Hope. It is something as important to us as water is to a fish, as vital as electricity is to a light bulb, as essential as air is to a jumbo jet. Hope is that basic to life.
We cannot stay on the road to anticipated dreams without it, at least not very far. Many have tried—none successfully. Without that needed spark of hope, we are doomed to a dark, grim existence.
How often the word “hopeless” appears in suicide notes. And even if it isn’t actually written, we can read it between the lines. Take away our hope, and our world is reduced to something between depression and despair.
There once lived a man who loved the sea. Rugged, strong-willed, passionate, and expressive, he did nothing halfheartedly. When it came to fishing, he was determined—and sometimes obnoxious. But he was loyal when it came to friendships . . . loyal to the core, blindly courageous, and overconfident, which occasionally caused him to overstate his commitment. But there he stood, alone if necessary, making promises with his mouth that his body would later be unable to keep.
As you probably realize by now, the man’s name was Peter, not just one of the Twelve, but the spokesman for the Twelve (whether they liked it or not). Once he decided to follow Christ, there was no turning back. As time passed, he became all the more committed to the Master, a devoted and stubborn-minded disciple whose loyalty knew no bounds.
Ultimately, however, his commitment was put to the test. Jesus had warned him that Satan was hot on his heels, working overtime to trip him up. But Peter was unmoved. His response? “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (Luke 22:33). Jesus didn’t buy it. He answered, “Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:34). Though that prediction must have stung, Peter pushed it aside . . . self-assured and overly confident that it would never happen.
Wrong. That very night, Jesus’ words turned to reality. The loyal, strong-hearted, courageous Peter failed his Lord. Deliberately and openly he denied that he was one of the Twelve. Not once or twice but three times, back to back, he turned on the One who had loved him enough to warn him.
The result? Read these words slowly as you imagine the scene.
And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:61-62)
No longer loyal and strong, far from courageous and committed, the man was suddenly reduced to heaving sobs. What guilt he bore! How ashamed he felt! Words cannot adequately portray his brokenness. Emotionally, he plunged to rock bottom, caught in the grip of hopelessness; the effect on Peter was shattering. Every time he closed his eyes he could see the face of Jesus staring at him, as if asking, “How could you, Peter? Why would you?” That look. Those words. The man was haunted for days. The Savior’s subsequent death by crucifixion must have been like a nail driven into Peter’s heart.
The one thing he needed to carry him on was gone . . . gone forever, he thought. Hope. Until that glorious resurrection day, the first Easter morn, when we read not only of Jesus’ miraculous, bodily resurrection from the dead but also those great words of grace, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter . . . ” (Mark 16:7). And Peter! The significance of those two words cannot be overstated.
They introduced hope into the old fisherman’s life . . . the one essential ingredient without which he could otherwise not recover. Upon hearing of his Savior’s resurrection and also his Savior’s concern that he especially be given the message, Peter had hope beyond his failure. Because of that, he could go on.
And, not surprisingly, he would later be the one who would write the classic letter of hope to those who needed to hear it the most . . . those who were residing “as aliens, scattered” across the vast landscape of the Roman Empire (1 Pet. 1:1).
Between his earlier failure and his writing this letter, Peter had been used of God as the catalyst in the formation of the early church. But having been broken and humiliated, his leadership was altogether different than it would have been without his failure. Now that he had been rescued by grace and restored by hope, he had no interest in playing “king of the mountain” by pushing people around. Rather, he became a servant-hearted shepherd of God’s flock.
I like the way Eugene Peterson describes Peter in his introduction to 1 and 2 Peter:
The way Peter handled himself in that position of power is even more impressive than the power itself. He kept out of the center of attention, he didn’t parade his power, because he kept himself under the power of Jesus. He could have easily thrown around his popularity, power, and position to try to take over, using his close association with Jesus to promote himself. But he didn’t. Most people with Peter’s gifts couldn’t have handled it then or now, but he did. Peter is a breath of fresh air.1
I cannot speak for you, but I certainly can for myself—this is a time when I could use some of Peter’s “fresh air” in the form of a big dose of hope! These past two and a half years of my life and ministry have been anything but relaxed and settled. Having left a thriving, flourishing church where I had ministered for almost twenty-three years with a staff many would consider among the best in the country, and having stepped into a whole new arena of challenges— including endless commuting, facing the unknown, and accepting responsibilities outside the realm of my training, background, and expertise—I have found myself more than ever in need of hope. Solid, stable, sure hope. Hope to press on. Hope to endure. Hope to stay focused. Hope to see new dreams fulfilled.
Charles R. Swindoll, Hope Again: When Life Hurts and Dreams Fade (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997).
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