Week of May 5: A living hope sustains us through trials, tribulations of our live
By Dr. Hal Brady
Lesson for week of May 5
Scripture: I Peter 1:3-12
When Christopher Columbus was starting on the voyage that led to the discovery of America, someone is said to have called out from the shore, “What will you do when the winds rage against you?” The courageous mariner replied, “We will catch the wind in our sails.”
This is the desire of the author of I Peter. He wants to make sure that the Christians he’s writing to maintain faith and catch the wind in their sails.
A prominent theme of I Peter is to help Christians who are facing times of testing and suffering to view their sufferings in the light of Christ’s suffering for them and his resurrection. Though aware of the various kinds of suffering, the author of I Peter is primarily addressing the sufferings that Christians would face because of their loyalty to their faith in a hostile environment.
In his opening statement, the author tells us that his letter is addressed to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. These are five provinces of the Roman Empire that today are a part of the land in Asia which is controlled by Turkey. The Christians to whom the author is writing are exiles in that they know they share a common faith which is not the dominant faith of the Greco-Roman world in which they must live. These exiles know that they must live in obedience to their faith in Christ and at the same time live in the context of the world.
Clearly the author’s purpose is to address the Christians where he feels they are soon to experience persecution. Scholars tell us that whether these are widespread imperial persecutions or more limited local harassments of their communities, the audience of the Petrine Epistles clearly faces a difficult situation—one where hope would not be given but a genuine act of faith and even defiance.
Among scholars, there is some question about who wrote I Peter. The question of authorship is closely related to the time and place of Peter’s death. But no matter who wrote it, the author is an Apostle of Jesus Christ (I Peter 1:1).
The question is – when trials and tribulations cause hopelessness, where can we go to find new hope and reassurance for a joyous future?
Hope based on the Resurrection of Christ is the critical factor!
It is noteworthy that the writer of I Peter does not at any place in his epistle attempt to establish the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He assumes this as both his conviction and the conviction of his readers. The implication, of course, is the belief that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was an event which actually happened. Though the meaning of the resurrection of Christ goes much deeper, nevertheless, the Christian faith is rooted in history.
Because of the resurrection of Christ or Easter, the author of I Peter singles out two enormous gifts that come to us in which we can take hope.
First, the author says, “You have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:13). If the word of resurrection is true, hopes given up can become hope renewed. Lives beyond control, fearful of death, can be “reborn” to become God’s instruments of compassion, justice and good. Being “born again” means that our lives are no longer defined by the flesh and all that suggests. Here the author is concerned with the meaning of the witness to the resurrection of Jesus in the life of the community of faith.
Second, the author says, “You have a pure and enduring inheritance that cannot perish—an inheritance that is presently kept safe in heaven for you (1:4). This inheritance which the NRSV translation describes as “imperishable,” “undefiled” and “unfading” involves the removal of the critical limitations in the life we know now: brevity, evil and decay. This inheritance is fully guaranteed and will have no disappointment. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…” (John 14:2).
Thus, in Christ’s resurrection, the inheritance God entrusts to us is not only a treasured memory but a salvation hope—a salvation that is “ready to be revealed at the last time.”
Hope based on trust is the way of faith!
The willingness to live by faith in a world of instant gratification is becoming increasingly difficult for many. Numbers of people want everything, right now. But in striking contrast, the author of I Peter testifies to life that must be lived and hope that must be sustained by trust. Note that I Peter is aimed at a community acquainted with suffering and grief. Additionally, we are told that I Peter is also directed to a community whose standing is not assured because they can physically see Jesus but rather because they love Jesus and one another.
The author writes, “Although you’ve never seen him, you love him” (1:8). It’s very possible to love a person we have never seen. For instance, in our faith we rely upon the testimony of those who did see him in the flesh. Equally true, however, we also know Christ through the fulfilling power of faith. Through our personal faith, we have a deep affection and devotion to him in our hearts.
On a wall in my home, I have a picture of John Wesley preaching to an outdoor crowd. Why do I appreciate and even love John Wesley? I have never seen him. The real impact of Wesley on my life is that he has pointed me effectively to what God has done for me in Jesus Christ.
So our faith is not set on a vague number of propositions, but upon a person who lives and reigns in our hearts and at the heart of everything else. In Him is our joy!
One last thought: God gave the Old Testament prophets the Spirit of Messiah to be his markers to his glorious redemption. Yet they did not enter it. “It was all for you” (1:12), the author writes. The point is we do not live unto ourselves. As the prophets were not serving themselves, neither must we. God asks, “Do I have a witness?” We respond with love and hope.
Brainstorm about where you find hope to trust God in difficult situations.
Dr. Hal Brady is a retired pastor who continues his ministry through Hal Brady Ministries (www.halbradyministries.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.