“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” – 1 Peter 3:15.
Hope, it is often said, is the thing that makes the world go round. Hope is what makes us get out of bed in the morning, it is what motivates us to live our lives, and it is what allows us to persevere in times of difficulty.
Without hope human beings quickly lose their desire for life and their ability to live it. The importance of having hope cannot be overstated, for it is the very assurance of what we believe about the future.
At no time is this more evident than when we experience difficulty and suffering. Hope carries us through the tough times of life with its assurance that things will eventually get better. Even though we cannot know the future, we believe nonetheless that it will be better than our current circumstances.
The natural human reaction to seasons of difficulty is despair, which can often lead to depression, and eventually to an outright loss of hope that things will get better. But for those whose hope is not founded on their individual circumstances but on a greater hope of eternal dimensions, seasons of difficulty become bearable and can even serve as an encouragement to others.
This is what Peter had in mind when writing his first epistle. He was writing to a group of believers who were enduring persecution because of their faith and were suffering as a result. Peter admonishes them to maintain their hope of eventual deliverance and to let it be seen by others so that it would serve as a rebuke to those who were oppressing them but also as an invitation to nonbelievers.
Similarly, as we endure times of suffering, even if not at the hands of others, our hopeful outlook serves as an invitation to nonbelievers.
Peter tells us that when we honor Christ as Lord in our lives and we put him first in everything, it changes us, and that change becomes visible to those around us as an unfailing hope.
So, when times of suffering come along and the inevitable question arises, “How can you be so hopeful when things are so difficult?” we must recognize this question for the opportunity that it is and give an answer.
We have hope because our lives are not founded upon our circumstances but on something far greater, our Savior who endured suffering just as we are, on our behalf. Our hope is not rooted in our temporal circumstances improving but in the eternal hope of final deliverance from suffering.
We have hope that one day all of this we are now enduring will pass on and give way to permanent rest from our afflictions. And that hope is available to all who would place their faith and trust in Jesus as their personal Savior.
When the question arises concerning the hope that we have, we are to respond with an answer that demonstrates gentleness and respect. We are not to lord it over them as if it were something that we’ve earned on our own, but rather we should freely share the truth of what we have experienced with the same love and grace with which we received it.
When Christ is Lord of our lives and regarded in our hearts as holy, the human desire to boast fades away. What was freely given to us must be freely shared with others if we are to practice the holiness with which we regard the Lord.
In this way the only thing better than the hope which resides in us is the hope which will be born in those who respond to the invitation that our example and our answer provide.
The Rev. Mike McClellan is pastor of Cross Roads Church, Southern Baptist Convention, in Poncha Springs.