1 Peter 1:3. 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.
If there’s one thing Christians are not allowed to be it’s hopeless. Hope is the center of the entire Christian life. When Peter sits down to write a letter to Christians who feel hopeless under the weight of persecution and suffering, he begins by reminding them of their hope. Their living hope.
There’s this great scene near the end of the movie The Shawshank Redemption when Red, who had called hope a “dangerous thing”, has finally been released from prison and he finds his friend Andy’s secret letter and stash of money that he has left for Red under the big oak tree. As he sits down to read the letter we hear Andy’s voice saying, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
Yes, Andy, hope is a good thing. Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs something to move toward. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. A reason to keep living. Without it the heart is truly sick.
There’s a big push these days to “live in the moment,” or to “be present.” Make the most of today. Live one moment at a time. Psychologists call this “mindfulness.” And it’s not a bad thing. Even as Christians we can tend to live in a sort of “present only” faith. Where is God in my present pain and suffering? How can I experience God in this moment?
None of this is bad, but it’s not enough. It’s not sustaining. We were never meant to live only in the present. Our God is a God of the past, the present, and the future. Our faith is not only in the past work of Christ, or even the present reality of the indwelling Christ, but also in the future hope of life with him forever, experiencing his glory that will change us into his likeness.
Such future hope is vital to your present living. Why? Because your future actually changes your present. What we believe about our future changes how we live today. Think about it. Is there any real comfort in knowing that you are forgiven by Christ’s work on the cross in the past, if you are not also moving toward the hope of a future transformation into Christ? Is there any real motivation to pursue humility or holiness? Without this living hope of sharing Christ’s resurrection into sinlessness you are simply a forgiven criminal who will continue to commit crimes forever. A forgiven past without a changed future still leaves us with an unchanging present.
And what about our suffering? Would it really comfort us to know that God is with us in our suffering but that things will never get better? That our trials will never lead to transforming glory in eternity? That there is no growth in perseverance, character, or love as we travel along this life with Christ? Of course not. Bright hope for tomorrow is what produces strength for today (Great is Thy Faithfulness).
And so we all live today from our hope for the future. Which is precisely why we all need a living hope. Not a dead or dying hope.
As we wade knee deep into Advent words like “hope, peace, and joy” are thrown around as the “reason for the season.” But so often the hope that is set before us at Christmastime (and always) is devoid of any meaning. But because we are so desperate for hope we will settle for all kinds of lesser hopes, especially at Christmas. Hope in gifts (giving and getting). Hope in family gatherings. Hope in the season itself. Hope in traditions. Hope in feeling that “Christmas spirit.” And hope that next year will be better than the last. But all of these hopes are dying or dead. Not living. Do you remember Andy’s words? “No good thing ever dies.” Or we might say it this way – If it is good and will never die, then it’s worth hoping in, for it will never, ever disappoint you.
But that only leaves us with one thing – God himself. Only God is good. And only God will never die. That is until union with Christ came along. Now in Christ, all who receive him receive his goodness and his immortality. Now in Christ (and only in Christ), we too are the good thing that never dies. In Christ, we have living hope and we ARE living, breathing, walking around, loving, caring, serving hope.
“To live is Christ” is our living hope. May all lesser hopes point our hearts to the ultimate hope of our future with Jesus, and with the Father. With the eternal love and glory of the Trinity. And may our living hope change how we live today. Free from manufacturing a dying hope from the present moment. And free to live our sorrowful today as if it is our glorious tomorrow.
What are you hoping for today?
You in Christ
Does knowing you’re in Christ bring you hope?
Christ in you
How might your today in Christ look more like your future with Christ?
Playlist: Living Hope