1 Peter 4:12-5:14
This week, we are wrapping up our inaugural study of a book of the Bible. For the last several weeks, we’ve been studying 1 Peter because we want to be a church that craves God’s word. That knows God’s word. That goes a little deeper into God’s word.
And so we’ve been working chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse through this 2000-year-old letter, written by the apostle Peter to Christians who are suffering and being persecuted. And all throughout this letter, each week, we’ve seen Peter reminding these believers that they need to have an eternal perspective.
The perspective that they are strangers, living in a foreign land. Exiles. Pilgrims. With an eternal home.
If you remember back several weeks ago, when we kicked this study off, in Chapter 1 … Peter jumps right in and reminds his audience who they are …
1 Peter 1:3-4
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
4 Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
Peter doesn’t give a to-do list with a bunch of rules and moral regulations, he’s simply putting beauty in front of them. He’s giving them a vision of what has been done for them through Christ, and what is to come in Heaven, because he knows that’s what will sustain them in their trials, and in ours today.
He goes in in verse 6 …
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.
I got cut off in traffic this week by someone driving a Buick with Michigan tags. I did not have joy in that moment.
Throughout this letter, Peter says … guys, listen, there’s going to be some serious trials to come. Some very real suffering in our lives …
So hold on to that eternal perspective. Keep looking forward. Look for the beauty in what God is doing.
All along, Peter hasn’t been selling them some feel good theology: follow Jesus and all the problems in your life are somehow going to magically disappear. Become a Christian and life will be easy.
But He’s being encouraging us to look past the ugly, and see things through the eyes of God, and know that he makes everything beautiful. As we just sang, he makes beautiful things out of the dust … AND he makes beautiful things out of us (in this life, or the next).
You can often tell what a writer wants to leave as an impression on the readers by what they write last.
It’s why I often say … In Closing … near the end of my sermon, because I I know I’ve probably lost some you, several have dozed off … and so if I say, in closing, you might perk up, and if you got nothing else out of the night, here’s at least one thing I want you to remember, or take home with you.
Peter begins wrapping up his letter in chapter 4, verse 12. Start there, and finish this letter tonight …
12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.
The surprise. That’s sometimes the most painful part of a bad circumstances isn’t it? The not seeing it coming. Life is going right along, then boom.
If I told you, hey, in 6-months you’re going to lose your job, and for a few years, it’s going to be a real struggle. Your car is going to be repossessed. Your house is going to be foreclosed on. The bills are going to pile up. It’s going to be really difficult for a while. You might not even know where your next meal is coming from.
But in a few years, your rich uncle is going to pass away, and leave you $100M, you’re going to have this inheritance that comes.
Knowing what is going to happen … doesn’t that change things? You lose your job “ok, I knew it was coming” … you start to go through some of those difficulties, but you’ve prepared yourself for it … you’re not surprised by it. You just keep reminding yourself about the inheritance that’s coming. It’s still going to be hard. The hunger pains are still going to hurt. The nights will still feel cold, but you know what’s coming.
That’s the perspective Peter has constantly been reminding us of. That there is this tension between the future, and our present reality. That we are already chosen by God, but haven’t yet received our full inheritance.
4:13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. 14 If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.
Charles Spurgeon // There are no crown wearers in heaven, who were not cross bearers on earth.
15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. (meddling)
Christian Student, tell your teacher this … often. But you’re not doing homework, not studying for test, going to class, just keep reminding your teacher you’re a Christian, and you get a D.
I’m just suffering for being a Christian? I guess they persecuted Christ, why should I expect anything less.
No. You’re suffering for being a lazy student. You aren’t suffering for serving Jesus.
In fact, if you were honoring Christ, you would have worked hard; given excellence to all that you do; submitted to the authority of your teacher.
16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!
Sidebar // Only time in NT where this word wasn’t used by opponents of believers. Derogatory term. Peter is using the world’s vernacular to describe them, then says what a privilege that is to be called by his name. It’s what we’ve called ourselves every since.
17 For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? 18 And also, (Proverb 11:31)
“If the righteous are barely saved,
what will happen to godless sinners?”
Again, he’s pointing them to a vision of the future. Look ahead to judgment day. Look forward to the day when we’re saved by grace, despite ourselves.
19 So (therefore) if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
My wife Karen hates to fly. Absolutely hates it. She’ll put claw marks in my arm at any sign of turbulence. She’s literally screamed out loud. She listens to meditation apps. In fact, we almost didn’t take a FREE trip to Spain this summer, because she dreaded the flight so much.
Several years ago, we were at a business meeting in Arizona, and decided to take a day trip and fly out to the Grand Canyon. (slides/pictures)
As you can see, this plane was not a jumbo jet. In fact, if you stretched out your arms like this, you could almost touch both sides of the plane. So you can imagine Karen’s trepidation with this experience … it even had me freaked out.
And to make matters worse, before the flight, the Pilot comes up to us, and is giving the instructions about what to do in the event of a crash landing (which we paid extra attention to).
And then he says: listen, there is a lot of heat today coming up off the desert floor so there is going to be a LOT of turbulence during this flight.
And so with weak knees, I got on the plane, and was only imagining what was going through Karen’s mind. So as we flew out to the Grand Canyon, it was a rough flight. It felt like an amusement park ride. Up/Down.
But somehow, Karen remained extremely calm.
And so I asked her after we safely landed, how did you not freak out?
She says, because because the Pilot told me what to expect. That it was going to be a bumpy ride, and so I was prepared for the turbulence. And I watched the pilot the entire time, and since I didn’t see him freaking out, I knew I didn’t need to worry.
That’s what Peter is saying … it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Expect some turbulence. Don’t be surprised by it. Keep your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times. And most importantly, keep your eyes on God. He’ll land you safely at your final destination.
… trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches.
I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you:
2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.
I don’t mean to be critical, but I do think we need to call out problems, we see in the church. And one of those problems I see, are pastors, and so called church leaders and elders … doing it for the wrong reasons.
Some have gone into ministry because they didn’t know what else to do with life and thought it’d be an easy job. It beats working in a factory.
But leading the body of Christ should never be just a job, it should be a passion.
Some got into ministry for the right reasons, but lost their appetite for caring for a church, yet grudgingly continue in their role well past having any passion remaining. They haven’t spent or saved wisely so they are trapped in a job because they need the paycheck the church is providing them.
Sadly, many leaders in our churches do it, not for the love of those they shepherd, but for what they get out of it. Same problem today as it was 2000 years ago.
- Paycheck (sometimes large paychecks/jets)
- Status of being a leader. Feeling important.
- Accolades from using their God given gifts (music, teaching, etc.)
But Peter says there is only ONE REASON to lead a church, and that’s out of an eager desire to serve God.
3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. 4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
In other words, to be a leader in the church, you have to be a servant. Peter is repeating that same refrain of submission. Submit to authorities. Submit to your masters. Submit to your spouse. Submit to those you lead. It all boils down to humility.
5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders.
And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another.
What do you have to do to dress in something? You have to start out naked. You can’t be all walking around with jeans, and t-shirt, and you put a sweatshirt, then you put on a jacket (if any of us in Florida still have those) … and you’re walking around in all these clothes, and someone says … here, put on this tuxedo. It wouldn’t work. You have to first undress, before you can put on something new.
That’s what peter is saying … Take off everything. Take off your worries. Take off your pride. Take off your fears. Take off your ego. And clothe yourself in humility.
For … “God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
If there’s a scarier verse in scripture, I’m not coming up with one right now.
God opposes the proud. God … the creator of the universe, the one who puts breath in our lungs, who decides when we live or die … that God … actively opposes our pride. He hates it. He hates MY PRIDE that I exhibit in 1000 ways every single day.
6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
I don’t know who said it (thought it was CS Lewis), but someone once said that:
“humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
Do you know how we can best express humility to God? We can start by thinking of ourselves less, and thinking of Him more. We can think of our neighbors more, our kids/spouses, whomever more … and start thinking a lot less about ourselves and our problems and desires.
7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
That’s what it means to be humble in God’s presence. To cast all of our cares/worries/anxieties to him ….
Pride and worry go hand in hand …
God opposes the proud. Give all your worries to God.
Peter isn’t changing topics every sentence, this all works together.
A lot of us when trials come: I’ve got it under control. I’ll figure it out. But that’s not humbly casting our cares to God. That’s being prideful and thinking everything hinges on us. That’s still thinking more about ourselves.
Or the opposite, many of us worry about everything. We worry about the situations we’re in right now. We dream up problems that may happen tomorrow, robbing us of our joy today.
Many of you walked in here tonight, worrying about something. Your job. Your family. Medical test results. How you were going to afford Christmas this year.
This is one of those sermons, I’m like … God please don’t strike me with lighting before the end. I’m telling you to do something I struggle with tremendously.
You want to hear pride and worry working hand-in-hand? I spend my Saturdays every week, worrying. That nervous feeling in my stomach. Not because I’m nervous about giving a message, I actually enjoy doing this.
But I worry … that no one is going to show up. That weeks will go by, and Refuge will dwindle away to just me, Karen, and the kids. (because they are trapped here)
How arrogant. How prideful of me to worry. To think somehow I have some sort of power that’s going to determine whether or not this Church is a “success.”
I could speak like Louie Giglio. We could put all the right programs in place. Austin could be the Chris Tomlin of Fort Myers. Tania could have a children’s ministry that’s more fun than Disney.
But if God, determines, some other plan or story … that Refuge should be a church of 5 people … No amount of worrying on my part, is going to change that.
So what were you worrying about when you walked into this place tonight? What’s keeping you awake at night?
Can we all just agree to say … I’m going to give my worries to you God, because I know you love me and you care about me. I’m going to take off my pride, strip off my worries … and I’m going to hand those dirty, nasty, clothes over to you, and just dress in humility before your throne.
8 Stay alert! (be sober minded) Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
One of the reasons we need to stay alert, is we have a real enemy who hates us, and wants to devour us.
We have a tendency to go 1 of 2 ways in thinking of the Devil:
Superstitious // We have an unhealthy fear of this evil power. See the devil behind everything, and run around wanting to do exorcisms on everyone. Throw some holy water on them.
If you’ve ever ran in the Naples half-marathon, there is a priest who stands in front of his parish and throws holy water onto all the runners who pass by … when he threw it on me, I wanted to stop and scream “it burns, it burns.”
Substitious // We think too little of this evil being and his power. We consider it a fairy tell, and laugh about it. We go to the Hollywood version of the devil with a pitchfork, horns and a red top hot …
But scripture talks of the devil as a supernatural force, a personality of tremendous evil and power.
Scripture calls him …
- The great red dragon
- The Strong man
- The God of this world
- The commander of the powers of the unseen world
- (Peter) Roaring Lion looking for someone to devour
Which I know, if the only Africa you’ve ever seen is the Safari ride and Animal Kingdom … where it seems like all the Lions do is sleep all day, maybe this imagery doesn’t hit you like it did the original audience, so I wanted to help you out with that tonight …
If you’re offended by nature, you might want to close your eyes for about 2 minutes … [LION VIDEO]
Remember, Peter is writing to encourage those who are suffering.
Is there time when we’re more vulnerable to an attack lion than when we are hurting?
- In a fight with your spouse. Not feeling appreciated by her or him. Oh, but that person at work has been showing me a lot of attention lately.
- Discouraged with the way things are going at work … and our anger builds, and it flows out onto our families when we get home.
- Maybe you’re holding onto a grudge, and Satan uses that as a foothold to get you to start gossiping and hurting others.
- Hurt by someone you trusted, and Satan attacks that vulnerability and uses it to cause you to question your trust in God.
William Gurnall // The Christian in Complete Armor 1655
If men hear a noise at night they cry, ‘The Devil, the Devil,’ and they run for their life, but they carry the devil around in their very hearts all day. For if you have a proud spirit or if you have resentment or if you have anxiety you are under his power. He is setting you in a precarious place. My friends, why don’t you run from your pride crying, “The Devil, the Devil? “Why don’t you run from your resentments and your grudges yelling, “The Devil, the Devil…”
When we’re suffering. When we’re tired. Discouraged. Holding grudges. Prideful. We’re more vulnerable to attack.
Satan is lurking. He’s waiting; prowling around … ready to take strike when we are at our most vulnerable.
Did you feel sorry for that baby calf? Do you think the lion felt sorry?
That’s the spiritual reality we live in. We have an enemy, looking for you at your weakest, waiting for his moment of attack.
And so Peter tells us …
9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.
Our faith … isn’t that ultimately what Satan is after?
Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
Suffering has a way of isolating us, just like that little calf was somehow isolated from his herd, which made it a very easy target for the lion.
How many know the slogan of Refuge.Church? You’re not alone.
That’s because there are too many people out there trying to fight this roaring lion alone.
Don’t get me wrong, Satan can prowl around looking for fractures and opportunities within the church as well, that’s why Peter has addressed our relationships with each other …
But when we do life together, we can circle the herd and protect our family when they are at their most vulnerable.
In addition, when we’re in relationships with others, we don’t get so caught up in self-pity, because we see that others are hurting too, often much worse than I am.
It’s very hard for me to have a pity-party about all the dirty dishes my kids make and pile up in the sink over the Thanksgiving weekend, when I know that I have dear friends who would do anything to have their daughter back for one more Thanksgiving.
So is there someone not here tonight you can check in on? Can you reach out to them with a text, email or phone call?
As we come into this Christmas season, are there people you know who are hurting? Who’ve had a really rough year? What can you do this week, or this season to encourage them? To love them?
That little calf is just an illustration. It can’t fully express the reality of how vulnerable we are.
The Devil hates us. He wants to kill us.
But God loves us.
Yes, Satan is like a lion, but he’s a lion on a leash, and our good Father, he holds the leash.
10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.
After we have suffered for a little while, he will restore us and place us on a firm foundation …
Sometimes, when I’m suffering through something, it doesn’t feel like a little while?
As we close this evening … that is the perspective Peter has been getting at this entire letter. That in light of eternity, our momentary suffering is truly only for a little while. That’s what gives us hope and comfort.
That’s what causes us to worship God as Peter does in verse 12 when he says …
11 All power to him forever! Amen.
And then Peter signs off …
12 I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother.
My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.
13 Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet each other with a kiss of love.
Peace be with all of you who are in Christ.
I hope this letter written by Peter has been an encouragement for you as we’ve gone through these past 6-7 weeks as church. But more so, I pray you’ve picked up some knowledge that will help you stand firm as future trials and suffering come your way.
I was trying to figure out how to tie a big bow to the end of our study of 1 Peter, and wrap it up real nice like a Christmas present …
But I think that last sentence does it.
Peace be with all of you, who are in Christ.
And so as we move into the Christmas season, let’s focus on that peace … that came through a fortunate turn of events. A baby, lying in a manager, who grew into a man; who lived my life; who died my death; who asked me to be his friend; and gave me (and you) grace and peace, and a new perspective on life.