sermon: Hope to the End
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 28-Sep-13; Sermon #1178; 68 minutes
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that in the next few years we do not have time to waste, reminisces about the circumstances in which he and his wife heard the World Tomorrow program 54 years ago, providing a powerful beacon of hope which has sustained them from that time until now, and which continues to do so through the current grim times our nation faces because of malfeasance in leadership. In terms of erosion of liberties, there is no indication that the quality of life will ever get better. The Health Ranger, Mike Adams, expresses disgust at the culture, consisting of a world full of irrational people, abandoning law for political reasons, viewing abortion as a woman's 'right,' and a wholesale pharmaceutical poisoning of our citizenry for profit and influence. Our sanity is being sucker-punched by a culture gone hopelessly mad. According to Adams, we are watching the downfall of civilization before our very eyes. Faith is the foundation of hope (cherishing a desire for something with an expectation of receiving it); faith supports the hope that the Gospel gives us. Together faith and hope produces love. All serve as motivators for us to glorify God in our conduct. In the near future, Satan's influence will militate against God's Law making it a crime to practice righteousness. Each member of the church has been gifted spiritually for the benefit of the entire body; each member must show love to all members of the body. As we experience the sucker punches delivered by Satan, we must marshal faith and hope as Job had, never losing the hope or the vision which God gave us at our calling. Only Christ has the words of eternal life; where there is Christ, there is hope. The Apostle Peter, while warning about impending suffering, nevertheless distinguishes himself as the apostle of hope, keeping our minds on what is to be rather than what now is, having eternal ramificatio
Those of us who spoke to you at the Feast just passed gave us a great deal to think about regarding our use of the next few years in order to be prepared for Christ’s return, and though the present times is not truly urgent because His return is not imminent, we can say that we do not have time to waste.
I mentioned on the Holy Day that that day was of particular importance to Evelyn and me, because it was the 54th anniversary of our baptism in Wayne Cole's basement in Pittsburgh, PA. Robert Hooves, Mr. Cole's assistant, was the man who actually performed the baptism for both of us.
Today is not so significant to that degree, but it was nonetheless the 53rd time that we had kept the feast in a site other than our home. We did not travel to the feast the first year because we had no money to do so. To the best of our knowledge, Evelyn and I first heard the World Tomorrow program on either January 4 or January 11, 1959. I tend to think that it was on the 11th. Coincidentally, the first service of the then newly formed Church of the Great God was on January the 11th 1992. It was 33 years to the day.
In 1959, we were members of a local Methodist church, at least partly because it afforded me the opportunity to play fast pitch softball with a fairly good league in Pittsburgh, but in addition to that, I had grown up in a Methodist family so the nearness of this Methodist church fit my needs well.
However, though I was not anti-religion, I was not attending the church for spiritual reasons either; softball was the real motivation. It did not mean that I was completely tuned out on the sermon messages. It turned out that the minister was what we called today a progressive. He preached a couple of sermons that disturbed me somewhat, and what he preached did not fit in with what I had leaned in the Methodist church I had grown up attending.
We had four daughters at the time, and though we did not realize at that time, number 5 was less than a year from being born. On that particular Sunday, we probably would have been in church attending services, but the two oldest of our children had chicken pox, so we stayed home.
I had very fine large radio, and it gave me some pleasure to occasionally see how many stations and from where I could pick up a broadcast. What I was doing is called DXing. At about 10:15 am, we heard a man with a compelling voice giving a sermon on prophecy, and the message was primarily involved with the return of Jesus Christ and the future of the USA. It was of course Herbert W Armstrong.
The radio station turned out to be WWVA in Wheeling, WV. We sent for the Plain Truth magazine and a booklet titled The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, and the die was cast that day for the rest of our lives. It was the most significant day in our life together. It completely altered our future, and we have not looked back.
We have been looking for the return of Jesus Christ from that day forward. It has been 54 years, 8 months, and either 24 or 17 days that we have been looking for Christ’s return. His return has been the beacon of our hope and considering the listing of the major events we were given in previous sermons at the feast, what reasons are there for us to have any hope?
The leadership of this nation is transforming the nation along a path that I believe guarantees greater hardship and fewer liberties than we are now experiencing. As far as broadcast news is concerned, there is no indication whatever that the quality of life will ever get better.
And to those who lived in this nation in the glory days of its power and liberty following World War II, what we have already witnessed occurring in the last 20 years is a discouraging change from the late '40s and on into the '50s; and yet the broadcast news is forecasting that it is going to get worse. In fact, I have been telling you, on the basis of God's words, it is guaranteed to get significantly more intense (based on the details of the prophecies given by Christ in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21).
I am going to give you a summary of some conditions in this culture at this time, and it was not written by me but rather by Mike Adams, the "Health Ranger" that some of you may be familiar with. It was copied from his website within a week before the feast began, and it focuses on the insanity of the times we are living in as he sees it.
To the best of my knowledge, Mike Adams appears to be a religions man. He does not appear to be a Christian, though. He seems to be a man of pretty high moral standards as well, and he is really disgusted about what is going on in his area, which is the area of health and healing, and things of that nature.
Now listen to what he says, and this is just one part of it:
It is a world full of irrational people, criminal corporations, deceptive government, the abandonment of law and even the "dogmatizing" of the sciences which once claimed to be based on reason. In popular culture, we've got the insanity of the Trayvon Martin drama in which the abandonment of law is now institutionalized in the justice system itself, where prosecutors are allowed to commit crimes as part of a “trial,” and state attorneys are encouraged to misapply the justice system so that it might be used as a political weapon. [He says that because they had absolutely no case against Zimmerman.]
In the realm of medicine, we've got patients being routinely poisoned with deadly chemicals in cancer clinics, infants being injected with deadly methyl mercury via vaccines, "preventive" double mastectomies (a la Angelina Jolie) being promoted as a women's rights issue, and now the new "bioethics" idea that parents have the right to abort newborn babies up to the age of three. [Out and out murder.]
The mind-warping linguistic engineers in the media have infected the population with wild delusions while the banksters get subsidized by the government to keep stealing and losing your money over and over again. A toxic chemical variety of fluoride is dripped into the water supply to keep people in a never-ending state of mental stupor, and television is scripted to foment hatred, violence, division and paranoia so that the rise of the surveillance police state can continue relentlessly.
Terror events are plotted by the FBI [incidentally that is true]. Pedophiles run rampant throughout the culture, and television is now sexualizing children and depicting six-year-olds dressed as prostitutes as normal. Meanwhile, anyone who cites American history—Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Thomas Payne—is immediately branded a possible terrorist and then electronically stalked by the NSA, which we now know is reading all our emails and listening to all our phone calls.
At every turn, our sanity is being sucker-punched by a culture gone mad. We are watching the downfall of civilization right before our very eyes.
Here is a question that we faced today and will also face tomorrow, and not merely the day after that either, but also into the foreseeable future because living conditions are gradually worsening. Are you prepared? The question is: Is there any reason we should have hope on this day?
What is hope? It is to cherish a desire for something with an expectation of receiving it. It might be hard to imagine, but the Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible says under the heading ‘hope’ that various forms of 15 Hebrew words are translated into the one seemingly simple four letter English word, hope.
The shades of meaning of those 15 terms are difficult to untangle. The Greek language in the New Testament is not as complex as the Hebrew reading of the word hope. Therefore, because it is more similar to the English language, we are going to deal primarily with it today. I do not believe I even mentioned one Old Testament scripture in this.
Even so, for all the complexity dealing with this one word, we are for practical purposes really only concerned with who our hope is in, because for Christian living purposes that is almost all that really matters. But this one thing is vital to our understanding. Do not forget that hope is one of the big three qualities that Christians must possess: faith, hope and love. Hope matters greatly to Christian living, and why it does is the reason we are looking into this. We are going to look at one scripture here:
Romans 8:24 For we [now this says…] were saved in this hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for why does one still hope for what he sees?
We are not going to answer that question totally. I just want to focus for a little while on the word hope where it says “for we were saved in this hope.” It is actually misleading, that word ‘by.’ It is actually a misleading translated in the King James Version. By is improperly translated; it can be translated that way, but it is not as specific as it needs to be in order to get the right understanding, so it is improperly translated as it stands in the King James Version.
The New King James Version is correct. Salvation is not given on the basis of hope. Salvation is by grace through faith. However, hope is none-the-less a major quality in the mix for salvation, otherwise it would not be rated so highly by Paul.
Now let us be reminded of what Paul says in I Corinthians 13:13. We are just going to be here for no more than about one minute, but I want to remind us.
I Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.
Now remember our sermon is on hope, so I want you to turn to another scripture; this time in the book of Hebrews. Paul is probably the author of this, and he explains something that is very helpful for us to understand. I think I mentioned this to you quite a number of times, but I want to go over it because understanding hope is helped by this.
Hebrew 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
I want to key in on the word ‘substance’ because it is helpful. The term can correctly be translated as “stands under.” Faith stands under hope and that term, using that translation, can illustrate a foundation—something that supports what is built on its top.
And thus you begin to see that hope is built on top of faith, if we can imagine it in a construction sense. And faith, to carry it a little bit further, is the foundation of hope. If there were no faith in the first place, hope would not exist in us—spiritual hope—so faith is the foundation of hope. Faith provides support for the hope that the gospel gives us. And thus faith and hope are directly linked.
Now love must be connected here. Love, the most important of the three, is linked to these two and is then seen as the fruit of what those two working together in harmony produce. So godly love would not exist unless there was faith and hope working together to produce the action that God wants from all of us: love.
All three are seen with other parts of God's word as gifts. In other words, God gives us the faith, God gives us the hope, and He gives us the love to operate with, too. All three are seen within the other part of God’s word as gifts given by God as a result of His election. There is the calling, again, as the result of His election of us from “before the foundation of the world,” as Ephesians 1:4 clearly states.
Both faith and hope can clearly be illustrated as motivators inspiring us, activating us, to put God’s word into practice and thus glorifying Him through our conduct. This is a mayor point I was attempting to help us see when I gave that brief commentary on the Day of Atonement, which you probably forgot by this time, with the feast and all, but I will remind you just a little bit of it.
The subject that I gave in that commentary was what had happened in San Antonio in the passing of that city’s hope-destroying ordinance which adds great local weight against the Christian beliefs of those who want to live up to God’s standards by not supporting a worldly cause.
In the case of those ordinances, the motivators for them producing that ordinance were homosexual and gay marriage. Because of their love for the homosexuals and their love for gay marriage, the town council of the City of San Antonio decided to put these regulations into place, and so the drift of the San Antonio regulation is towards the State establishing and demanding what we should believe regarding public conduct, and it punishes those who believe that God's standards are the States.
The book of Revelation shows the beast is going to demand and force religious belief on his standards, not God's, and his standards will be the States standards. So what is happening here is these cities’ making regulations, like they just did there, are nipping away at our liberties to believe in God.
And so if you have a business, if you are a photographer or something, or you are a baker, and a homosexual or a gay couple come to you, and they want you to photograph their wedding or they want you to make the cake or whatever for their reception that is going to be held afterward, and you refuse to do it because you do not believe in gay marriage; you do not believe in homosexuality; and you do not want to do anything to support these false belief, YOU are the one that gets fined; YOU are the one who gets put out of business. YOU are the one who might be put into jail because you have exercised what you think is your Christian liberty—to obey God and refuse to do anything that would support their people in their unlawful practice.
It has already happened in Minnesota; it has already happened in New Mexico; and now here it is—San Antonio is taking this step to do it to anybody in the city who they feel is chastening a homosexual or a gay marriage couple. They put them out of business, fine them a gross amount of money, so that they have to go out of business. It is coming.
Now you can be sure that things very similar to this are going to happen in other areas, other cities, other states, other borroughs, other towns, because Satan has the world moving in his direction. So they are just following what they feel is right and proper in their own eyes. They do not have the calling to be able to perceive through this mess that they are creating and bringing destruction on themselves.
So we are witnessing Satan’s operations through human beings. It can be very destructive to one’s hopes. Eliminate faith and hope in God through discouragement caused by persecution, and love is also severely threatened because all three are linked in this most important spiritual process.
The term ‘hope’ indicates a mixture of both expectation combined with an element of desire for what we want to occur, and thus hope is often related in our mind with wishing, craving, yearning, and longing, as well as belief, confidence, and trust. When God's intent in using a word as a noun, hope is intended to convey what is the basis or foundation of our hope, and thus the term is most closely related to “confident expectancy and trust.” So in this case, hope is telling us why we have reason or cause for having expectancy.
Now let us go all the way back to the opening of this sermon. Why can we possibly have hope or reason for having hope in the situation we are moving into, where Christianity is being openly persecuted? Why can we have hope?
When the term is being used as a verb (it is both a noun and a verb depending on context), it is intended to convey the sense of action on our part and therefore that verbal hope is emphasizing our response. It is a motivation. And so this tends to place weight on desire, craving, or longing for something to occur while the other one as a noun emphasizes expectancy—why we have reason for expectancy.
Most of the time, we do not have trouble discerning either of the two intentions if we just think a bit. Hope is linked with faith. Hope linked with faith impacts almost constantly on the quality of Christian living and clearly has eternal ramifications.
We are going to go back to I Corinthians 13 once again. We are going to spend a bit more time on this epistle on this visit.
I Corinthians 13:13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I am going to read this verse from three other translations:
I Corinthians 13:13 (Revised English Bible) there are three things that last forever—faith, hope, and love and the greatest of the three is love.
I Corinthians 13:13 (The Living Bible) there are three things that remain faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13 (Moffat Translation) thus faith and hope and love last on these three. The greatest of all is love.
There is one more fact. The King James and the New King James are word-for-word translations of the Bible. In other words, they strongly tend to stick right to the original script, whereas the other three—the ones I just read from—lean more toward sense-for-sense translations. They attempt to emphasize the intent of the teaching.
The sense-for-sense translations will add words or change words in order to clarify. Most of the time they are quite helpful. They especially are much easier to read than either the King James or New King James. The three sense-for-sense translations that I gave you added "last forever," "remain," and "last on." All three are in the same spirit and are helpful if one understands what preceded them and why the translators chose to use those terms.
Understanding a critical problem in the Corinthian congregation at the time that Paul wrote this is helpful. What motivated the problem? What motivated Paul write these verses? When we understand what he said, it makes very good sense.
So why did Paul use the term “now” at the beginning of the sentence, “and now”? "Now" can indicate one of two things in this context. It can indicate time, as in "right now; immediately," or it can also indicate "therefore." What follows is a summary, a conclusion, a concise gathering of evidence to serve as a conclusion to an argument. In this case, "now" serves as both a time factor and a conclusion of his answer to what was going on in the Corinthian congregation.
There was a major spiritual problem in Corinth that begins to be clarified more specificity in Paul’s mention of the Passover observance at the end of chapter 11. In I Corinthians 11, there is a very sobering warning:
I Corinthians 11:27-29 Therefore whoever eats this bread, [what bread? Well, the Passover] and drink this cup [the Passover wine] of the Lord, in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. [Paul was saying, “if you do this, you are guilty of putting Christ to death again.”] But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
"Not really grasping it; not really understanding it." And there is another thing that we can add. The word “body” is in fact referring to the church, not Christ’s literal body that was put to death, but the Lord’s body, the church. The person who is eating the Passover in an unworthy manner really does not understand what the Church is and the damage that is being done to it. It is like attacking it.
I Corinthians 11:30-34 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many have died. [That is what it literally says: have died because they did not really grasp what the church is, and they took the Passover in an unworthy manner.] For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. [God would not have to because we would clean ourselves up in terms of repentance] But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world. [Now here comes a revelation. It is not as strong as I would like it to be, but that is the way it was written, and we have to accept it.] Wherefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. And if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home; lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.
Where was the sin taking place? It is entirely possible that those people had a meal like Christ and the disciples did before they actually took the Passover that night that He was crucified and that they just continued the practice of eating a meal.
However, it is apparent that if that is the case, then some things were occurring in that meal before taking the Passover itself that began to reveal what the attitude of many in the congregation was like when they took the Passover.
What could they possibly do at a time like that before they took the Passover that rendered them unfit, unclean, and by which they had therefore took the Passover unworthily? Well, it was their attitude towards their brethren and the way they treated them while this was going on.
Let me add one more thing to that. The Bible actually frequently mentions love feasts in relation to the church, and it appears that when they came together for services eating a meal was fairly often occurring. Nothing wrong with that; however, again, we have the opportunity that when those meals occurred, there was not a good attitude in many of the people in the congregation during those times. And I think much of it may have happened before the meal was ever actually eaten, because some in the congregation were elbowing themselves into the line, shoving people aside, showing that they believed themselves to be better than others and that they needed to be taken care of first. Not a very good attitude. And it just carried over even into the Passover. This lack of love, of concern, of helpfulness and whatever that they should have had for their brethren...
We might almost say that Paul goes into a tirade beginning in chapter 12. He does it very gently depending on the way you look at it. This brought on Paul's use of the body analogy in chapter 12. Thus Paul shows that God placed each person in the spiritual body of Christ to function in the position He gifted them to perform.
Even as our human body has been designed by God and every part of that body was designed by God to function within the body so that the whole body is profited by what each individual part does in carrying out the responsibility it was created to perform.
This is the analogy that Paul explains, and it also applies to the body of Jesus Christ, only in a spiritual way. Paul carefully explains that each and every person is gifted as God saw fit, and everybody was gifted for the benefit of the entire body, emphasizing the human body needs every part it has to function as God intended. And this is why it says in I Corinthians 12: God placed each person in the body as he sees fit.
And it also shows that God has given gifts to everyone in the body.
I Corinthians 12:8-12 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same spirit, to another faith by the same spirit, to another gifts of healing by the same spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning to another different kinds of language, to another the interpretation of languages but one and the same spirit works all these things distributing to each one individually as he wills for as the body is one and has many members but all members of that body being many, are one body so also is Christ.
So I really think that it is very plain that the body Paul mentions in I Corinthians 11 is the church. In chapter 12, following right after, there is a pretty clear impression of what the problem was in I Corinthians 11. Each part, each member, is to be treated with love. Those mistreating others is rebellion against God's order of the spiritual body He is creating. And so to put it another way, they were taking issue with God that that person was even in the same congregation as themselves. They did not deserve to be there. So they would, in their dealings with them, just in a way push them aside.
This thought is what brought forth chapter 13 and its subject of love, so Paul leaves them without an excuse: "This is the way you love one another." So they were pretty clearly taught. This leads right into Paul's use in verse 13 of the word “abide.” “And now abide faith hope and love.” Abide normally means “continues,” but what those three translations that I quoted from do is change that word continues into “remains,” “lasts forever,” or “lasts on.”
Did Paul mean that abide means “remains,” “lasts forever,” or “lasts on” in terms of this present time until Christ returns only, or did it mean eternally, too? Can we envision that faith, hope, and love are going to continue forever, always necessary to the way that we treat one another in the Kingdom of God?
I think what the translators of those three Bible versions indicate is that they are not very sure. And neither am I. So I will give you merely my speculation. I think that God means both. Right now while we are still human. It is one of the reasons why these three qualities of character are considered most important. They never go out of usage. Never.
The one that is obvious is love. Love never ends, and it always needs to be given. The other two (faith and hope) are less important, I would have to say, but nonetheless, there is probably some need for that right in God's Kingdom as well, for some reason. Do not know yet for sure why.
Now we are going from here to Romans the 8th chapter once again. Again, this helps to point out the importance of hope in this connection.
Romans 8:20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him [capitalized, indicating the translators think it means God, and I do too] who subjected it in hope.
Now I will tell you what I think it said. Even though God is God, He has hope, too. It is one of the things that makes me think that even faith and hope will continue on. He is the Eternal Being, and yet what He is working to produce was done to the creation in hope that it would play a part in the creation of man into His image.
It is my speculation that they will be needed, but not anywhere near as necessary as they are for today. Paul was teaching the Corinthians that they had a responsibility to live up to godly standards in order to solve the problems in that congregation. Their problem was that they were not acting in love towards their brethren. They had been given God's truth, but they were used in acts of love.
In regard to the times that we are living in and the constant barrage of bad news from the world, we still have a responsibility to live using God's standards of faith, hope, and love. They are all necessary to persevering through these times in order to grow, overcome, and glorify God. We cannot just stand still and wait. We have got to use them.
You may remember an illustration that I gave a number of years ago that I got from the psychologist Abraham Maslow regarding the psychological reaction of a person taking repeated blows to his head and body from an opponent. The illustrations goes like this. Maslow said: Suppose you are walking along the street minding your own business when unexpectedly a person moving towards you punches you right in the face. You had not done a thing to deserve this. The punch not only caught you by surprise, it began to anger you. The emotions would rise pretty quickly in such a circumstance, but you gather your thoughts together and start asking questions, but before you even got very far, the guy punched you again. And this time it really stung, and you are getting very angry. But, again, you gather yourself together and just about the time you have your composure, he hits you again and again and again. Well now you are really upset, but also groggy, staggering around, trying to get your legs under you. But this time you really cannot get up. In fact it is impossible to get up because apathy is growing exponentially and the only thing you want him to do is stop.
Now according to Maslow the reason we desire this is because one reaches the place psychologically that one comes to believe that the situation is hopeless. And the best alternative is to just stay on the ground groveling in the dust.
Recall that Satan used this tactic as one of his ploys to break Job’s faith in God. He may very well be permitted to attempt this on us to break our faith and our hope in God. And thus we may be (like Job was) hit repeatedly by a series of crises that mysteriously rise up in our life and for which we cannot figure out any way we caused them to happen. The trouble just suddenly appears, not on the horizon, but right in life itself.
So far we have not been hit anywhere near the extent that Job was, but what we have been hit with is heavy enough, and again if we are preparing simply by being close to Jesus Christ, the chances of us responding in the right way are rising exponentially as well. Now in Job’s case, he was truly perplexed, but his faith and his hope held. They did not break. He did not give in to the pounding that he was taking. He questioned it pretty strongly, but he did not give in.
Why might we not pick ourselves up from the dirt we are groveling in and just go our way? After all, God has given us a great goal, has He not? That might be a driving force to make us pick ourselves up, but one can lose sight of that great goal, can one not?
Have you not known people that you may have called zealous and believing because they understood things about the Kingdom of God and you thought surely that this person was totally converted, that they would never leave, but then the Worldwide Church of God fell apart, and now they are no longer around? Somewhere they lost the vision; they lost the drive; and they lost hope.
One of Paul’s companions on trips was Demas. Paul says in I Timothy 4:1 that Demas had left him, abandoned him. There is no further mention of him in the Bible, and yet he had been a constant companion of this great apostle. He went back to the world. What happened to his hope? I say this because it is possible to lose it.
God has certainly given us a great goal, but it is not just having a great goal that is necessary. It is right here that another part of the response that we must have as a part of our life (that I mentioned earlier)—the link to faith. We must also really truly believe it, or it will not give us hope that is going to carry us on through.
Every one of us is somewhat familiar, maybe very familiar, with this great 6th chapter of John. In verse 60, it begins to move towards the end, the climax.
John 6:60-69 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” And When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples complained about this, he said unto them, “does this offend you? What then if you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh profit nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. [Can you see that there was trouble coming up in the minds of these people when Jesus said they are spirit and they are life. They were beginning to reject spiritual life by doubting what the very Creator was saying to them?] But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray him. And he said, “therefore have I come to you, that no man can come unto me, unless it has been granted to him of my Father” [Parallels perfectly with John 6:44] and from that time many of his disciples went back, and walked with him no more. Then said Jesus to the twelve, “do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And also we [the rest of the disciples included] have come to believe and are know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
What we have just read is the only truly solid basis for hope regardless of the times in which we live. That group who left did so because they could not accept the hard sayings. So they left following Him. Now what does it matter whether people abandon the faith over a doctrine they cannot accept or over persecution? The same thing is accomplished. They leave. So regardless of which it is, it reveals that their hope was elsewhere. We are going to see this in just a minute.
Jesus then asks the twelve if they also wanted to go away. Peter’s reply, given in verses 68-69, is classic. He gives the best answer he possibly could have. “To whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He and they knew nobody else was giving them what Jesus gave them. Nobody else had what Jesus gave to them.
So Peter’s response is significant to us. They knew and knew that they knew that nobody else had the words of eternal life—that what Jesus said as well as He Himself is where hope resides. The combination of Jesus Himself and the words He spoke, the teaching that He was giving them. What Peter was saying is that it would be hopeless, absolutely hopeless, to turn to anybody else.
Now this becomes very important. There is an old cliché that states where there is life, there is hope. But that cliché is only marginally true. For us the declaration should be changed to: where there is Christ, there is hope. In that case, we are seeing hope as a noun; what one’s faith is in determines the quality of one’s hopes. In other words, the foundation, faith, becomes stronger and stronger and with it hope also rises right along.
In this case, one's response, hope, would be an action verb. It is true because it is based on the infallible and all-powerful Jesus Christ, and thus hope in us becomes an action because our hope as a noun is in the right source. And so what starts out as a noun becomes in us a verb—it is put to practice, and therefore we have hope. And because it is, it is a living hope actively involved in life as a solid base for receiving what one hopes for.
We are going to turn to I Timothy 1:1 just for a couple of seconds. The very first letter of Paul to him and to you and me:
I Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Father, and Lord Jesus Christ, our hope;
That is hope as a noun. Jesus Christ is our hope, and if He is our hope, if He really and truly is our hope, then it becomes very likely that our hope will turn into a verb that acts. I am going to tell you in just a minute how we want it to act in these times that are approaching.
Now we are going to go to I Peter chapter 1:
I Peter 1:3-12 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope [that is an active hope] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [in other words we believe in that so strongly that hope becomes active in us, and it will carry out its mayor responsibility to us in just a little bit] To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. And in this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trails. [Boy, this is when you need hope. When you have been grieved by various trails.] That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love; though now not seeing him, yet you believe, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory: Receiving the end [the goal] of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you. Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that would follow. To them it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things, which now are being reported to you by those that have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; things which angels desire to look into.
I do not believe that any of the New Testament writers wrote more in less space about Christ’s sufferings than Peter. I Peter is filled with it, and yet despite all the information that he provides about how Christ suffered, Peter says that we share in His sufferings. He is saying it is coming. Through great tribulation all those who love the Lord Jesus are going to suffer. So Peter ends up saying in this book that it is our lot in life, too.
Nonetheless, it becomes clear through his writing, even as John is identified as the apostle of love because he wrote about it all the time, and Paul is the apostle of faith, because he was writing about that constantly, that Peter is the apostle of hope. Even though he wrote all this about suffering, he also wrote probably more than anybody about hope, too. And it is by this association with suffering that the value of hope rises to the surface of our understanding and really becomes helpful.
Now we are going to read verse 13 through 15 because Peter tells us what hope should do for us.
I Peter 1:13-15 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts as in your ignorance: But as he has called you is holy, so you be ye holy in all your conduct because it is written, Be holy; for I am holy.
Now Peter really tells us straight out what hope does. Hope enables us to keep our mind under control because hope empowers us to keep our mind firmly on what is to be rather than on what is now. Did you get what I said there? Our hope is focused on the future, and because of our faith we are absolutely sure it is going to occur. So we strengthen our mind with this. That is why he said, "Gird up your minds." Hope enables a person to keep their focus on the right things. We already saw that a person can believe and have a great goal in mind, but if their mind is not filled with the hope that is given from that goal, then they are going to crumble.
So he says if you can keep your mind under control, you can continue being holy through submission to God because your focus is on the right things.
What we have learned today, simply stated, is:
Hope is an expectancy combined with desire.
The quality of hope is determined by what it is in
Hope can even have eternal ramifications because it allows us to focus
Hope empowers one to keep one's mind focused on the end goal rather than on the sufferings they are going through immediately.