The Promise and the Hope

[To go along with the theme of the sermon, the special music for this service was “Even If” by MercyMe]

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Scriptures: 1 Peter 1:3-9; Psalm 27

How and where to see God when the world is just … wrong. We are looking at that today, with the goal of seeing God, in terms of the promise and the hope.

As the series has done all along, we’ll be working through this as if it were a psalm of lament, even though we’re going to be focusing on first Peter chapter one.

And we’ll note that, even in a passage like that, you seem to see this pattern that Peter is suggesting to his readers, to his fellow Christians. That is, they recognize and he recognizes and validates very much the suffering and the pain that they are going through, the persecution that is occurring, the situation that is grave and dire.

But then he remembers, in the second step of a psalm of lament, what God has done, which is what we’re going to focus on mostly today. Then in the end, he says this seeming paradox, where he says that you can rejoice even while you are experiencing this suffering.

This is something which Paul also alludes to, and in both cases it’s sometimes just very hard to understand. How can I possibly rejoice when I am suffering, when I am going through a time of trial and toughness, and the world is just not the way it should be at this time?

In part I think we have this grave difficulty because we confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is a feeling. Happiness comes and goes. It goes up it. goes down. I can be happy when my wife surprises me with Stouffer’s mac and cheese for dinner, or a cheesecake, or some really sharp cheddar cheese (I’m food-oriented, you might be able to tell) or any number of things that are given as gifts. Or I might be happy when I’m able to play and sing something. I’m happy when I’m singing with my sons.

It’s different from joy. Joy is something that comes from deeper within. It’s not an emotion. It’s like love. There’s a difference between being in love, and loving someone. You can be in love, and that’s a passion and that’s an emotion and that’s a feeling. It’s what lets us come together and get married and start a family. But some time – most psychologists say three to five years in – the “in love” rubs off.

Then you’re left with your commitment. You have to choose to love that person, choose to love your husband or your wife, when they’re grouchy or grumpy in the morning and have bed hair and all those kind of things. You choose to love your kids when they are just really being as annoying as all get-out. Or your grandkids – you want your rest, and your family is there, and your grandkids are up at the crack of dawn and they want to come and bounce on your bed. It may be cute, later on, but right at that moment…

Or – any of you that have pets. How many of you have pets? Dogs. We love dogs. But the dogs, they get used to a certain schedule. And they will let you know when it is time to do things. (I understand cats can be even more demanding, but I’m allergic to cats, so I’ll never know.)

There’s a difference between being in love and loving. There’s a difference between happiness and joy. Joy rests foundationally in security, in an assurance of something. It rests foundationally in a fact, if you will, something that is proven, something that can be depended upon.

This is what Peter and the psalmists in the psalms of lament are talking about, when they go to God and they talk about hope. During suffering and pain, we often focus on what we have lost, rather than what we still have.

While God may temporarily allow injustice to occur, never forget the God has dealt mercy to every man, woman ,and child. What is that mercy? That mercy was Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And he did not send him into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

God has sent His Son and showered us with mercy, and what we could not do for ourselves, in terms of making ourselves right with God in our relationship with Him, He has done for us, if we believe and trust in Him.

The song, “Even If” that Bob sang this morning, notes that

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad

And he talks about the paradox that frequently happens to people that are in front.

I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

He’s feeling so down. He’s feeling in such a dark place. And even though he’s singing this is a performer, we all put on our masks, as Christians. We all go through those times where people say, “How are things going?” “Oh, it’s fine. God is good.”

And God is good, all the time. But you might not be fine right now. But we smile, and we put on our face, and we took people it’s OK. And it’s not that we want to go wearing our hearts on our sleeve and sharing everything that we have to the whole world. There is such a thing as TMI, too much information.

But the fact of the matter is, if we’re going to be authentic in our faith, if we’re going to be authentic in our sharing of the Gospel and the good news of Jesus Christ, the people have to know that we are human, that we are people too, that we do suffer the setbacks, that we do suffer this darkness in our soul, that we do suffer through these times of persecution or when things just seem to be going wrong, or the world just isn’t right, and we don’t understand it either.

Or tragedy occurs, whether it be personal or national in scope. And when those moments happen, we need to remind ourselves, after we shared to God what it is that we’re upset about, what it is we’re confused about, what it is that we are struggling with. We need to share with God then, and remind ourselves who He is and what He has done.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

That whole idea is expressed in a nut shell in that little chorus there. We know that God is all-powerful. We know that God is able. We know that God can. And we shouldn’t hesitate to ask Him to do it. God loves it when His people ask Him to give them good things, to save them

But even if He doesn’t at that moment, we need to remind ourselves that our hope is still in Him alone. We need to remind ourselves that ultimately, we need to depend on God, even if He doesn’t seem to be answering us right now, giving us what we think we need. There’s that country song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. It’s a great song, for those of you that know it. And for those of you that don’t, you can always look up the lyrics.

Sometimes we need to think God for unanswered prayers. But we don’t do it at the time that they’re unanswered, or at least very infrequently. Instead, we get upset and angry. It’s not until we look back, that we begin to think God. So there’s that looking back again.

At that moment in time when we’re in darkness, and we can’t seem to see what God wants or what God’s plan is, and we’re frustrated because we don’t know what it is that we are to do, we have to hold onto hope.

Peter, in his letter here, says we have a living hope. A living hope. Now why would he say a living hope? I’ve never heard of a dead hope. So there must be some specific reason that he speaks of a living hope.

Well he tells us what he means, there in verse three, “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and an inheritance that can never fad, spoil, or perish.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We’re going to be having Easter soon, and I know I’m getting ahead of the game, because we’re still in Lent. But you see, our hope, our joy, which is rooted in that hope, is based in the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised again, that we might be new creatures and have new life in Him. This is attested to in the Scriptures in many different ways, and it has been attested to in ways that are credible, ways that can believe be believed, through eyewitness testimony, through reporting, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The fact of the matter is, by literary standards, particularly in the Gospels, which tell about Christ, they are credible witnesses to historic events, even the supernatural ones. There been any number of people that have gone out and tried to prove that that’s not true by our standards today. Literary standards, historical standards, journalistic standards, and many of them came to faith.

Lee Strobel is one of the best-known. He recently wrote Case for Faith and Case for Christ, but even earlier than that, another generation before that, there was Josh McDowell. He was a lawyer, and he put the Gospels on trial, with the goal of disproving them. And you know what happened? He ended up being converted, and he’s one of the biggest evangelists today and sharer of Bibles everywhere. And he’s written any number of books that you can look up.

Our hope, our living hope, is based on the fact that we have a living God, one whose Son was resurrected from the dead. And because of that, we have been adopted by God and we are children of God, like Christ, and we are the beneficiary of God who will receive an inheritance that can never perish, fade, or spoil.

The New Testament regularly uses the word inheritance (the word in Greek is kleronomia) to refer not only to the earthly inheritance, but also to a believer’s share in the heavenly kingdom, his or her heavenly reward. So it’s used in a couple of different contexts. But it’s a fact. it’s been written in blood, literally, the blood of Jesus Christ.

Because of that we have a living hope. So we can know that, even if He doesn’t save us in this moment from the fire, the refiner’s fire, we have a hope that we can depend upon. Peter says we can even rejoice, and we can proclaim that hope. That is what the psalmists do in the third part of their psalms of lament.

I do want to touch on one other thing and that is that there is always the question, why do the righteous have to suffer? We’ve talked previously about God’s plan, and last week about God’s perspective, and the fact that it says suffering builds patience, and patience builds endurance, endurance builds character, and character brings faith.

I’ve also spoken of the fact that nobody ever grows without pain. From the time you’re born to the time you die, any growth – physically, spiritually, mentally – comes with pain and discipline. It doesn’t just happen.

But in regards to suffering, C.S. Lewis had a very interesting thing to say, that I just want to share with you. C.S. Lewis was once asked in an interview, “Why do the righteous suffer?” And he replied, “Why not? They’re the only ones who can take it.”

Let that sink in for a moment. They’re the only ones who can take it. He’s not being elitist here. He’s being a realist. In the crux of the suffering, the kind of suffering frequently that occurs, people who do not have faith in Jesus Christ begin to experience despair. And despair leads to a loss of hope and a loss of will, a loss of a desire to move forward, a loss of a desire to make things better. You begin to get a fatalistic sort of resignation to whatever is going on.

But Christians, people who have the living hope in Jesus Christ, people who have an understanding of the promise of an inheritance, people who know that God is with them and loves them and will never leave nor forsake them no matter how dark it gets – they can move through it, trusting in God, until they get to the other side.

It doesn’t mean they don’t experience the darkness. It doesn’t mean they don’t experience the hurt. It doesn’t mean they don’t experience the pain. Because they do. But they have something to counterbalance it, Something to help bring the healing.

There may be scars. There are almost always scars where there’s been a wound that’s deep enough. I’m sure that many of you have scars on your bodies and on your spirits, that you could tell about, and each one tells a story. But they healed. And you are once again whole, because of Jesus Christ.

So when the world is just wrong, how do we see God? Where do we see God? First of all, we see God right next to us. And we see God by remembering the fact of what He has already done. And no matter what He has done in your life, there is one thing that He has done in every single life of every single believer.

That is, He sent His Son, who suffered even worse than we are suffering, and died, and then God raised him again. Just for us, because He loves us. And that one act, that one fact, that one reality, will bring us a hope that will allow us to see God, even in the darkest of times.

It may be a light that’s at the end of the tunnel. It may be an imagined light on the other side of a mountain. But we know it’s there, just like we know the sun’s there even in the middle of the night. Even on the night of a new moon, where you don’t get the reflected light of the moon, we know the sun’s there.

And so is God. And because of that, we can trust in Him. And we can say, with the musicians, “It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul. Mate be well with your soul as well, no matter what your trial is that you’re going through.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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