Sermon series: What Does Jesus Do For Us?
Open with me this morning to the book of 1 Peter 5:6-11.
Christianity, at its very beginning, was seen as a Jewish faction. Toward the middle of the first century it established itself as being unique from Judaism. From the very beginning of the church Christians were persecuted for their faith in Jesus. At first they were persecuted by the Jewish religious authorities, such as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion. Late,r the Roman Empire persecuted Christians. From Nero in the first century to Diocletian in the first part of the fourth century, Christians were regularly martyred for proclaiming that Jesus was and is the Son of God. Throughout the middle ages, the Roman Catholic church killed many believers who would not submit to its dogma. Today, in communist and Islamic countries around the world, Christians regularly face persecution and death for their faith.
Peter wrote this letter not only to a persecuted church, but to one that struggled with living out its faith. The difficulty many of us face is not necessarily persecution. Most of our struggles come from a failure remain constantly under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The secret to an effective Christian life is found in living in His strength, not in our own, in living under His control and not under self-rule.
It is easy to serve our Lord when times are good and it costs us nothing to hold our faith. But there are times when we grow weary, when we feel defeated, when it seems that the circumstances of life will surly overwhelm us. It is in moments like these that we choose between dealing with life in our own strength or remaining dependent on the Spirit of God living within us.
If you find yourself in this situation this morning, take heart. God has a word of encouragement for you. His desire is to use these difficulties to strengthen you, to perfect and establish you, and to demonstrate to you how He wants to care for you.
There are six things in this passage to which I would draw your attention.
I. Be humble
The Greek verb for "humble" here is in the passive voice, which could be translated, "be humbled." In this case, it is the hand of God that is humbling us. We are being instructed to allow God to humble us.
To the first readers it was persecution that God used to humble them. To you and me it could be the frustrations of everyday life. Rather than complaining about them, we must submit to the lordship of Christ. Only when we humble ourselves under God's hand will He exalt us.
God uses a variety of things to humble us. Sometimes He uses other people "extra grace required" people. Sometimes He uses tragedy and loss. Even though God may not have sent that calamity your way, He is able to use it for our good. Thus, as Romans 8:28 says, "all things work together for good to those who love the Lord."
Our problem is that we often won't accept the sovereignty of God in our lives. Living under the delusion of self rule, we complain, struggle, and squirm. Allowing God to humble us means that we remember that God is in control. Nothing will happen that He has not allowed. When He allows it He has a purpose for it, and that purpose is always for our good. It means accepting all that happens to us without resentment or rebellion against God.
Humility means accepting God's rule instead of ours. It means accepting His rule when we don't understand. Tt means accepting His rule when He doesn't give us an explanation.
The word humility, in the Greek language, means to make low, to abase, to make small, or to weaken. It is contrary to our human nature to be made low. It goes against the grain of our pride and our sense of self-worth to allow anyone or anything to weaken us or make us small.
But in the kingdom of God things are different than in the empires of men. The verse immediately before this says that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. The rest of verse 6 says that at the proper time, God will exalt those who have been humbled.
The reason that "proper time" never seems to be in consonance with our schedule is because as long as we are thinking we should be exalted, we are still nursing our pride. It is not until our pride is dead that He will exalt us. Humility means we lose our pride, but we gain God's favor.
When we are humbled, when we are made low, abased, and come to a sense of our own weakness, we will be forced to depend upon Him.
And that's the next thing I want you to see in this text. Look at verse 7.
II. Be dependent
"Casting all your care upon Him, because He cares for you."
Whereas pride makes one self-reliant, humility positions us to recognize and accept our dependence upon God.
The Greek word translated "care," or "anxiety," here is used to express the burden that comes with anxious care and apprehension. Instead of fighting this, we are to turn it back over to the Lord, because God is sovereign. If we are His the only things that come into our lives are things He allows.
In fact, listen to what Psalm 55:22 says: "Cast your burden on the Lord and He will support you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."
The interesting thing about that verse in Psalm 55 is that the Hebrew word translated "burden" means, "What He has given you." A literal translation might read, "Throw upon the Lord whatever burden He has assigned to you, and He will sustain you as you bear it. He will not allow you to totter."
Whereas humility causes us to see our own weakness, dependence causes us to recognize and rely upon His strength. And within the context of what scripture is saying, we are being told that God often allows the difficulties to come our way to teach us both our own weakness and His supernatural strength.
One of the problems with much of modern Christianity is that it nothing more than a secular self-help philosophy draped in religious garb. Instead of preaching that we are to see ourselves as nothing and find all we are in Christ, many pulpits today preach a message that basically says, "God helps those who help themselves." Nothing could be further from the truth of Scripture.
Douglas Baker, in an article entitled, Putting Purpose in It's Place, in the January 27th, 2006 edition of the Baptist Press points to this trend towards self-help in religious circles. Writing about the popularity of books like, "The Purpose Driven Life," Baker says:
Jesus never structured the purposes of God around themes of self-importance or self-esteem. Rather, he spoke of taking up a cross, laying one's life down for others, and following in the footsteps of one described as a man of sorrows acquainted with grief. Daily life for Jesus could seldom be described in terms of a purpose that brought no personal problems or freed him from daily spiritual battle. Purpose for Jesus meant facing opposition at every turn, enduring persecution from those closest to him, and finally submitting to the full fury of His Father's wrath as he hung publicly before a rude and crude world. Would such a "purpose" find a place in the bookstores of America?
Peter says this to beleaguered and persecuted Christians: Dependence upon the Lord means that instead of struggling with our cares, nursing our anxieties, and complaining about all God has allowed to come into our lives, we are to turn them back over to Him, accepting the truth that He will sustain us because He cares for us.
In the midst of these difficulties, in the course of dealing with the trials and tribulations, we must be alert - "sober and vigilant" as the KJV says. While the Lord wants to use them to develop us, the enemy would use them to devour us.
Thus we are told to be alert, look at verse 8.
III. Be alert
The verbs translated "sober," and "vigilant," literally mean to be mentally calm and alert, both at the same time. Instead of being anxious, because we are depending upon the Lord we can be mentally calm and yet, because we know we have an enemy, we must be alert to the reality that our enemy wants to use every circumstance of our lives to destroy us.
The imagery here is that of a hungry lion on the prowl, looking for someone to devour. The literal meaning of this word translated "devour," means to consume, or to swallow up.
Satan is the enemy of all believers. He is the eternal enemy of our souls. From the very beginning of time, in the Garden of Eden, Satan has sought to destroy all that God created to be good. Today he seeks to destroy you and me as we seek to live the Christian life.
How does he do this?
He entices us to act contrary to God's plan and displease Him. Satan cannot have your soul so he wants your witness. If he cannot have you for eternity, he wants to render you ineffective in the present. Because he knows human nature better than we do, he is an expert at appealing to our fallen nature, our carnal desires.
First John 2:15-17 says, "Do not love the world, or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. Because everything that belongs to the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride in life, is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God's will remains forever."
Satan will use the strong desires we possess to tempt us and draw us from God. Thus, we must be sober and vigilant.
He causes us to believe things about God and ourselves that are not true. Since we always act out of what we believe, we must believe what is true. Scripture says that the devil is the father of all lies and a deceiver. He will appear as an angel of light. He will get us to do his bidding, making us think we are somehow serving God. We have the Word of God to lead us down the pathway of righteousness, to be a light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet.
The devil has a way of causing us to question whether or not living for Christ is worth it. The Psalmist expresses this: "But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray. For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked" (Psalm 73:2-3).
There are times in life when troubles come our way, and we look at the godless and their lives seem to be trouble free. It is in these moments that we are tempted to question our faith, to question the life we live and whether or not living for Christ is worth what we must endure. The devil loves discouragement. He loves to get us on self-pity kicks, to take our focus off of Christ and to put our focus on ourselves.
When we are totally surrendered to the control of Jesus, we will not focus on ourselves, but rather on what it is God wants to do through whatever He has allowed to come into our lives. The difference is between an ego-centric life and a Christo-centric life.
The devil wants to devour us, like a roaring lion. But instead of giving into his tricks, his temptations, deceptions and discouragement, we are told to resist, steadfast in our faith.
Look at verse 9 where we find our fourth observation.
IV. Be tenacious
When we have humbled ourselves and found our strength in God, when we have learned the secret of dependence, and when we remain on our guard against the devil, we stand our ground.
There is a direct relationship between a strong faith and the ability to live an overcoming life. Ephesians 6 tells us to take up the shield of faith, and having put on the whole armor of God we will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. James 4:7 says, "Therefore submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. And here in 1 Peter 5 we are told to resist the devil steadfastly in our faith.
When our faith is strong, when our confidence in God is unshaken, it is then, and then alone that we have turned the battle over to the Lord. As David stood before Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17,47 he said, The battle is the Lord's. In Exodus 14:14 as Moses and his people stood between the Red sea and the armies of Pharaoh, Moses told the Israelites, "The Lord will fight for; you must be quiet."
Throughout Scripture, whenever God's people stood firm in their faith, God came through. Whether it was Daniel in the lion's den, or Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail, when people put their trust in God, He came through. Resist the devil and stand firm in your faith. God will come through for you. Don't give up. Don't give in to discouragement. Do not give the devil a foothold. Stand firm in your faith.
Look at the last part of verse 9 and on into the first part of verse 10.
V. Be prepared
Be prepared for the persecution that will come.
Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, "All those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." As Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words to the early church, persecution of Christianity was spreading.
In July of the year 64, Nero set a fire in Rome that devastated the city. Needing a scapegoat, he placed the blame on Christians. The result was that Christians were beaten, tortured, and many were killed. Some were thrown into the arena, where they were torn apart by wild beasts. Others were boiled in oil, or encased in wax and burned at the stake like candles. For the better part of three centuries Christians would be persecuted. Until in 313 the Roman emperor Constantine issued the edict of Milan, declaring religious freedom for all faiths, including Christians.
Perhaps there is no more pertinent message the church needs to hear today than this one: It will get worse before it gets better. I was visiting with a fellow pastor this week of a different denomination. Over the lunch table we were talking about culture, faith, and the state of Christianity in general. He said, "I think the best we can hope to do is to retard the spread of evil in our culture. We will not change this culture."
Our hope is in the triumphant return of Jesus to this earth. Our hope is in the eternal life He promises. This world is not our home. We are pilgrims, strangers and sojourners. We will suffer here for a while. That cannot be avoided.
But after we have suffered for a little while . . . look at the last part of verse 10.
VI. Be assured
Here we have the promise that as God accomplishes His purpose in us there are four things He will do. Notice the adjective Peter uses to describe God. He is the God of all grace, the God who shows unmerited favor toward us.
God loves us. His purpose in allowing persecution and suffering is motivated by nothing other than perfect love for us. He is the God of all grace. He will have mercy on us. As we stand firm and resisting the devil, God will.
A. Perfect us - To bring us to wholeness, nothing lacking, complete us in every way.
B. Confirm us - the idea here is to make us firm. Rather than being uncertain and weak, we will be resolute and determined in our faith.
C. Strengthen us - He will use the difficulties to make us stronger, to enable us to face anything He allows to come our way.
D. Establish us - the picture the Greek paints for us here is of a foundation that is not shaky but has settled and is firmly founded.
What are you going through this morning? Maybe life hasn't turned out the way you planned. Perhaps the cares and burdens of life seem more than you can bear. Don't fight it. Let God use these things to humble you and cause you to depend upon Him.