A living hope

Life sucks sometimes.

We all know it is true. You get passed up for a promotion, or perhaps you get fired. Someone in your family becomes terribly sick, or perhaps you do. You find out the girl of your dreams does not feel the same way about you, or maybe a tree falls on your car. Whatever the case, life comes with its seasons of struggle, hurt, pain or confusion.

Life has its problems, and they come in packages both big and small. When they do, we have no choice but to take them as they come and respond accordingly. Our first reaction is always one of despair or bitterness. We want to cry out that it is unfair, that this pain should belong to someone else. Then, we sink into despair, and if we are not careful, lose our hope.

With a painful situation in front of us, it often derails our attention. It consumes our mind’s eye and becomes all we can see. We stop seeing the world for what it is and begin to focus only on the problem or source of our pain.

In one of his letters, Peter gives us a word on this issue. Apparently, the believers in each of the churches where this letter was to be circulated (originally what is now modern Turkey) were going through various trials. In response, Peter opens his first epistle with a word about hope.  What followed was one of the most beautifully penned passages ever written on the subject.

Out of concern for the hearts of those suffering, Peter seeks to refocus their attention. Instead of spending his letter talking about their grief, he does something better. He draws their attention to a source of hope, a hope so great no amount of pain can compare.

He starts off by praising God, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” It is an exclamation that overflows out of his excitement about the verses that will follow. In those verses, he tells his readers why God is to be blessed.

You see, in God’s mercy, he did something he did not have to do. He caused us to be born again.

But before we get lost in our 21st century, evangelical definition of that term (or lack of definition), let us look at what Peter has to say about it. He does not simply say we are “born again,” using it as some tagline for church attenders. He does not merely slap this phrase on someone who walked an aisle and repeated a prayer.

Instead, he uses the term to imply exactly what it says. It is a rebirth. Something that was, in its first state, dead is now reborn. What did not breathe now has breathe. Life came to something that had no life, and it came through a resurrection, the resurrection of Christ.

What is more, we were not merely reborn; we were reborn to something. It was no purposeless act, a mere directionless event with no consequences. Our rebirth had eternal consequences, both for us and all of history.

It was birth into a living hope.

But what does that mean? What is a living hope, and how does it differ from a regular hope? Peter continues by telling us this living hope is the reality of an inheritance. An inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven just for us.

We, like the son of a great father, have been given part of God’s possession. We have provision, sustenance, and a treasure that awaits us. It has been prepared in advance, and it has our names on it. Furthermore, it is eternal. It cannot rust, it will not shatter, and it will not run out. It is pure, perfect and priceless. It is more than we can expect, higher than we can count, and bigger than we can hold.  On the other side of glory awaits an inheritance that eclipses all worldly wealth. It is that moment when we will be brought face to face with God almighty, and like Christ our bodies will be remade, resurrected and the curse of sin will no more reign over our bodies. The chains will be broken and the disease cured. We will inherit glory. It awaits us there, and it is ours.

All who truly call God  father already have this inheritance. It is not something we may get. It is not contingent upon anything, save the glorious grace of God and Christ’s perfect obedience. It is a reality. It exists already, and it is waiting on us.

So, according to Peter, the only thing left to do is rejoice. Sure, there may be trials now. Certainly there will be pain on this earth. Yes we will have hardships and things that sting in this sin-sick world, but there is something far greater awaiting us on the other side. It is far greater than anything we can fathom, and, thank God, we do not have to rely on our own power to protect it. As long as God is on his throne, our inheritance awaits us.

In this however, Peter does give us a little nugget of sanity when it comes to our trials.  He helps us reframe them as they are. He reminds us of their practical purpose. We will go through hard times; we were never told otherwise. Yet these trials serve to test the genuineness of our faith and may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In a world tainted with the stench of evil, trials are around every corner. They hurt, but even the worst are only temporary, and we can look through all of them to an ever-present hope, a living hope. These are Peter’s words of advice to us: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to 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. 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. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” ~ 1 Peter 1:3-9

 

 

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