Steadfastness of Hope

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2013 in Preaching, Sermons
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1 Thessalonians 1:3 — We give thanks to God always… constantly bearing in mind your… steadfastness of hope.”

We use the word hope casually in our culture.  Rarely do we ever use it in the biblical sense.  When we use the word, it often takes the form of wishful thinking.  “I sure hope this tastes OK”; “I hope I do well on this test today”; “I hope the weather is nice today,” etc., etc.

But the word used in this way designates uncertainty as to the outcome.  There is no firm conviction concerning our future.  We just “hope” it turns out all right.  But when Paul, Peter, and others spoke of hope, they were describing a confident expectation, a joyful anticipation.  They had in mind a settled attitude of hope, not one that is somehow determined in the future, but one that is settled already, even from before the foundation of the world.

When we approach hope in this way, then the events and circumstances of this world lose their hold on our lives.  We do not base our hope on things that are uncertain, but those that are certain.  We are not affected inordinately when things or going well or when things are going bad because our hope is not in temporal things but in eternal things.

There are two things this type of hope brings to us:

1.  Enables us to wait

Paul was thankful for the “patience” or “steadfastness of hope” these at Thessalonica demonstrated.  Paul understood this perhaps better than anyone other than Christ.

Philippians 1:20-26 – 20 According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

According to Paul’s own testimony, what was the source of Paul’s patience in regards to his calling? His hope in Christ, a hope he wished to convene to those at Philippi and beyond as long as the Lord left him on this earth.

The same is true for us today.  William Jay, the nineteenth century English minister, put it this way, “Christians, you must not be impatient if you desire heaven and are assured of it, but all the days of your appointed time you should wait, till your change come.”[1] We are to live out our days, if we truly be in Christ, patiently waiting for His return for us or our home going to Him, whichever occurs first.  That is our hope.  God’s covenant promises are bestowed on those who are patient (Heb. 6:15).

2.  Prepares us for suffering

Again, Paul wrote elsewhere, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).  In light of what awaits, the believer is buoyed up by this hope, resilient to the persecution and suffering because he knows how it will turn out in the end. “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Again, the “hope” the believer has in the return of Christ and in receiving His glory is expanded on by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13ff – “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.”  He goes on to describe what the Lord’s return will be like.  While there are a variety of interpretations of these verses, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Paul wrote these words to comfort them, and us, concerning the fact of the Lord’s return and the glory that awaits those who patiently wait and endure suffering for Him.  Peter had a similar admonition.  In writing to those who were in the midst of suffering, Peter reminded them of the hope that was already theirs,  4 “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

[1] William Jay, Withhold Not Thy Hand, 426.


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