In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9)
Peter mentions suffering several times in this letter: 1 Peter 1:6-7; 3:13-17; 4:12-19; 5:9. When he speaks of trials, he is not talking about natural disasters or the experience of God’s punishments, but the response of an unbelieving world to people of faith. All believers face such trials when they let their light shine into the darkness. We must accept trials as part of the refining process that burns away impurities and prepares us to meet Christ. Trials teach us patience (Romans 5:3, 4; James 1:2, 3) and help us grow to be the kind of people God wants.
Why were Christians the target of persecution? (1) They refused to worship the emperor as a god and thus were viewed as atheists and traitors. (2) They refused to worship at pagan temples so business for these moneymaking enterprises dropped wherever Christianity took hold. (3) They didn’t support the Roman ideals of self, power, and conquest; and the Romans scorned the Christian ideal of self-sacrificing service. (4) They exposed and rejected the horrible immorality of pagan culture.
While there is much rejoicing (1 Peter 1:6) because of the salvation God has prepared for us, there will also be agony because of the pressures and difficulties of life. In 1 Peter 1:7, the trials refer to ordeals that we encounter in life rather than those things that would induce us to sin. Note that no one particular problem is in view here, but rather all the testing's of life.
As the purity of gold is brought forth by intense heat, so the reality and purity of our faith are revealed as a result of the fiery trials we face. Ultimately the testing of our faith not only demonstrates our final salvation but also develops our capacity to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes into His Kingdom and we reign with Him (Rom. 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:9–12). Otherwise, our trials, struggles, and persecutions refine and strengthen our faith, making us useful to God.
In 1 Peter 1:8, "having not seen" means that only a few believers had the privilege of walking and talking with Jesus when He was on this earth (John 20:29). There is a final, positive outcome for trusting God through all the difficulties of life—our salvation, which here has an eschatological sense. In 1 Peter 1:9, "salvation of your souls" refers to our glorification in heaven and perhaps the rewards we will receive for following Christ (Matt. 16:24–27; James 1:21). Peter indicates that the Old Testament prophets knew of the gracious salvation we would one day receive and, as a result, studied it carefully and intensively (1 Peter 1:10-11).
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.