Living Hope > North Shore Hope

 
Sunday’s Big Idea from 1 Peter 1:3-12 was this: “Let’s drink in the good news until it wells up in joyful praise.”
 
Question: What if I drank in the good news during the sermon, but it didn’t really “well up in joyful praise” within me?
 
One possibility is that the sermon just wasn’t that good. 🙂
 
Another possibility (one I’m exploring in my own heart) is this: what if there’s a lesser hope – call it “North Shore Hope” – that insulates us from feeling the need for the Living Hope Peter expounds in 1 Peter 1:3-12?

 

North Shore Hope
 
It’s no accident that the parts of the Bible that most heavily mention “hope” tend to be parts of the Bible written to people who are suffering. It’s also no accident that the churches that sing, read, and preach most about “hope” tend to be churches where people are experiencing hardship. We poignantly feel the need for hope when we are driven to desperation by external pressures.
 
Here on the North Shore, we do experience suffering. However, our hardships here are nowhere near as frequent or acute as they are in most other places in the world. Few of us are wondering where our next meals are coming from; few of us are worrying about protecting our kids from violence in the streets; none of us are worrying about being imprisoned tonight for our Christian faith.
 
On one hand, what a blessing! On the other hand, our relative comfort is one of the main difficulties of gospel ministry here on the North Shore. Because of our comfort, many of us (and I put myself in this camp from time to time!) don’t really feel a tremendous need for hope. After all, how much more is there to hope for when we’re already on our way to achieving so many of our dreams? Sure, we face annoyances here and there, but while many in the rest of the world would do just about anything for a nice house in a safe neighborhood with a couple of cars, a white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog… we’ve achieved it! We’ve attained (or are on our way to attaining) “North Shore Hope.” We’re making great family memories on our summer vacations, we’re providing an excellent education for our children, and our financial advisors have helped us craft a solid plan to ensure stable income in retirement. That’s North Shore Hope.

 

Effects of North Shore Hope on the Believer
 
When I wake up in the morning filled with North Shore Hope, I don’t open my Bible in desperation. I open it out of duty.
 
Of course, it’s okay to read the Word out of duty – a dutiful reading of the Word is better than no reading of the Word! However, a duty-driven reading of the Word is unlikely to result in a “welling up of joyful praise” within me, whereas a desperation-driven reading of the Word might more naturally lend itself to a deep, personal connection with the Living Hope I read about in Scripture.
 
In summary, here’s how this deadly progression works (at least in my life):
  • I allow myself to become full of North Shore Hope…
  • so there’s little desperation in me…
  • so I don’t come to the Word looking for hope…
  • so even when I read about hope in the Word, it doesn’t connect with my soul.

 

What to Do When Inoculated by North Shore Hope
 
Like a vaccine inoculates a person against a virus by giving a small dose of that virus, North Shore Hope acts the same way (except that it works against our good, not for our good). North Shore Hope gives us a small dose of hope – just enough that when Living Hope is held out to us, we’re inoculated against it.
 
When we find ourselves inoculated against Living Hope by the lesser substitute of North Shore Hope, it’s not always easy to regain our desperation for the real deal. We pray for that desperation, we immerse ourselves in God’s Word in hopes of regaining it, and we speak the truth to ourselves in order to stop being deceived. But sometimes, none of that seems to work.
 
When I’ve been in that place – numb to Living Hope because I feel “filled” by lesser hopes – God has often used one of two things to pull me out of that dangerous place.
 
  • Observing Christians who live distinctly. When I spend time around Christians who have found a way to be free from North Shore Hope, I find many aspects of their lives surprising, even jarringly so. Their lives (as exiles!) challenge me and give me an embodied picture of what it might look like to live a life captivated by Living Hope.
  • Because North Shore Hope is actually only powerful enough to sustain us when everything is going reasonably well, it inevitably masks large holes in our lives. We might be depressed (but refusing to admit it). Or we might be scared to die. Or we might be terrified that we’re messing up our kids. So when hard times come, the life we’ve built around North Shore Hope tends to collapse as that so-called Hope shows itself to be fleeting.
 
Of course, this is not a call to seek out suffering. Suffering will come when it comes. Instead, it’s a reminder to fight against North Shore Hope with all our might – by prayer, time in the Word, and intentionally observing Christians who live as though the North Shore isn’t their Home – so that when suffering inevitably comes, we will be prepared to endure it by clinging to the Living Hope on which we have already built our lives.

 

Helping Others Find Living Hope
 
One final piece of this Living Hope discussion.
 
To the extent that we have built our lives on a Living Hope, we find ourselves yearning to help others break free of lesser hopes to find what we’ve found in Christ. As such, we find ourselves burdened for our neighbors who don’t yet know the Lord. They don’t see any need for the Living Hope we have, because they’ve bought into the lie of North Shore Hope hook, line, and sinker.
 
How do we help them feel a need for the Hope we have in Christ when they don’t really feel a need for much of anything? Perhaps in the same two ways listed above:

 

  • Letting them see us live distinctly. We must not be so distinct that we can’t grill out with our neighbors, or go to the beach with them, or watch baseball with them! However, there should be aspects of our lives that make our neighbors wonder, “Why are they so different? Why don’t they seem to need what I think I need in order to be happy? Why don’t they seem to be worried about the things I’m worried about?” This distinctiveness can gnaw at people and drive them to reflection on what’s missing in their own lives.
  • Being prepared to minister to them in their suffering. Eventually, North Shore Hope will fail them. We know for a fact that it will! They will reach a desperation point with their teenage kids, or their spouse will leave them, or someone they love will be a victim of a terrible tragedy. All the comfort, freedom, success, security, and possessions in the world will not be enough to sustain them in that moment of suffering. They will experience something they rarely feel – desperation – and in that moment, they might finally recognize that what they need most is the Living Hope they’ve seen lived out in us.

 

Will we be prepared in that moment (1 Pet. 3:15)?
 
We will only be prepared if we have first done the work of making sure that we ourselves are being sustained by Living Hope instead of by a cheap imitation.