Summary: The hope we have in Christ is a living hope that will never perish, spoil or fade.
You might have heard the old saying “where there’s life, there’s hope”. That saying tells us how important hope is to people, because if we reverse it, it says “where there’s hope, there’s life” – which means that where there’s no hope, there’s death. As humans, we live on hope. It feeds us, it keeps us going from day to day. It gives us something, some possibility to look forward to, something better to grasp hold of. When we hear the tragedy of people committing suicide, it’s inevitably because they don’t have any hope. They can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Nothing’s going to get any better in their mind. Without hope, there’s death – emotional death, spiritual death, physical death. We need hope.
I’m an English teacher by trade, so I thought I’d bring out a bit of literature. In Eugene O’Neill’s play The Iceman Cometh, (I expect everyone here is familiar with it!!) we meet a character called Harry Hope, who is the proprietor of a saloon populated by a band of drunks who live from drink to drink. Their sad and sodden existence shuffles between one drunken binge and the next. Yet still these drunks had some hope. They had the hope that just maybe the day would dawn when they would put the cork in the bottle once and for all, get their old jobs back, be taken back in by their wives and families, and just generally return to the land of the living that they knew was still out there beyond the confines of their saloon graveyard.
But then one day Ted Hickman, or "Hickey" returns to Harry Hope’s saloon. He himself had once been a member of this sad society but had managed to kick his alcoholic ways. However, far from encouraging the other denizens of the bar to do the same thing, Hickey provides them with even more booze because, he proclaims to them all, "The only way to be happy is to abandon your foolish pipe dreams of a better life. Give in to reality, accept that you are permanent drunks, and then you will be at peace." But Hickey’s news brings no peace. Instead, the message that they were in fact hopeless drunks caused these men to begin to die, because they had nothing to live for.
We need hope. But the question is, what should we be hoping for? Some relatives of victims of the September 11 bombings were still demanding authorities sift carefully through the rubble two or even three months after the blast because they were living on this hope that their loved ones were still alive. We don’t want to be dismissive in that sort of tragic situation, but in the end, that hope was false and baseless. It was a dead hope, in a very literal sense.
But it’s not just obviously false hopes like that that are really dead. If you ask the average person on the street what they hope for, what they are living for, what they primarily look forward to, most answers you get will be about money and possessions or personal relationships. “I hope to get a really good job to earn a lot of money and have this and this and this.” “I hope to have a family.” “I hope that my kids will grow up to be happy, successful people.” Or, if you ask many of the kids I teach at Peakhurst High it will almost invariably be something like “I hope to get that bike or that skateboard or that car, or that girl or that guy.” Now maybe some of these hopes will be fulfilled. But whether they come about or not, they’re still false. They’re false because, as we read in vs 4, all these hopes perish, spoil and fade. They’re like the gold that Peter speaks about in vs. 7 – even though it’s refined by fire, it perishes. None of these things last. They’re all dead hopes. The bike or car breaks. The money runs out. The relationship ends. Your wife or husband dies. You die. They’re dead hopes. People who live for them are hope-less.
A Living Hope
But Peter knows that as Christians, as God’s people, we have something better. He’s excited about it, that’s why after his initial greetings he begins his letter in vs. 3 by proclaiming, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” And why is he praising God? Because God has given us new birth into a living hope. A living hope. A hope that will never perish, spoil or fade, a hope that is kept and securely guarded in heaven for us.
Grace and Faith
Well, how do we receive this living hope? We receive it through the mercy of God. God pours out his grace upon us, so that we are saved. Vs. 3 says that “in his great mercy he has given us new birth”; vss. 9 and 10 speak about this salvation and this grace that have come to us. It’s just a jargony way of saying that we had done the wrong thing and we deserved to die but God gave us a free gift when he sent Jesus to die for us on the cross. We take hold of this free gift by putting our faith in him even though we do not see him now. Even though there’s no proof in front of our eyes right at this moment, we trust that Jesus has given us the mercy of God.