In Genesis 39 we read that when Potiphar's wife begged Joseph to come to bed with her, he trusted God and told her he could not do such a wicked thing and sin against God. When she tried to force him he fled and went to prison rather than yield to temptation, and in time God elevated Joseph to the highest position in Egypt next to Pharaoh.
In Numbers 14:8-9 when God was ready for Israel to enter the Promised Land, Moses sent 12 spies to survey the land. Of the 12 spies, 10 came back with an evil report saying that there were giants in the land, but only Joshua and Caleb trusted God to take the land because they had confidence in God and not their own strength and abilities and they were the only two that entered into the Promised Land.
When we place our trust in God and His abilities, and not our abilities, that is when we begin getting our lives in focus in living a God centered life. For this reason, God's works are recorded in the Bible. These biblical accounts are for us, so that we can see how God worked in the lives of others. It brings us to faith, to place our complete trust in God to also work in our lives.
God has promised to shield us with His power as we walk in faith trusting Him. What greater hope could be given to those undergoing persecution than the knowledge that God's power guards them from within, to preserve them for an inheritance of salvation that will be completely revealed to them in God's presence.
Note: we are kept by the power of God. It's not us holding on to Him. It's Him holding on to us. "Hold on to Daddy's hand," I would say to my kids as we crossed the street. And they would. But if they loosened their grip, it wouldn't matter because although they thought they were holding my hand, in reality, I was holding theirs, and as their dad I would never let go.
There is a story of a young man who was being hazed by a college fraternity (hazing is an nitiation ceremony) and was taken to a secluded spot where he was told to hold on to a knot at the end of a greased rope as his fraternity brothers lowered him into a dark well. Thinking they would pull him up after a few minutes, he was terrified to see them tie their end of the rope to the bar across the top of the well, leaving him suspended in midair.
"This can't be!" he thought as he called for help. But no help came. As he approached the fifteen-minute mark, his arms began aching and his shoulders felt as though they were on fire; he started to cry. Finally, unable to hang on any longer, he let go - and fell 6 inches into 2 inches of water.
Isn't that just like us? "Where are You, God? I don't know if I'm going to make it," we cry. We fret, blubber, and scream until we finally let go. And guess what we find? We discover that our Solid Rock, Jesus Christ, was there all along.
We have burning shoulders and aching arms for absolutely no reason. We try to hang on through our own efforts, by our own spirituality. We get disgusted with ourselves and worried we're not going to make it. If we would just let go of the rope and rest in what Jesus did on the Cross, we would realize it's not our puny efforts that will see us through but the power of God.
This is what Peter is telling the believers who were wondering when the persecution came down, if they would be able to hang in there. 1 Peter 1:3-5 says: "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, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
Peter encouraged his readers to trust in Jesus, live obediently in hard circumstances and keep their hope fixed on God's ultimate purpose of deliverance and their heavenly reward. To those who are feeling iscouraged, displaced, depressed, or in danger, Peter addresses the issue by saying, "We have a living hope based upon the resurrection of our Lord and Savior."
"A living hope" means that the believer's hope is sure, certain, and real as opposed to the deceptive, empty, false hope the world offers. The living Christ is the source of our new birth and our living hope. My question is simply this: "Are you experiencing the living hope Jesus came to give you?" Unlike living hope, human hope tends to get weaker and dimmer, and finally dies altogether the farther one goes down the road of life.
I once considered myself to be a pretty good tennis player. In my imagination, I played just like the players that you see on television. But it finally hit me that, in reality, I was only an average player at best. Even if I practiced really hard, I knew it wasn't going to happen.
The hope that I once had is now gone altogether. The same is true for all of us. As we go down the road of life, we check off more and more things we thought we would one day do or be. Regarding spiritual life, however, the opposite is true. The farther down the road we walk with Jesus, the more we realize that our hope doesn't lie on this earth, but in heaven. We don't need to be a people who wrestle with midlife crisis because our hope is not to make the New York Yankees or to make ten million dollars. Our hope is in heaven. And heaven's getting closer every day.
In closing, I want to remind ourselves the example that Jesus gave us. In His incarnation Jesus placed His full trust and hope in the promise of His Heavenly Father. He knew that He had to go to the cross and even asked His Father to remove the cup from Him but in prayer submitted His will to the will of His Father. Jesus placed His full trust and hope in His Father, and because of His obedience and trust, God honored Jesus and raised Him out from among the dead and exalted Him to the highest place in Heaven and seated Him at His right hand until He makes all of His enemies His footstool.
If Jesus, during the darkest hour of His life, had to place His full trust in God's promises then it is incumbent upon every one of us to also follow the example of Jesus. Jesus trusted His heavenly Father because His trust was not based on the promises of man, but was based on a living hope in God and His promises.
HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN THIS LIVING HOPE? By entrusting yourselves to the truth of Christ's death, burial and resurrection! As we celebrate the Easter season we are mindful to remember that our hope is not based on some fable or mythical story. Our faith is based in the truth that Jesus was the Son of God who died for our sins on Calvary's cross 2000 years ago in our stead so that we can be forgiven and reconciled back to God who offers us a hope in this life and a hope in the life to come. That is something the world cannot offer.
I would like to close with a prayer I once read which we can all relate to:
- I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
- I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
- I asked for health that I might do great things.
- I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
- I asked for riches that I might be happy.
- I was given poverty that I might be wise.
- I asked for power when I was young that I might have the praise of men.
- I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God.
- I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
- I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
- I got nothing that I asked for.
- But everything that I had hoped for.
- In spite of myself, every one of my unspoken prayers was all answered.
- I am, among all people, most richly blessed!