The problem of “a little while”


This entry is part 11 of 20 in the series The problem of ...

How long is “a little while”?

It’s this long –

ἄρτι ὀλίγος

(I really hope the text above displayed correctly on your system – it’s Greek letters)

It’s from something Peter wrote –

Praise to God for a Living Hope

1Pe 1:3 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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 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. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 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. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1Pe 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Specifically, it’s from verse 6 –

6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.


I’ve been moving from a previous site to this new one you’re reading from now.  With about 8 years of stuff to reformat & update, there’s a lot to go over.  It’s also a chance to remember what I’ve been writing about – what’s been going on in my life that got me to write about those things – and reflect on all of it.

I was just noticing how often I seem to be going through things – a car totaled, while I was in it – a dog escaping from his harness and destroying his paw pads and nails while running around for an hour (he did return on his own) – a tree falling in the back yard – being forced into early retirement after 36+ years  – having another dog get lymphoma, and just when it seemed like he’s be in remission, it went to his brain and we had to put him to sleep a few hours later – and on and on and on.

I’m sure it must be for others as well – but no one I know (who is willing to admit it).  It’s never ending, and never a moment of just being able to sit back and relax.  It all made me wonder if this is ever going to stop, or if my life will always be like this.

Then, the next thing I worked on moving over had the passage above from 1 Peter 1.

It felt like God was answering my question.  Without really answering it.  Kind of “Job-like”.

Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens my counsel
with words without knowledge?
Job 38:3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

If you don’t remember, Job’s answer was this –

Job 42:1 Then Job replied to the LORD:
Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
Job 42:3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

Job 42:4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
Job 42:5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Job 42:6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

While the temptation is certainly to despise myself for asking such a dumb question
and figuratively repent in dust and ashes,
I also know that’s not the response God is looking for.

We know that, because here’s how God responded to what Job said –

Job 42:7 After the LORD had said these things to Job , he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.
Job 42:10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
Job 42:12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.

Given the that Job is Old Testament, we also realize, as Christians, that the blessings bestowed on Job after this incident aren’t necessarily going to happen for us in this life.  It might – that’s entirely up to God.  But – it also might not.

So what does Job have to do with “a little while” in 1 Peter?

Actually, a lot.

Let’s start with –

though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

The one word here that probably needs some explanation is “trials”.  These days, the word “trials” conjures up thoughts of a courthouse, where someone’s guilt or innocence is determined by a judge.  In some sense, that may not be too far off, but it doesn’t really get the point across for this verse.

Looking at two sources for more information about how this word is used in the Greek of that time, we see –

3986 πειρασμός [peirasmos /pi·ras·mos/] n m. From 3985; TDNT 6:23; TDNTA 822; GK 4280; 21 occurrences; AV translates as “temptation” 19 times, “temptations” once, and “try” once. 1 an experiment, attempt, trial, proving. 1A trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul (Gal. 4:14). 1B the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy. 1B1 an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances. 1B2 an internal temptation to sin. 1B2A of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand. 1B3 of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness. 1B4 adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness. 1C temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men. 1C1 rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves.  1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

and

27.46 πειράζωa; πειρασμόςa, οῦ m; ἐκπειράζωa: to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing—‘to test, to examine, to put to the test, examination, testing.’
πειράζωa: ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε εἰ ἐστὲ ἐν τῇ πίστει ‘put yourselves to the test as to whether you are in the faith (or not)’ 2 Cor 13:5; προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς ‘the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked if he would show them a sign from heaven’ Mt 16:1.
πειρασμόςa: μὴ ξενίζεσθε τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ ‘don’t be surprised at the painful testing you are experiencing’ 1 Pe 4:12; ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις ἐκπειράζωa: οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’ Lk 4:12; νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτόν ‘an expert in the Law stood up to test him’ Lk 10:25.
It is also possible to understand πειράζω and ἐκπειράζω in Mt 16:1 and Lk 10:25 as meaning ‘to try to trap’ (see 27.31). See also 88.308.  2)Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 331). New York: United Bible Societies.

We can see, there are various sources for these “trials” – God, Satan, our own internal self, “stuff happens”, Etc.

Question – does the source matter?  Seems like I’ve learned before, more than once, that the source doesn’t matter.  

Looking at the immediately following verses, 6-9, this makes sense.  Who’s going to say that God can’t use anything that comes up for these purposes?  It doesn’t matter whether it’s something God actually made happen – or allowed to happen.  He can use events in our lives, no matter what.

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. 8 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, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Look at our Job example.  Job thought it was from God – although it was actually from Satan.  Either way, Job’s response was the correct one.

So it’s not where these trials come from or who / what caused them that should be the object of our focus.  No – we should focus on our salvation through Jesus as we respond to these “things”.  And, while we’re at it – there’s something Jesus said that we should also remember –

Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Just as Job’s experience brought God into the lives of his friends, our experiences can, and should, bring God into the lives of others.  The way we respond to these trials, no matter their source, says a lot about our relationship with Jesus.  It can either be a light that brings people to Him – or a bottomless pit of misery that drives people away from us and from Jesus.  Or – one that I really cannot fathom – it could be a case where Christians want to pretend that their lives are perfect – no turmoil – no problems – in other words, they deny the existence of trials.  That’s neither a light nor a pit of misery.  It’s nothing.  Along the lines of something else Jesus said. in Revelation –

Rev 3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

So – while we are suffering grief in these trials, again – regardless of their source – we need to remember that there is another purpose.  

In this you greatly rejoice

The first thing to do with this phrase is to determine exactly what “this” is. 

Some commentaries indicate “this” is clearly the first few verses of the chapter –

1Pe 1:3 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, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 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.

And that makes sense.  It’s certainly cause for rejoicing.

However – just as the trials aren’t only about us and only for us – could there be something else going on here?

The quote I have at the top is from the 1984 NIV.  For this phrase, it says “In this you greatly rejoice”.

However, the 2011 NIV says something slightly different.  It says In all this you greatly rejoice”.

It adds the word “all“.

what is “all this“?

You may be expecting to find out something about the word “this”.  Maybe “all”, except there’s no direct word for “all” in the Greek portion of the verse.  It’s actually the combination of “In this” – that makes the word “all” appropriate.

In — 89.5 ἐνk; ἐν μέρει (an idiom, literally ‘in part’); ὅπουd: markers of an area of activity which bears some relation to something else—‘in, about, in the case of, with regard to.’  3)Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 777). New York: United Bible Societies.

this — 92.27 ὅς, ἥ, ὅ: a relative reference to any entity, event, or state, either occurring overtly in the immediate context or clearly implied in the discourse or setting—‘who, which, what, the one who, that which.’ ὁ ἀστὴρ ὃν εἶδον ‘the star which they saw’ Mt 2:9; τίς δέ ἐστιν οὗτος περὶ οὗ ἀκούω τοιαῦτα; ‘and who is this concerning whom I heard these things?’ Lk 9:9; ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος ‘the one who does not take up his cross and follow behind me is not worthy of me’ Mt 10:38; ἀλλ̓ ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται μετ̓ ἐμὲ οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος τὸ ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν λῦσαι ‘but behold, there is coming after me one whose shoelaces I am not worthy to untie’ Ac 13:25.  4)Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 815–816). New York: United Bible Societies.

So – we have a marker of some activity – the thing(s) about which we are rejoicing.

And – we have an event or state (condition) that is either obvious, based on the context  – or implied by what’s being said.

Given that the commentaries on this part of 1 Peter do not agree that it’s obvious from the context, then it must be the second case – that it’s implied from the rest of the passage around it.

As I alluded to above – I believe there are two causes for rejoicing in this passage – “in all this“.

  1. That we rejoice over our salvation through Jesus should be a given, and not require anything further to be said.
  2. But should we not also rejoice that God is using us, not only to refine our own salvation, but in various processes involving the salvation of others – many of whom we may not even know?  Who knows who will see our response to life’s trials – or hear about them – or read about them?  Is that not cause for joy?  Heaven apparently thinks so –

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

Lk 15:1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Lk 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

So “in all of this“, meaning all of it – the trials, our salvation, the salvation of others – it’s all cause for rejoicing.

SO – how long is a little while?

You can see – for a little while comes from just one word.  And that one word means something I’ve written many times –

59.13 ὀλίγοςc, η, ον: a relatively small quantity—‘little, small amount.’  5)Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 595). New York: United Bible Societies.

Maybe our time of trial is only measured in months, or a year, or a few years.  Maybe it’s a lot of years.  For some – it’s their entire life.  
However – regardless of how long “a little while” lasts in this life on earth, the ultimate object of our rejoicing is what comes next – for us and everyone else who is saved.  Relatively speaking, 

Compared to eternity – our lives on this earth are really, really short.

Conclusion

All of this is something I probably need to just put on my calendar to read every six months.

Seriously – when “stuff happens” – these are all things we need to remember.
It’s not just about us.
It’s about Jesus.
And it’s about the salvation of everyone who comes to Him or get closer to Him because of what we went through.

So – how long is a little while?

Not really too long.

Series Navigation<< The problem of not knowingThe problem of FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt >>

References   [ + ]

1. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
2. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 331). New York: United Bible Societies.
3. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 777). New York: United Bible Societies.
4. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, pp. 815–816). New York: United Bible Societies.
5. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 595). New York: United Bible Societies.

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