Defending our Hope

1 Peter 3:13-16

April 26th & 27th, 2008


            A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, “Eighteen to nothing—we’re behind.” “Boy,” said the spectator, “I’ll bet you’re discouraged.” “Why should I be discouraged?” replied the little boy. “We haven’t even gotten up to bat yet!”  There is a boy who against all odds is optimistic, even hopeful.   We admire people who can be hopeful in difficult circumstances.   Our reading which will engage us this morning comes from 1 Peter 3:13 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.  Passing   the great truths of the faith is something we have learned since we were young, but what is unique about this passage is that here it is done in the midst of suffering and even persecution.   Why is this surprising?  Usually we are more comfortable defending our hope when things are going well.  We believe that at this point we have the proper language, our minds our clear, and our faith is in our estimation at its peak.  We falsely believe that a “I have got it all together” approach or attitude is what is needed to convey the faith.    Might it be that this resurrection hope is ultimately conveyed in the midst of the unattractive parts of life.  The Christian who struggles with addiction, who remains hopeful and struggles along, can be quite a witness.  The Christian who is grieving and hurting, maybe even struggling with depression, but who still hopes can be quite a witness.      It is in these situations someone may ask “How do you go on”?  How can you handle all this?  To which we can respond “it’s hope” and not any hope but a real live hope in a real live Savior.  Notice the defense of this hope starts with a question posed by others.  Usually we think that we need to take the first step.  Here we are responding to a question presented to us.  Our response certainly notes that suffering is real, and that yes it often seems unfair (at least from our perspective”.  Yet even with this there is reason to hope in our Savior.   Hope is there even when it doesn’t seems to have gone away. 

            This week I ran across this Chinese parable about a poor man who lived with his son in an abandoned fort.  One day the horse they owned and depended on to haul vegetables to town –their sole means of support- ran away.  When the neighbors heard about it they went to the old man and expressed their sympathy.  “To Bad, “They said. “How do you know it’s bad?” the old man responded.  “The horse returned and brought back with him a dozen wild horses.”  The neighbors said “This is good!” How do you know if it’s good?” he asked.  When my son tried to tame the horses he broke his leg.” Bad,” they said, “very bad.” “How do you know that?” the old man replied.  “Shortly afterward a war broke out, but my son was laid up and did not have to go to the front”.  These events by themselves, seemed to say it all, but these things don’t stand alone.  For the Christian, there is always another chapter, another story, and that story is hope. 

            Let’s look now a little more closely at this hope which is within us.   In today’s world  a lot of what covers for hope is really unfounded optimism.  You could say that baseball playing boy who was down 18 runs, had an admirable, but unfounded optimism.  As Christians we do not have unfounded optimism but rather  a “Living hope” 1 Peter 1:3 says “Praise  be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ form the dead.  In Hebrews 7:25 says that this Jesus “always lives to intercede for them”.  Jesus doesn’t just live to be alive, rather he lives to benefit those who follow him.  He lives to intercede for us.  He lives  to come to the rescue and to forgive.  This living hope even  went down to hell itself and proclaimed his victory.  Satan and his minions have no control over him. Our living hope lives to be our refuge and strength.   He lives to be our ever present help in very real trouble. 

            Our resurrected Savior has attached himself to us through baptism.   Our text says that just as Noah and his family were rescued through water, so also we are we who have been baptized are rescued through water.  This baptism saves us, and yes the bible uses that term (1 Peter 3:21).  Baptism does this through the resurrection of Jesus.  What does this mean?  It means we are connected, and not disconnected from our God.  It means that Jesus has personally placed upon us his mercy.  As baptized people we can always say..    “If God be for us, who can be against us”.  In suffering or even in persecution, our initial thought may be that God has turned against us. If we are being disciplined by God or pruned by him, it is important to note that we are connected and that we are his own through baptism.     

            What is the reason for the hope that we have?  First of all we have a living Savior who lives to interecede for us.  In him there is always another chapter.  Secondly we have a Savior who has touched our lives, literally through his precious promise in baptism.     Thirdly, another defense of our hope can be found in the long lists of Christians who have gone before us.  These are fellow believers who maintained their God given hope even in the midst of great odds.  In Bible class we are going through the book of Hebrews, and in Hebrews 11 we have a listing of many believers who didn’t obtain the promises of God in this life time.  From Moses, to Abel, to David, to Samson, to Rahab, all these folks were commended for their faith, even though none of them received what was promised in this lifetime. 

            Those with such a faith are living witnesses of the living Savior.  Last year when I was still going to Big Muddy prison every week, we had a gentleman come into the service for the first time.  After some chit, chat, I asked him if he had ever been to a Lutheran Church before, and if he knew anything about the service.  He said, no he never had, and that he didn’t know anything about the service or the church.  Out of curiosity I asked him why he was there.  He simply said, well my grandmother is a Lutheran, and as good as lady as she is whatever religion she believes just has to be right.  He had many other questions, and frankly I’m not sure he came back again.  Yet, in the midst of his own suffering, in a family where I’m sure many had thought they had failed because their grandson or even son was in prison.  In the midst of such great difficulty a witness of the living Savior was taking place.     On  that day especially, this man heard the reason for the hope that we have. 

            To be hope filled people doesn’t mean that we have it all together, it doesn’t mean we are not troubled.  It doesn’t mean   that we don’t still have our questions.  It does mean that there is always another chapter, and that chapter is better than the last.   Allow me to close with Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.