Hope is an interesting word in America. For many, hope is only wishful thinking. For example, I love college football and am a huge Texas A&M fan. As the season begins I may say, “I hope the Aggies win the national championship!” I don’t know if they will, each year seems like it could be a good year then I find myself disappointed. In America hope often equals uncertainty. In the Bible, hope is equals certainty!
In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn recalls this story: “In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, ‘All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it’”
This is a grim reminder of what hopelessness can do to us. When we lose hope, we essentially lose the will to love, grow, and persevere. Times of trial, stress, and temptation eventually weigh us down and drain our zeal for life. Peter’s hearers were facing something similar, but on a much grander scale. The threats and persecution they were experiencing had the potential to derail their faith.
In our scripture today, Peter shows them how to put hope into action. Let’ look at these verses (1 Peter 1:3-9) and learn three ways to stand with hope.
- We have Hope given through Jesus Christ
Standing with hope means that we remember what God did for us in Christ. Peter says God has, “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (v.3). Notice the passive language Peter uses here. We did not do this: God did this! He caused us to be born again. He gave us this living hope. He raised Jesus from the dead and in doing, raised us up with Him.
Ever since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, news commentators have struggled to understand what Christians mean by “born again.” Almost always in the news media, “born again” is a term of derision. So let’s unravel the facts:
- All Christians are born-again. The term is a wonderful metaphor of new life from God. I cannot be a Christian without a fresh beginning based on the salvation Christ brings.
- Born-again people have the Holy Spirit living inside of us to guide us, teach us, counsel us and provide us God’s presence.
- To be born-again is a magnificent gift from God. It is also a dividing line. Cross it, and we enter God’s kingdom. Not everyone will understand. But that’s no cause for pride or defensiveness. Live out God’s gift as a believer sharing the good news with others. That’s our new job that accompanies our new birth.
If we are going to live out our hope in the present, we must look to the past. Considering how the Bible describes our sinful state before we became Christians, we should look back with gratefulness in our hearts for what God has done.
Many of us can recall the thoughts we harbored, the motives we embraced, and the sins that we willfully committed. But God had mercy on us and gave us new life. Now, our hope is rooted in His saving work.
John Newton understood how important it is for Christians to reflect on God’s goodness toward us when he wrote “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see” (Newton, Amazing Grace).
How often do we reflect on the time when God saved us? Do we understand how undeserving we are of God’s grace? May we never forget God’s amazing grace in our lives. This is our path to standing with hope.
In verses 4 and 5 Peter tells his hearers of the certainty of their future inheritance. What God has for His people cannot be destroyed (imperishable), cannot be tainted (undefiled), and will not fade away (unfading). The reason our inheritance is so certain is explained when Peter says it is, “kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (v.5). By His power, God is upholding now as we await our inheritance in the future.
The thing to notice here is that God is responsible for our future.
God is the one who holds us, sustains us, and preserves us even as we wait for our complete redemption. Standing with hope requires that we rest in what God will do for us in the future. If we really understood what God has prepared for us, we could virtually endure anything. C.S Lewis believed that our reward in Heaven would essentially reach back into all the disappointments and failures in our lives and fill them with glory. He said, “Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even agony into a glory” (The Great Divorce, 69).
How often do you think of Heaven and the future God has for us? Does it impact how we make decisions? Will we resolve to live with eternity in mind?
- We can have Hope through trials.
Peter drew his reader’s attention to the past, to the future, now he hones in on the present. In light of what God has done and what God will do, believers are called to do two things: suffer well and continue praise God in all things. In verses 6-9 Peter tells them that they are and will continue to experience suffering. The reason is 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” (v.7).
Is there a contradiction between living a life of hope and living a life of suffering? Not at all; in fact, Peter’s point was that we have a living hope while we have suffering and trials. Peter was writing to Christians scattered abroad because of persecution; they were suffering for Christ. This portion of this letter is a huge boost of encouragement to continue in hope.
But there is something more: as we stand with hope through suffering, our joy grows in Christ. Peter emphasized that because of our love for Jesus and our faith in Him, we “rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy.” Why? Because we are in the process of receiving the goal of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls.
I’ve often heard seasoned pastors say, “If you haven’t faced suffering, just live long enough and you will.” The testimony of Christians around the world ratifies the reality of suffering for the people of God, even if the experience of American Christians is not like the persecuted church in more hostile regions. Sadly, we might think we’re suffering if our Wi-Fi goes out or the server brought us the wrong order at the restaurant. Peter reminds us that “various trials” (v. 6) will come, and they’re meant to refine our faith, so rest in our identity in Christ, regardless of the circumstances.
Why me? The problem has vexed philosophers since they first asked questions: Why does an all-powerful, good God permit suffering? To which most people add: “And if someone has to suffer, why me?” Instead of answering these questions on the philosophical level, Christians face suffering by adopting a new set of responses:
- Confidence that God knows, plans, and directs our lives for the good. It’s hard to calculate sometimes, but God always provides his love and strength for us. God leads us toward a better future.
- Perseverance when facing grief, anger, sorrow, and pain. Christians believe in expressing grief, but we should never give in to bitterness and despair.
- Courage because with Jesus as Brother and Savior, we need not be afraid. He who suffered for us will not abandon us. Jesus carries us through everything.
- We can have Hope that we are growing more like Christ
Many of us are accustomed to taking pictures on our phones and posting the pictures to various social media pages immediately. Back in the day, however, we took pictures and had to wait for them to be developed. This process of development took a while and we were excited to see how things would turn out.
God uses the experiences of our lives to develop us. This includes the periods of trial our time in the dark room, so to speak. This is something that we can rejoice about now while anticipating an even greater celebration later! We know that in the end, God will have done a marvelous work in us. This is our hope, even though we cannot currently see how it will all turn out.
We can maintain our hope because we know that God is in control of our lives: beginning, middle, and end. After our earthly lives have ended, God has even more in store for us. Knowing this should encourage us to endure the trials and tribulations we face. God is preserving our reward and preserving us until we reach it.
As we close, consider how comprehensive our hope is. We can look back at what God has done and forward to what He will do, which empowers us to live now with joy and peace. This is what it means to stand with hope.
Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church