Living Hope

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you." I Peter 1:3

J. C. Matlock and I teamed up for the first time at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth. . We have known each other for over 35 years. We served (survived?) as camp sponsors of the ninth grade boys cabin at Camp Sagamore in Latham Springs in the summer of 1975. It was over 100 degrees every day and there was no air conditioning. These kind of experiences bond you for a life time. When I became pastor of the church in the 1990's, he was my chairman of deacons. I credit him with influencing me to close out any message I deliver from the pulpit to the people with an emphasis upon hope. He often reminded me that people need hope. How right he was then and how true his words remain today. Hope was not J.C.'s idea. It began with God. However, I remain grateful to a man for helping me see how the hand of God could be inserted into the glove of my life go give people a soft touch from Heaven when all hell is breaking out around them. Thanks J.C.!

Peter referred to a "LIVING HOPE." The Greek word for hope is rooted in the concept of pleasurable anticipation. It has come to be understood within the Christian community as joyful, confident expectation of eternal salvation. This salvation is not a moving target that ebbs within our reach and then flows away from our grasp. It is described as an inheritance that is impervious to the whims of economic fluctuations. It is death defying and life giving. It is preserved and reserved so it cannot be polluted, penetrated or tainted by any outside force that would try to devalue it or degrade it. This kind of hope is not merely an intellectual assertion of a historical fact or a theological pronouncement of a doctrinal position. It is the breath of life that one receives when they are born again by the mercy of God. It energizes a person with a new sense of direction. They no longer have a focus and a fear of entering the grave. They have a joyful and confident expectation of keeping an appointment with God that has been reserved for them in heaven.

Peter emphasized that this living hope in an imperishable inheritance was not purchased by man's means, but through God's mercy and Christ's blood on the cross. "Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but he has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." (I Peter 1:18-21)

In this sense, H.O.P.E. is Having Our Perspective Elevated. When we become overwhelmed with the residue of this "futile way of life" that still surrounds us here on earth, it is possible to regain our confidence and joyful expectation. No matter how great life can be on earth, it still leaves a hole in the heart that only Christ can fill. Regardless of the depths of the darkness of this world, the light of Christ can still penetrate it when we take a glimpse through the window of heaven.

Small minds talk about people. Good minds talk about events. Great minds talk to God. It is the willingness to lift our eyes from the foibles and failures of others and the futile way of this life to the finished work of Christ that holds the key to our living hope. There is no life without breath. The greatest use of our breath is prayer. It can be used to complain about or explain about our condition to others, or it can be used to place our condition before the Risen Christ. This lifts our burden from our shoulders that weighs us down. Unreleased burdens bend our backs and force our eyes down to the darkness of the pit. When the same amount of breath that is used to complain is invested in prayer, a transformation takes place. Living hope replaces the impact of intimidating circumstances.

Robert Murray M'Cheyne, 19th Century pastor and prayer warrior, sensed his need to lift his eyes from the intimidation of the immediate and refocus on the ministry of the Risen Christ. "If I could hear Jesus praying for me, I would not fear a million enemies. The distance makes no difference. He is praying for me."

Living hope is a matter of having our perspective elevated on a regular basis. This hope is a gift of mercy that is received when we are born again. For this hope to be strengthened, it must be exercised. I recently reactivated a work out regimen. This involved a change in diet and exercise that resulted in a significant loss of weight. Fortunately, I have experienced a release and relief of an unnecessary burden that I no longer have to carry around every where I go. However, I have discovered that my cardio vascular workouts need to be taken up to another level. There is still a shortness of breath that will only be improved by continuing to walk. It will take time, but experience has taught me that until I walk until I am breathless, I will never improve my breathing.

Praying is the breathing regimen that improves our grasp on our living hope through the resurrection. Reading about it, talking about it, singing about it, or even studying about it often fall short of providing the insight we need. The intimidation of immeditate circumstances can bring a believer to a breathless condition of panic in the middle of chaos and confusion. This the best time for us to take a deep breath and focus on the Risen Christ seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. The living hope through the resurrection is maintained by regularly releasing the burden to Jesus and gaining this perspective of Jesus through prayer.

For years song writers have bemoaned the frailty and futility of the human condition. For one generation it may have been the old Peggy Lee torch song, "Is that all there is." For another it may have been, "Looking for love in all the wrong places." No matter who, when or where the ending of the song is always the same. There has just got to be more than this. God knows people need hope for the future even more than they need relief in the present.

Today, I am more and more comforted by the gentle reminder of a phrase from an old camp song, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue." The living hope never grows old and it is only a breath away. Pray for Jesus to take the weight of this life and replace it with the worth of the next life. There is no reason to settle for the futile way of life when the living hope of the resurrection is only a prayer away. Thank you Jesus for praying for me today and for preparing a place for me to be with you in heaven...forever.