Friday, May 13, 2016

Living in Hope

Of the 84.5 million mothers who live in the U.S., many struggle with feelings of hopelessness.[1] Consider the findings of a recent poll of moms by the polling firm PSB in March 2016.


·         Moms are concerned about the education of their children. A majority of mothers, 83 percent, said they would likely support a political candidate who is for expanding quality early childhood education programs in the U.S., which they believe is critical to America's future.

·         Two-thirds of moms believe their children are less safe than they were as children. Mothers rank declining moral values (35 percent), violence in schools (33 percent), sexual predators (27 percent) and bullying (26 percent) at the top of their list of concerns for their children.

·         More than two-thirds of working millennial moms said that the American business culture had made it "nearly impossible" to balance family and work, compared to less than half of older moms in the survey.

·         Overall, many moms are weary and overwhelmed. Most are living paycheck to paycheck. They say the leading causes of stress in their lives are paying their bills on time and being a good parent.[2]


“While there’s life, there’s hope!” That ancient Roman saying is still prevalent today. However, it is not the “fact” of life that brings hope; it is the faith of life.  Peter wrote about the faith of life. Because of faith in Jesus Christ, we can live in hope.


Peter, arguably the most vocal and leader-like of all the disciples of Jesus, wrote this incredible letter. Peter was called “unlearned and ignorant” by the Jewish religious establishment (Acts 4:13). Peter’s lack of professionalism turned out to be positive. He was able to communicate to the masses. Peter did not speak as a member of the religious elite. He spoke as a man who had experienced God in an extraordinary way!


Many people seem to think that hope is wishing for something you are never going to get. However, hope in Jesus Christ is yours today for the asking. Let’s look at God’s Word and find hope in Jesus today.


1. You were created for a purpose.

1 Peter 1:1-4  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.


Peter wrote to those he called exiles. Christians were called exiles because they live in the world but their standards and values are different from those who live around them. Christians, in Peter’s day, were “strange” and “scattered” around because of persecution and trials. Peter’s letter came at the right time to those early Christians.


This Scripture and many others address the hope of Jesus Christ in times of suffering. One of our favorite verses about God’s purpose in our suffering is Romans 8:28.


Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.


A pastor told the story of a lady who fell and broke her leg at church. She said, “Pastor, I know God wanted me to be here, but I don’t see why this had to happen! I don’t see any good coming from me falling at church!” Wisely, the pastor responded, “Romans 8:28 doesn’t say that we see all things working together for good. It says that we know it.”


Faith means that we follow Jesus Christ and obey his Word even when things look challenging or are difficult. Some wonder, “How do we grow when we are going through tests and trouble?” We grow during times of testing the same way we grow in the good times: We stay faithful in feeding on God’s Word.


Romans 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.


Our relationship with God grows stronger as we continue to read and apply truth from the Bible. It is a simple principle that we should spend lots of time in personal Bible reading when we go through a challenging season or when Satan is tempting us.


2. You are kept safe by God’s power.

1 Peter 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.


The words of this letter are relevant today for those who are being persecuted for their belief in God. In these later days, Christians are going through trouble and tribulation. Some are being killed for their faith.  In desperate times, moments of crisis, we become more receptive to hear about the essentials of our faith. Our hearts hunger for what is true. We find these truths here in God’s Word.


In our culture today, our only safe, secure place is in Jesus Christ. We experience his protection through faith. Jesus reminded us of the limits of those who wish to harm us.


Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.


No one can touch our soul. Our eternal destiny is safe and secure in Jesus Christ.


Our faith in Jesus guards us, according to the Bible. We trust in Jesus Christ by faith. We cannot always trust our feelings. Our feelings and emotions can change in an instant. For example, you may go to see a scary movie with evil aliens. You know that the aliens are not real. However, you still feel afraid.


The filmmakers are skilled at what they do. With the cinematic score, computer graphics, and video production they manipulate your mind so that you begin to believe in a reality that does not exist. You know in your rational brain that space aliens are not real. However, you get scared. Feelings cause us to react. Having faith is not the same as having feelings. The fact for the Christian is that Jesus Christ is our hope and salvation, no matter how we may feel.


So many are letting their feelings come first. My dad, for a while, was a long-haul truck driver. The cargo did not control his truck. He controlled the truck by sitting in the driver’s seat and turning the steering wheel. When we let feelings control our life, it’s like allowing the cargo to control the truck instead of the driver at the steering wheel. Faith must be behind the steering wheel.


1 John 5:4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.


3. You are tested for a reason.

1 Peter 1:6-7  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 honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.


God’s Word teaches us that our tests are used by God to refine us for the praise, glory, and honor. Also, these tests bring about a testimony.  For many of us, our story is that we would have never known that God could be so real to us had we not experienced the pain of certain trials in our lives.


Knowing that the tests have a purpose help us endure the pressures and hardships. A woman bears the pain of childbirth because she knows that something wonderful will result from the pain of childbirth. She can take the pain because at the end she will share in the new birth of her child. She goes through the suffering believing that there will be joy in the future. It is through the trials and suffering that we face that God does his greatest birthing.


The Apostle Paul mentioned that he could endure the suffering because he knew that it would lead to God’s strength working through him.


2 Corinthians 12:10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


4. You are blessed with joy that is inexpressible.

1 Peter 1:8-12 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. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.


The salvation we are waiting for is the return of Jesus Christ! Jesus’ coming again for his people has been God’s plan from ages past. The Old Testament prophets wrote about this return. They saw the suffering of Jesus on the Cross hundreds of years before it became a reality. They did not understand how to connect the suffering of Jesus and the triumphant return of Jesus. We see the connection here beautifully in 1 Peter.


  When Jesus was born on earth, the Jewish rabbis were looking for a king who would conquer their enemies instead of a suffering Savior who would give his life as payment for our sins. Even Jesus’ own disciples were not clear on how Jesus could be the conquering King while having to suffer death on a Roman cross.


If you look closely at the Bible, you see that the prophets of ancient times saw the cross where Jesus would suffer and die hundreds of years before it became a reality.


Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

    and with his wounds we are healed.


They also saw Jesus’ glorious return for his people.


Zechariah 14:4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one-half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward.


Peter said that these truths are so compelling and powerful, even the angels want to study them!


For every believer, there is a glorious salvation that awaits us! When we believed in Jesus Christ, we were prepared for a glorious future. As we follow Jesus, even experiencing trials along the way, we are being developed for this future. When we love Jesus, trust in him, and rejoice in him, we can have a taste of that glorious future in the here and now! Joy unspeakable!


I have seen a lot of caterpillars this year. Butterflies are caterpillars that have been transformed. Caterpillars are ugly, slimy, and slow. I don’t find much redeeming value in caterpillars. Most of the time, I find myself accidentally stepping on them.


Once the caterpillar converts to a butterfly, all of a sudden, something new is born. Something old and ugly, something that was rejected, something that could be stepped on, now begins to change. The process of change is a little uncomfortable and a little inconvenient.


For a while, it looks like things are getting worse rather than better. That’s because something is changing on the inside. After the cocooning process is over, and the shell flips open, all of a sudden the thing that used to be grounded can now fly. The thing that used to be a parasite now pollinates. Something beautiful has come out of something that was ugly. The seed was already there for it, but it just had to wait for development.


Now, a butterfly is not a fixed up caterpillar. A butterfly is an entirely new creature that was birthed out of a caterpillar. But it’s not a caterpillar. It is a brand spanking new being.[3]


Transformation is the glorious hope of the Christian.


2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.


Satan wants to use our challenges to bring out the worst in us. God wants to bring out the best in us. If we love Jesus Christ and hope in him, we can experience glory and transformation. The joy that we experience in Jesus Christ is so deep and powerful that we cannot even express it. Words fail us!


[1], (Retrieved on May 2, 2016).
[2], (Retrieved on May 3, 2016).
[3]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . . (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 267.