Peter was writing to a people that were suffering persecution, most likely under Nero. We don’t know the exact circumstances under which Peter wrote this letter, but it was probably either just before Nero started his full bore persecution of the church or just after. Either way, it would have been easy for the Christians to get discouraged. And so Peter reminds them the reason for their hope.
And it goes back to the first two verses of this chapter. That God in in his foreknowledge chose them and purified them by the blood of Jesus, and sanctified them by the Spirit for obedience to Christ.
Now Peter goes into much further detail.
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 — 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. (3-5)
Here we see the exact basis of our hope: the resurrection of Christ. By Christ’s resurrection, God confirmed that Jesus’ payment for our sin on the cross was enough. And through that same resurrection, we now have hope beyond the grave. As Jesus told his disciples,
Because I live, you also will live. (John 14:19)
Now through his mercy, he has given us new life, our salvation is secure. Though Satan seeks to destroy us, God’s power shields us as we stand in faith, and his power will continue to shield us until the day Jesus returns. And on that day, we will receive an inheritance that can never “perish, spoil, or fade.”
Because of this, Peter can say,
In 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 your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (6-7)
Why can we we rejoice in the midst of trial? Because these trials are just for “a little while.”
And God doesn’t allow us to go through these trials in order to destroy us, but to purify us and make us more like his Son. Jesus himself suffered greatly, and as we share in his sufferings, we become more like him.
How do our sufferings make us more like Christ? They cause us to remember that we are mere strangers in this world. As we saw yesterday, we don’t truly belong to this world. And as we see that, we start to focus not on the temporal, but the eternal. We lay aside the sins which promise temporary joy, for things that bring eternal joy. And as we do that, all the junk that clings to us slides off and we become as pure as gold.
As Job said,
[God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)
And Peter says that all this is to God’s praise, glory, and honor first and foremost, for he is the one who chose us. But I also have to believe that we also will receive praise, glory and honor from God as well.
So with all this in mind, Peter concludes,
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul. (8-9)
Does that describe you, even as you go through trials? If not, then it’s time to get back to basics. Remember that God loves you and has chosen you as his own. Remember the cross by which Christ purchased you. Remember Christ’s resurrection by which we have hope of our own resurrection. Remember the inheritance that we have in heaven.
And if you do, you will come forth as gold.