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Good For You? | is Christianity Depressing?

June 9, 2024
1 Peter 1:6-9

6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so 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. 8Though 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, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

Lord God, the unfailing helper and guide of those whom you bring up in your steadfast love, keep us, we pray, under the protection of your good providence, and give us a perpetual reverence and love for your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Responsive Prayer — Psalm 16

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;

In the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me;

Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;

My flesh also dwells secure.

You make known to me the path of life;

In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Summary and Connection

We are in a sermon series called Good for You? and this week we are asking, “Is Christianity Depressing?” It could certainly seem so, given the persecution faced by the early Church and the kill-joy reputation of the Church today. Christianity seems obsessed with sin, righteousness, and death, which is quite opposite from our modern pursuit of happiness and pleasure. There are countless books, programs, products, and podcasts that promise you can achieve happiness in so many days, in so many steps, or in so many easy payments. Those same books and programs don’t exist for trials, suffering, and evil. Yet, in spite of our cultural obsession with happiness, our rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide are increasing, and loneliness is epidemic. Many are crying out, along with the author of Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). We wish to be happy, but we are not. What are we missing?

The “vanity” of life is that life and its joys are quickly passing away. We cannot make a single moment last forever. The 20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt, drawing upon Saint Augustine, saw that, “The trouble with human happiness is that it is constantly beset by fear,” the fear of losing what we want. The only thing that we can truly love and that can truly make us happy is a “lasting enjoyment for its own sake.” In other words, only an undying joy can undo the fear of death that robs us of all other happiness. 

This is where 1 Peter 1:6-9 has something to say to us. In this letter, the apostle Peter is comforting Christians who are in the midst of great loss — what he calls “various trials” (verse 6). However, not only are these trials ultimately inconsequential compared to the future joy that lies ahead for these Christians, they also become the assurance of that joy. It is because of their faith that these Christians are being persecuted. Yet, it is also by their faith that these Christians can endure persecution. So in both professing and persevering, the readers of this letter are assured of their genuine faith. Significantly, the object of this genuine faith is a “lasting enjoyment for its own sake.” So now, in the midst of loss, these Christians can “rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” because they are, as Peter says right before this passage, “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (verses 3-4). So is Christianity depressing? Let’s read the passage and discuss.

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?

  • What does Peter say is the relationship between trials, faith, and joy?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • How does genuine faith in Jesus — in his life, death, and resurrection — transform our trials into joy?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • In what passing things are we looking for happiness?
  • How do we need to be transformed so that we experience the “inexpressible joy” that Peter promises to believers? 

4. Looking at Our World

  • In what ways are you persevering now, or can you persevere now, that will result in “praise and honor and glory” when Christ returns? Think about this question in terms of your work, your daily responsibilities, your relationships, and the way you parent, participate in church, and care for your friends. 


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1: Notice that Peter begins and ends this passage with rejoicing. For all of the Bible’s focus on sin, death, and especially the vicarious suffering of Jesus for his people, the dominant note is joy. The same is true here. Peter comforts these persecuted Christians with the fact that trials, faith, and joy are organically related in this life. Faith leads to trials, and trials refine faith. The result of faith, especially when it is hard-earned and well-proved, is great joy in Jesus. As other things are taken away, the Christian must more and more rely on Jesus. So, temporary trials lead more and more to eternal joy. For a similar perspective on trials and joy, read James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

    Question 2: For some people in the group, how Jesus brings joy in trials may be a live question for them. For many Christians throughout the world, this is a life-or-death question as they face persecution. But Peter’s assurances remain as true today as they were when he first wrote them. We can have joy because Jesus suffered for us. We will receive glory and honor from Jesus because he gave up his glory and honor on the cross. In the next chapter, Peter says about suffering, “for to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus has always led the way, he is with his people by his Spirit even now, and he will one day return. His presence brings joy, and his return will bring glory. Our faith trusts in both.

    Question 3: Use these questions to start to apply what the group has discussed so far. Some group members may be suffering. Others may be vaguely unhappy. Either way, Peter is telling us that what we need, as always, is the gospel. The news that Jesus made our happiness his happiness, and that he was willing to suffer temporary trials for our eternal good, will always reorient us and give us perseverance to suffer through our own temporary trials. Preacher and pastor Edmund Clowney describes the change this way: “When Jesus Christ is revealed, the gold of our faith will shine to his praise. The whole nature of suffering is changed for the Christian when he realizes that his anguish brings honour to Christ.”

    Question 4: Here is a final reflection from Edmund Clowney that may give you some ideas: “We did not see Jesus; we do not now see Jesus; but we shall see Jesus. Peter contrasts the past and the present with the future (1:8). The day is coming when Jesus will be revealed. In that day the goal of our faith will be realized. Our eyes will behold the One we have trusted and loved.”