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- 1 Peter 5:6 - 11
A humble person
Do you think of yourself as a humble person? And if you don’t really know if you are a humble person, how would you go about figuring that out? Maybe you could ask a friend or family member who knows you. Or maybe you could look inward and grade yourself on your humility. Humility is a very difficult thing to gauge because it involves allot of things. It is not the opposite of pride. It is the absence of pride. It is to live a non-pride-filled and self-centered life and instead a life of self-forgetfulness and trust in Someone other than yourself.
A definition of sorts
Humility could be defined as leaning not on your own understanding and in all your ways acknowledging Him (Proverbs 3:5). It is living as though there is a great God Who loves you and is caring for you and has your best in mind and then putting your confidence in that reality and nowhere else. Vibrancy and stamina in the Christian life requires a humility that directs our minds and affections every day to the power of Christ in us. That is what Peter is getting at here.
Predicated on humility
Salvation is predicated on humility. The pride-filled with not receive grace. And vitality in the Christian life is also predicated on living in humility and not self-determining pride. The joyful in Jesus are those who are trusting Jesus, not themselves. So in a life filled with things to do, there is something primary that is to be done every day. We are to be clothed in humility, to humble ourselves.
Peter says it plainly to the church, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time, He may exalt you.” Before we jump to the imperative verb, the command to humble ourselves, let’s look at what or Who we are coming under. We are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. This is submitting our will and ways to the sovereign work of God. It is saying that God is God and there is no other. God is Sovereign King and there is no other. God is Lord of lords and there is no competitor to Him.
All humble underneath something
The odd thing about the human experience is that we are all humble underneath something. There is something in our life that makes us feel small, that we admit is bigger than us, something we cannot overcome or conquer. It may be your job that makes you feel small and helpless or it might be a chronic illness that humbles you and reminds you of your frailty. To humble yourself is to accept that there is something bigger than you. And that leads to a kind of surrender.
What to surrender to
So if all people come underneath something, which I think is true, then Who or what are redeemed people to surrender to? The answer is God: the only One worthy of true humility, trust and surrender. This humility and trust and surrender to God leads to the favor of God. “Toward the scorners he is scornful,” Proverbs 3:34 says. “But to the humble he gives favor.” There is no other thing or person that can reward our humility with something so great as that.
The proper time
The result of humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God is so that at the proper time He may exalt you. The proper time is the appropriate time, the God-ordained time that He has set for you to be exalted or lifted up. This may not appear to be the proper time in my mind or if it was up to me. But God’s timing is perfect.
Is it time?
This church was enduring a variety of trials because they were Christians and I am guessing that they had the thought more than once: “the trial is over. The time of humbling is over. We are now ready to be exalted”. But that is not how God works because God is infinitely wise and discerning and He has infinite love for us. And He knows things we don’t know. And therefore His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts and His timing is not our timing. He is perfect in all of those things. We are not.
So what does the exalting look like? It is probably a combination of things both experienced now and in the future. It involves the lifting of the spirit, the raising of the chin, the experience of feeling elevated out of the miry clay of the trouble. We are already raised up and seated with Christ. Sometimes we don’t feel it but sometimes we do.
I think it also points to the coming age, when we are welcomed into the new heavens and the new earth, when trouble is no more. So the mini, temporary moments of being exalted will lead us to the big, permanent and ongoing moments of being exalted in the presence of God.
As part of humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God we are to cast all our anxieties on Him because He cares for you. So we are humble by casting our cares on God. And we are prideful and self-trusting by keeping those anxieties to ourselves. We gotta spend a bit of time in this amazing invitation. The God Who created and sustains all things from the fish in the sea to the Milky Way invites us to cast our anxieties on Him.
This appears to be a backwards, upside down way of thinking. Most people assume that God gives us stuff to do, tasks to accomplish. The thought of “god” (not the true god) may even cause people anxiety because they immediately associate god with work, pressure and feelings of not being good enough. This is the opposite picture. God invites our trouble and is not overwhelmed by it.
Placing it onto God
The idea of casting is not hooking up a lure and sending it into the lake hoping for the big one. The word is also in Luke 12 when the people put or cast blankets on the donkey that Jesus rode through Jerusalem. It is a deliberate placing of a specific thing onto a specific Person. It is setting something down and leaving it there. It is to put something into the responsibility of Someone else.
The alternative to this is fear and worry that often magnifies the anxiety instead of taking it away. Jesus actually warns that anxieties and the cares of life can actually choke out the Word. Anxieties can actually crowd out the Word so that a person is not fruitful, not joyful, not self-forgetful but consumed with perpetual worry. To be anxious seems fairly harmless and maybe even heroic but it has an effect on our joy and the joy of people around us.
Big and small anxieties
The invitation is to cast all anxieties on God. We don’t need to gauge or distinguish between castable anxieties and anxieties we can handle on our own. We are to cast all our anxieties, big and small onto God. And maybe you do pretty well casting your anxieties on God until you get hit with a whopper, a real big one. Then suddenly you feel like you gotta take care of this one. This one is just too big for God. You better step in and make sure it’s taken care of the right way.
Ones you can handle
Or you are doing pretty well in your casting anxieties on God and then you get hit with a real small one and it appears so small that it is outside of the category of “all.” And you keep it on you and it gets bigger and bigger and pretty soon it is outside the ability for even God to handle and now you really gotta take care of it on your own. The small one has now become the big one.
He cares for you
The way to avoid this confusing categorizing of anxieties is to humble ourselves and cast all our anxieties on him. Why? Because He cares for you. And He cares more than you. God loving you with an everlasting love means that God cares for you more than you can understand. It is more than just care for the situation or fixing a “problem.” He cares for you.
God cares for you
Sometimes we gauge God’s care for us based on how well He is eliminating the anxiety, how well He cares for the situation and exalts us out of it. This leads to frustration because there is a good chance that our timetable and God’s timetable do not match up. And God’s care is not a pragmatic approach to solving problems but the deeper purpose of making us like Jesus through the problems.
This leads us back to verse 6, “Humble yourselves under the mighty, sovereign hand of God.” Submit to His work in your life and let that anxiety go or cast it off of you onto Him. Because He cares for you.
Jesus in the gospels
If you read the gospels even for a few chapters you get the sense very quickly of who needs Who and Who serves Who. Jesus came to serve not be served. He came to die for us not so that someone would die for Him. He came to take heavy burdens from people and give them purpose and joy. He is the eternal Giver of good things and the Bearer of not so good things. That is Who He says He is and that is Who He proved Himself to be.
People had a hard time believing back then. People have a hard if not harder time beleiving it now. But the message, the simple message is still the same: come unto me all you who are heavy and weary leaden and I will give you rest.
How to cast?
So how do we cast anxieties onto God, what does that look like? Philippians 4:6 might come to mind, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Anxiety can make us feel immobilized but it is actually a reason to pray. And not to pray just once but allot and continually.
David’s incredible prayer
David in Psalm 55 models this incredible way of praying to God right within a whole bunch of craziness. He says, “my heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling come upon me and horror overwhelms me…. But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan and he hears my voice…..Cast your burden onto the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Bad things, good God
This is a 23 verse Psalm of lament that includes a vivid description of just how bad things are and then confidant affirmation of just how God and powerful God is. This is not pie in the sky theology. This is accepting that there are some things that produce anxiety in our life and then continually giving that anxiety over to God.
New Testament theologian Leonhard Goppelt said in his commentary, “Affliction either drives one into the arms of God or severs one from God.” Being driven into the arms of God includes humility, prayer and casting. If you are doing that, then you are handling your affliction just fine.
Sober minded and watchful
Humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God involves more than casting our anxieties on Him. It also involves being sober-minded and watchful because there is an adversary who wants to eat us. To be sober and watchful is to be alert and aware of temptations both to worry and to blatantly disobey God. These are fairly intangible things to be. But they matter.
Becoming spiritually weak
Worry and anxiety can actually lead us to be mentally confused and spiritually drowsy. We can, without knowing it, become spiritually weak by putting something at the front of our minds that is not Christ. We can get confused, distracted and vulnerable and this may open the door for the devil to take advantage of our weakened state.
Peter interestingly gives this vivid description of the devil. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” The imagery here is very intense. The roar of the devil is his attempt to strike fear in the hearts of believers. And he may do this by piggy backing on top of an anxiety and stirring up more anxiety. He is illusive like this. He is a conjurer, a meddler, an agitator, an accuser. He is an enemy that does not fight fair or cleanly. Be aware of him and recognize his tactics. And that happens by keeping a sober and watchful and Christ-centered mind.
Resist the devil, Peter says. Not fight the devil or yell at the devil or run from the devil. Resist the devil and his attempts to distract, discourage and destroy your faith in Christ. This is similar to the commands in 2:1 to “Put away all malice and all deceit.” And in 2:11, “Abstain from the former passions of the flesh…..”
There is a real simplicity in resisting, putting away and abstaining from doing the wrong thing and doing what is right and good. So we do not set out in the day to take on the devil. We are not in a battle with him. He is a defeated foe, conquered by King Jesus. Our task now is to resist his attempts to weaken our faith in king Jesus.
The weakness of the devil
The temptation of Jesus by the devil in Matthew 3 and other places really gets at the weakness of Satan, not his strength. Satan came to Jesus with lies and empty promises. He came as an agitator, an aggressor. He tried to piggyback on a situation that could have made Jesus spiritually weak and vulnerable. He offered nothing that Jesus did not already have.
A fake version
He offered Jesus a fake version of what he already had. Jesus already had power and sovereign control. But he was in a situation where he did not feel like He did. So Satan comes in with an empty promise to get Him out of a situation that is uncomfortable and hard to withstand.
This is how Satan tempts us. He promises to give us something that we already have in Christ, to expedite the trial, free us from the affliction. And then when we reach out for it and don’t get it, we are left with a decision. We can either be destroyed, consumed, eaten up by our adversary, the accuser of our souls or we can be restored to fellowship with almighty God.
All have sinned
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 says. All have been stirred to disobedience by the roar of the devil (Peter included in his denial of Christ). That is not up for debate. The bigger question now is this: will you return and be restored or will you continue to be eaten? That look that Jesus gave Peter after the denial was not an accidental glance. That was Jesus way of saying, “be restored. This far but no further. This is why I came. Go ahead and weep but not for too long. Return. Come home.”
The theologian J.C. Ryle, said it well, “Do not be always pouring down over the imperfections of your own heart, and dissecting your own besetting sins. Look up. Look more to your risen Head in heaven, and try to realize more than you do that the Lord Jesus not only died for you, but that He also rose again, and that He is ever living at God’s right hand as your Priest, your Advocate, and your Almighty friend.” In other words, do not let the accusations of the enemy eclipse the open arms of the Christ.
The temptations and sufferings and anxieties that we all experience are not new to us. These things are being experienced by the brotherhood or the family of God throughout the world. You are not alone, Peter says. Do not think it strange or abnormal or a detour from the “good life.” It is a part of the journey. Be humble and trusting of Christ in it.
And here is the stunning promise that we all throughout the world have: ”And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” The reason we don’t need to have debilaiting fear and anxiety is because God is ultimately responsible for our salvation and our being brought to heaven. We are His people, His possession, his sheep, his family, His sons and daughters, His bride.
And since He is all-powerful and all good, He will never fail to love us through to the end. So at the end of the commands, all the commands in I Peter, we have the reminder of Who works and wills in us to accomplish His plans. It is God. Our hope and faith are in God.
Some amazing things
And God will do some amazing things. After a “little while” of suffering, the God of all grace and favor, who has called us to “eternal glory” will Himself or personally restore us, make us whole and complete. He will take all the fractured, lose ends of our life and put us back together. He will confirm and strengthen us, secure our eternal, spiritual vibrancy and life. And he will establish us, so that we will never be moved by the roar or the badgering of the evil one. We will be with Christ forever.
God has authority
If all of that is true, then the current anxiety rolling around in your mind matters to God but it is not bigger than God. God has dominion and authority over all. Therefore He has dominion and authority over you and holds the smallest and the biggest things in His hand. Let’s pray.