We are all molded by the people, surroundings, and other influences that we grow up, in, and around, and by the trials we endure. Some things become integral parts of who we are and are genuine aspects of our being. If something is truly genuine, there is absolutely nothing that can change it under any circumstances. It may be made to look life something different for a time, but at its core it has not changed. The apostle Peter speaks of our faith in this way.
1 Pet 1:6 ¶ In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
In the first chapter of 1 Peter, our faith is compared with gold, that is tested with fire. Gold is tried and purified to prove its genuineness and verify its value. In the same way, our faith is tested throughout our lifetimes through the trials we endure and the struggles we encounter. It is also tested by the blessings we receive and the praise of others that bring with it the temptations of pride and self-reliance.
If we come to faith in Christ at some time in our lives, and that conversion produces a genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, there is nothing that can take that away from us. We can have an assurance of salvation that is an integral part of who we are. The result of such a faith is praise and glory and honor when Christ returns to culminate our salvation.
Many times, however, faith conversions do not result in genuine repentance. Such individuals fall back into sinful habits and patterns of living that reveal that the faith that was professed was not real and lasting, but merely a human effort of self-serving preservation. It is not wrong to begin this way, but genuine faith will persevere as love for our savior takes over and moves us beyond self-interest. Genuine faith will be marked by increased awareness of the eternal nature of God and the temporary and fleeting nature of the pleasures of this world. The passions of this world will diminish in importance as our eyes are drawn to Jesus and our eternal future.
But even among individuals possessing a genuine faith, assurance of salvation is often lacking. This assurance is rarely instantaneous, but is gradual and growing over time in the life of a believer. Lack of assurance may even cause true believers to take a step back from their faith journey for a time of questioning and spiritual inquiry. If the faith was genuine, God will not abandon them. The good shepherd will always go after his lost sheep and bring them back to the fold so that none are eternally lost. If the initial appearance of faith was not genuine, however, the faith of such individuals may indeed be irreconcilable.
We should have as our prayer that our faith would be tried and proven to enable us to experience the assurance of salvation that is made available through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Without trials, it is much more difficult to know if our faith is genuine and we can easily be robbed of the assurance that God’s word clearly offers. When we endure through trials and suffering, and the genuineness of our faith becomes more sure, we can then echo the words of James.
James 1: 2 ¶ Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.