A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 1, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether A Treasure Chest of HopeI Peter 1:3-9Children, have you ever found a scary bug in your house? What did the bug look like? I’m going to give each of you a gold coin. Would holding this gold coin in your hand keep you from being afraid of a scary bug? Probably not! So, when you see a scary bug, what do you do? You run to your mom. She holds you, and then she gets rid of the scary bug. That’s like what Jesus does. The disciples were afraid of Jesus’ enemies, and so they hid in a house with all the doors locked. Do you remember what Jesus did, so they’d stop being afraid? He came to them and said, “Don’t be afraid”, and then He let them hold Him. Because Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples would never have to be afraid again. That’s how it is for us too. Even if this coin was real gold, earthly things can’t take away our fears. Only Jesus can; but He is with us always. This morning listen for how Jesus helps even adults to never be afraid. You can go back to your moms and dads. Okay, you adults, what scary bugs are in your life? Maybe it’s the direction prices are going. Or, maybe you’re concern with what will happen to our economy when we have to start paying off our national debt, or what will happen if we don’t? No one knows, and so a lot of investors are buying gold. As a result, the price of gold is higher now than it’s ever been before. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a treasure chest of these things, if they were real? Still it wouldn’t make us any more secure. True security comes from our hope in God. This morning God wants to give us a whole treasure chest of hope. Because of Easter, 1. We are looking forward to eternal blessings. 2. We are looking forward to daily blessings. We read our text, “Praise 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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” This is about a third of our text. Actually our entire text is all one sentence, because Peter was really excited when he wrote this. The year was 64AD. He was in Rome and writing to his congregations in Turkey. Do you all know what was starting in 64? The persecutions under Nero! Everyone saw it coming, and Peter was excited. No, he wasn’t excited about the persecutions. He was deeply concerned. When the believers faced loss of property, loss of freedom, and possibly even a torturous death, would their faith be strong enough? Would yours? We read again in our text, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter was excited because of God’s mercy. God’s mercy is more than He feels sorry for us when we’re going through a rough time. If that’s all His mercy was, we could rightly ask, “Where is it? If He’s all powerful and truly cares, why isn’t He helping us?” The Greek word for mercy takes us back to an Old Testament truth. God’s mercy is His loyalty to His Covenant. In His great loyalty to His covenant, God did exactly what He promised. He sent His Son, who paid for our sins, and the proof of this is His resurrection. And so, whenever fears come, or whenever those fears become a reality, let’s run to God’s treasure chest of hope. Our hope is that through the merits of Christ we are God’s holy people, and since we are His holy people, we have hope that God is forever loyal to us. But how certain is our hope? The word hope in the Bible is absolute confidence and it’s really closer in meaning to “waiting.” For example a couple of weeks ago, Duchess Katherine wasn’t hoping to marry Prince William. She was waiting to marry William. So also, we aren’t just hoping God will rescue us, we aren’t just hoping He works in all things for a blessing, we’re waiting. But sometimes the wait is so long, we may start wondering if God has everything under control or if He’s still loyal to us. Here’s why we’re able to keep waiting. Our text says “He has given us new birth.” A more literal translation is “we are born from above.” Our faith is from God, and that’s why we’re able to keep waiting, even when things seem impossible. We’re waiting through His power and strength. But some might argue, “I’m beyond that. With everything I’ve been through, I’m not even sure I still believe.” If you ever had those thoughts, that just shows how much your faith is being tested. Yet the fact remains, our faith is from above, and God is not going to let our faith fail us. Again we read in our text, “and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade-- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” Our inheritance in heaven is not generic. Before the creation of the world, God prepared for us exactly what He wants each of us to have in heaven, and it’s just a matter of getting us ready. However until we are ready, God is guarding us. I’m reminded of what the British secret service did for the royal family. They were surrounded by how many people, and yet they would not let anyone who might try to hurt them get close. In the same way we are surrounded by all kinds of temptations and troubles. But God is guarding His heavenly plans for us, and so He is shielding us. In the original the thought is He’s watching in advance. He’s seeing into the future, and if He spots any threats to our faith, He’ll neutralize them before they happen. And so, through Word and Sacrament, our eternal blessings are certain! However, what about earthly blessings? How much can we count on? Our text answers that, “In this (that is, our eternal blessings) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. God never promised us heaven on earth. He did not promise our earthly life would be without pain, sickness, hostility from Satan’s allies, and someday death. What He did promise is He would put limits on our hardships. They would only last for as long and as much as He sees that our faith can endure. God also promised rest. For example during the persecutions, it wasn’t everywhere, all the time. But there would be a persecution in one place for a while, and then God would rescue those people, and then it says in the Book of Acts, “the Word of the Lord would grow”. But then a persecution would start some other place for a time, and so on. However, with each cycle of trials and rest, God was working out blessings, so that believers could see it even in this life, and it filled them with joy. However, what about all the things they were losing out on or would never have in this life? That would be okay too. Jesus told Peter, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in THIS age and, in the age to come, eternal life – Luke 18:29-30.” But someone might come back with, “When? When is my life going to get a little easier? When am I going to be able to enjoy life again? Or, the way some might put it today, “When am I going to win the lottery?” God does bless us in this life. He gives us people who care about us; He gives us our daily bread; He gives us many little things we don’t really need, if only we open our eyes to them, if only God gives us contentment to enjoy them. But God’s working on that. We read in our text, “These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”Our faith is worth more than gold, because God blesses us through faith. And so, when we suffer, God’s purpose is to purify our faith. For example gold ore has to be brought up to 1100 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be refined enough to do any good. Sometimes we need that much heat too. We need wake up calls that our number one priority has to be our relationship with Him, so that when He comes again, it’ll be a day of joy, not dread. But some might argue, “I get that already, so why do I need more wake up calls?” Another purpose of trials is to prove our faith is genuine. Here’s how that works. When Job lost all his wealth and all his children, do you remember what he said? “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord!” That’s genuine faith! However Job’s faith wasn’t tested so that everyone would say what a great faith he had and how patient he was. Job’s suffering was for the praise and glory of God, so that everyone could say what a great giver of faith God is, because it the only way Job could have stayed in faith after what he went through. Anyway, when things are so bad that we realize only God can keep our faith going, that’s when our faith is the strongest, because in His great mercy He WILL keep our faith going. On the other hand if we brag about how strong our faith is, as though it’s because we’re so strong, that’s what Peter did. And do you remember what Peter did as soon as he was done bragging? He denied knowing Jesus three times. Now, Jesus protected Peter’s inheritance in heaven by forgiving him and then restoring him as an apostle. Also Peter grew through this experience. It made him better at encouraging others to stay close to Jesus and His Word. Do you understand now why Peter wasn’t afraid in 64AD, but excited? He had a whole treasure chest of hope and He was looking forward to God’s blessings both for this life and the life to come. We can have a faith like Peter’s. So, suppose you see an emergency coming – maybe the AC or the transmission on your car is going out, what do you do? You count your gold, and if you have enough, you relax. Well, relax! Even when we don’t have enough, we do have enough. We too have a treasure chest of hope. Furthermore Jesus is always with us, and if there are any scary bugs in our life, when the time is right, He’s going to get rid of them. Amen.

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