I was sitting in a restaurant in Scotland recently when I saw a framed quotation in front of me. It said: "Everyone needs three things to be happy: Someone to love; something to do and something to look forward to or to hope for."
Well in Christ we have all three. In response to Christ's love for us in dying in our place on the cross and in rising from the dead we're to put our faith in him, love him and put him first, someone who is totally committed to you forever. So in Christ we have a firm not a fading hope. In Christ we also have something to do. We have purpose and a mission. We're not saved by good works but we are saved for good works. Ephesians 2 tells us that we were created in Christ to do good works that God prepared in advance for us. And in Christ we really do have something to look forward to - something sure and certain to hope for. You see for the Christian there is hope beyond the grave. Death doesn't have the last laugh. In fact death has been defeated and death need no longer hold its sway over us if we trust in Christ. And the reason is that Jesus rose again from the grave never to die again. That fact is our sure ground for hope. Where is your hope?
But some of you maybe thinking I'm not sure that the resurrection is fact. Well check out the evidence for yourself at CE or get a copy of Lee Strobel's helpful book 'The Case for Christ'. One US Supreme Court Judge said, "There is more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus than there is for the guilt of most convicted criminals." Jesus himself said (John 11:25):
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."
He has smashed the door of death off its hinges and has triumphantly brought in a new reign of life and immortality.
And to help us think about this wonderful resurrection hope, we're going to look at 1 Peter, written to churches that were in the grip of serious persecution. These Christians were scattered across what we now know as Turkey. The Roman Empire was about to begin a systematic extermination of Christians, including Peter himself. It wouldn't be long before the Emperor Nero would use Christians as human torches in his gardens and Peter himself would be crucified upside down. It sounds rather like ISIS today on the Turkish border. So what hope is there for Christians under that sort of pressure? What hope is there for you and me as we face challenges, difficulties, trials of all kinds, sometimes persecution and that last enemy, death? Well there's great hope, because Peter explains that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead profoundly affects the believer in three ways. For Jesus' physical, bodily resurrection gives us a sure and certain hope for the future, hope also during very difficult times and hope even in the ups and downs of everyday life. So first, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead gives us
1) A CERTAIN FUTURE v3-5
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...
Peter begins with cry of praise. Why? Because in God's great mercy he has given us - what - a living hope - a real hope. Some people discover their hope is a false hope, a dead hope. George Bernard Shaw the atheist liberal philosopher and playwright wrote after WW1, "The science to which I pinned my hope is bankrupt. It has led directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions. And now they look at me and witness an atheist who has lost his atheist faith."
Sadly for many the word hope is devoid of meaning. Many people if you press them say they have little hope. They might have vague hopes of a better income sometime in the future, better weather next summer, better health, a better football team. But there are no guarantees. And there's ISIS, ebola and potential financial storms to come. And when it comes to life beyond the grave, then hope is simply wishful thinking for many. "I believe he's gone to a better place." "I'd like to think I was going to heaven," people say. The reality is, without Christ, there is no hope.
But Peter says the Christian has been given a living hope. We have a hope which is alive and true. It's a living hope, not a dead hope. In other words it's certain. But why? What gives us such confidence? Surely it's just pie in the sky when you die, wishful thinking in the extreme. Well no. Because Peter says such hope comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our hopes are pinned on the physical, historical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. When Jesus rose victoriously from the grave on that first Easter Sunday, a new dawn was beginning. It meant that no longer could death hold its victims for ever. Because if we're trusting in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we too can participate in that new life Jesus gives. We too will rise again from death. Death cannot hold us. And it's not wishful thinking, because Jesus has taken the first step and shown it can be done.
But notice what else Peter says about this certain hope. Because he goes on to mention two characteristics of this hope. First that it includes an indestructible inheritance. V4:
an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
Now the inheritance that Peter is talking about is our position in God's perfect kingdom, a new world which as Christians we'll inherit. And literally such an inheritance is imperishable, undefiled or unspoilable and unfading. It's imperishable in that it can't decay with age unlike everything in this world. It's unspoilable in that this inheritance cannot be marred by sin or evil, unlike everything in this world. And it's unfading in that such an inheritance never loses its glory and joy, unlike even the best things of this world. That's what we have to look forward to because of Jesus' resurrection.
But notice also another aspect of this hope. And that is we are a protected people. You see you might be thinking that's a great future hope but will I make it? What happens if I stumble along the way? Can we be sure we'll get there? Well yes. V5:
who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In all the ups and downs of life, God is keeping us. We are shielded, literally garrisoned. It's as if God's protective wall is around us. He will keep us until our full salvation is revealed when Jesus returns. He will keep us, you can be in no doubt about that. Now of course it's not just that God keeps us and we can do what we want. Notice that little word "faith". But be assured if you're in any doubt, God will keep you till the end, as you keep on trusting him, however weak you feel you are. He will shield you till the end.
Can you think of a better hope than that? But do we live in the light of it? You see Peter isn't writing to give his readers a theological poser to discuss over a strong Turkish coffee. He's writing to them to galvanise them for the sharp steel of a Roman sword on the backs of their necks. And we're not to fear death as we trust in and live for Christ whatever the cost.
But, and I don't say this lightly, if your trust is not in Jesus then you have no hope as you face death. You'll be like the medieval king who gave his new court jester the fool's sceptre and told him to keep it until he met someone more foolish than himself. Well years later the king lay dying, and he called for his jester to cheer him up. The king said: "I'm about to go on a long journey." "Where are you going and how will you travel?" asked the jester. "I don't know," replied the king. "Have you made any provision for the journey, your majesty," asked the jester. "No," said the king. Then the jester handed the king his fool's sceptre and said: "Then this belongs to you." So I urge you to put your faith in Jesus even tonight. To trust him with your life and death. For we don't know what tomorrow will bring. Secondly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us
2) A PURPOSE TO SUFFERING v6-7
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 honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Peter says that in this certain hope his readers greatly rejoice. Though, for a little while they may have had to suffer grief from all kinds of trials. Between now and the time when either we die and go and be with the Lord or the Lord returns, there are going to be trials of different kinds. But notice Peter says such things last only for a little while. All the difficulties we face in life are for a little while. Peter isn't wanting to belittle our pain. Rather he's showing us that we need to have a bigger perspective on life. In the grand scheme of things, in the light of eternity and the wonderful future hope awaiting us, then these things are for a little while. There will come a time when our pain and suffering will end. And that should be a great encouragement to us. And notice too that he says we suffer grief in all kinds of trials. I guess if we were to put our hands up and tell of the different things we're going through, then there would be a whole range of difficulties in this building. For some it would be persecution at home or at work for our faith. For others it would be a physical ailment which drains us of energy and strength. For others the anguish is mental or emotional. For others the pain is a spiritual struggle of varying sorts. This side of heaven we do face grief in all kinds of trials. And that's the norm for the Christian. We're not spared the pain of this world.
But Peter goes on to say that God has a purpose for us with these trials that we suffer. He can use them to make us more like himself, to refine our faith. It's not that God is responsible for all the pain we are suffering. Rather by his sovereign power, he can use even sad and painful and evil things for your and my good. Look at v7. Our faith is like a precious metal that needs to be put through the fires of adversity to burn off the impurities. And it's often the case that in difficult times we fling ourselves onto God more, our selfishness is stripped away, our self dependence is shown up for what it is. Through the fires of suffering we learn to become more holy and godly and loving. And notice that it's only at the end of time, when Jesus is revealed that all will be seen for what it is. In other words, that future hope guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus, is a spur to keep going in the present. Because we know that one day everything will be seen for what it is. Our faith, tried and tested in the fires of adversity will be seen to be gold, and it will result, not in our glory, but in the glory of God.
Do we see our pain and suffering in that light? Do we have a long term perspective on it? Because what should encourage us is that God wastes no tears, no hurts. He cares far more about your character than your comfort. Every bit of difficulty we go through, he can use to make us like himself. And one day all that perseverance and pain will reveal a faith of pure gold and it will be God who gets the glory. And it's only because Jesus rose again and is coming back that our suffering has any meaning. Because as the risen conquering Judge he alone can use our pain for his glory, and he alone can give us the courage and strength to get through it!
Can you see what's happening? Through the fires of difficulty, God was refining his people so that their faith would be proved genuine. And in doing so he was strengthening them for tougher tests ahead, and also bringing glory to himself. Even in our trials, God is at work. Thirdly the resurrection of Jesus gives us
3) A JOYFUL PRESENT v8-9
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.
You see although we do go through difficulties now as Christians, it doesn't mean that there's nothing of joy and delight in this world. There is. Peter says that his readers have not seen Jesus personally. But that fact does nothing to dull their joy and love for him. These believers truly loved their Lord. There was a deep personal relationship between them and the Lord Jesus Christ which was marked by love and joy. Although we don't have everything now, we should expect a measure of delight and love as Christians for our Lord now. There's much to be joyful about, much to love the Lord for. Sure joy in the Bible doesn't mean we'll go around smiling all the time. Joy is a deep seated delight in God which is more than surface emotions. That's why we can rejoice even in difficult situations, because we see the bigger picture. We can see that God is at work in us. We can see that he's still in control. And it maybe that we need to re-examine our own hearts if our love and joy has grown cold. Are we fostering that relationship with the Lord this side of eternity. It's not all about the future. Our relationship with Christ begins now.
Why can we be joyful and loving to our Lord? V9 For we're in the present receiving the goal of our faith, salvation. We know what it means to be saved and forgiven and set free from sin. We can know God and grow in joy in him and love of him because of Jesus' resurrection. And yet there's much more to come. And one day we'll experience with an imperishable resurrection body the full joy of our salvation which is guaranteed by what Jesus has done.
One person who knew the reality of these blessings of Jesus' resurrection was Frances Alstyne. She wrote more than 6,000 gospel songs and hymns, including "To God be the Glory" and "Blessed Assurance". Although blinded by an illness as a young child, she never became bitter. A preacher sympathetically remarked, "I think it's a great pity that the Lord didn't give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you." She replied quickly, "Do you know that if at birth I'd been able to make one prayer, it would have been that I should be born blind?" "Why?" he replied. "Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Saviour!"