Last month we looked briefly at our hope in the historical accuracy of scripture. So as we continue thinking about our Christian hope, what are you hoping for currently? A new car? The economy not to collapse? A new job? A new house? We have seen in the news recently the uncertainty in the world, especially in the wake of the EU referendum. So, how are we to plan and what do we actually have to look ahead to? Well, far above all these earthly things is our God.
The main focus of the next couple of prayer diary front pages will be focussing around 1 Peter 3:13-17:
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
This passage revolves entirely around our hope and how we relate to that. However, I’m sure you might be thinking that it doesn’t look too good to start with. The chance is, we might suffer even when doing good! How can this be fair? Well, it probably isn’t, but equally it isn’t a bad thing. It is important to remember that when we are suffering for ‘righteousness’ sake’ (v14) you will be blessed. God allows things to happen to us for our good. This is a difficult concept to comprehend sometimes, but very important. Our hope needs to be found in the fact that God is in control. Just like Job and his suffering, God allowed the devil to afflict him, yet the devil could never do more to Job than God permitted. So although you may be facing trials right now, even when seemingly you are doing good things, you can still rest in the knowledge that God has all things in control.
The hope also goes a lot deeper than we might think. We are told in v15 to ‘honour Christ the Lord as Holy’. What does this mean? Well various different translations put it across in similar ways, they say ‘revere’ or ‘sanctify’ and a few other options. The essential message to us here is to be putting Christ in his correct position. That is, at the forefront of our hearts. We are to be so focussed on Christ at all times that all other things should fade away. So when it comes to the world around us crashing down, we know that Christ is still at the forefront, but we can only have that hope if we are focussing on Jesus. When we are anxious, we focus on Christ. When we are attacked, we focus on Christ. When we are happy, we focus on Christ. That is why Peter can confidently write ‘Have no fear of them (persecutors), nor be troubled’. This is because when focussing on the unmatched Glory of Christ and His guaranteed eternal promises of a perfect New Heaven and New Earth, our temporary woes of today mean nothing.
This focus is at the centre of what it means to be a Christian. Without hope, we are lost in the world. We can see this played out in front of us each day on our screens at home. The arrogance of humanity to assume that we can fix things without God. However, with the hope of Christ and his new life in us we can live for eternity. Knowing that no amount of suffering now, will ever separate us from God.