Be Humble; Be Watchful; Be Hopeful (1 Peter 5:6-11)

Written by admin on Feb 17, 2019 in - No Comments
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Introduction

I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles once again, to the book of 1 Peter. Our passage for today’s sermon will be 1 Peter 5:6-11. If you do not have a Bible with you this morning, or if you’d like to follow along in the translation I will be preaching from, please make use of one of the pew Bibles where you will find this passage located on page 1017.

Back in October, Paul Byrne, myself, and two others hiked for a week on a portion of the Appalachian Trail near Roan Mountain, NC. It was actually just Monday to Friday, but it sounds so much better to call it “a week.” I wouldn’t say that it almost killed me or anything like that, but there were times where I was really having to push myself to continue placing one foot in front of another as we headed up those mountains. My pack was too heavy, I was too heavy, and I wasn’t anywhere close to being in the sort of shape I planned to be in before we began the trip. We didn’t cover as many miles as we wanted to, but we did a respectable amount. And I was proud of myself when we got back to Huntsville.

But then, right after we returned, I ran across this show on Netflix about a guy named Karl Meltzer who hiked the whole Appalachian Trail, all the way from Maine to Georgia—2,190 miles—in just 45 days 22 hours 38 minutes. That’s about 50 miles a day OR almost twice as far as we hiked from Monday to Friday last October. In other words, this guy was really booking it. While the record he set has since been broken, a writer for the New York Times said it well when she wrote, “Karl Meltzer has proved he can suffer longer and faster than almost anyone else.”1

Now, there is a good reason that the Christian life has often been compared to a marathon. It’s because like a marathon, or like a record-breaking hike on the Appalachian Trail, the Christian life is about persevering in the midst of suffering. The Apostle Paul, himself, described the Christian life as a race. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:7, he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” And in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25, he says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

Paul understood that it takes discipline and self-control to prepare for a race and to complete a race once you have begun it. This is particularly true for longer races like marathons, but can you imagine the discipline and self-control it would take to run almost two marathons every day for 45 days like Karl Meltzer did on his record-breaking journey on the Appalachian Trail. He really did prove that he can suffer longer and faster than almost anyone else.

Now, the reason I have shared this story with you is because that while we probably aren’t going to suffer in the exact same way Karl Meltzer did, the Bible makes clear that we will suffer for our faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, in our passage for today, we are coming, to the conclusion of a long section of Peter’s letter where he has been teaching us how to deal with the suffering and hostilities we sometimes face as Christians. Remember, the people to whom Peter was originally writing were beginning to experience persecution and hostility because of their decision to follow Jesus. And, for the past few chapters in this letter, starting back in 3:13, Peter has been writing to them about the appropriate, Christian response toward undeserved hostility and persecution. In fact, this is the primary reason he wrote this letter in the first place. He wrote it to help these Christians learn how to live as exiles among people who did not share their faith and, thus, viewed Christians as strange and different, and sometimes displayed hostile attitudes and actions toward them as a result. Yes, he wrote this letter, in part, to help them learn how to suffer—and to do so without giving up.

And, his words about suffering to these first-century believers remain relevant to us as Christians in the twenty-first century. Hopefully, we have seen that very thing over the past several months as we have studied this letter. And hopefully, we will see it as we wrap up our study of this letter with two final sermons. Yes, what I want to show you from this passage today, are three things we must do if we are going to endure the suffering we will face as Christians in this world.

So, if you haven’t already, I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Peter 5, and follow along as I read from 1 Peter 5:6-11. Peter says,

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6–11 ESV)

So, what is the proper approach toward enduring suffering as a Christian? Well, Peter has three final things to say here that will help us suffer well as Christians.

We Must Remain Humbly Dependent Upon God (vv. 6-7)

First, in verses 6 and 7, Peter says that we must remain humbly dependent upon God if we are going to endure the suffering we will face as Christians in this world.

Now, near the end of my last sermon from 1 Peter, I said that if I could snap my fingers and make one thing true of each and every one of us in this room, I would snap my fingers and replace our prideful hearts with humble hearts. Because, the truth is, pride is at the root of almost every problem within local churches. If you look up to verse 5 from this chapter, you will remember how Peter said, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

Well, he continues on with that focus here, but now his emphasis is more on humility before God than it is with humility toward one another. Both are important for us as Christians, and both will help us endure the suffering we face in this life, but Peter’s concern in verses 6 and 7 is about humbling ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.” And, we can tell from verse 7, that what he has in mind is a humble trust in God that leads us to cast all our anxieties upon him.

You see, Peter knew that these believers to whom he was writing were very anxious about the situation they were in. He knew that they were concerned about their future. And he also knew that this anxiety was too much for them to bear. And so, in verses 6 and 7, he tells them to stop trying to carry their anxious burdens for themselves, but to cast their cares on God who loves and cares deeply about each and every one of them.

Yes, oddly enough, worry is a form of pride. As the ESV Study Bible explains, “Worry is a form of pride because it involves taking concerns upon oneself instead of entrusting them to God.”2 And this is a real problem for most of us, isn’t it? In a culture that emphasizes the importance of having pride and confidence in yourself and the importance of being independent and self-sufficient, we often find it difficult to admit that we cannot handle things on our own. And sometimes, we incorporate these very American ways of thinking into our walk with God. Yes, because we are convinced that admitting we need help is a sign of weakness, we often don’t want to admit to ourselves, even, that our burdens are too much for us and that we need God’s help. And so, we end up carrying burdens that would be better handled if we stopped worrying about them and entrusted them to God instead. But ultimately, before we know it, we’ll find ourselves, like so many other Americans, dealing with crippling stress and anxiety and with all the health problems that go along with those things.

Now, I am not a doctor, but I do believe that if more of us would learn to listen to the Bible here, and humbly admit that there are things in this world making us very anxious and very concerned, and then turn those things over to God, that many of us would be happier and healthier as a result. Yes, it’s time we stop pretending with one another, and it is time we stop pretending with God, that we have it all together and that we are just coasting through life without a care in the world. That is nothing but sinful pride and deceit—self-deceit and deceit of others. It is not the way Christians ought to go about making themselves look good. The way to go about making yourself look good is to “humble yourselves … under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Do you see that in verse 6?

One commentator reminds us that “God is neither unaware nor unconcerned about what his people are going through in order to remain faithful to Christ.”3 And so, we don’t have to pretend like life is easy. It’s not. We are living in a fallen world that is a twisted and perverted version of the one God originally created. And as a result of the Fall, we too are twisted and perverted versions of what God intended for us as well. And the fig leaves we put on every day to hide that from him and from others, aren’t working. Yes, they might fool other people into thinking you have it all under control, but you know, and God knows, that you desperately need his help to navigate the difficulties of this life, and particularly those difficulties that are a direct result of your Christian faith.

So, brothers and sisters, let’s humble ourselves before God and before one another, and admit that it is difficult to make it through life without being stressed and anxious, and help one another trust in our faithful Creator while doing good (1 Peter 4:19). We all need to humble ourselves in this way. It is the first thing Peter teaches us in this passage about enduring the suffering we are going to face as Christians in this world. If we are going to endure, we must remain humbly dependent upon God. And the way we do that is by casting all our anxieties upon him. If we do not, those anxieties will become a distraction to us and will distract us even from our relationship with God, which is precisely how our Enemy wants to use the things in this world that worry us. He wants us to be so focused on them, that we are not concerned with anything else—not with our purity, not with one another, and not even with God.

So, friends, when is the last time you stopped and admitted to yourself and to God that were in over your head? When is the last time you said, “Here God, take these burdens from me. They are more than I can handle and are making me so anxious that I cannot focus on the things I need to focus on.” When is the last time you prayed a prayer like that? Well, if it has been a while, it is probably time for you to stop and do that today.

We Must Stay Alert and Prepared to Resist the Enemy’s Attacks (vv. 8-9)

Now, speaking of our Enemy, the one the Bible refers to as Satan and the devil, Peter also has something to say in this passage about him as well, doesn’t he? Look with me at verses 8 and 9, what does Peter say? Well, the second thing Peter has to say about suffering in this passage is that if we are going to endure the suffering we will face as Christians in this world, we must stay alert and prepared to resist Satan’s attacks. Follow along with me as I read verses 8 and 9 again. Peter says,

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:8–9 ESV)

Friends, pride isn’t the only problem we face in the twenty-first century American church. No, another problem for us is that we do not take the Bible seriously when it describes the situation we are in as Christians. Even though the Bible says that we ought to have a wartime mindset that recognizes the seriousness of the situation, we refuse to think that way and chose triviality and joviality as the most essential ingredients in American Christianity. We want it to be fun. We want it to be entertaining. Everyone better leave the service feeling good about themselves and talking about the preacher’s good sense of humor. Well, Peter has some things to say about that as well.

Yes, in addition to being humble, we also need to wake up and get serious about the situation we are in. And the situation is serious indeed. Because, if we are going to endure the suffering we face as Christians in this world, we are going have to admit, first of all, that we have an Enemy who wants to destroy us. We have an Enemy who is at work in this world to make us suffer as much as he possibly can. Sometimes he works to bring about suffering in our lives in very direct ways. Other times he works to entice us into sinful patterns of living that will ultimately and indirectly bring about suffering in our lives. And we must be on guard against both of these strategies. And we must be prepared to resist his attacks with a firm and resolute faith in God. Otherwise, he will wreck and ruin our lives along with our families.

Now, one of the ways that Satan works against us in this world is he drums up opposition against us. As one commentator explains, “[Satan’s] power expresses itself in the lives of those who oppose and persecute Christians.”4 Yes, friends, Satan is at work in this world, stirring up opposition and difficulty for God’s people. And that opposition comes most often, not in supernatural ways, but through policies and systems and individuals who make life difficult for those who have chosen to follow Christ. Satan knows that if he can make it too difficult to follow Christ, many people will decide not to do so. Yes, if it is too difficult to live as a Christian, many people will determine that they are not willing to pay the price.

Now, I don’t know and understand all the details, but in my trips to India, one of the things I learned was that to become a Christian meant you were moved to the bottom rung of the ladder in their caste system. And to identify as a Christian put your career in jeopardy, your healthcare in jeopardy, and the education of your children in jeopardy. And it might even get you killed.

Now, fortunately, for us living as American Christians, the price hasn’t been that high—not yet, at least. That is why there is this cultural phenomenon in this country of something we call “nominal” (or in name only) Christians. That sort of thing doesn’t exist in places like India. It only exists in places where there is no real price to pay for identifying yourself with Jesus.

But, that is beginning to change, even in this country. In many places, and in some circles in almost every place, there is at least a “social” price one must now pay to publicly identify as a Christian. And while that is not “real” persecution, it is persecution in seed form. And under the right circumstances, it could grow up and mature into the real thing. As I have said before, the lack of persecution we have faced for some time now in this country is an anomaly in history. And it is very likely that it will come to an end one day. In fact, it seems that it is becoming more and more difficult every day to be a Christian in this country. So, Peter’s letter to these suffering believers in the first century, may just prove to be a helpful instruction manual for American Christians living in the twenty-first century.

Do not think that Satan is not at work changing the tide of things in this country. Do not think that he has nothing to do with the erosion of the protections we have enjoyed as Christians in this place. And do not think that he isn’t clever enough to eventually make it as difficult to be a Christian in America as it is in other parts of the world. Do not bury your head in the sand and ignore reality.

But, Satan doesn’t only work on large scale schemes against Christians in general. He also works to destroy us as individuals. In verse 8, Peter says that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Yes, he is putting systems and policies in place that cause a great deal of suffering for Christians as a whole, but he also prowls around looking for the opportunity to ruin individual Christians like you and me.

So, what are we to do? How do we guard ourselves against his attacks—both the big ones and the individual ones? Well, first of all, we must be sober-minded. That’s what Peter tells us in verse 8. Again, we must get our heads out of the sand and recognize the seriousness of the situation and stop playing church. If there was a real lion out there roaming the neighborhood, I bet you’d pay attention when you walked to your car after the service today, wouldn’t you? Well, that is the kind of way Peter says we ought to be thinking about our situation as Christians. We must be sober-minded about the reality of the situation, and we must stay alert and be watchful. In other words, keep your guard up. Pay attention. Don’t let Satan catch you off guard.

And then, when Satan does launch an attack against, you are ready to do what Peter says in verse 9. What does he say? He says, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” In other words, you are not alone in this struggle. Your brothers and sisters around the world are fighting the fight too. Keep on fighting; keep on resisting. Because, according to James 4:7, when we resist the devil he will flee from us. That is what happened when Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations in the desert for 40 days. He eventually gave up and moved on. So, when Satan attacks, remain firm in your faith and resist him, knowing that he will eventually flee.

We Must Face Suffering By Trusting In God’s Promise Of Ultimate Victory For His People (vv. 10-11)

So, to endure the suffering we are going to face as Christians in this world, we must first remain humbly dependent upon God, which we do, in part, by casting all our anxieties on him—particularly those anxieties brought about by our suffering for Christ. Second, we must stay alert and prepared to resist the enemy’s attacks. We cannot keep our head in the sand by ignoring the biblical truth that spiritual forces of evil are waging an all-out war against us. We have to take the situation seriously, and we must adopt a wartime mindset. And third, if we are going to endure the suffering we will face as Christians in this world, we must place our hope in God’s promises for the future. That’s what Peter reminds us in verse 10. He says,

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 ESV)

So, Peter ends this section on suffering for our faith—a section that goes all the way back to chapter 3—with a significant promise. First of all, he reminds us that our suffering will not last forever. In fact, he says that our suffering is for just a little while. Yes, it might seem like an eternity, but once we are in eternity, it will have been only a blink of an eye.

Brothers and sisters, the hope we have as Christians is that one day, Jesus is going to return, and those who have been called by God into “his eternal glory in Christ,” will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established. Yes, a day is coming when God is going to right the wrongs. A day is coming when things will be set right once and for all. A day is coming when God will restore things back to his original intention for the world when he first created it. And, in this restored world, there will be no more suffering for us as Christians—there will only be gladness and joy.

While so many Christians around the world today suffer as the weak and the powerless in their society, a day is coming where they will be vindicated, and roles will be reversed. Yes, while there is a great deal of uncertainty for us now, a day is coming where we will be established and secured forever and ever in Jesus Christ. And because we have these promises, we can press on in faithfulness as we await the last day when Jesus Christ returns for his people. There is nothing that can take this hope away from us. There is nothing that can make it untrue. He will restore us. He will confirm us. He will strengthen us. And he will establish us. That is a promise. And it is a promise from God that will never fail.

Conclusion

And so, brothers and sisters, I am asking you to rest in these promises today. As you work to remain humbly dependent upon God, remember that your suffering in this life is only for a little while. As you keep on alert and resist the Enemy, remember that one day Jesus is coming again, and when he does, he will cast Satan headlong into eternal destruction. Friends, the struggle is real, but the victory is ours—it is ours in Jesus Christ. There is no amount of persecution that can take our hope away. It is certain, it is secure, because it is a promise from God himself. Therefore, fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith.

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  1. Lindsay Crouse, The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/sports/fueled-by-beer-and-candy-bars-ultra-runner-karl-meltzer-sets-appalachian-trail-record.html ↩︎
  2. Lane T. Dennis and Wayne Grudem, eds. The ESV Study Bible. Accordance electronic ed. (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008), paragraph 24274. ↩︎
  3. Karen H. Jobes, 1 Peter, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 313. ↩︎
  4. I. Howard Marshall, 1 Peter, The IVP New Testament Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 170. ↩︎