Summary: How living with integrity increases our hope.
We’re in the series "From Hurt to Hope." We’ve been learning more about how to experience the hope that God offers – even when the deck is stacked against us.
We’ve been covering the Apostle Peter’s first letter, which was written to Christ followers of the First Century being brutally persecuted for their refusal to compromise their belief in Jesus. They were living with integrity even when it wasn’t easy to do so.
You see, one of the most difficult things to do – one of the most challenging things to remember when we’re hurting – is the importance of continuing to live with integrity.
What’s the first thing we often ask when we’re suffering? "How can I stop the pain?" And it’s natural to ask that – there’s nothing wrong with asking that question. But the question we need to ask ourselvs is "Am I living with integrity while I’m walking through this dark night?"
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the first part of chapter two of the New Testament letter of 1st Peter and today we’re going to finish that chapter. In the first part of chapter two the Bible talks about our self-esteem. Our self-image can really take a beating during hard times – and so God wanted to communicate to us how very much we’re loved by Him - how He loves those of us who have made a faith commitment to Christ as His children and isn’t going to forsake us in times of trouble.
But our self-image isn’t the only thing that can take a beating in times of suffering – so can our integrity.
If we’re not thinking about it…when we start taking major hits in life – and they come to all of us now and then (not that we have to be fearful of them) – we mistakenly conclude that it’s okay to compromise our lifestyle. We begin to cut ethical corners. We rationalize that it’s okay to do some things we wouldn’t normally do – or perhaps omit some things we know we should do – since we’re hurting. If we’re not careful we’ll do whatever is convenient to put an end to the pain.
I’ve told you the story before told by Larry Crabb, a well-known Christian psychologist. A man came into his office and said he was really hurting emotionally and all he wanted was to feel good right away. So Crabb said something to him like, “Well, if feeling good immediately is what you’re after, then I suggest you go out and party, get high, get a woman and just live it up like there’s no tomorrow!”
The man’s mouth gaped open in disbelief at what he’d heard. He said, “But I thought you were a Christian counselor?” Crabb replied, “I thought you said that all you wanted was to feel good right away.”
Of course he went on to tell the man how that’s often our problem when we’re hurting. Rather than working through our pain and suffering – rather than making sure we maintain our integrity - we often seek a quick fix.
But the problem with many of the things that makes us feel good right now is that they often cause us to compromise our integrity.
Why does this matter? What’s the big deal about maintaining our integrity when we’re hurting?
Here’s what the Bible says.
"People who do not believe are living all around you. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God." 1 Peter 2:12 (NIV)
Circle that word “see.” God’s Word says that people are watching to “see” what kind of person we are.
To the original recipients of this letter – persecuted people – Peter says, “If we can learn to enjoy the same level of hope when we’re hurting as when skies are blue – then people who don’t yet know Christ will be able to see that there’s hope for them too!”
I get tickled with my wife Deb sometimes. She’ll say, "Let’s go out to eat tonight. I have a coupon!" But when we present the coupon to the waitress they say, "That coupon is expired or only good on certain days." We’ve started reading the fine print on our coupons more closely.
Is our hope in Christ like a store coupon, good only for a certain time and under certain conditions? Or is our hope in Christ as certain in the bad times as in the good?
People all around us are hurting and they’re looking for a hope that really works! How can they believe our hope in Christ works if we begin to compromise our integrity when we’re suffering? People want to know for sure if this stuff about following Jesus really passes the test or is it just a bunch of pious platitudes? Do I still exercise hope in God even when I’m going through a tough time?