Read: 1 Peter 1:3-12
Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, a part of his inner circle and was appointed by Jesus to be the leader of the early Christian movement. But there is perhaps a more compelling reason than any of these to listen to what Peter has to say in this letter – the total transformation of how he dealt with suffering. Earlier in his life, Peter was rebuked by Jesus for what he said about suffering; he tried to cut the head off a solider to prevent Jesus from suffering; he even denied Jesus three times to avoid suffering for him. Yet, this is the person who wrote the one letter in the New Testament that – more than any other - provides us with a gospel theology of suffering. This is the person who faced imprisonment, beatings and, eventually, his own crucifixion with boldness, courage and joy. How is such a transformation possible? He tells us here - It all came down to finding in Jesus Christ what Peter calls “living hope”.
1) Why We Need Living Hope
In verse 3, Peter bursts into praise in response to a gift God has given us in his great mercy. It’s a gift that Christians really only discover we have and only see how much we need when life brings suffering. What is this gift? It’s “a new birth into a living hope”. Like a baby that can’t imagine the life it will live as an adult, so Christians can’t imagine or appreciate this living hope of resurrection until suffering and hardship reveal just how great it is.
The bible assumes that every person looks for hope in something. We can define hope as the settled conviction that what will be will be better than what is. In contrast, to have the settled conviction that what will be will not be better than what is, leads to a sickness of heart that takes from us our very energy for life (Prov. 13:12). In verse 4, Peter contrasts the living hope of Jesus with every other human hope. We need a living hope because every other hope we can have in this world will one day perish, will always be mixed with sin, evil and brokenness (ie be defiled) and will eventually fade. Though all other hopes eventually die, the gospel offers us a hope that always lives.
2) What Living Hope Is
Peter unmasks our false hopes in order to show us a better hope that will never perish, never be tainted and never fade. It’s the living hope that what will be will be better than what is because Jesus rose from the dead. All those who trust in Jesus Christ share in his resurrection life in part now, and one day, fully and forever. This “inheritance” (a resurrection life in the new creation with Jesus forever) is not just a future reality we can count on, it’s also a future reality that breaks into our lives now with living hope. How so? Verses 5-9 tell us:
· Living hope is the hope that what is most difficult for us will only be for a short time – From the vantage point of resurrection time, this present age of trials and grief is a short time. Our future inheritance in a world without suffering and tears is forever and ever. It would be the height of cruelty for Peter to say to those suffering – “It’s ok. It’s only a short time” unless he was sure of the hope of eternity. Because Jesus is alive, we can be sure what feels to us so long will one day feel like only a short time.
· Living hope is the hope that what is most valuable cannot be taken from us. If the resurrection is true, Peter says the most valuable thing any person can have is faith. Why? Because Faith is the empty hands of trust, the letting go of control, the personal trust that connects us to Jesus and his resurrection life. Peter says suffering is like fire; our faith is like gold. Suffering does take a lot from us; but it also can give us something of greater value than anything else – a refined faith.
· Living hope is that our greatest grief will not be without joy. As it was for Jesus, so it is with Christians. It is not grief or joy; it is grief and joy. To follow Jesus is to go deeper into grief over all that is not the way it should be and deeper into the joy of knowing Him. Somehow, God uses our grief to open up space in our souls for finding true joy. This “inexpressible” joy (v8), in large part, comes from how our grief more clearly reveals the glory of Jesus – the One who died to make us and all things new.
3) How to Find Living Hope
How do we find this living hope when life brings suffering and the resurrection of Jesus (and our resurrection) feels so far, distant and ineffective? Peter is doing all he can to point us beyond ourselves and our difficult circumstances to look to Jesus in personal trust (faith). In verses 10-12, he makes the point that this is what the entire bible is about - the suffering and glories of Christ! When we suffer, we must look to his sufferings. He suffered with us and for us to end all suffering. When we suffer, we must look to his glory. There we find our guaranteed future life in preview.
Many people mistakenly believe that Christianity teaches something like this: Jesus taught us to live a good life so that, if we live good enough (not perfect, no one is), then God will bless us and give us a good life, guard us from suffering and hardship and, when we die, we’ll get into heaven. This is not Christianity! In fact, this is a recipe for hopelessness. Either we think we are good enough - which leads to anger with God when we suffer; or we think we’ll never be good enough - which leads to despair when we suffer. The gospel is the good news that we can give up any hope of being good enough and all hope of ever finding hope apart from Jesus and find living hope in all that Jesus has done for us.
How do we find hope? Peter tells us what changed everything for him. The living hope that Jesus rose from the dead. His love for us has been proven by his death; our future guaranteed by his resurrection. While our suffering takes away all other things we love and trust in, nothing can ever take away what we have when our love and trust is in Him. God promises to guard this inheritance until the day he gives it to us fully and forever.
1. What about the sermon impact you the most or left you with questions?
2. Have you ever thought about Peter’s personal transformation when it came to how he handled suffering? How does this make him a trustworthy guide to finding hope in suffering?
3. Using the definition of hope above, what would you say you most look to for hope in your life instead of Jesus? How does it impact you to know that this hope will perish, is tainted and will one day fade?
4. Using a search engine look up the Myth of Sisyphus. What is the basic story? Do you sometimes feel like this is all life is? How does Peter help explain this feeling? How does what he says answer our feelings of hopelessness with living hope?
5. Of the three descriptions of living hope above – which do you feel you most need to find hope in the suffering or struggles you are currently facing? How would it change things if you really believed this?
6. Have you experienced deeper joy and growing love for Jesus in the midst of suffering? If so, share your story with the group.
7. Why do we have to let go of the hope of earning a suffering-free life to find living hope? Why do we have to let go of all other hopes to find living hope in Jesus?
8. In the sermon it was said that this living hope is:
a. not blind faith but is utterly reasonable because it is based on the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
b. not naïve optimism but is utterly realistic because it does not minimize suffering or grief that life brings.
How are these 2 things important for those going through hard times to find hope? to help others find hope when they are suffering?