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 I Peter 1, 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 difficult times. Faith that casts its cares upon the Lord. Faith that looks the future. In fact, our trials can actually help us trust more fully in the Lord.
(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. It is possible to “rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” even in the midst of our trials when we understand God is using them to meet a need–a need that we may not know we have.
(4) He reminds them of who they are. The Elect. The born again people of God. Pilgrims who know their sojourn here is temporary. Later he called them “a chosen generation.” “A holy nation.” “His own special people.” What an honor. What a privilege. And what a responsibility to belong to God. Remember who you are.
(5) He offers them hope. Hope of a brighter day. A better tomorrow. And a life that far surpasses the one we know. We look forward to an inheritance beyond this life. Incorruptible. Undefiled. Unfading. It is reserved and waiting for us in heaven
What Peter is saying to them, he’s saying to us. If you’re facing trials that are testing your faith, know that it’s all worth it. Relative to eternity they only last a little while. And ultimately they will result in the salvation of your soul.
Finally, it is well to remember that the Christian faith does not guarantee a life without pain, suffering, and sorrow. But God has promised help, hope, and strength. Annie Flint Johnson poetically put it this way.
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman