This can be a continual test for the wealthy.  The more we have, the harder it is to feel in need of a Provider and Protector.  Prosperity, rather than a blessing, can actually be one of the toughest challenges we face.  Will our faith stand up in the face of prosperity?  Or will it burn up like the gold in our purses?

Wealth as a comparison

Peter tells us that our faith is of greater worth than gold.  Here’s another challenge of faith – do we truly believe this is true?  Do we spend as much time worrying about the quality of our faith as we do the quality of the economy or our investments?  The truth is obvious here – our gold will perish but our inheritance in heaven will not.  Yet it’s easy to spend much more time and energy fretting about current events than eternal events.

It’s been said that as stewards we possess much but own nothing.  And while that’s true, if we begin to put our hearts on the things we possess then we can easily get owned by the things themselves.

“[A thing] possesses us, if we are devoted to it as our best good, and fighting and toiling, and sometimes lying and cheating, and flinging the whole fierce energy of our nature into first gripping and then holding it; it possesses us; we do not possess it.” <>

On the contrary, when we grow in our faith, we actually possess and own something of eternal value.  It is the “tap root” of all other positive character traits, the headwater for the streams of life.  And when we grow that root, it is established not just for the rest of our life, but for the life to come.

The ultimate reward

So why do we chase after gold on earth?  For some it is security; others pursue it for pleasures of things or experiences; for you it might be something different altogether.  Notice the payoff that Peter refers to of our faith – that they may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Peter’s not talking about God’s praise from us, but rather his praise for us for living a life well spent, for not getting distracted by the trappings of this world, for keeping our eyes on the prize.

The rewards on earth are temporary at best.  They seem cheap in comparison.  If we strive after gold, then we can never have enough of it.  But if we can shift our mindset and strive after the things that will last, then we can have “enough” no matter how much we have.  And this takes the worry off of what will happen to the markets, tax laws, governmental mandates or any freedoms or rights you feel might be at risk.

If anything, I want to encourage you to watch out for the days that are too sunny, lest we get too comfortable and put our trust in ourselves and our things.  While the gusty winds aren’t pleasant, they’re achieving something great in us and for us, and for that we can thank the Maker of the winds!