This morning we consider the Apostle Peter’s concluding thoughts to these believers who had been geographically scattered, politically marginalized, personally isolated/oppressed, subject to cruelty from virtually every corridor of society, subject to the chaotic trials of life and death.
Maybe you’ve heard that expression, “When it rains it pours?” I’ve heard quite a few people describe 2020 as a “downpour.” We have this pandemic. Widespread sickness. So many families experiencing the tragic loss of loved ones. Economic hardship. Business closures. Job losses. Schools disrupted. Weddings deferred. Political strife. Profound social upheaval—violence and crime. For so long we’ve been living in a bubble of peace/affluence. In 2020, that bubble popped!
So many of you have been profoundly shaken. Maybe this morning you are looking for assurance, you are wanting to hear a true word from God to encourage your faith. Or maybe you know someone who needs to be encouraged. I find Peter’s words in 1 Peter 5:6-11 extremely comforting. Let me read these verses as a unit and then let’s break them down:
1 Peter 5:6-14 (CSB), “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. 10 The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. 11 To him be dominion forever. Amen.”
Peter is such a gentle and firm shepherd!
First, he commands us, “Humble Yourselves under God.”
Look at 1 Peter 5:6 (CSB), “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time…”
I want you to notice how carefully Peter holds a couple of truths in tension in these verses. One aspect of humility relates to control. We might imagine we are masters of our destiny, exercising great control over our lives. But we’ve not in control. Our trust isn’t in ourselves, or in other people. Our trust is in God, whose mighty hand shields us, guides us, protects us, fights for us.
Another aspect of humility relates to timing. God determines and sets the proper timelines. Back in 1 Peter 1:5-6 (CSB) Peter brings these twin ideas together. He writes, “You are being guarded by God’s power through faith…” Doesn’t that just make you want to shout amen! But what exactly does this look like? And what is the timeline?
Peter says, “you are being guarded. . . for a salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials. . .” What “feels” like an eternity now, is nothing more than a flash in time, especially in the grand scheme of God’s salvation plan, especially in the grand scheme of eternity. You can hear Peter’s encouragement here, saying, “Take a deep breath friends! God’s mighty hand is your refuge/ strength. His timing, his purpose and plan, is perfect. Wait on him.”
If you struggle with humility, I’d urge you to read the Psalmist. In faith, they wrestled with whether God was truly in control, and they wrestled with how long the Lord would permit this trial or that trial. Read 2 Peter. God’s wisdom is so perfect. We really have little recourse but to trust God’s timing/will in all things.
Second, Peter commands us, “Cast All Your Anxieties Upon God.”
1 Peter 5:7 (CSB) Peter doesn’t skip a beat. Humble yourselves. . . “casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.”
It’s as important to trust the “goodness” of God as the “greatness” of God. Yes, God’s mighty hand is powerful. But God’s selfless heart is wonderful/good. Through this letter Peter has been reminding people of the goodness of God. You were chosen in Christ. You were foreknown. You’ve been given new birth into a living hope through Jesus resurrection. You have an eternal inheritance. God is refining (and proving the character of your faith) through your trials. You are being redeemed by the precious blood of God’s very own Son, Jesus. God is good!
I love Peter’s appeal in 1 Peter 2:2-3 (CSB), he says, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation, if you have tasted the Lord is good. . .”
Those words! “If you’ve tasted the Lords goodness” Ah man, like a newborn infant, keep desiring the pure milk of God’s Word! You know a baby, at his/her mother’s breast, so innocently/sweetly trusts mom’s goodness! Peter is saying, God cares about you as much as tenderly as a mother w/her baby! Like a newborn babe that cries out to mom, cry out to God, cast all your anxieties upon Him. HE CARES FOR YOU!
My counsel is this: As you cry out to God, make sure you are a listening to God’s word. Make sure your cries for help, your anxiety, doesn’t drown out his voice. Make sure in humility you trust God’s purpose/timing/plan in all things.
Third, Peter commands us, “Be Sober Minded and Alert.”
Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty! In 1 Peter 5:8-9 (CSB) Peter says, “8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 9 Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.”
I’m sure there are a lot of interesting ways to interpret these verses. It’s not Peter’s intention to glorify the Devil, nor sensationalize what Satan does. The New Testament perspective is that the Devil has been defeated and his days are numbered. He holds no power over those who put their trust in Jesus!
But there are at least two realms where Satan seems to gain the greatest power. The first realm of Satanic attack is in our emotions. I’m convinced that fear is the single most debilitating emotion common to mankind. I think 2020 would have been about 25% as terrible were it not for all the fear-mongering. Its a terribly evil thing that the media does. The media does the Devil’s bidding, amplifying, exaggerating, weaponizing every hint of fear. The media sensationalizes every danger 2000% for ratings, for profit, to manipulate, to control us. And then what we do on social media is we become an echo chamber of one another’s fear.
To sober up I had to turn off the media, and I had to turn off social media. I post my carvings on JM Creative Facebook page, but I do maintain a personal account. It’s been so refreshing to squelch the fear talkers—I hope you’ll do same.
The second realm of Satanic attack is in our thoughts. Let’s call our thoughts for what they are. Our thoughts are words that we speak over our soul every moment of every day. Where do these words, these thoughts originate? There are only two wellsprings of words/thoughts. Every word/thought can ultimately be traced back to either God or Satan. In the Garden, God spoke to Adam, but then the Devil spoke.
The Devil never tells a 100% lie. He tells half lies. In 1 Peter 5:9 we have a half-lie. It goes like this, “Dear friends, you are the only ones going through the trials you’re going through anywhere in the world.” The partial truth is that yes, you are suffering. The falsehood is that you are “the exception.” That, God is “singling you out”, “treating you harshly”, “punishing you.” You are unloved, unchosen, a forgotten-miserably lot. You’re circumstances are so bad there is no possible way you should trust God’s power, much less his goodness.
Somebody noted that one of Satan's most effective strategies is to stoke self-pity!
Peter says come one guys! 1 Peter 5:9 (CSB), “Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.” The whole book of 1 Peter is Peter’s rebuttal of Satan’s lies. We can’t let Satan use fear and falsehood to devour our soul. Stay in the Word!!
Why I’m on the subject I want to make a plug for Christmas. We’re going to spend the last two weeks December doing a short series called, “FEAR NOT.” In light of 1 Peter 5, and all we’ve experienced in 2020, I cannot think of a better truth to focus upon this season!
Last, Peter commands us to “Trust in God’s Eternal Glory.”
In 1 Peter 5:10-11 (CSB) Peter promises, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. To him be dominion forever. Amen.”
There it is again! We’ve come full circle. The God of all grace! The God who cares for you! The God who invites you to cast all your anxiety upon him. Yeah, that God! Our gracious God is calling us “in this life” to an eternal glory in Christ that “transcends this life.” Our measure of God’s goodness isn’t how things work out in the near term, but the long term!
This caring, gracious, all-powerful God is presently at work. Well what in the world is God doing? “He is restoring you… establishing you… strengthening you… supporting you…” Underline each of those words! Look again what Peter says. Your suffering, your trials, your grief… they are momentary! After a “little while.” Little in span of eternity. A flash of time in the span of eternity. For a little while you’ve suffered yet the good, gracious, all-powerful, great and mighty God has not stopped working!
To him be all dominion, power, sovereignty, and control forever! Amen! Truly! We don’t the identities of everyone in the closing verses of 1 Peter but we do know they needed the same encouragement as do we.
1 Peter 5:12-14 (CSB), “Through Silvanus, a faithful brother (as I consider him), I have written to you briefly in order to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, as does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”
If you’ve heard something today, or if God’s spoken to you through this series, why not share with others the same encouragement you’ve received? You can go unto our website, click “On Demand” and bring up any message in this Stand Firm series. Do you know anyone who needs peace? Who needs to stand firm? Why not share the word of God with them? “Peace to all of you who are in Christ!”