Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
This verse is important as much for what it doesn’t say as for what it does say. It bases the communication of our message on an answer we will give to a question asked, but it doesn’t say how that question will arise. It certainly won’t come out of a vacuum. No one is going to walk up to us cold and ask us why we have hope. It assumes something. It assumes a conversation and that conversation assumes a relationship. So Peter is assuming here that we are in dialogue with the world at some level, and the obvious place for this would be the people that surround us in our neighborhood, in our workplace, or in perhaps the casual conversation we might strike up with anybody, anywhere, like at Johnny’s Cafe.
And the second question is even more challenging: how will they know you have hope? Are you going to be wearing a button that says, “I am hopeful?” (Actually there might be some merit to that.) Probably not. So how will others know we have hope? Here are a few ideas, but I bet you can come up with some more:
You are hopeful about the future. This doesn’t necessarily mean the future of the world. The Bible has the world in decline in the last days. Things will be getting worse, not better. But we are talking about the future of God’s own people. Jesus said He would never leave them or forsake them. We will ultimately prevail. The fight may not be done, but the war’s already won.
You are predominantly positive. This is based on the fact that whatever happens, God is in control. This can sound naive and simplistic, but ultimately, it is not. It is looking down the long corridor of history and knowing that God is working out everything for the good of those who love Him. The world is not randomly flying apart; it might appear chaotic, but it is not in chaos. It is all part of a well-orchestrated plan, and though we are not always sure about the process, we know how it will end, so we do not lose heart.
You are not afraid. This is the big one. Fear undermines everything. It basically cancels hope out. In the previous verse (:14) Peter says “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” He knows that if your hope starts the conversation, being frightened will kill it before it can even begin. If we’re just as frightened as everyone else, what good is our faith? Our hope is the key element that begs the question. Apparently hope was just as hard to come by in Peter’s day as it is now.
This is my biggest struggle. I can so easily be frozen by fear, and if I’m frozen by fear no hope is going to be seen. No one’s going to ask me the reason for a hope they can’t see.
When you’re not looking and you’re not trying — you’re just going through your day being who you are — what’s showing, your fear or your hope?