“A Living Hope”
Out of all the people I am blessed to know and visit with regularly, there is not a single person who does not have some sort of problem or difficulty. It might have to do with their failing health, unrest within their family, or even financial challenges. Perhaps you can say the same thing. Everywhere we look there seems to be problems. Some obstacle or challenge is common to every person. That is probably true even in your own life. Those problems and challenges bring frustration and hardship. They weigh heavily upon us and cause pain and discouragement. If we are not careful, they can quickly get us down. They can take up our time and attention. Before we know it, our focus is on that which is negative, instead of on those things that are good and positive. Now, oftentimes, the negative things of life take our thoughts and attention away from the Lord and His blessings and promises. When that happens, we tend to forget how much God loves us. We tend to overlook how He provides for us. We may even fail to remember that during the challenges of life, God's presence never leaves us. In the lesson today on "Key to the Kingdom," our focus will be on the living hope we have through God's son, Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter will remind us that even when things do not go right, there is a future reward for those who endure. I trust you will join us for the next few minutes, as we open up God's Word and study from it.
In the midst of challenging and difficult days, there is something very important you need to know; that is, God loves you. Yes, God loves you and me and every other person on the face of this earth, and that's important for us to know and remember. When we encounter the obstacles and the difficulties and the challenges of life, God's presence is always there. We have that reassurance from the Lord. We have the reassurance that He will always provide, and His blessings will never go away. That might be difficult for us to understand or accept, especially when we deal with our health issues, or homelessness, or hunger. We may wonder where God is when we are kicked out of our families or persecuted for our faith. We might even wonder if God cares about us when we lose our job or cannot find some kind of employment. Oh, it is easy at times to become discouraged or disheartened when it seems that these problems and these hardships are overwhelming. It's tempting to give up on the Lord. And in fact, we may even focus more on our problems than we focus on a solution. Oh, problems and persecution and hardship have always been a part of life. Even for those who are faithfully following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. There was a group of Christians in the first century who dealt with all kinds of problems. The apostle Peter knew that, and he wrote a letter of encourage to them. These people were losing their jobs, their families were being torn apart, some of them were even being put to death; and, it was for the simple fact they had committed their life to following Jesus. They were walking in His footsteps. They were His disciples, and everything else was secondary to that. And so, Peter writes a letter to them. And after his introduction, he says something very important and very encouraging. Listen closely to his words that begin in 1st Peter 1:3. <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 from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the Salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time.> The apostle Peter begins by reminding these believers of who they are, and what they have in Jesus Christ. He lists several blessings that come to them, and they needed to be reminded of that. In the midst of the hardship and the persecution, they needed to be reminded that God still loves them. He sees about them, and His blessings continue to flow. Imagine how grateful these original readers were to get this message from Peter. Imagine how relieved they were to know that God was still in control, and that those blessings they had received were not going to be taken away. For the next few minutes, I would encourage you to put yourself into the place of these first century Christians. Imagine receiving these words from Peter, and reading them, and reminding yourself of who you are and what you have in Christ. Consider all of the problems and difficulties and hardships that you might experience, and think about how they are nothing compared to the blessings that come from God. Let's take a look at these. The first one we find in verse three is that, we have His great mercy. There is no greater display of God's mercy and His kindness, than when He sent His son Jesus Christ to die on our behalf. God did not have to do that. He could have chosen another way to offer salvation to all people, but God chose to offer His son. God chose to give His very best, His one and only Son. What a tremendous display of mercy. What kindness God showed by allowing His son to die for you, and for me. Peter writes in the very next chapter, in verse 10, <Once, you were not a people, but now, you are the people of God. Once, you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.> I want you to know today that as a follower of Jesus Christ, if you are experiencing those hardships and difficult days, you have received the mercy of God. Here's the second thing I want us to know. We are born again. We see that there in verse 3. Because of God's great sacrifice, we are no longer spiritually dead. No longer are we dead in our sins, but we are alive in Jesus Christ. We go from being dead to being alive. There is no greater contrast in all of this world than being dead or being alive. That's good news, isn't it? I think about the words of the apostle Paul in Colossians 2, beginning with verse 11. <In Him, you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature. Not with a circumcision done by the hands of men, but with a circumcision done by Christ. Having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God who raised Him from the dead.> We are born again, when we die to the sin in our life, when we bury that sin in the act of baptism; and then, we rise up to life, just as Jesus rose up to life after His resurrection. And now we begin a new life in Jesus Christ. That's what it means to be born again, to have a brand new life spiritually; and that is the blessing that we experience as a follower of Christ. Here's a third blessing that Peter offers to us. We have a living hope. Our hope in Jesus is alive and well. It is not something that may or may not happen. Rather, it is a certain reality. Oftentimes, we hope for good things in this world. We hope for good health. We hope for nice weather. We hope for good grades at school. Again, that may or may not take place. But the living hope of Jesus Christ is a certain reality. We have it, even now. We look forward to and we anticipate a fuller realization of that hope, when He someday returns. In Scripture, God is referred to in a variety of different ways; the "God of Love," a "God of Forgiveness," a "God of Grace," a "God of Mercy," and that list goes on and on. In Romans 15:13, Paul identifies God as the "God of Hope." He writes this. <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.> That's good news, isn't it? Our God is a God of hope, and He gives us His Spirit to remind us of the hope that we have in Him, through His son, Jesus Christ. Oh, what a blessing. Here's something else in verse 4. Peter reminds us that we have an inheritance. Some people are able to receive an inheritance from a family member. It might be in the form of money or land or possessions, or even other valuable assets. And as precious and as special as that might be, it can never compare to the inheritance that we have in heaven reserved for us. As we just read, this inheritance can never perish, spoil or fade. God has our name on that inheritance, and it is set aside for us and it will be revealed to us at just the right time. That is something we can anticipate and look forward to, as well. Again, we go to the words of Paul in Ephesians 1:14. <Having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, until the redemption of those who were God's possession, to the praise of His glory.> As believers in Jesus Christ, God puts a mark on us, and that is in the form of His Holy Spirit. We receive that gift of the Holy Spirit when we are born again in baptism, according to Acts 2:38. The Holy Spirit is that deposit, or that down payment, which guarantees the inheritance that is already reserved for us in heaven. Oh, that's good to know, isn't it? It's good to know that in the midst of the difficulties and the hardships of life, God has already made a deposit on an inheritance for you and for me. Here's another blessing that Peter identifies in verse 5. We are being shielded. We are being shielded by God, Himself. At times, it may seem as if you are oppressed on every side. You have all kinds of opposition, people are your enemies, they don't like you, you have all kinds of hardships and the oppression seems to be almost too much to bear. You wonder where God is. You wonder if He cares about you. You wonder if He sees what is going on in your life and if there is a solution which is coming. Well, God does see you, He does care about you, and He provides that solution. He knows what is happening; and in the midst of all of that, He is shielding you. That does not mean your problems and hardships and difficulties will all go away immediately. It does mean however that God is shielding and protecting you in the midst of it all. He puts up this hedge of protection around you. He puts up some kind of fence, as it were, to protect you or to shield you from too much, and from the evil one. Paul puts it like this, in 2 Thessalonians 3:3. <The Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you against the evil one.> The evil one, Satan, is alive and well, and he wants to destroy you and me and everybody else. He is jealous of the relationship we have with God, and he does not want us to focus on the blessing that God gives, about His protection. But yes, God protects and He shields each one of us. Here is another blessing that comes, that's found in verse 5. We experience His salvation. Yes, we experience God's salvation when we give our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, His son. We mentioned that just briefly a moment ago, from Colossians 2. When we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, and clothe ourselves with Him in baptism, it is then that we experience the salvation of the Lord. That is a salvation that is open and available to all people of all time, throughout this world. We find these words in John 3:17. <God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.> I don't know about you, but I sometimes experience some condemnation from other people. We may experience some judgmental attitude through comments. And those are condemning, they hurt us, they damage us in some way; and, God knows that. God knows that we're going to experience that kind of condemnation on a regular basis, in the world today. That's why God sent His son, to save us from that condemnation, to save us from sin and sorrow and to give us a new life. He saves us for a specific purpose, and that is to pursue God's will and God's plan for our life. Listen also to these words from Paul, in 1st Thessalonians 5. <God did not appoint us to suffer wrath, but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.> We have an appointment from God, and that is to receive that free gift of salvation in the form of His Son. Oh, we might experience some wrath. We might experience some hardships and difficulties. That's called life. That's the way it is for all of us, no matter who we are. Even if we are a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ, that wrath, that hardship will come. But again, it is absolutely nothing when we compare it to the blessings that we have in Jesus; and, that blessing revolves around salvation. It revolves around that free gift that God extends to us, and we willingly receive, when we put our faith and trust and obedience in God's one and only Son. Oh, it is true, obstacles and hardships and persecutions will come. That's just the way it is. But there is something far better that awaits us; an inheritance in heaven, a home that has been reserved for us. And now, we have this free gift of salvation. We have that living hope, as we look forward to that great day when the Lord returns. Well, having listed these six blessings that come to those who walk with Jesus Christ, Peter now says here's how you need to respond. Here's what you are to do as you have received these gifts from the Lord. And he does that in the very next paragraph, there in 1st Peter 1. Notice these words that begin with verse 6. <In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief and all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith -of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.> Peter states, okay, you have received these blessings from God. His love is ever-present in your life. You are being blessed, these promises are yours, how do you respond to that? And he offers three things for our consideration. Number one, we greatly rejoice, verse 6. We live with great joy, no matter what our circumstances might be. That might be hard to do. I understand. I think about those words from James in chapter 1: <Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.> When trials and hardships come, we don't throw a party and get excited because they have come our way. Rather, we greatly rejoice in knowing that we can draw closer to God and experience His presence and His peace in the midst of those difficult times. And as we express our joy, we think about what God has in store for us. Many of those who wrote the Psalms, in the Old Testament, experienced problems. They experienced opposition from sinful men, and they lived to tell about it; they lived to write about it. And in many of those Psalms, they praised God and they gave Him glory for His providential care and deliverance from those situations. The same is true for us today. We can express great joy for what God continues to do for us. The second response we have is found in verse 8; and that is, we love. We love because God first loved us, 1st John 4:19. We love the people God puts into our life. We love God Himself. We love even our own selves; and, that's important. We love because God first loved us. That changes our whole outlook, doesn't it? And, that is the reason for which we live, we live to love. Then the third thing is found is verse 8: We believe. Our belief in God and His son Jesus Christ is put into action. Oh, many might say, "Well, I believe in Jesus, I trust God, I have my faith in God;" yet, their life does not indicate such. James writes these words in James 2:26. <As the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.> Our faith in Jesus Christ is to be demonstrated by the good deeds that we do. Those good deeds are not done to say to God I've earned my salvation, or I deserve it. Rather, they are done because of the salvation we have already received from the Lord God Almighty. Even in the midst of all of these challenging times, and obstacles and hardships, we notice that blessings still flow; and, we have an obligation, we have a response that we give to God. We live joyful and loving and faith-filled lives. We have a hope that never fades away. We look beyond the pain of this world and into the promises that God has for us in heaven. We live with humility, understanding and knowing that we can never earn or deserve that free gift of salvation. We also live with the spirit of holiness, recognizing that we serve a holy God, and we are to represent Him throughout this world. Oh, a life of praise, a life of love, and a life of faith, characterizes those who walk with God, who are a faithful child of His, as we receive all of these blessings and all of these promises. And I would encourage you to focus on that today, and to not focus on the hardships and the obstacles and the pain in your life. Put your trust and your faith in God, and know that He loves you, and He blesses you, and He has a home reserved for you in heaven.
Have there been some times in your life when you were down on your luck, you needed some help and you had nowhere to go, perhaps you even had no hope for your life? I don't know what that might've been. Perhaps you lost your job. Maybe you lost your income, or a house, a place to live, and you looked for some kind of assistance. I'm thankful there are places that will take in people and help them, and give them another opportunity, another chance to get back on their feet; places like this, here in this community. Perhaps you are familiar with such facilities. Sometimes, we might feel like that spiritually. In our walk with God, we're struggling. We've made some mistakes. We find our-self in the midst of sin, and we cry out for help. We cry out for another opportunity to get it right, and to come back into that relationship with the Lord. Well, God does that for us. He takes us right where we are, in the midst of our sin and problems, and He, with open arms, receives us back, when we desire to come home to Him. I think about all of the various characteristics and qualities of God that we read in the Bible. There is one that stands out to me: God is the God of the second chance. And that's true, isn't it? He's the God of the second chance and the third chance, and the fourth chance, or whatever we might need. That sure is a blessing. God is in the business of giving second chances. He is in the business of offering more opportunities and another chance to come back to Him. If you are struggling and longing for some kind of solution and hope in your life, find that in the God of the second chance.
Thank you for being our guest today on "Key to the Kingdom." I trust you found this message from the Bible to be encouraging, as you face life's challenges and obstacles. It is available to view or listen to again without any charge or obligation. You can find it on our website at keytothekingdom.com. On the website, you will also find a number of previously recorded lessons, in a variety of formats. You are more than welcome to download any, which might be of interest. At the end of the lessons you will even find some questions, which allow you to do some further study. You can also easily access two minute inspirational videos, along with one minute devotional thoughts. These are short, encouraging messages that might assist you in your daily walk with the Lord. Other items are on the website as well, and you are welcome to access any that might be of interest or benefit. By calling the number on the screen, you can leave a message which will be returned. If we can assist you with a specific lesson or need, we will be happy to do so. "Key to the Kingdom" can also be found on Roku® Television, Facebook®, and through a free app for smart-phones. These convenient social media tools provide quick and easy access to this ministry. It was a pleasure to share this message with you, and I hope you will tune in again. Thank you for your interest in God's Word, and may He bless you in your study of it. Please consider joining us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible, on "Key to the Kingdom."