Christian Hope for those who Despair
I Peter 1:3-12 (part 1)
- By Ben Fronczek
One of my favorite New Testament characters is the man we know as Peter. I like him because he is like so many of us in so many ways. He was impulsive, sometimes hot tempered, more than once he put his foot in his mouth and said something foolish. There were times when he was on fire for the Lord and then times when his faith wavered. He even denied being a follower of Jesus. He messed up just like many of us mess us from time to time. Another thing I like about Peter is that fact that even though he may have messed up now and then, he did not throw in the towel or give up. If anything he grew wiser and his faith grew stronger and stronger as it should. Christians today can learn from Peter because we have two letters which he authored to the early church. And in these letters we find wise, encouraging, and practical advice to believers from a guy who not only walked with Jesus, but also knows what it was like to mess up that walk. Peter penned these words about 30 years after Christ’s death and resurrection. He was writing to encourage the persecuted Christians of Asia Minor.Those early Christians lived in a very difficult time. It was a very anti-Christian society. Speaking or writing from experience, Peter knew that those early Christians needed not only words of instruction, but also words of hope and encouragement just like he did when he was younger.
Over the up and coming weeks I plan on presenting some sermons based on what he wrote in his epistles. And to begin with I would like to talk about what he himself started with in 1Peter 1, and that is his message of hope.
Read: 1 Peter 1:3-12
I don’t know about you but there are times when I get discouraged and down even though I know that I am very blessed because I am a Christian. And I suppose I am just being selfish. I cannot imagine those who have real trouble in their lives, whether due to sickness, poverty, loneliness, a miserable job, or family life, real persecution or a 1000 others things that cause real heart ache in this world. There are a lot of discouraged and miserable people in this world, even some who know God. It even surprised me that Solomon once wrote this in Ecclesiastes
2:17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 4:1-2 “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: ‘I saw the tears of the oppressed— and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors— and they have no comforter. 2 And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive.’
These are words of despair. He seems to be saying it’s better to be dead than alive and have to deal with all the injustice and garbage and trouble that is going on around us. Solomon is definitely in a frump, or in low period of his life when he wrote those words. Maybe that’s where you are. Maybe you know someone who is there right now. Well I believe that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Peter wrote these words to shake believers out this kind of frump. He wanted to remind us that there is something better to focus on; and that is the hope we have in Jesus. Let’s begin by breaking down what Peter had to say here in this text.
#1. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
There are some key words and thoughts here. Do you think Peter could appreciate and understand God’s mercy? You bet he could! He was the guy that denied even knowing Jesus three times after our Lord was arrested. He was a liar, and a traitor when asked about his faith. But then what happened after Jesus rose from the dead and made them breakfast on the beach one day? Three times He asked Peter, “Do you love me?”, “Do you love me?” “Do you love me?”. And then He reinstates Peter by giving him a commission to take care of and feed His sheep (that is His followers, His disciples.) Peter definitely could appreciate the mercy of God; and not only because he was personally forgiven, but primarily because all of us have been shown mercy because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Peter wrote;
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade …”
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection He has blessed every believer by giving us a new life, with new hope and promise of an existence that can never perish, spoil or fade.
Because of God’s mercy we have the greatest promise, the greatest adventure that one could ever look forward to, and it is waiting for us beyond this physical life in Heaven. Most of us get excited and are thrilled with anticipation before we go on a vacation or adventure. It is our hope that we will have a great time. The adventure we will experience in Heaven will be far more exciting and fulfilling than any vacation or adventure we could ever experience on this earth. That’s the hope we have as Christians as we look forward to what God has promised us.
Every day that passes brings the Christian one step closer to this amazing adventure and because of that we should not let Satan knock us down with despairing thoughts or trials. I believe that why the Apostle Paul had this to say as he wrote the Corinthians:
” 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:16-18
Peter and Paul knew and were convinced of the fact that no trial, no hardship, nothing in this life can compare to what we are about to experience in Heaven. So they both encouraged us just to hang in there. That’s why in out text Peter goes on to write,
“6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
And Peter goes on to tell us that those trials are not without purpose. I like how the NLT translates verse 7. It says
“7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
God and heaven is watching. The text says if you remain strong there will be praise, glory and honor awaiting you when Jesus is revealed. The focus in this text is not about the trials, it is about the hope that we have and how we should be able to overcome them all because of who we are and what lies ahead. What it comes down to is this; our peace of mind, our happiness is determined by how much faith we really have. I like what Peter says in the following verses
8 You love Him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.
10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and His great glory afterward.
12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” NLT
I truly believe that Peter understood how hard is to live the Christian life. We are bombarded on every side with negative thoughts, propaganda, atheistic, liberal views, and temptations that can trip us up. And we also battle with our own fears, lusts, guilt, and other weaknesses just like Peter did.
But Peter reminds us that our God is a God of mercy and will show it to those who accept His gift; His one and only Son, as their new Lord and Savior. Peter reminds those early Christians and I believe he wanted to remind all of us of the amazing hope that we have set before us; the excitement and adventure that comes after this earthly life where we will be able to enter an existence where God Himself resides with all His angels, and with His Son. It’s really there, and God, with His Son and the multitude of angels, along with all those Christian who have gone on before us are just waiting to welcome us into that abode.
The writer Hebrews wrote;
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (12:1-3)
Challenge: To hang in there and don’t let ANYTHING rob you of the joy and the hope that you have in Jesus.
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566