Annie Johnson Flint, born in 1866, is well-known in Christian circles as a poet and songwriter. She composed over 6,000 poems and hymns. However, her life was far from one of ease.
Annie was an orphan. Her foster parents both passed away early in her life. She cared for a sister who was very frail. As a result, she was compelled to be dependent on the assistance of others. She lived with crippling arthritis. She was stricken with cancer. Yet the faith of Annie Flint Johnson was strong, as many of her hymns testify.
Consider the powerful message of this hymn that may be less familiar to us.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
This morning in reading the epistle of I Peter, I am reminded of the “fiery trial” these Christians were about to face. In fact, they were already experiencing some suffering.
What does Peter tell them? How does he encourage them? What can they do to make it manageable and bearable?
(1) He exhorts them to focus on their faith that is “more precious than gold.” Faith in God. Faith in His promises. Faith that will see us through the most difficult of times. Faith that casts its cares upon the Lord. Faith that looks to the future inheritance “reserved in heaven.”
(2) He calls them to holiness. It is too often easy during tough times to give in to the pressures that weaken us. To feel as if we have a “pass” because of our problems. To believe that our trials give us the right to rebel. Not so. Instead, follow the example of Jesus. “Be holy.” Live righteously. Be a blessing to others.
(3) He challenges them to a greater perspective. Trials, temptations, and suffering can actually make us stronger. They can serve as a witness of our faith to unbelievers and even those who seek to harm us. When we suffer as a Christian, we glorify God (I Pet. 4:16). In fact, it is possible to “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” even in the midst of our trials(1 Pet. 1:8).
(4) He reminds them who they are. God’s special people. A holy nation. A spiritual Family. And a royal priesthood. Pilgrims who know their sojourn here is temporary. And who conduct themselves with honor even when evildoers malign and mistreat us (1 Pet 2:5-12).
(5) He enjoins on them a spirit of humility and submission. Throughout the book there is this theme and thread. Saints submit to God. Citizens submit to the governing authorities. Slaves submit to masters. Wives submit to husbands. Christians submit to their spiritual Shepherds. And the younger submit to the elder. Mutual submission demands relinquish our pride. Clothe yourselves with humility. And forgo your rights.
(6) He warns them to be watchful. The devil is dangerous. He’s like a hungry lion stalking his prey. He will hunt us down and devour us if we’re not alert. So, be serious. Be sober. Be vigilant. And always be on guard.
(7) He offers them hope. Hope of a brighter day. A better tomorrow. And a life that far surpasses the one we know.
What Peter is saying to them, he’s saying to us. If you’re facing trials that are testing your faith, read the epistle of 1 Peter. It’s short, but powerful, packed with important admonitions, and words of encouragement, warning, and hope.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman