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Today we take up our last meditation on Peter’s first letter. As we’ve noted from the beginning, and seen through Peter’s words, the apostle wrote this letter to encourage Christians who were facing persecution because of their faith.
There are many reasons why Peter was particularly qualified to encourage suffering Christians. One of the reasons was that Peter himself had endured persecution. He knew what it was like to suffer in Christ’s name, for the message of forgiveness.
Peter was among the first of the apostles to be arrested in Jerusalem. He and John were going to the Temple for worship one day, when they met a crippled beggar. Peter had no silver or gold to offer him, but in the name of Christ he restored the cripple and made him walk again.
For this miraculous act of kindness, and the preaching of the Gospel which followed, Peter and John were arrested and dragged before the Jewish council to explain themselves.
Not long after that, all twelve apostles were arrested and thrown in jail for preaching Christ’s message to the people. But in the middle of the night the Lord sent an angel to open the doors of the prison. The apostles were then directed by this angel to go and preach Christ’s message of forgiveness right in the Temple courts.
And so, in the morning Peter and the apostles were again arrested and dragged before the council. This time they didn’t get off so easy. They were commanded not to preach in Jesus’ name anymore, and were beaten before being released. Instead of being frustrated, Peter and the apostles considered this an honor to suffer in the name of their Savior.
But then their trials grew hotter.
Stephen was stoned to death by a mob for his preaching.
A man named Saul began to hunt Christians down, having them jailed, and even executed for their faith that Jesus was the Messiah.
King Herod got in on the action by seizing James, Peter’s long time fishing partner, friend, and cousin. Herod had James beheaded.
And when Herod saw that this pleased many in Jerusalem, he had Peter taken into custody as well. It was the time of the Passover, and it looked like Peter was destined to face the same thing his Savior did—death at the hands of the religious authorities.
But again, our Lord sent an angel to release Peter from jail, that he might continue to proclaim forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ Jesus.
Yes indeed, Peter was qualified to encourage suffering Christians. He was one of their number. His sins had been washed away through what Christ endured on the cross. He too had been promised eternal life at the end of his earthly pilgrimage. But Peter had learned from experience that the road to eternal glory passed through the valley of earthly suffering. And though the Holy Spirit would go with his people on that road, it would still be a hard one.
Like the apostle Paul later testified after being stoned and left for dead,
“…We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acs 14:22 NKJV).
But in all that Peter suffered, he had the promise of Christ to steady his soul. Peter knew that the same Jesus who had suffered and died to take away his sins would not leave him alone in life. His dearest Jesus would not let him go.
And so in his final words to the suffering Christians of Asia Minor, Peter encourages them to stand firm in the faith, for he knew that the Lord would not abandon them either.
1 Peter 5:6-14 (NASB)
6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
12Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it!
13She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and so does my son, Mark. 14Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
When you go on a journey, you usually pack a bag. In this bag you put things that you’ll want to have on the way. If you’re hiking across the barren wilderness, you might pack some food, a bottle of water, and a change of socks.
With his final words here, Peter offers the suffering Christians of Asia Minor a bag of things they’ll want to take with them for the hard journey through life.
In this bag we find Peter has packed a picture of the Almighty God, a satellite phone, and a bag of some good strong coffee.
The picture of the Almighty God is the first thing the Christians of Asia Minor were to consider. Peter says,
“6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Peter 5:6 NASB).
The picture of God that Peter puts in their bag is a strong image. It depicts God as the Creator of the world, and the ruler over all authorities. It is a picture of a God who cannot be opposed. A God whose hand can, and will crush all opposition to his good and gracious will.
And Peter says, “Don’t stand up against this God, but rather, nestle yourself under his powerful hand. “ For against the Almighty, none can stand, but in his safe keeping, none can be lost.
To be humble, is to be lowly. To accept what God gives without complaint. Without rebellion. But with faith that God is good, knows what he is doing.
To be humble toward God is to hear his promise of complete forgiveness in the cross of Christ’s , and believe it. To be humble toward God is to hear his promise of final deliverance, and trust that promise. To be humble toward God is to hear him, and do what he says.
The opposite would be to reject God’s Word for our own thoughts and desires. Arrogance is to say to God, “I know better. I can steer my life in a better way than you can. I’ve got a better idea.”
But like Peter has already said, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE” (1 Peter 5:5b NASB).
If you’re going to find your way through the wilderness of life all the way to God’s side, you have to listen to the guide! When we humble ourselves before God, throwing our own sinful thoughts and desires out the window, then his strong and gracious hands will carry us safely along this journey. In due time, God will deliver us from the problems we find ourselves in, and he will lift us up far higher than we could imagine possible.
Keep this picture of the Almighty God in your bag. Let it remind you of who has bought you back from sin and hell. Let it remind you of the powerful God that has promised you forgiveness and eternal life through the blood of his Son.
A satellite phone is the second thing the Christians of Asia Minor were to pull out of their bag. Peter says,
“7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NASB).
When life presses in and worries surround us, one of the gretest blessings that we have is being able to share our worries with other people. But sometimes that doesn’t help. Our closest friends and confidants may not have the answers. Or their advice may fail. Sometimes they’re just not there to listen. That’s why Peter doesn’t just throw in a cell-phone. Instead he counsels the Christians of Asia Minor to use a phone that reaches right out of this world—to God himself.
Jesus knew that people worry. And he didn’t want them to. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded his followers three different times not to worry (see Matthew 6:25-34).
Peter directs the Christians of Asia Minor to pray their worries to God instead—“Cast all your anxiety ON HIM.”
The Greek word that Peter uses here for “casting” is the same one that is used to describe how Judas threw the silver coins back into the temple after he realized what was going to happen to Jesus. That’s what we’re supposed to do with our worries. We’re too throw them away from ourselves, and into the capable hands of the God who has already saved us from ourselves.
Or to use another picture, think of the office. You’ve been given a project that just puzzles you. No matter how many hours you spend working on it, no progress ever seems to come. And so you pick up the folder and take it across the room to your boss. You explain how you can’t seem to make heads or tails of the situation, and you need some help. You plop the thick folder down on your boss’s desk—and you walk away.
Sure, the project isn’t finished, but now it’s in the right hands.
This is what Peter counsels his fellow Christians to do with their anxieties. Bring them to the One who has all the answers. Leave them with the One who wrote the master plan. For unlike many a work boss, this One cares.
“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7 NASB).
The bag of strong coffee is the third thing the Christians of Asia Minor find in their travel bag. Peter says,
“8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NASB).
Our journey through this life isn’t just a journey across a perilous landscape of deep ravines and slippery slopes. In life we have a formidable enemy who wants to eat us. The oldest of God’s enemies, the devil, is loose in this world. And he wants, very much, to tear us limb from limb, away from the God we’ve come to know and trust.
To face this enemy, Peter says we have to stay sober and alert. It would be nice if the devil were just a hungry lion we could see with our eyes and keep away from. But unlike the bad guys in the movies, Satan operates more subtly—behind the scenes.
Satan comes to us in both good fortune, and in tragedy. He comes to find the weakness in our faith and exploit it. He comes to drive a wedge of sin between us and God, to pry us apart, and kill our faith in God’s goodness, and our faith in God’s Son.
On the Christians of Asia Minor, the devil was using open persecution. He wanted them to feel stupid, and ridiculed for their faith in an invisible God. He wanted them to feel real pain and suffering for trusting in Jesus as the Messiah. And he wanted them to question God. Why isn’t God doing something? Why doesn’t God come to my rescue NOW!? Satan wanted them to question whether it was really true that Jesus was God’s Son, sent to redeem them from sin and hell. And he wanted them to feel alone in the world.
Ultimately Satan wanted them to decide it wasn’t worthy it. That they could just forget about the Gospel, and avoid all this suffering.
To this, Peter says, stay awake! And watch out! If you’re not in the middle of a crisis of faith right now, beware! The devil has one waiting for you. And don’t think you’re the only one facing these things. You’re NOT alone. Peter says,
“…resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:9-10 NASB).
Satan likes to make us think that whatever trial of faith we’re going through right now, is going to last forever. But it’s not true. The trials we face in life are temporary, not eternal. The promise of eternal glory in Christ, that is what is eternal! And God refuses to let go of those he has called through the Gospel of Christ. He didn’t pay for our sins by the blood of his sinless Son just to leave us now! He’s not going to let us go!
In good time God promises that he will make us whole again. He will support our wobbly steps. He will give us his strength. And he will plant our feet firmly on the ground. The one thing he’s NOT going to do is just let us go. He’s to good for that. Too faithful.
Peter knew this from experience. The things that Peter put in the bag for the Christians of Asia Minor—humility, prayer, and sober alertness—those were things that Jesus had already given to him.
Peter wasn’t humble before he met Christ. He was an arrogant braggard. He once told Jesus that he had no business going tot he cross. Peter didn’t cast all his worries on Jesus in the beginning either. Instead, he told Jesus to go away—that he was too dirty a sinner to have Christ hanging around him. And Peter certainly didn’t have a sober and alert spirit. He was the disciple who lasted out with his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane, violently cutting off the ear of another man. He was the disciple who ran away from Jesus when the soldiers came. He was the disciple who later followed right into the courtyard of the high Priest, ignoring Jesus’ warning that he would deny Jesus three times. Ignoring the fact that Satan himself had asked permission to sift Peter like wheat, and find all his impurities. And find them he did when Peter swore on oath that he didn’t know this Jesus.
In the face of persecution, Peter had failed miserably. Satan had won.
But Peter’s Savior wouldn’t let him go. After having suffered and died for Peter’s sins, Jesus found Peter again. And on a small strand of beach on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus reassured Peter that his sins, great though they were, had all been atone for. Jesus made Peter whole again. Jesus confirmed him, strengthened him, and established him as a shepherd under Christ. A redeemed sinner, tasked with tending God’s flock.
Peter knew that Jesus doesn’t abandon his people. And this is why Peter tells the suffering Christians of Asia Minor to, “Stand firm in the faith!” You have been chosen. Stand firm in Christ! He will not let you go. After the pain of this life comes the glory of Christ, and the peace that will never end.
And so in closing our study of Peter’s first letter, I encourage us all to take these words to heart. Many have come before us. The parade of souls saved by God’s love is long. Many have endured persecution and trial, and come through it by God’s power. So keep on trusting in the Christ you have come to know through the Gospel. The God of love and forgiveness. He’s holding you. And he won’t let you go.
Peace be to you all who are in Christ.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus.