Peter has written a lot about difficult matters so far in his letter to the church.
- living in a hostile culture
- being holy and genuinely abstain from sin and evil
- living “above reproach” and never give anyone reason to come down on us
- absorbing all the unfair criticism or suffering we will experience as we are faithful to Jesus
- loving each other well in church community so that Christ’s love flowing through us can cover the multitude of sin around us
- using our gifts maximally to lead and serve with mutual submission and humility?
The payoff is amazing: if a church community is like this, it would be a beautiful thing internally and externally. It would be a taste of heaven. God has revealed what a fully embraced life in His kingdom looks like, and it’s a vision of the good life, at least as much as we can experience it on this side of heaven.
I suspect all of us have experienced it at some time and in some way.
- Someone has loved us far more than we deserve
- Someone has inexplicably hung in with us in spite of all the things we have done that would give them reason to push us away
- We have seen holiness modeled – never perfectly, but at least in someone we have seen a serious commitment to living as one called out from the corruption of sin and callousness of culture
- We have had an opportunity to see how our gifts make a difference, or we have benefited from someone else lavishly sharing and helping through the strength God has given them
- We’ve experienced the grace of someone humbly serving us; we’ve had the privilege to do the same
- We’ve seen the gospel both modeled and preached, where the words of life matched the life, where the hope of salvation and restoration is made clear in the real stories of broken sinners made whole.
That’s good stuff. That’s church at its finest.
But this “high calling” also sounds exhausting and little overwhelming.
- “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10).
- There is a war within that Paul so clearly explained (Romans 7).
- There is a need to “die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31) and “mortify” your sinful flesh (Colossians 3:5) as we “discipline our body a bring it into submission” so that we are not disqualified from effective ministry on behalf of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- There are “thorns in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12) that remind us that, at the end of the day, it is God’s grace the carries us, that it is in our weakness that God’s strength is perfected; that there is a reason God must increase while we decrease.
This call to unreproachable holiness and love sounds exhausting and overwhelming to me simply because I know myself.I don’t have to look any further than the mirror to know that the Bible raised the bar above what Anthony is able to achieve. But Peter knows this. How would he not?
- He’s the guy who was really proud of forgiving his brother a whole seven times, which wasn’t even close. (Matthew 18)
- He argued with the others about who was the greatest, and I assume he made the case for himself.
- He went to sleep in the Garden when Jesus asked him to keep watch (Mark 14). Jesus said, “You’re spirit is willing, but your flesh is weak.”
- Then he cut off a dude’s ear, totally missing the point that Jesus’ Kingdom was not of this world. (Matthew 26)
- And then he totally and publicly denied Jesus (Matthew 26)
It’s that Peter who insists we be holy and blameless. How could he demand this of us when he couldn’t even do it?
Because it’s also that Peter whom Jesus later forgave, reinstated, and commanded: “Feed my sheep…You must follow me.” (John 21) And it was that Peter who went on to be one of the authors of the New Testament, and eventually to give his life as a martyr for the sake of Christ.
Peter knew flourishing and failure; he knew forgiveness and restoration. He knew that the power of our testimony was not just about what we get right but also about how God moves in and uses us when we get it wrong. This too, is how we display Christ to the world. But that can only happen if we continually repent and surrender to the work of God. This brings us today today's text:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares (anxiety) on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Considering all of what has preceded this in 1 Peter, I assume the cares come from 1) persecution, and 2) the high call in our lives (he just talked about life together in the church). What is concerning his audience? Living above reproach in their culture and in their church.
This will cause care and anxiety. But God cares…so give that over to him. That will require humility, but it is in our humility that we are raised up. It’s dying so we can live. It’s decreasing so God can increase in us. It’s God’s plan for our flourishing in the Kingdom of God and embodying the good news of the Gospel in our culture.
This command concerning our cares is found many places in Scripture.
“Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (made to slip, fall or fail).” (Psalms 55:22)
“Blessed be the Lord, Who daily bears our burden, the God Who is our salvation.” (Psalm 68:19)
“Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall watch over your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
The Bible address other things that cause anxiety: “Take no thought for the things of tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:34) This broadly covers all the things we worry about: jobs, health, family, relationships. Everything that keeps us up at night. The things that give us anxiety and fear.
I could talk a lot about why it’s a bad idea to let these things eat away at us, but you know this. I don’t think I have to convince you it’s a terrible thing to be overshadowed or weighed down by anxiety.
Anxiety and depression have become close companions since my heart attack (and depression even before then). In prepping this past week, I found myself comforted and encouraged simply by reading what so many Christians have said about this issue.
“But He cares for us. My soul, has not Jesus proved it? Did He not care for you when He embarked in the work of your salvation? Did He not care for you when you were dead in trespasses and in sins? (Ephesians 2:1- note) And when the Holy Spirit convinced you of sin, and broke your heart, and led you in holy contrition to the cross, did not Jesus manifest His care for you then by raising you up from His feet, enfolding you in His arms, and applying His atoning blood to your conscience, saying to your tempest-tossed spirit, 'Peace, be still,' and there was peace? The Lord cares for you still. He cares for your needs, for your trials, for your temptations, for your sorrows. Still more, He cares for… the doubts and fears and tremblings which sometimes assail you--for the darkness which often enshrouds you--for the loneliness and solitude of the way by which He is leading you home to Himself.” - Octavius Winslow
“Treat cares as you treat sins. Hand them over to Jesus one by one as they occur. Commit them to Him. Roll them upon Him. Make them his. By an act of faith look to Him, saying, "This, Lord, and this, and this, I cannot bear. Thou hast taken my sins; take my cares: I lay them upon Thee, and trust Thee to do for me all, and more than all, I need. I will trust, and not be afraid…" - F.B. Meyer
“There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make show of Him and not to use Him. He loves to be worked. He is a great laborer. He always was for His Father, and now He loves to be a great laborer for His brethren. The more burdens you put on His shoulders, the better He will love you. Cast your burden on Him.” – Spurgeon
“I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.” – Dr. E Stanley Jones
“You are staggering beneath a weight which your Father would not feel. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance… O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in his providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever… There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you… He, if thou art one of his family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not his grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that he loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness… He has never refused to bear your burdens, he has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul! have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.” -Spurgeon
The Lord your God neither accepts nor rejects… because of the high or the low frame with which you approach Him. To suppose that He did—that the spiritual tone of your mind influenced His decision—were to make the turning point of His love to center in you rather than in Himself… God’s dealings with us from first to last, in the greatest and in the least… proceed upon the principle of His most free grace. And since He finds the motive of love and the bestowment of blessing solely within Himself, He, the unchangeable One, will not revoke the love, nor withdraw the gift, influenced by any fickleness or change He traces in you. Then, be your frame low, your heart dead, your faith weak—arise, and draw near to God… and the blessing, the richest God can bestow, or you desire, awaits your full acceptance. Little, obscure, despised, unworthy though you may be, or deem yourself to be, the Lord has an interest in you… Others may have ceased to care for you. Change has congealed the warm current of love, distance intercepts its flow, or death has stilled its pulse, and you feel as if there existed in this wide world no heart, no spirit, no mind that responded to, or that chimed and blended with your own. Yes; there is One!—Jesus cares for you. – Octavius Winslow
SOME RECOMMENDED SONGS
Selah – I look To You
Kari Jobe – I am Not Alone
Kari Jobe - Be Still My Soul
Laura Story –He Will Not Let Go
Laura Story - Perfect Peace
Needtobreathe – Lay ‘Em Down
Ginny Owens – If You Want Me To
Finding Favour – Cast My Cares
Alisa Turner – My Prayer For You