Living Hope Part 3: Joyful Hope
A Rejoicing Present
The practical application of all of this is that we can live with HOPE and JOY now. This is what we see in verses 6-9. Let’s begin with verse 6:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials.
First, this is the inheritance that God has promised, that he is keeping, that is certain.
Second, in that inheritance, you rejoice. For Peter, normal Christianity is MARKED BY REJOICING because we have such DEEP, profound revelation of what is coming. It’s like kids who know their parents are very, very rich. They’re not glad to see mum and dad die, BUT – they know what’s coming – a mega-sized inheritance.
Third, this rejoicing is in the face of for a little while you have been grieved by various trials. This phrase - for a little while - speaks to the totality of our earthly lives before inheriting future salvation; it also means it is temporary and reminds us about how short this life is in the context of eternity. "Various trials" speaks to the challenging nature of this; there is resistance, challenge, difficulty, friction, and fog.
Imagine a really rich parent who dies and leaves a MASSIVE fortune to their child. While they were living, they only gave the child a regular stipend to sustain them in a certain level of lifestyle, but this was just a fraction of their total wealth. And so, although the child is sad because their parent has died, yet they are rejoicing because FINALLY, they are receiving this inheritance.
On the way to the reading of the will where they will finally, legally, inherit all this wealth, they go over a pothole, and their tire gets punctured and goes flat. When they step out of the car to change the tire, they slip on loose gravel and fall down and scrape their knee, and tear their trousers. Because of the delay, they are running late, and so they hurry, but they are caught by the traffic camera and get a speeding fine. THIS DAY IS NOT STARTING WELL! It seems like everything that can go wrong is going wrong.
However, through it all, they are smiling and laughing and filled with joy. Why? Is this unbridled optimism? Is this denial of the circumstances? Is this irrational exuberance? NO – they have their eye on the prize. Even though they are experiencing some momentary, light affliction, even though – to use Peter’s words – they are grieved by various trials – they are still walking in joy. Because they know what is waiting for them; they know what their inheritance is, and in the context of the enormity of that inheritance, flat tires and scraped knees and traffic fines are NOTHING. This is what the Christian life should look like: we are SO DIALED into the inheritance waiting for us, that we stay in HIGH REJOICING MODE because the challenges of this life are inconsequential: real, but temporary; sharp, but transient.
A Genuine Faith
Verse 7 states, “So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Again, the contrast here is between the temporary and the eternal, the earthly and the heavenly. Tested faith that is genuine has an inestimable value. The value of tested faith is only fully appreciated when Christ returns. But the contrast is with gold. Pure gold is both very heavy and very valuable; a kilogram of gold is worth more than $43,000.
The point he is making is that it is only genuine gold that has value. If someone gave you a kilogram gold bar – you might be thrilled, but you might be suspicious. To find out if the gold is real, you test it by fire. That is, you put it in a crucible and subject it to extreme heat; the impurities separate, you ladle them off, turn up the heat, other impurities rise, you ladle them off. Eventually, you have PURE GOLD.
And pure gold – gold tested by fire – is incredibly valuable. BUT – it’s also temporary. One day, gold will perish. BUT YOUR GENUINE FAITH WILL NOT! Peter is saying that genuine faith is incredibly valuable – and this faith is demonstrated as being genuine by our capacity to live in joy in the face of these trials. In other words, the ability to keep your eye on the prize and live in JOY through the midst of trials is an indicator of the purity and the quality of your faith.
The outcome: The Salvation of Your Souls
Finally, we come to verses 8 and 9, which state, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
The point is that we can live in joy now; joy is not reserved only for the future when Jesus will be clearly seen at his revelation.
For me, one of the encouraging things about verse 8 is that we share this same experience with these New Testament believers. Because the characters that populate the New Testament are those who had personal encounters with Jesus, it’s easy for us to think that this was the normal pattern – people who knew Jesus personally, and it is only later that people believed in Jesus whom they had not met. But this is not true: most people who responded to the gospel did so on the basis of the reports of these eyewitnesses.
Peter says that even though they have not seen him, they love and they believe in him. And this is us, isn’t it? We love someone we have not seen; we believe in someone we have not touched. HOW? Because God has caused us to be born again to a living hope.
But even though we have not seen him, as these believers – we rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. In other words, the HOPE that we have is so profound, it’s very difficult to put into words. Even though I have used LOTS of words to try to describe what Peter is teaching in this text, words seem to fall short in capturing the glory of the inheritance we have in Christ.
The basis of our rejoicing with an inexpressible joy is our salvation – what Peter describes here as the end result - eternal salvation – the completion of God’s saving work.
CONCLUSION: It’s the HOPE that enlivens us as we remember the future.
Remember that it’s the hope that kills you? No – actually, it’s the hope that enlivens you. That’s because hope is about remembering the future that God has for us. Remember the football supporter unwilling to be hopeful about the new season. But if you ask him about the glory years, he’s willing to talk forever with a big smile on his face.
That’s the point: we can talk about our glory years with hope because they lie in the future and they are guaranteed in and by God. Christian hope is not optimism about a possibility but confidence in something certain.
What now? If you have noticed, so far in these seven verses, there are no ‘imperatives’; there are no ‘therefore, DO THIS’. Often in the epistles, we have indicative and imperative statements: indicative statements are about identity – THIS IS WHO YOU ARE! Imperative statements are action statements: THIS IS WHAT TO DO, THIS IS HOW TO LIVE.
The way it works is that our identity is the foundation for our action; our being comes out of our doing. We often learn WHO WE ARE before we get to WHAT TO DO. And this passage, located at the beginning of the letter, does not address what to do, it addresses identity – WHO YOU ARE.
The big point is relatively simple: IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF YOUR SALVATION, you will live in hope. IF you can understand the nature of the LIVING HOPE into which you have been born again, your life WILL BE marked by joy.
In other words – joy – or rejoicing – functions as an indicator of the degree to which you are dialed into eternity. WE LIVE NOW in the context of ETERNAL INHERITANCE. That’s why our lives are marked by joy. But if you are NOT marked by joy, it may be that you’ve forgotten about your inheritance.
REMEMBER the guy who was on his way to receive an inheritance? He had a flat tire, got a scraped knee, tore his trousers, got a speeding fine … but it didn’t bother him. IF YOU ARE GETTING BOTHERED, it may be that you’ve gotten your eyes off THE MAIN EVENT and are looking at the "temporary light affliction", the various temporary trials that cause us grief.
It’s time to take a little JOY test: is the song in your heart dialed into the KINGDOM radio station of your eternal salvation, or is it dialed into the fluctuating nature of this life? This doesn’t mean we ignore the human pain and suffering of this life, but that we view it and experience it, and minister to it FROM the context of our eternal reward.
JOY is the appropriate expression of remembering the future God has for you. This is why one way of understanding hope is very simply remembering the future. GOD has secured an AMAZING guaranteed future for you in Christ. Live like it.