In your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:15-17
In today’s Scripture the apostle Peter is writing at a time Christians are being rounded up, tortured and killed, and a short while before he is crucified by Nero. Yet in such a hopeless time Peter is encouraging Christians to be ready to answer any who ask them to “give an account of the hope that is in you.” Peter knows that in the midst of fiery trials Christians radiate such hope that others will be left scratching their heads and wanting an explanation.
Followers of the crucified Lord have always been marked by hope and a lively expectation of good things to come. In fact, the apostle Paul told how hope, along with faith and love, are the three things that last, that endure (1 Corinthians 13:13). Hope has never been an optional extra for the people of God. In fact God commands the obedience of hope because of the great promises He has given to us. We live daily in the confident expectation that God always keeps His word!
Hope takes our faith turned towards God in the past (the Cross and the Resurrection), and turns it towards the future. The New Testament Greek word for hope, elpis, signifies the confident, assured expectation that God will do just as He has promised. A Christian’s hope for the future is very different from what the world usually thinks of as hope. Christian hope is no wishful, will-o’-the-wish, elusive desire without any assurance attached to it. It’s not like the man who “hopes” to catch a big fish (Ask any fisherman if that works!). Rather, Christian hope is rather rock solid because it is founded on the God in whom we have placed our hope. It is as good as God’s character and integrity.
Consider but a few of many Scriptures that bolster our hope for the future. We have a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3); a “steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into heaven” (Hebrews 6:19); “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:17). Our hope is the confident expectation to forever share in the very life and glory of God!
On those days when I am feeling discouraged and less than hopeful, I like to turn to two sources that always fill the Christian with hope. First, I turn to God’s Word, given to fill us with hope:
Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”
The apostle Paul is writing to Christians about the “encouragement” that the Scriptures give us, as they are intended that “we might have hope.” The Scriptures Paul has in mind are the Old Testament Scriptures, as the New Testament is still in the making. But stories of God’s faithfulness and goodness to an Abraham, a Moses, or a Sarah, stir hope within us for the future. We turn our faith in God toward the past and direct it to our future.
Second, I turn a few verses down the page where Paul tells how the Holy Spirit fills Christians with hope:
Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
We turn to the Holy Spirit, and to the Holy Scriptures, that we “may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In difficult, trying times, I cannot turn on hope within me. But the Holy Spirit and His Scriptures can!
Ponder what the great theologian Karl Barth said concerning our Christian hope:
“Where there is the great hope, necessarily there are the small hopes for the immediate future…It is certainly in these many little hopes that the Christian lives from day if he really lives in the great hope…He does not fail and is never weary to live daily in these little hopes.” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV. 1).
Grace and peace, and yes, hope – daily!