Scripture References – 1 Peter 1:3-9
God’s protection has meant that He would not leave His people in the lonely hours of decision and pain. We can barely comprehend that. There may be some exception here and there, but most of us don’t know what it is to suffer for our faith. More than likely, no one threatened us as we made our way to worship recently. Some of you may have been threatened for just the opposite, for trying to stay in bed or trying to participate in some sabbath recreation by someone who felt strongly that you should be in worship. Some persons in the world were, and others will be threatened for their association with Christians and places of Christian worship. We were stunned a few years ago when a right-wing guerrilla group in El Salvador devised a “Baptist Hit List.” Two of the four persons on that list were murdered. More recently six Jesuit priests have been murdered under similar circumstances. This is not the extent of it either as we are seeing radical situations like this cropping up all over the globe.
Enduring suffering is one thing, but do you recall what else the writer indicated about suffering in the context of Christian hope? He makes it plain there is joy in adversity when it comes because of one’s faith in the Lord. He says that faithful suffering refines one’s faith in God and brings honor to Him. Suffering for Christ’s sake is like a refiner’s fire, bringing about a purer, more precious product according to the Apostle. We have to be refined in this way for pure gold to result. If you have to suffer for the cause of Christ, don’t despair. The end result will be a purer faith. In this way, we can see Christian hope as related even to suffering.
I can’t think of anything more frightening than possibly having to put my life on the line, can you? If we heed what our text says, when and if we should find ourselves in that most extreme situation, we can yet hope, not just that things will all end up OK but that, then and there, God is with us personally and intimately. There will be meaning in that event and perhaps even joy to be known at such a time. God grant us the courage to face life with such assurance and uphold in prayer our brothers and sisters around the world who are regularly threatened because of their Christian commitment.
Clearly, Christian hope is not our wish to be treated as something other than human; rather, it is in the midst of all that is human, and especially not excluding the pain, that Christian hope works. Christian hope has to do with life and actually, with life promised by Christ Jesus to be more abundant. There is no greater power than to give life. God gave life to humanity in creating us. And an even greater display of God’s power came in giving life where death had come, in raising Jesus from the clutches of death. God made hope more of a reality that day than ever before and from the raw material of shattered dreams, humiliation, and agony.
God is the basis of all our hope. Because of God’s power especially displayed in the resurrection of our Lord, we can boldly claim Christian hope. With the same divine power, God brings us to true life, when we come into relationship with Him.
For us there can be no ultimate pessimism about the future, and therefore no cynicism about the value of life in the present. . . . We move not only toward the end but also toward the fulfillment of life, the genuinely human life which God the Creator willed for us from the beginning, and which God the Savior is already at work here and now to restore and renew in us, and that more abundantly.
God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. God raised us to new life through God’s living Son, Jesus Christ. We can have hope in the present and in anticipation of the future that is not just mere hopefulness, the possibility of hope. It is hope, and because that hope is a fact in God, the best is yet to be.