October 6, 2008

Monday Morning Message - The Stamp of Hope

"Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die;
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?"
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God."
Proverbs 30:7-9

The headlines are full of hopeless news. I imagine some of you are losing sleep over the economic crisis facing our nation. I am sure some of you are processing bad news from the Doctor. I know with certainty that many are wrestling with children that have wandered. There is a need for a fresh dose of hope. But not just any hope will do. We need a hope that is certain and secure in these trouble filled days. Where are we to turn? Surely it's not to the government (their mishandling of crisis is well documented.) Surely it's not to the so called "Master's of the Universe" who once proudly prowled Wall Street but seem anything but masterful now.

The apostle Peter penned his first letter to the scattered believers in a time of great difficulty and he writes to them a singularly hope filled letter. I believe we can rediscover the reason those who are in Christ can and should hope even in the most trying of times.

Take a moment to read 1 Peter 1:1-9. Take note of the character of hope Peter describes.

Hope requires a plan. Here is good news! God has a plan! It is not a knee-jerk reaction to the headlines of the day. Rather it is a plan which God has been patiently working out from before the foundation of the earth. Peter speaks of God's foreknowledge and choice in verses 1 and 2. I am not going to enter into a lengthy discussion of the issue of foreknowledge and predestination here. I feel as John Calvin about such matters, that they should not be looked at for too long or with too much intensity as they are matters akin to looking into the sun. Suffice it to say here that God is aware and not taken by surprise by any of the events that have so possessed our minds recently. Peter speaks of Jesus as being known from before the foundations of the world in verse 20. What a profound and moving notion! Dr. Edmund Clowney, of the Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, states, "Foreknowledge means that...His [God's] people were the objects of God's loving concern from all eternity."

Hope requires a plan and God has one. It is not a plan just recently developed. It is a plan in place from all eternity. But hope also requires a pattern. What does this hope look like? Not just any hope will do. It can't be some over generalized characterization without any specifics. It must have a particular shape and character for it to be believable. Peter vividly describes this hope.

1. It is a living hope! (v. 3) This hope is firmly based on the empirical and historic event of the resurrection. Because Jesus rose from the grave we have reason to hope right now! There are some who will quickly ask, "But what if it's not true? What if Christ did not rise?" Some would say that living a "Christian" way of life is it's own reward. The apostle Paul would strongly disagree. He states in 1 Corinthians 15:19 that if Christ is not risen from the grave we are to be pitied above all men. In other words, the simple fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is the hinge upon which all our hope swings.

2. It is an inherited hope. (v. 4) I know a bit about inheritance. I have a set of commentaries on my bookshelf that belonged to my grandfather. I did not buy them but they most certainly belong to me. Likewise our hope is not something we can earn because it has been bought and paid for by another, namely Jesus. This hope is an inherited hope!

3. It is an imperishable hope. (v. 4) Unlike the treasures in which we tend to place undue confidence, the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus is one that will not fade, spoil, or be ruined. We are all too familiar with the passing value of the stuff we collect. If you purchase a new car you are sure to get a ding in the door panel. If you put a new roof on the house you can almost count on a hail storm to damage it. If you purchase some new white tennis shoes someone will most surely step on them. Unlike all the "treasures" of this world, the treasure of the hope offered to us in Christ Jesus does not fade.

4. It is a guarded hope. (v. 4-5) Peter says this hope is kept for us. Marvelous word there. 'Kept' is a military term in the Greek carrying the notion of a sentinel, one who watches. This hope is being watched for us. The obvious question is, "Who's doing the watching?" and "Can we trust them to watch it well?" The answer provided in scripture is, "He who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper." It's good to know that God is watching over the hope that is ours.

5. It is a blessed hope. (v. 7-9). That word 'blessed' indicates 'happy.' Mind you this is not some naive pasty smile that is oblivious to the challenges being faced in our lives. Rather it is a deep abiding joy that is able to bring a spring to our step and smile to our face even in the most difficult of days. It is a joy that arises from the confidence we have in the one who plans and patterns our hope.

Finally hope not only needs a plan and a pattern, it also requires pressure. My father-in-law was a printer by trade. We have in our possession numerous drawers of type face that he would use to print the weekly paper. I watched time and again with fascination as he would carefully plan and pattern the print for the paper but it was the final step that brought the result. He would pass a sheet of paper through the press causing the image to be transferred. It required a great amount of pressure as his nine fingered hand grimly attested. Likewise this hope planned and patterned for us by God requires a pressure to be transferred to our lives.

In verses 6 & 7, Peter speaks of "trials" and "testing" of our faith. Peter understood that God's people in his day, and in our day also, faced pressure. This was no ordinary pressure. It was a pressure that brought about the result of God's sure hope being indelibly stamped into the very fabric of our lives.

Our hope is anchored in the past: Jesus rose!
Our hope remains in the present: Jesus lives!
Our hope will be completed in the future: Jesus is coming! To which I say, "Amen! Come Lord Jesus!"


mistral said...

Dear John,

Thank you very much for visiting my blog and leaving me a message of hope. Like you said - Hope is a very precious commodity in todays world and we all need it in some measure or the other.

Like they say in Hindi " ummeed pe duniya kayam hai" roughly translated - " the world survives on hope."

so thank you again.

Paul Thompson said...

Good word here brother. The writer of Hebrews says this is a "better hope". I love it! Thanks for articulating with clarity.

Sojourner said...

I could not survive without that hope. Thanks for the reminder!