Perservering to the End Part 1: Four Reasons to be People of Humility (1 Peter 5:5-7)
Well, we are coming to the end of 1 Peter. This is the 32nd and second to last message (excluding the recap message). This has been a tremendous journey for me personally and the Lord has brought us far. Peter’s theme has been how to experience living hope for those who were suffering under persecution. And as he closes here, he leaves his audience with some final remarks about standing firm and persevering in the midst of their suffering. A lot has already been said about suffering, but now he ties up all his thoughts as he pens his final last words.
Do you know what I was thinking initially when I was thinking about perseverance? We stink at it! We don’t do well with patience and perseverance. We get easily tired. We live for instant gratification. We want our high speed Internet, instant messages and text, instant noodles, drive-thru fast food windows, a quick pill to take away the pain instantly, etc. We want our children to learn certain behavior or habits right away. We want churches to grow fast. We want our spouses to change quickly. Especially with all of this new and better and faster technology, we get used to having things done quickly for us.
In fact, in March of 2006, the Associated Press and Ipsos surveyed 1,003 adults concerning Americans’ attitudes and behavior regarding impatience. Some of the findings included:
·While waiting in line at an office or store, it takes an average of 17 minutes for most people to lose their patience.
·On the phone, it takes about 9 minutes for most people to lose their patience.
·Women lost their patience after waiting in line for about 18 minutes. For men, it was an average of 15 minutes.
·People with lower income and less education are more patient than those with a college education and a high income.
·People who live in the suburbs are more patient than people who live in the city.
No, we are not good with perseverance or patience. But God does not wear a watch. He takes His time. He is always working, but never at our pace or schedule. And He is all about teaching us perseverance. It is always high on His list on what He wants for our lives (notice that in the letters to the seven churches in Rev. 2 and 3). Jesus Himself said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
Even if you break the word “perseverance” down: “per” means through and “severe” means well, severe! God is all about us getting through the severe waters, through the severe valleys and through the severe fire. He is going to carry us through it, but we have to persevere. Today we are going to look at what one way of how to persevere to the end. How do we persevere, especially in our suffering? What are the keys to keep standing, to keep holding on to the Lord to the end? Here is our only main thought for today:
I. Persevere to the end by practicing humility (1 Pet. 5:5-7)
Peter has just given church leaders instructions on shepherding their beleaguered sheep. He then looks at those under the authority of church leaders and applies a principle he has said many times in his letter already is the importance of submission (cf. 1 Pet. 2:13-3:7).
It is interesting that Peter points out those who are younger. He is not saying, “Young people, submit to the old people.” Elder, as we saw last week, is talking about a church leader, not necessarily someone who is older in age, though elders in churches are often older. The same word used in 1 Pet. 5:1 is used in verse 5. There is no reason to believe he switched the meaning from the two verses. So Peter is clearing talking about submission to church leaders. Now who are the younger? NIV says it is “young men.” Some have said these are possibly young believers or younger elders, but neither is really conclusive. Perhaps Peter is talking to those who are, generally speaking, younger in the congregation in contrast to the elders/church leaders, who tend to be older in age. But let’s not miss the point. The point is submission. I think he is simply saying that as undershepherds submit the Chief Shepherd, the flock needs to submit to the undershepherds.
We have already talked in detail about what submission is and isn’t, so I will not go into it again here, except to say that an unsubmissive flock hinders the growth of the church. An unsubmissive flock makes ministry difficult for the under- shepherds. The writer of Hebrews says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” So be sheep that brings joy not burden to the undershepherds by the way you submit to them, just as the undershepherds’ aim is to bring joy to the Chief Shepherd as they submit to Him.
But notice Peter goes deeper than submission. He goes to where one gets power to submit: humility. Practice humility because humility needs practice! Only the truly humble will ever submit. So Peter looks to everyone in the congregation and says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another.” Clothe here “literally means ‘to tie something on oneself,’ such as a work apron worn by servants.” One commentator adds, “The picture is of donning a slave’s apron, tied on tightly so as to leave the body free for action. Do not use humility as the usual loose-fitting garment, so readily put on or taken off according to whim, but as a close-fitting overall intended for work and wear.” Clothe here is a command, thus a choice we have to make. Peter may have been thinking about the Lord Jesus, when the disciples were fighting about who is great, tied a towel around his waist like a servant, and washed the disciples feet (John 13:1ff). It will be hard to get that image out of one’s head and heart!
What is humility? I like CJ Mahaney’s definition: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” You need both components. Remember Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up (God’s holiness) and then he said, “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips” (our sinfulness, Is. 6:1ff). Because as CS Lewis once said, the closer you get to the light, the more dirt you see on your shirt! Phillips Brooks adds, “The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.” If you want to be humble, see God properly. And you will know if you have seen God properly by the way you see yourself as a result.
So humility is not simply thinking less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less. Actually, not to think of ourselves at all! It is to consider others better than you, as Paul would say (Phil. 2:3). It is others focused. Humility is a response of seeing God properly and thus seeing yourself properly. So as you have been the recipient and object of divine love, you see others as the objects of divine love and thus you serve them. Humility is demonstrated in relationships and only others can tell you if you are humble. D.L. Moody used to pray, “Lord, make me humble, but don’t let me know it.” This is because humility is the one thing when you think you got it, you lose it. A joke is told of a pastor who won a medal because he was voted as the most humble person in the congregation. The next week, the elders took it away because he wore the medal to church!
Here Peter first gives us the motivations to be humble:
a) Because pride brings divine opposition
This is a scary motivation. Peter quotes Prov. 3:34 (James also quotes the same verse in James 4:6). Notice the strong word “oppose.” It is a military term meaning “to set an army in array against, to arrange in battle order (to line oneself up against). The idea is to resist, to oppose, to be hostile toward.” It is also in the present tense, meaning God continually and actively opposes the proud person.
God is not simply passive or indifferent, but God fights against you! He will make things difficult for the proud person. Pride was the original sin and it calls out God to come up against you. This is reason enough to be humble! Pride says, “I can handle it. I don’t need anything or anyone else. I’ll take care of myself.” While humility thinks of others are more important than yourself, pride thinks of yourself as more important than others. The middle letter of pride and of sin is “I.” We are in the middle of our pride and sin!
Mahaney explains that the goal of pride is self-glorification. It robs God of the glory He should receive and fights with God for His rule and supremacy in our lives. He writes, “The proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something He is worthy to receive.” And as pride rises up, God opposes us continually, becoming our greatest enemy. Why does God do that? Vincent DePaul observes, “Now humility is nothing but truth while pride is nothing but lying. The reason why God is so great a lover of humility is because he is the great lover of truth.” God will not allow His glory, especially one who claims to be His follower, to be given to another. And the real issue is not if you have pride, but where pride exists and how pride looks like in your life. We all have it, but how is it being manifested?
b) Because humility brings divine enablement
Ok, we don’t want divine opposition, but what we need is divine enablement. Notice what happens to the humble. You receive grace. Again the tense in “gives” is present, meaning continually giving grace. John Piper notes, “…humility is [not] a performance of virtue that earns grace but that humility is a confession of emptiness that receives grace.” What is grace? It is the power and motivation to do what God wants. Humility is the funnel where God pours out His grace. God is ready to burst open the fountain of divine enablement only if we would humble ourselves! Another commentator says, “Think of it—the mighty God opposed to our pride and determined to break it, contrasted with the mighty God powerless to resist a broken and contrite heart!” God confirms this when He says, “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit” (Is. 57:15) and again “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my Word” (Is. 66:2). God has a special smell for humility that He cannot but resist and meet you with grace. Humility moves the muscles of Omnipotence and the heart of divine grace!
c) Because humility brings divine deliverance
Peter says in 1 Pet. 5:6 because you don’t want divine opposition and you need divine enablement, humble yourself. Choose to come down. Stop pretending. Stop self-relying. Stop being self-satisfied. Stop running from God. Instead, willingly put yourself under the hand of God. Because in God’s economy, the way over is the way under and the way up is the way down! If I put myself up, I am pulling the Lord down against me. If I put myself down under His hand, He will eventually pull me up. Peter says humility is mandatory here and he is speaking with urgency. Suffering is already hard enough and then you decide to have pride to make God oppose you? Not a good idea! So humble yourself.
Notice the term “mighty hand of God.” This term always referred to God’s deliverance and power (Deut. 9:26) or for discipline (Job 30:21). It is acknowledging his sovereignty. One commentator admits that to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand is “tough stuff. Everything within us seems to rise up and resist such a thought. We are taught that glory comes to those who aggressively make their way in the world.” And though it is true that when you choose to be like clay under His mighty hand, He will often put pressure on you, it is still the best place to be! And when the pressure hits, you want to run. It hurts. But those who persevere will receive staying power and find that God will exalt them. When you are wondering why things are out of control, acknowledge His hand. He is in control, ruling the world with His feet up!
The question is always “when”? It is “at the proper time.” Other translations say, “in due time.” In other words, in God’s time. Some have said this means God will finally vindicate, deliver and honor when Jesus returns. Others have said it could mean whenever God delivers us out of the difficulty in this life or the next. If we go with this, it might mean God will sometimes remove the difficulty or sometimes God will keep the difficulty, but give you a greater capacity to handle it, which is what God loves to do. He will exalt us and not we ourselves. And the exaltation will be defined by the Lord. Forty years Moses was in the desert, under the mighty hand of God, taking care of stubborn sheep. He had a wonderful ministry in Pharaoh’s court until then. 40 years of taking care of stubborn sheep before God exalted him by giving him 40 years with the stubborn sheep of Israel (not really an exalted place in my opinion, but it was for God). Elijah, who had a wonderful ministry under Ahab, sent to sit by the Kerith brook (1 Kings 17:1ff). Why God? Because it was at the Kerith brook where he had to rely on God’s timing and God’s resources. God’s time is the best time. God’s time is the perfect time.
d) Because humility brings divine care
Monica Baldwin says, “What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God.” When we give up our pride and go under the hand of God, we not only feel His pressure, we experience His presence. You want God to be closer than your very own breath? Do you want to experience His nearness? Humble yourself.
Peter tells us here how to humble ourselves: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” So “humbling oneself is not a negative act of self-denial per se, but a positive one of active dependence on God for help.” Everyone wants to experience His care, but no one wants to give up their pride and humble themselves. The promise of verse 7 comes to those who obey verses 5-6. “Casting” here “signifies the act of exerting effort to fling something away from ourselves. It describes a deliberate act.” Throw your cares on Jesus, like flinging a heavy wet carpet that has been weighing you down. Or imagine a hiker at the end of a long day unhooking his pack and tossing it down.
Notice “anxieties” or “cares.” It literally means “to be drawn in different directions, to be divided or distracted.” That’s a good way to put it because that is what anxiety does to us…it pulls us apart! It makes us double minded. It tears us to pieces. It is a deadly parasite that sucks the life out of us. This is why Corrie Tenboom says, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” Don’t miss the small word “all.” So do not just cast the big anxieties and keep the small ones! All of it. All of the discontentment. All of the disappointment. All of the despair. All of the pain. All of the uncertainty. All of the suffering. All of the trials.
So if it is a sign of humility to cast all of our cares on the Lord, it is conversely a sign of pride when you worry. Worry denies the care of a sovereign God. One author writes, “Worry is sin because it denies the wisdom of God; it says that He doesn’t know what He’s doing. It denies the love of God; it says He does not care. And it denies the power of God; it says that He isn’t able to deliver me from whatever is causing me to worry.”
As worries pull us in different directions, we become distracted. We start to carry our own anxieties and end up in a tangled mess of confusion, frustration and dividedness. When we worry, the only god we trust in is ourselves. We rely on ourselves, our strength (or delusions of it) and on our ability to figure out our problems. We don’t trust the Lord so we try to take control. Worry is practical atheism. Worry gives you delusions of strength and keeps God from working on your behalf. Worship and worry cannot stay in the same heart. Peter says this is a bad place to be, because God is opposed to the proud and pride puts a cork on the funnel of God’s grace and we end up worse than when we started.
Yet Peter knows what we are thinking: “If I put others first and I am feeling the pressure as I stay under God’s hand and wait for His timing, who’s going to take care of me? So he adds a touching phrase, “because he cares for you.” God delights in being trusted. JB Phillips translates this verse as “”You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are His personal concern.” The verb form “indicates that God’s care and concern for believers is constant, ongoing, and unending.”
Did you know you have your own personal caretaker? One who wants to carry your burdens? George Sweeting, former president of Moody Bible Institute, tells the story of Bishop William Quayle who, while he laid awake at night, because of fruitless worrying, heard God say to him, “Quayle, you go to bed; I’ll sit up the rest of the night.” That reminded me of Ps 121:4: “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” God cares for us 365-12-24-7!
When we acknowledge our need of the Lord, humble ourselves before Him, casting all the weight in our heart to Him in prayer, we experience His care. How does God show us His care? Author Warren Wiersbe states (I amended it somewhat) that God shows He cares by 1) giving us courage to face our problems and not run away (Is. 41:10) 2) giving us wisdom/insight to understand the trial better (James 1:5) 3) strength in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) 4) faith to trust God with the rest (Ps. 37:5). In sum, grace upon grace!
Sometimes God has a funny way to communicate to us. Recently, we have been experiencing some stress and worry about Jenny starting school next spring. While these things were in the back of our minds, I had the strangest encounter with Abbie, my three year old the other day, when I was watching her and her sister. Out of the blue, she runs over to me and asks, “Dada, are you going to take care of me?” I was shocked. Where in the world did she ever get that idea? I was angry at the television. Which show is teaching her this? I was angry at her pre-school. Who taught her that? Where did she learn this nonsense? I even had to ask her to repeat that question, just in case I heard it incorrectly. And again she asked me, “Are you going to take care of me?” I asked her where she learned that from, to which I received a shrug.
Such a question is heartbreaking to a parent. So I picked her up and put her on my lap, facing me. I looked at her straight in the eye and stumbling for words I replied, “Dada and Mama, with God’s help, will always take care of you. You never need to ask that question or wonder about it. We love you. God gave you to us.”
I really did not know how to make her understand. For a moment, I wished she was a lot older. I wish I could explain to her that some nights when she was a baby, Jenny and I would lie in bed and watch her sleep on the baby monitor. I wish I could explain to her that when she is at school for just a couple of hours, sometimes I sit there and watch videos of her on my computer. I wish I could explain to her that even when we are not with her, we are always thinking of her. I wish I could explain to her how Jenny’s heart was traumatized when we left for San Diego for a few days and left her with my parents, so much so that we were calling home like twice an hour to talk to her. She is too young to understand all of that, but then I wondered if God Himself put that in her mind and mouth not for her, but for us.
I wonder if God’s heart is broken because we were essentially asking the same question, “God, are you going to take care of us?” I wonder if God, too, has a long list that He wishes to show us, to help us understand that we are the apple of His eye (Ps. 32:8), that He loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), that we are engraved in the palm of His hands (Is. 49:16)—engraved, not a smudge that can easily be washed away and in the palm of His hand, which means we are ever before Him, protected and cared for (how many times do you look at your hands a day?). And if sinful parents like us, have that much love for our child, how much more does God have for His children?
Beloved, He cares for us. How do I know for sure? God sent His Son to die on a cross to purchase my redemption. How much does He care? With arms stretched apart and wide open, He says, “This much!” And this realization comes in humbly casting our cares on Him. This is the fuel for our perseverance. Staying close to Him in humility. The first question is where and how has pride shown up in your walk? Where are you contending with God’s rule and supremacy in your life? If you refuse to humble yourself, God opposes you. If you do humble yourself, God cannot resist you and begins to channel His grace and care to you. God is attracted to humility and repulsed by pride. There is nothing that will usher in His presence that will move the feet of divine love to you like humility. It is your greatest friend and the only way you can persevere through anything that comes your way.
Thompson, T. “Impatience Poll Glance,” http://www.hosted.ap.org (5-28-06); submitted by Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec, Canada taken from www.preachingtoday.com accessed 21 October 2010.
MacArthur, J. (277).
Hillyer, N. (144).
Mahaney, C.J (22). Humility: True Greatness (2005). Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah.
Water, M. (513).
Quoted from Pritchard, Ray. “A Survival Kit for Tough Times,” http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/2005-05-08-A-Survival-Kit-for-Tough-Times/ accessed 21 October 2010.
Mahaney, C.J. (32).
As quoted in the blog Parishable Items http://parishableitems.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/tuesday-19th-week-in-ordinary-time/ accessed 21 October 2010.
Mahaney, C.J. (28).
Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990-1999). Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God.
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1 Pet. 5:5).
Helm, D. R. (2008). 1 & 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings. Preaching the Word (169). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
Water, M. (512).
Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (1 Pe 5:7). Biblical Studies Press.
Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (199).
Pritchard, Ray. Ibid.
Walls, D., & Anders, M. (92).
Barton, B. B. (137).
MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. (1 Pet. 5:7)
Walls, D., & Anders, M. (93).
Wiersbe, W.W. (1 Pet. 5:7).