Today, we are going to look at what Peter calls a “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3), and all that goes with it. As I said last week, we need to learn how to lean into or grab hold of it. This “living hope” that is available to us in Christ provides the encouragement, strength, and joy that we need to press on in our pursuit of holiness. It’s also a constant reminder that we don’t pursue holiness alone. But before I jump into that I wanted to add something, a very important element or characteristic that is needed in our pursuit of holiness. While happiness is not our number one priority in this pursuit, as believers we’re supposed to have something even better, and that’s “joy”. Joy or χαρά (chara) in ancient Greek means “gladness and cheerfulness” but it can also mean “calm delight”. It’s not overly dramatic, showy, or out of control. Its steady and calm, which would be nice in this crazy world of extremes.

From our previous series “Just Do It”, we learned from James to “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2) even when we experience various trials in life. We should be a joyous people no matter what our circumstance are because we have this “living hope” in and through Christ. In fact, because of what Jesus did and does for us, we should be the most joyous people on earth. According to Peter, we should be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy”. (1 Peter 1:8) Our joy should also be what sets us apart and distinguishes us from the world.

Ok, let’s dive into this “living hope” in 1 Peter 1:3-9 that says, 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Because of God’s “great mercy” we have received “A new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”, and an “inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade”. We are “shielded by God’s power” until the “coming of salvation”. Because of these wonderful promises, new birth, and living hope, Peter says that we can “greatly rejoice” with “inexpressible and glorious joy”. This living hope is high octane fuel for our pursuit of holiness. So, does this mean we’re going to be on top of the world all the time? Are we supposed to project some kind of giddy false joy even in times of grief?

In Ecclesiastes 3:4 it says that there is a “time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. In John 11:35 it says that “Jesus wept” and was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” when He saw Mary and others weeping at the death of Lazarus. Jesus didn’t try to hide His tears. John witnessed it, recorded it, and some of the Jews said, “See how he (Jesus) loved him (Lazarus)”. (John 11:36) Jesus wasn’t hysterical or showy. His emotions were authentic and real, which is what we need to be.

Another great example of the authentic humanity of Jesus comes from Luke 22:39-46 and Mark 14:32-42 when He goes to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s just moments away from being arrested, tried, tortured, and crucified. From these passages we learn that He prays several times, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” This “cup” Jesus spoke of was filled with the suffering that He was about to endure. In Luke 22:44 it says, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The Greek word for “anguish” in this verse is ἀγωνία (agónia). It means “great fear, terror, of death; anxiety, agony.”  And yet, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Yes, Jesus is God, but He was also fully human. He didn’t get a free pass from pain and suffering. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15) So, He knows what we’re going through.

Let’s go back briefly to Hebrews 12:2. This first phrase “For the joy set before him” really jumps out at me like never before and will hopefully help me tie all this together. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems incredibly counter initiative to think of joy while enduring such unimaginable suffering. However, the “joy set before Him” was not the suffering. It was the end result and completing the task set before Him. He endured the suffering “so that” the joy or reward could be reached on the other side, if that makes any sense.

I think that’s what Peter is talking about in 1 Peter 1:7 when he says, “the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  We endure, even though we’re being refined by the fires of suffering, so that we can reach the joy that is coming or set before us. In Philippians 3:13-14 Paul says, “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” This living hope and the joy set before us is what propels us forward and enables us to “be holy as he is holy”. (1 Peter 1:16) If, like Jesus, we’re willing to endure.

So, with all that in mind Peter says, 13Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” This is what Peter has been building up to in chapter one. He wants us to know and remember what we have at our disposal in our pursuit of holiness and obedience to God. Our hope or living hope can now be “set” on “the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming”. This is how and why we can greatly rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy because we know in whom we believe, the end result of our faith, the joy set before us, and the salvation of our souls. Are you fired up?! Cause, I think we just had a pep rally!

Whew, that’s good stuff! I’m encouraged and I hope that you are as well. Next week we’ll jump into 1 Peter 2. I know there are a few really important things I’ve skipped over in chapter one, so I’ll try to pull it all together in the next few weeks.