Have Hope and Be Holy

By: Captain AmyJo Ferguson, O’Fallon (MO) Community Center

1 Peter 1: 13 – 2: 3

Last year at The Salvation Army food pantry in O’Fallon, MO, about 25 to 35 families would come in every month.  This year, that number has increased to 250 to 350 families each month.  It is a sad statistic, one which my husband and I share a lot.  Without fail everyone blames the economy.  While the lack of jobs, the loss of retirement accounts, and the inability to pay off creditors is certainly partly to blame, I have seen another thing.  The food pantry used to be a place of last resort, a place that folks only visited after every other resource was expended, because there was always the hope that things would get better.  Folks would let their cupboards dwindle to nothingness, cut down on meals, spend money reserved for other bills on food because in just a few days, with just the next paycheck, things would get better.  Things were always bound to get better.  Today, this is not true.  For many of our clients, the food pantry is a regular weekly or monthly visit, a part life, because things are not going to get better.  The job will never be found.  The hours lost will never come back.  The bills never seem to get paid.  Although I am not sure we can quantify this so easily, it would seem that the food shelf has experienced a tenfold increase in need because there has been a tenfold decrease in hope.

It occurs to me that the same thing often happens in our Christian walk. We lose hope and as a result, we are not willing to give our all:  unwilling to share Christ with one more person because so many others have not listened, unwilling to give a tithe because we might not have enough left over for our needs, unwilling to take on any other responsibility because we might get burned out.  What’s the matter with us?  We have lost our hope:  the hope that God will be true and faithful to his promises.

Unfortunately, it is during these times of uncertainty and trouble that hope is even more important.  Peter wrote to people like us, people who were not sure what tomorrow would bring.  To those people, he said, “set your hope fully” (1 Peter 1: 13), hope perfectly, hope to the very end.    This was not a polite suggestion or a devotional thought thrown out to his readers.  It was an imperative, a command.  Do not doubt.  Do not waiver.  Hope.  Hope like a child who goes to bed on Christmas Eve with the absolutely certainty that Santa Clause will have arrived by morning.  Hope like the bride who stands at the back entrance of the church knowing that her groom awaits her in the front.  Peter is talking about a brave hope, a hope that creates action.  This is hope founded upon the assurance of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Since he has saved our very souls, how could he ever let us down?

When we possess this kind of hope, it allows us to throw ourselves with abandon upon Jesus’ promises and to be the Holy people that God wills us to be.  Allow me to be bold here, because Peter certainly was.  If we are people of God, people with an eternal hope, then Holy people need not fear the next step, whatever next step God may be asking us to take:  feeding ten times the number of people that we fed a year ago, witnessing to a friend, giving whatever amount God has laid on our heart to give, agreeing to a new ministry.  Just as Peter challenged his readers to “love one another deeply” (1: Peter 1: 22) and “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1 Peter 2: 1); God is challenging us today.  Will we meet those challenges with a sort of resignation that we will do merely what we can or what we must? Or, will we step forward boldly and declare our hope to the world?

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