Who wants to hear more about coronavirus? Throw your hands in the air!
So how’s your light shining in this swamp, Christian? If you ask me, Peter’s charge to “be ready with an answer when someone asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you” seems a bit over zealous about now. Seriously? We’re supposed to have hope to the point that someone asks about it? In the middle of this mess? These days, if you were to ask for an answer for the heaviness within me, I would be pretty likely to go off like a radio talk show host about my reasons for being discouraged, irritated, outraged, even depressed.
I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. I don’t think Peter wants us to be unaware of or unaffected by the darkness of the world. The whole point behind people asking for the reason for hope within us is that there’s not an obvious reason. From the outside looking in, there may be every reason for discouragement, irritation, outrage, and even depression. I’m pretty sure Jesus experienced every one of those at some point during his ministry. But the bedrock reality that shaped his outlook was hope.
(Minor side note in this paragraph.) The problem is, when I say “the bedrock reality of hope,” it kinda sounds like saying jumbo shrimp. Airline food. Honest politicians. When we say we “hope” something today, we don’t mean what Peter did. We say “I hope things will go back to normal soon,” or “I hope the chaos in our country will be resolved soon.” But we mean something closer to we “wish” things would go back to normal. We wish the chaos in our country would be resolved.
(Back to the main point about hope in the midst of unhopeful circumstances.) Perfect example of discouragement, irritation, outrage, despair? Jeremiah. Yeah, the prophet who wrote a book of the Bible called Lamentations. Ever wondered why it was named Lamentations? Read it. If five chapters is too much for you, just read chapter 3. Seriously, read it. Sometimes reading someone else’s bad news gives you a fresh perspective on your own. The Cliffs notes version is that Jeremiah says he’s seen affliction, had God’s hand turned against him, been worn down physically, worn down spiritually, been turned against by his own people, had his peace taken away, his future, his home, his hope. Then we get to verse 21.
Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.
Someone write a song! Oh, wait.
Faith and hope are designated throughout the Bible as being rooted in the character of God himself. If he is not faithful and if his promises are not sure, then there is no reason to hope in him. Here’s Peter again (1 Peter 1:21):
Through Him you believe in God,
who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him;
and so your faith and hope are in God.
The New Testament takes the concept of hope a step further than Jeremiah can. Peter tells us where our hope rests, just as Jeremiah does. Peter can take it to the next level though, and give us the bedrock reasons for our hope: Christ, the Messiah died, has been raised, and is now glorified. Christ’s work is complete, with nothing lacking to restore a right relationship between God and man. So not only do we hope in God’s character, in his goodness and faithfulness, but we hope in that very goodness and faithfulness being extended to us forever, knowing that Christ has completely reconciled us.
You can skip this middle portion if you like, because we’re gonna go a little geeky on you and give you a chunk of Luther to read on the relationship of hope to faith. I needed some major help here to try and come up with the differentials between the two, so I turned to a giant on whose shoulders all protestants stand. Enjoy, and enjoy nonchalantly injecting into random conversations the fact that you’ve been reading Luther. Reading Luther without mentioning it would be such a waste.
FAITH VS HOPE - LUTHER
"There is so great affinity between faith and hope, that the one cannot be separate from the other. Notwithstanding, there is a difference between them, which is gathered of their several offices, diversity of working, and of their ends.
1. They differ in respect of their subject, that is, of the ground wherein they rest. For faith resteth in the understanding, hope in the will; but the one is to the other, as the two cherubim on the mercy-seat.
2. They differ in respect of their office, i.e. of their working. Faith tells what is to be done, teaches, prescribes, directs; hope stirs up the mind that it may be strong, bold, courageous, that it may suffer and endure adversity, waiting for better things.
3. They differ as touching their object, that is, the special matter whereunto they look. Faith has for her object the truth, teaching us to cleave surely thereto, and looking upon the word and promise of the thing that is promised; hope has for her object the goodness of God, and looks upon the thing which is promised in the word, that is, upon such matters as faith teaches us to hope for.
4. They differ in order. Faith is the beginning of life, before all tribulation; hope proceeds from tribulation.
5. They differ by the diversity of working. Faith is a teacher and a judge, fighting against errors and heresies, judging spirits and doctrines; hope is, as it were, the general or captain of the field, fighting against tribulation, the cross, impatience, heaviness of spirit, weakness, desperation, and blasphemy, and it waits for good things even in the midst of all evils. Therefore, when I am instructed by faith in the Word of God, and lay hold of Christ, believing in Him with my whole heart, then am I righteous by this knowledge. When I am so justified by faith, or by this knowledge, by and by cometh the devil, the father of wiles, and laboureth to extinguish my faith by wiles and subtleties; that is to say, by lies, errors, and heresies. Moreover, because he is a murderer, he goeth about also to oppress it by violence. Here hope wrestling, layeth hold on the thing revealed by faith, and overcometh the devil that warreth against faith; and after this victory followeth peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."
So, there’s some 500 year old wisdom from a church father. Back to ME!
A commentary on the Bible is one thing, but a commentary on a commentary is…well, I won’t comment. Might cause a black hole to open up.
Another part of our hope is the looking-forward part that I’ll just mention briefly via our brother Paul (Titus 2:12-13) .
It (Scripture) instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,
and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
as we await the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
So to sum up -
We hope in his character, for he is faithful and true.
We hope in his death, for he took our place of punishment on the cross.
We hope in his burial, for he descended into hell as a conquerer of the grave.
We hope in his resurrection, because God has proclaimed him victor for us.
We hope in his ascension, for he is now sitting at the right hand of power interceding for us.
We hope in his soon coming, for he will make all things right again.
So, bringing it all together. Is it ok to have a bleak outlook on current events? Yes. In this world we will have troubles. That’s pretty bleak. We gonna have swamps to muck through before it’s all done. We’re not called to deny reality. On the contrary, if you think about it, according to the Bible, the reality of our world is really much, much worse than we could ever imagine.
Here's the other reality: our hope is much more overwhelmingly glorious than we could ever imagine. Christ has won for us, his victory is total, his kingdom has come and will come, and the irrepressible power of his coming will wash away every blemish on this blood-soaked, sin-sick, bad-news-saturated, riot-ravaged, politics-swarmed, prejudice-plagued, injustice-riddled, and mosquito-infested, miserable orb.
Let's be realists - embracing both the reality that we see, and the reality that we do not see. Let's do as Jeremiah did, and remember our hope in the midst of all circumstances. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope and give your answer boldly to the world.