Tag: 1 Peter

Anxieties: To Be Cast Not Carried (1 Peter 5)

by on Apr.07, 2008, under Sermon

What makes you anxious? I mean really anxious, not just, “I hope the guy in front of me doesn’t order the last cheese & bacon pie,” or “Will I catch some disease if I don’t wash my hands?” I’m talking gut-wrenching, break out in a sweat, unable to sleep anxious.

Does the Bible have anything say to you in your anxiety? Does God care about what you care about? Yes and yes! Tonight we will examine just one of many passages that demonstrate how much God is involved in our pain, our trials, our doubts and our cares. What’s more, he understands the causes… and he has plans for dealing with them! Does that sound like useful information to have?

1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud 
      but gives grace to the humble.”

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

- 1 Peter 5:1-11

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (7). That is the heart of tonight’s message. God’s love for you is without parallel. He desires that you should bring all the things that weigh you down, that hold you back and burden you, and give them up for him to deal with.

In this passage, Peter shares with us three common causes of anxiety. More importantly, however, he lets us know how he has already put plans in place to deal with those causes.

God’s plan for Lions: Shepherds

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center, many people found themselves increasingly fretful: where would the next attack come? Would terrorists take issue with Australia because they were involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? One friend of mine was afraid to catch the train to work, because that would inevitably involve sitting at Circular Quay for a while, and that was, in her eyes, a prime terrorist target.

The problem arose because we believed we had an enemy who was out to do us harm – and we did not know when or where he might show up next, or what he might do when he did.

This is not a new problem though. The events of the 11th of September, 2001 may have made it more real and immediate for some of us, but the threat was always there. In Peter’s day it was even worse. Instead of being a handful of extremists, the source of the threat was his own government. We are not sure whether we are a target; he knew he was! Again and again in this letter, Peter returns to the theme of suffering, reminding us that we share in the sufferings of Jesus… and it was Jesus’ own government that arrested him, tortured him and ultimately put him to death in the most horrible way.

In 1 Peter 5, Peter goes one step further, acknowledging the ultimate source of this persecution is spiritual as well as political.

8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

The image he uses is a strong one, particularly when you join it up with the image at the start of the chapter, where he writes to those who are to be “shepherds” of the flock. Lions were a fact of life in first century Palestine. They were dangerous to anyone, but they were particularly dangerous for unprotected flocks.

The role of the shepherd, then, was to guard against such predators. He or she would do this, first and foremost, by keeping the flock together in one group. If one wandered off, they must be found and returned, otherwise they would be vulnerable to attack.

That’s how it is with us. God has appointed men and women to be our shepherds. Theirs is the responsibility to keep us together, to stand between us and our enemy. They are the ones best equipped to recognise and defend against the attacks of the enemy.

But we have our own part to play too. “Be self-controlled and alert,” (8) Peter says, keep your eyes open, and when you see signs of our enemy, get the word out and make sure your brothers and sisters are alerted. When you hear the lion roaring, you have two choices – fight or flight. If we all scatter and go our own way, then what hope have our shepherds of defending us? Peter calls us to “resist him, standing firm in the faith” (9). In the face of outside attack, let us stand together and support and defend one another! In short, we need to be alert, but not alarmed.

No doubt in writing these words, Peter was reflecting on his last encounter with the risen Jesus.1 Three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter’s affirmative response was met with an instruction: “Feed my lambs”; “Take care of my sheep”; and finally “Feed my sheep”. Jesus is committed to seeing that his flock is tended, and his logic here is simple: if you love me, you will care for my flock.

Lions require shepherds. And when you have Jesus as your Chief Shepherd, you can, and should, “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (7).

But this meeting served another purpose. Jesus was interested in more than seeing his flocks tended to; he also wanted to deal with Peter’s pride.

God’s Plan for Pride: Humility

One imagines that Peter would have been awash with emotions when he met the resurrected Jesus: joy, obviously, at seeing his friend whom he had thought dead restored to life; but also, I am sure, no small amount of embarrassment and hesitation. Peter, overcome with excitement, impetuously dives out of the boat to swim back and be the first to greet Jesus; the closer he came, however, the less certain he was.

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you”2 … “even if all fall away, I will not.”3 With words like these, words spoken out of pride, Peter declared his undying devotion to the man he knew to be God’s Messiah; within 24 hours, he was doing his best to deny any knowledge of him at all. How would Jesus respond to him? Would he mention it? Would he even speak to Peter at all?

Jesus asks his question – “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” – three times in order to break Peter of his pride. Peter was hurt,4 but Jesus was reminding him that he wasn’t perfect, that even he who had spent so much time with Jesus, had no reason for pride in his position, and certainly not in any sort of moral superiority. Even Peter, the first to acknowledge Jesus as God’s Messiah, even he had failed when push came to shove. Jesus deliberately humbled Peter in order that he might also restore him.

Peter relays that same lesson:

5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

At its heart, all sin can be traced back to pride: we believe that we know better than God, and so we act according to our own judgment and desires rather than God’s will for us. As a result, we bring needless worry upon ourselves, because we don’t actually have the capacity to make right judgments, or even the will to always follow through on our own convictions. We make mistakes, and those mistakes have consequences.

More significantly, when we are proud we are in opposition to God – and God hasn’t lost a battle yet! We cannot expect to go on sinning and yet be free from anxiety, for if we are sinning then we are right to be anxious. The Judge of all the Earth sees and knows, and will act in justice. Peter has just finished reminding us that “it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”5

Peter’s solution is simple… at least simple on paper. “Humble yourselves… under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (6) As Peter was humbled, so too must we be – and better if we do it ourselves, rather than waiting until God has to do it for us! If you find yourself in opposition to God, then confess that to him and ask his forgiveness. Seek his help in overcoming your own pride that would otherwise draw you away from him. Recognise that he knows best and wants the best for you, and that you are not capable of making those judgments for yourself. That is what humility looks like.

When you humble yourself before God, he goes from being against you to being on your side – not just “not against you” but actively for you! Only then can you “cast all your anxiety on him” (7) for he will “lift [us] up in due time”.

But what about when we just don’t know what is going to happen?

God’s Plan for Uncertainty: Purpose

Let me tell you about the most anxious day of my life. Some friends and I came up from Nowra to visit another friend who had recently moved to Sydney. The plan was that we would go into Darling Harbour and catch a movie at Imax, then do some shopping and generally just hang out together. This was great, because I love spending time with those guys… but this day I had something else on my mind. You see there was recent addition to our group, a particularly lovely young lady upon whom I had my eye. And I had decided that today was the day I was going to do something about it.

Having spent most of the morning trying to separate her out from the others and get her alone (I was the prowling lion this time!) I finally found my chance. With all the calm sophistication I could muster, I asked, “So… do you have a boyfriend?” “No.” “Would you like one?” Something about her expression caused me to rush on with, “Because I’m really interested in you, and I will understand if you’re not interested in me, and how about I give you some time to think about it.” And with that, and not waiting for a reply, I clutched the tattered remains of my dignity tightly around myself and beat a hasty retreat.

Six hours later, I finally got the answer I was looking for. (In the interests of journalistic integrity, I should tell you that she claims it was only two hours… but believe me, it was 6. After all, I should know – I was there!)

There are few things more likely to cause stress and anxiety than not knowing what the future holds. Those six hours were agony for me, because I had no way of knowing if what I hoped for would actually come about.

Those of you who know me well know that one of the deepest desires of my heart is to one day be a dad. It is something that I long for – but which I cannot be certain of until it actually happens. And even then, that is hardly the end of anxiety! Those who are parents hope for good things for their children: that they will be safe; that they will grow up to love Jesus; that they will get married and have children of their own… but there are no guarantees that any of those things will happen.

Peter addresses this kind of anxiety too – in fact, you could almost say that this entire letter has been about addressing it!

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Overcoming anxiety about the future will only happen when we understand our identity in Christ. If you are in Christ, then you have been called by God for a specific purpose – and unlike us, he is able to bring his purposes to completion. Whilst we may suffer in the short term, God promises that he will restore us and bring us to completion in him. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (7).

This list of Peter’s is not meant to be exhaustive – not every care or concern will fall under one of these three categories (although I suspect most will). But there is an underlying thread to all of his solutions: if you want to deal with anxiety, you need to know Jesus. He is the Chief Shepherd; he is our model of humility; and he is he one who will bring about God’s ultimate purposes for the future.

Consider what a difference knowing someone makes. Nearly 3 years after my 6-hour ordeal, I stood at the front of a church, waiting for my bride. Was I anxious then? No, not really, for I had spent the intervening time getting to know her. I knew her heart, and I knew that she was going to do everything in her power to be there, and to be there on time.

Ultimately, all of the promises Peter offers rely on knowing God. He is writing to those who are “God’s elect… chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Sprit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood” (1:1,2). He is speaking to those who have received new birth into the family of God, who are heirs with Christ of an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade (1:3-4). This is good news for those of us who know the Lord Jesus Christ – we have a shepherd to care for us; we have been shown the way of humility before God, and allowed the grace to cover over our inevitable stuff-ups; and we have the sure knowledge of our purpose in Christ and God’s will to bring us to fulfillment of that purpose. But what if you don’t know Jesus?

If you’re here tonight and you are not a Christian, we’re really glad that you’re here… but I’m afraid that I can’t make any promises about your worries and concerns. Unless you know Jesus, you are a sheep wandered away from their shepherd; you are in opposition to the God of the universe; and even if you have your own sense of purpose, you haven’t the power to see it through. You are right to be anxious!

But there is good news: Jesus Christ invites you to meet him, and to know God through him. He is the Chief Shepherd, and he invites you into his flock. He promises that if you repent of your sin and turn to him then you too can be an heir of all the good things that you have heard tonight, as well as many more found in God’s word. Let me urge you to grab hold of that promise – and do it now! Don’t carry those worries around any longer! If you want to do that, grab someone after the service – perhaps one or two Christian friends, or a leader, or some other Christian that you respect. Whilst you don’t need anyone else involved – it’s between you and Jesus! – it often helps to have someone to share your decision with, who can pray with you and for you and encourage you.

Perhaps you’re not sure you want to become a Christian, perhaps you want some time to think it over. I did: I heard the very same good news that I am sharing with you tonight, but wanted to make sure I was making a decision with my head not just with my heart. I wanted to be sure that everything added up. And so I didn’t take Jesus up on his offer straight away. But all the next day I kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and every way I looked at it it made more sense than anything else I had ever heard, any other way of life I had ever come across. So I did it, I gave my life to Jesus, convinced that he cares for me better than I can even care for myself. 17 years on, I have no cause to regret that decision. So it’s OK to take some time to think – but make sure you do think, don’t just use that as an excuse to put off having to make a decision. If you need more information then ask; if you need someone to talk it through with then grab a Christian friend or two.

Perhaps you are a Christian and your life is beset with worries, cares and concerns. Perhaps you have heard God’s invitation to cast your anxieties upon him but you’re not quite sure what your next step should be. The best thing that you can do is to pray. You can come and pray with someone, or grab a Christian friend or just pray by yourself, but whatever you do, pray. Ask God to show you the steps that he has already taken to care for and protect you, as well as his plan for your future, and then trust in him. He cares for you more than you can know, and invites you to cast your anxieties upon him.

Endnotes

  1. John 21
  2. John 13:37
  3. Mark 14:29
  4. John 21:17
  5. 1 Peter 3:17
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1 Peter 1:1-21: “Live in Hope”

by on Jun.29, 2007, under Uncategorized

I love the apostle Peter. I love the way he always knows exactly what not to say, and exactly when not to say it. I mean, come on, if there was anyone of whom the saying “he doesn’t open his mouth except to change feet” were true, it’s Peter. Many of you, like me, would have been amused at Stephen Hilaire’s Black Stump renditions of “Jesus and his Merry Men” – with poor Peter the butt of every joke and the source of much frustration and headshaking on Jesus’ part.

As we read on in the Bible, however, we start to get a glimpse of a very different Peter indeed. Here is a man confident to speak in front of huge crowds1 and courts2, to heal cripples3, to pronounce judgement leading to death4 and even to minister to his gaoler. What could possibly change a man who is afraid even to be associated with Jesus( (Luke 22:54-62)) into one who can rejoice at being flogged because he had been counted worth of suffering disgrace for the Name5?

  • What do you think could cause such a change in you?

I believe that Peter reveals some of his secrets in his first letter. Throughout the course of this and the next couple of studies I reckon we should get a picture of exactly what motivated this change in Peter… and what can bring about the same kind of change in you!

Me Femme results. However the using bath shower online pharmacy greasy going Thayers watered eyebrows build tried.

Background to 1 Peter
The first thing to know about 1 Peter is who it is written to and why. Peter, probably writing from Rome, is writing at a time when Christians are just starting to enter a time of intense persecution. The emperor Nero had recently come to power, and tormenting, torturing and killing Christians was starting to become the in vogue thing to do. History tells us that people lost their jobs for being Christians, were shunned by their society, cast out of their houses, deprived of all their possessions. Many ended up running for their lives and hiding in tombs just to stay alive, whilst others were cast into the Circus Maximus to do battle to the death with gladiators or lions for the public amusement. Peter himself was crucified (upside down, because he did not consider himself worthy of suffering in the same way Jesus did) under Nero. Peter no doubt had some insight into all of this, and so he writes to those who are strangers in the world (1:1), for whom the world has no love but rather hatred and enmity.

  • Imagine that you were facing such horrific prospects. Where would you look for strength? What would give you hope?
  • On the flip side, what kind of things would you offer as encouragement to Christians today who are suffering persecution?

Living Hope
Read 1 Peter 1:1-5

  • How could the words of Peter in the opening verses of his letter (1-5) bring comfort and hope to people who had been driven from their homes and exiled to foreign lands?
  • God has offered a storehouse of treasures for all who follow Him. What are some of the treasures Peter highlights that can never be taken away? How have you experienced one of these treasures in your own life?

Our “inheritance is kept for us, and we are kept for it”6. Not only will it not perish, spoil or fade, but we ourselves are shielded by God’s power until we receive it.

Read 1 Peter 1:6-12

  • Peter describes some of the fruit that is born in our lives through times of trial. What grows in the life of a follower of Christ through times of struggle, loss and trials? (vv. 6-9; cf. Romans 5:3-5)
  • Tell your group about a loss or time of struggle you have faced. How did you experience God’s presence and work in your life through this time?

Footprints in the Sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.

This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.

So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.”7

  • Peter promises that hardships lead to “praise, glory and honour” to Jesus. Do you believe this? Have you seen it happen? How?

Read 1 Peter 1:13-21
Verse 13 signals a big shift in Peter’s train of thought. The first 12 verses have been focused on the hope that God provides us, but now he is more interested in how we are to respond. He is calling us to have right attitudes and actions.

All of us have faith that may be mixed with improper attitudes or sinful motivations… In the crucible of life, God our Goldsmith skims off our impurities. Through trials, God burns away our self-reliance and self-serving attitude, so that our genuineness reflects his glory and brings praise to him.8

  • What are some of the attitudes and actions that Peter calls us to?
  • How is God challenging and growing you in one of these areas? How can your group members encourage and pray for you in this area?

Christians look toward the return of Jesus, when pain will end and perfect justice begin. Faith will be rewarded and evil will be punished. But what should we do until then?

The Bible’s answer is simple but not easy: Because we know the future, we must faithfully server God here and now. If today that means resolving a conflict, mending a hurt, working a dull job, confronting a belligerent child, rebuilding a marriage, or just waiting for guidance – do it all with the joy of God, who will return with his reward!9

Some prayer suggestions

  • Pray for group members who shared about a trial they are facing.
  • Pray that God will show you how to respond to Peter’s call to right attitudes and actions, particularly the specific areas that God is challenging you in at the moment.

[Parts of this study were adapted from 1 Peter: Stand Strong by Bill Hybels (Zondervan 1999)]

Endnotes

  1. Acts 2:14-41
  2. Acts 4:1-22
  3. Acts 3:1-10
  4. Acts 5:1-10
  5. Acts 5:41
  6. Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, IVP 2006, p. 47
  7. Mary Stevenson, “Footprints in the Sand”
  8. Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter and Jude (Tyndale 1995) p. 32
  9. ibid. p. 33
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