Our Constant Hope
Persecution, ridicule, unjust law, slavery, and poverty plagued the early church. Under the rule of the Roman emperor Nero Christians were unjustly targeted and mistreated by government and society. A religious minority, Christians were scattered throughout the Roman empire awaiting the promise of Christ’s return while enduring trial and suffering.
The apostle Peter knew the struggle of these men and women as they woke each morning to the same tasks and the same struggle. He too had been persecuted. He too had questioned the promise of God. He watched as godless leaders dictated the affairs of his nation and the young church. He heard the same reports of Nero’s lusts and assassinations. Thus it was from experience and wisdom that Peter admonished his readers.
Despite the challenges and the trials Peter writes as a man of hope. He has not become cynical and grumpy or dystopian in his thinking. He is bright eyed as he looks forward to the promise of salvation. His words are not those of a man defeated or deflated by the affairs of government or society. Though the nations rage his hope is in the God who has promised and raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2).
It is this hope that Peter wants to give to his readers. It is this hope that I want to give to you reading this today.
1. 1 Peter 1:3 (cf. 1:21) - The Birth of Hope
A. Hope is Given.
Hope is not the natural state of man. It is born in us through faith in Jesus Christ. Left to ourselves we will attempt to manufacture hope on the shaky foundations of human philosophy, political powers, and economic fortunes. Because hope is given we cannot find it in ourselves, in others, or in wishful thinking. True hope, lasting hope, comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
B. Hope is Victorious.
The empty tomb of Jesus declares that Jesus has triumphed over death and reigns over every power and authority. His kingdom is expanding through the bold preaching of the Gospel through every land to reach every tribe. Someday we will see Jesus ascended to the right hand of God above every rule and authority. Every earthly power, the good and the bad, will kneel before him, and he will reign forever and ever. Thus, every injustice, every evil deed, every tyrant and terror will be judged. The resurrection is the promise of Christ’s rule and our freedom. He has triumphed and liberated us from sin and death. Our hope is not wishful thinking or unfounded belief. It is certain and secure in Jesus.
C. Hope is Living:
Our hope is living. This means it changes us and acts upon us. It helps us see beyond the persecutions, struggles, and trials of this life, to the certain promises of God. Hope in Christ alters our perspective and our behavior. It is not just a vain claim to try and bolster our confidence in a moment of weakness. The hope that God gives changes our vision from monochrome to color. We see life with all of its blessings and challenges through that lens.
2. 1 Peter 1:13 - The Focus and Clarity of Hope
A. Hope has a Focus.
The Christian’s hope is not placed in the powers of this earth. Hope’s focus is not mortal but eternal. Our hope is set fully upon God’s grace which we will experience when Jesus returns. Christian hope has an eternal focus. This does not mean that we are not concerned with the affairs of this time and place. We are told to seek the welfare of the places where we live and to be rich in good works. However, we see all things with the backdrop of the Gospel. We know that Jesus has overcome the world and so we take heart. We know that God sets up rulers and puts them down so we do not worry. We know that one day every knee will bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord and so we wait. But we do not wait in our spiritual recliners, or real ones for that matter.
B. Hope is Active:
Those without hope meander through their days living like robots eating, drinking, sleeping, and staring at a screen. The hopeless do nothing. Their lives are like stagnant ponds. But those who have living hope awake from such stupor and are ready for action. We are preparing ourselves and learning to think clearly. An active hope is a hope that promotes loving obedience to God and holiness in all that we do. It calls us up from the pit of our sinful past and on to a life of righteousness because God has ransomed us from our former ways and made us his people.
3. 1 Peter 3:15 - The Mission of Hope
A. Hope is on Mission:
True hope is infectious and an infection is hard to stop. The living hope that God gives draws attention and elicits questions from those around us. As those who live with hope in Jesus Christ we need to be ready to answer those who see our hope. We need to live in such a way that proves our hope. “Why are you not so shaken by the current election?” one might ask. What will be your answer? Will your behavior even lead to the question? The life-transforming hope of God will shine before a world without hope. When we answer we do so as those eager to share gentle and respectful. We do not hold our hope out for someone to see but not to have. The beauty of hope is that it is like the bread and the loaves. God multiplies it through his people.
True hope is given, victorious, living, focused, active, and on mission. Christians are not those who put our hope in politicians, elections, or mortal laws but in the promise of God in Jesus Christ. If the nations rage and the leaders plot will we respond like the early church with confidence and missional focus, or will we despair and hide away? Granted no one likes to lose. Whichever side loses this election will be disheartened and maybe even hopeless. However, that is not for those of us who are Christians. Wherever we fall politically we must remember that our true and lasting hope is not in presidents or policies, but in the promise of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.