Living Now with Eternity in Mind#1: Living with Hope

This is the first of a series of sermons I preached a number of years ago on 1 Peter. Looking at my files, I realized that some are missing. It’s possible that some are missing because my laptop wasn’t working and in for repairs and therefore prepared my notes by hand. So I will post the ones I have that (I think) are worth sharing over the next several days. I hope that they bless and encourage you.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ:
To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient and to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ.
May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.

1 Peter 1:1-12

What is hope? To answer that question, let me ask another one: do you like getting something in the mail? Or have you ever opened your mailbox just hoping that maybe—just maybe—there’s something in it for you? Now, here’s the thing. This can happen in two ways. I can just go to my mailbox hoping that maybe there’s something there for me. Maybe somebody sent me a surprise. Usually I’m disappointed! But there’s another way this can happen. There’s that feeling I get when I’ve placed an order with Amazon and I’m waiting for it to arrive. So I know something’s coming. Usually books. Unless something goes wrong with the order or with Canada Post, I can be sure there is something on its way to my mailbox.  So what is hope? Is hope going to my mailbox and not knowing if something is there or not but wishing there will be? Or is hope like waiting for an Amazon order that is definitely on its way? We often use the word “hope” in the first sense. What might it mean to have hope in the second sense? What difference might that make?

You know, in our world, people need hope. Hope beyond their circumstances. Hope beyond our flawed and often disappointing political leaders. Hope beyond cancer and other sicknesses. We need hope. Jeff Goins writes: “As humans, we need hope. We can’t live without it. It is the lifeblood to our spiritual survival, and the only thing that pulls us out of the deep trenches of the pain and hurt of life.” And whether we realize it or not, we all put our hope in something. So it’s not a question of whether or not we have hope—but where does our hope come from? What is our hope in?

1 Peter tells us much about hope. Our passage begins with Peter telling his readers that God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He calls it a living hope. What does this mean? In the Ashbury Bible Commentary, it says: “Those who are reborn have a hope that animates their present lives . . . rebirth equips Christians with the ability to see all of life in the light of the glory to be revealed when Christ returns.” The hope we have should change the way we live—and really be a living hope.

What we hope for changes how we live. Our hope represents how our beliefs about our future impacts our present. When I was growing up my mother would sometimes enter these Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes contests. Other people play the lottery or gamble in other ways. Now, I realize that not everyone who plays these games puts all of their hope in winning, but what of those who do? How does that affect the way they live in the present?

In our passage, there are many things that show Peter was pointing his readers to the future: He mentions a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. The last time here means exactly that. He talks about the revelation of Jesus Christ. When Peter speaks of this, he means when Jesus is finally and fully revealed in all his glory at the last time. He tells them about the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. And, yes, we can be saved now. But we will receive the fullness of our salvation only at the last time. Even the OT prophets who prophesied about the Messiah did so with the future in mind and therefore in hope. He says about the prophets: It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you.

But as he talks about hope, he does so with confidence. This isn’t wishful thinking. And Peter wants believers in Asia Minor to have a confident hope because they were living in the Roman Empire in difficult circumstances. They couldn’t trust that their circumstances would necessarily get better. But they could trust that whatever their circumstances, God has something more in mind for their future.

Let’s put it this way: Living with hope means having confidence in our future. How many people experience hopelessness? How many people feel trapped in their present circumstances unable to see a way out? How many people really don’t think there is good in their future? They feel like having confidence that things could get better is impossible, maybe even laughable.

For Peter’s readers—and for us—to live now with eternity in mind means to believe that God will one day vindicate those who trust in him. Even though his readers were being ostracized in the present, it would not always be that way. Hope in our future gives us freedom in the present. To think about it in terms of identity, as we talked about last week, we’re invited and called to be hopeful people.

What is the difference between wishful thinking and hope? When we have confidence in our future, how does that help us live in the present?How would you describe your hope to someone else? Is yours a confident hope? Why or why not?

Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

Dickinson’s poem suggests to us that hope—genuine hope—isn’t conditioned by our circumstances but is real regardless of circumstances. It perches in the soul, sings the tune, and never stops at all. Hope is something we need in difficult circumstances that arise because of our commitment to Jesus. Peter’s readers were experiencing difficult circumstances. They were outcasts in their community. Suffering is a major theme of this letter.

And in our passage, Peter refers to this when he says in verses 6—7: In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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. 

Peter’s readers—the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia—need hope because, as he says, they have been grieved by various trials. But he seeks to help to put their trials in context. He wants them to see their trials as evidence that God is up to something in their lives. This is a test of your faith, he says. It will result in praise, glory, and honor, he tells them. Because such trials can be discouraging, he wants to encourage them with words of hope. Peter was calling his readers to stick to their faith until the end.

You might have noticed that postage stamps keep getting more expensive. But at least they have one quality that most of us could stand to imitate: they stick to one thing until they get there. We call that perseverance. We’re called to do likewise: to stick to one thing until we get there! And it our confident hope in the future God has for us that makes this possible. When you have a confident hope that God has a good future in store for you, it becomes possible to persevere—to stick with it—until that future comes to pass.

Listen to what the apostle Paul says in Romans 5:3—5: Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

To put it another way, suffering is the context for hope. Or in other words, living with hope enables us to persevere during suffering.Why is hope important to you? What helps us become more and more like postage stamps, to stick with it until we get there? How might having hope enable you to deal with times of suffering? What are some ways people around you need hope? Can you share your hope with them?

When I married my wife and we were about to move out of her parents’ house, her Dad told me, “When you married her, you married everything she owns.” And her parents more or less let us know that this would pretty much be all we get for an inheritance! And when my mother died, there was no inheritance waiting for me.

Our passage talks about an inheritance. Peter describes it this way: an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, 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. It is this inheritance that we are invited to hope for, Peter says. And so, the natural question is this: what is this inheritance and how can we get it?

Peter tells us that God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. And it’s being born again that secures our inheritance. And being born again is what happens when we come to faith in Jesus. And all of this—every little bit of it—is possible through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our hope is based on the actual, historical, and physical resurrection from the dead of the person of Jesus. His resurrection tells us that this life—one often filled with trials and difficulties and suffering—is not all there is. His resurrection tells us that God has a better story in mind for us. His resurrection is what gives us hope.

In his discussion about resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins . . . [and] If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Our inheritance is resurrection like Jesus. Living with hope is only possible because of Jesus and his resurrection. Apart from Christ, we have no hope. Apart from Christ, all we have is wishful thinking. What does it mean that God has an inheritance in store for us? How do we receive this inheritance?Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Why is his resurrection so important?What are you hoping for? What gives you hope? Is your hope in Jesus and his resurrection?

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