“If not for hope the heart would break.” unknown
by Jack Wald | September 19th, 1999

I Peter 1:1-5

Last week I introduced the book of I Peter. It is written by Peter, one of the 12 disciples. Peter, along with James and John formed the inner circle of three that were closest to Jesus. And while Jesus and John seem to have had a special friendship, Jesus choose Peter to lead the church.

I Peter was written in 64 AD to a people who were increasingly experiencing persecution under the Roman emperor Nero.

I mentioned that the message of I Peter applies not only to those who are experiencing persecution, but to anyone who is facing difficulty, doubt or pressure. In these verses Peter tells us how our identity as strangers in the world protects us, how our hope sustains us and how our inheritance makes us secure.

I talked about the first of these last week, how our identity protects us. We are strangers in the world. As Christians we do not belong to this world. In the words of Larry Norman, a Christian song writer, “What a mess this world is in, I wonder who began it. don’t ask me I’m only visiting this planet.”

As visitors to this planet, citizens of heaven, children of God, the people of God, chosen before the creation of the world, we are able to withstand the difficulties we face when we are conscious of our identity. Whatever we face, we know it is not permanent, it will not last because we will one day return to our home.

This morning I want to talk about points two and three: how our hope sustains us and how our inheritance makes us secure.

I Peter 1:1-5

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth.”

I’m so tempted to spend time talking about this verse and God’s mercy, but let me pass over it quickly. When we come to faith in God through obedience to Jesus Christ, we are reborn, born again as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3. We become citizens of heaven.

This is very different from merely acknowledging that God exists, that Jesus is the Son of God and from living a moral life. These are all good things and can make a person a good person, a religious person. But Peter is talking about more than being religious. He talks about a new birth. If you are religious but have not made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, then you need to do that and I invite you to pray right now while I am talking and tell God you want to be his child, to be reborn into his family. What I talk about in this sermon will be of little value to you without that personal relationship. Please talk with me after the service if you are unclear about what it means to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This morning I want to focus on two things Peter mentions that are given to us with our new birth: “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” and “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven.”

The world is not an easy place in which to live. When Jesus was born, his country was being occupied by the Romans. Spies were everywhere. Under Herod’s regime, an execution was almost a daily occurrence. To protect himself, Herod ordered the execution of all males under the age of two and 30 to 40 baby boys were murdered by Roman soldiers while Jesus was escaping to Egypt with Mary and Joseph.

In Jesus’ world people suffered terrible accidents and died unexpectedly. His world was not ignorant of deceit, betrayal and murder. People were lonely, discouraged and depressed. Financial pressure was experienced. Anxiety about where to find the next meal existed. There was hunger and illness, tension between family members, between husband and wife. People were hurt physically and emotionally.

This was the world of Jesus and in two thousand years, not much has changed. As we pass through the events of our lives, it is easy to find ourselves in a place where we have no hope.

In Rabat we are away from our families and friends. For me, two weeks away is an adventure. But two years can be an ordeal. We can be lonely, discouraged, depressed. The culture that seemed at first to be interesting can become irritating and oppressive.

Working on a short term assignment with no certainty of an assignment in the future can lead to despair. Where will we live when we return? How will we pay for college? What will we do?

To be a teenager is difficult enough in one’s own country, but in a close knit English-speaking community like Rabat, it can be far more difficult.

Tension in a marriage can be magnified in this environment where everybody knows everybody.

When a parent is ill, helping them from Morocco is not easy. The distance alienates us from our home.

We face financial pressure, relational pressure, psychological pressures and we face – particularly and more overtly in North Africa – spiritual pressure.

I don’t mean to make everyone discouraged this morning. I mean to bring you good news. In the midst of this difficult world, Peter says we have been given a living hope.

This is not hope we once had in the past as in, “I remember when I used to be hopeful.”

This is not hope we will one day have in the future as in, “When I get to a certain point in my life, then I will be hopeful.”

This is a present hope. We have hope now! Our hope lives! This is a hope available to the Christian every day and every hour.

But what is it we hope for? Let’s say I am walking in the desert and am very thirsty and in fact, my canteen is empty, I’m exhausted and my lips are parched. And then I see an oasis ahead of me. Well then, I am hopeful. I am energized and I run toward the cool, refreshing water. But because of light refraction in the heat coming off the sand, what I am seeing is a mirage. It is an empty hope with nothing to sustain it. There is no water.

False hope is dangerous. Putting hope in a mirage will only get you a mouthful of sand and not the living water we crave.

It is critical to know that my hope is not just wishful thinking but real and substantial.

Notice that Peter does not just say we have been given new birth into a living hope. He says we have been given new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our living hope results from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

If our hope is based on getting a raise or gift or inheritance so we can afford to do things we cannot do now, it is a mirage. Do you think Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected from the dead so we could have more money?

If our hope is based on our circumstances changing, a new job, a new house, a new location, it is a mirage. Do you think Jesus resurrected from the dead so our material circumstances would change?

Jesus resurrected from the dead so we could have hope of life after death.

Our hope lies not in this material world, but in our home in heaven.

Jesus died and was resurrected from the dead, not so we would be happy, well fed, healthy and living a life with no difficulties, but so we could have a new life and hope of life after death.

I John 2: 15-17 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world: the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

Death in this world is the final and ultimate enemy everyone in this world will eventually face. We are all dying.

But death for the Christian is a defeated enemy. Death for the Christian is not the end but a glorious beginning.

Paul in I Corinthians 15: 54 “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives us hope, living hope, that through faith in him we too will rise from the dead. Death has no power over us. When we die and leave this world, we will rise to be with our Lord and Savior for eternity in the paradise he has created for us.

You heard the words of Jesus in the Gospel reading in Luke. A criminal hangs on a cross next to Jesus. Both the criminal and Jesus are being crucified. The criminal says to Jesus, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And the criminal, in pain and agony, facing death, having lived a life that gave him no hope of a reward after death heard words of grace and hope that lightened his soul. Jesus spoke words of living hope to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Hallelujah!

This is Jesus’ word of living hope to you today. Not only does Jesus promise to be with us day by day in this world, but we have his word that when our visit on this planet is over, on that day, we will be with him in paradise.

We have hope, as strangers in this world, that we will rise to eternal life in paradise.

A living hope reminds me that this world is not my home and that I have a better home awaiting me.

This is my hope, my living hope, but how secure is it? Can it be snatched away from me at the last moment? Is it like having hope of a retirement plan and then when the age of retirement comes, the government or company changes the plan and you have to face retirement without that plan?

Or is it like coming to a country having been promised a job and then when you arrive, there is no job?

Peter says we are given new birth into a living hope and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

The Greek word for inheritance is the same word used in the Old Testament to describe the Promised Land. The word originated in classical Greek to describe the piece of wood or stone that was used to draw lots. When land was to be divided, the piece of wood or stone was drawn to indicate what piece of land you would receive, your lot.

When you draw that piece of wood or stone, you own that piece of land. It is yours. It is your inheritance.

When we are given the gift of new birth, we are given an inheritance. Jesus spoke to the disciples of this inheritance. “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14

When you come to Rabat as part of the American Embassy, through the hard work of the staff of the embassy, you come to a home that is furnished and has a working phone and electricity. You don’t have to find temporary quarters and look around in a strange environment for a place to live and then begin to painstakingly learn how to get services like phone and utilities.

The American Embassy is not heaven, but in a similar manner, a place is being prepared for we Christians. When we arrive, we will be at home. Our home will be ready and waiting for us. It is our lot in heaven. It is our inheritance.

And where is Jesus preparing this place? Is this a place to look forward to? Revelation 21 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

I read this passage and I long to be there. I long to be home where I belong.

This is our inheritance, the land given to us. But again, can it be snatched away from us?

Peter says we have been given new birth into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. The use of these three words emphasizes the security of our inheritance in contrast to earthly possessions. If your house burns down or robbers burgle your home or a tornado or hurricane or earthquake demolish your house, or a shipping container with all your possessions never gets delivered, your possessions perish. Your heavenly inheritance will never perish.

My family went on a two week vacation to the New Jersey coast of the Atlantic Ocean when I was a boy. We came home to a freezer that had stopped working and the side of beef, a lamb and a pig along with frozen fruits and vegetables had spoiled. The freezer was one big pool of decaying garbage. Two days ago I learned that Hurricane Floyd deposited a third of a meter of rain in New Jersey where I live. As a result, there was a third to a half meter of water in my basement. When I return this week, I will discover what possessions have to be thrown away, what possessions have been spoiled. Your heavenly inheritance will never spoil.

If you buy an expensive painting and hang it on a wall near a window, the sun, over time, will fade the colors in it. The colors of a drapery or chair fabric fade over time from exposure to UV rays in the sunlight. Your heavenly inheritance will never fade.

Peter wants to be sure we don’t miss the point so he tells us in three different ways that our inheritance is secure. It will never perish. It will never spoil. It will never fade.

And then as if that was not enough, Peter says not only will our inheritance never perish, spoil or fade, but we ourselves through faith are shielded by God’s power until the end of time. We will arrive in heaven to receive our inheritance. The word shielded is a military term describing a garrison within the fortified walls of a city. Double protection. Not only are we shielded by the fortified walls of the city, but we are further protected by the garrison within the city. Peter is doing everything he can in this passage to say that we are secure.

Our inheritance is secure, kept in heaven for us and we are secure until we get there.

In this life we are often worried, fearful, anxious. The problem is that we take our minds off of our identity as strangers in the world, put our focus on the material, temporal things of the world. Our living hope seems a distant memory and our inheritance is covered by fog.

As a consequence, our peace and contentment in life are subject to the events of life. What should be only a speed bump that slows me down a little in my life becomes a brick wall that stops me dead in my tracks.

In a book called The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells the story of her sister and father and herself who lived in Holland during the Nazi Occupation of their country. Her family hid Jews and were eventually discovered. Her father and sister died in prison camps and Corrie ten Boom miraculously survived to tell the story. As she talks about her family, her sister and father are revealed as Christians who focused on eternal, heavenly things to the extent that they had a peaceful, quiet spirit in the midst of the horrors they experienced. What to me would have been brick walls were for them only speed bumps.

The Nazis are not looking for us this morning. But we all, from time to time feel overwhelmed, oppressed, anxious, depressed. Whatever brick wall you are banging your head on this morning, as a Christian you have been given a living hope and an inheritance that can transform that brick wall into a speed bump.

This morning there are business people in this congregation who are frustrated by running into obstacle after obstacle. What God called them to do seems to be endlessly frustrated by these obstacles. There are students trying to get an education, a new start in life and it seems so difficult to make progress. There are people who felt God called them to this land but because of obstacles are struggling to fulfill that call. There are people who came to this country with eager expectations for what they would be able to do in Morocco and now are just trying to survive this culture.

This may be hard to hear, but what I want to say this morning is that what you felt God called you to is not your hope. It is not your inheritance. What you believe God called you to may fail, at least from an earthly perspective. But regardless of your perception of success or failure in what you are doing in Morocco, you have a living hope and an inheritance that will not be taken away from you. Whether what you feel called to fails or succeeds, your hope lies elsewhere. Because your inheritance is secure, you can hope despite what happens to you. You can lift your head high and persevere.

My life is lived running into brick walls because I am so firmly attached to the world and the things of this world. I know with my head what is important and has lasting value, but my heart pulls me in the direction of the world. I do not stand here telling you how to live. I stand with you under the preaching of this word from God.

As a reminder of our identity as strangers in this world, of our living hope in life after death and our inheritance kept for us in heaven; I’d like you to pick out of the baskets being passed, a stone marble. This is your lot, your inheritance. The next time you feel pressured, oppressed, discouraged, whenever you feel you have no hope, pick up this stone from your pocket or purse and remember:

We are strangers in the world, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirt for obedience to Jesus Christ. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy. We are children of God, heirs to the King. This is our identity.

We have a living hope based on the assurances of God to be with us in this life and to take us to be with him when we die. This hope sustains us whenever we are in difficult times.

We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven and we ourselves are through faith shielded by God’s power until the end of time.

I pray that this stone will be used by God to bring these truths to your mind to encourage you and allow you to experience fully his love, his presence, and his promise.