STANDING FIRM IN THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD IN TRIALS
1 PETER 5: 6-14
We can stand firm through trials because God is sovereign and has given all who are in Christ true grace.
The hope of every Christian is that when Christ returns in glory, suffering for our faith will come to an end: for some – every insult, every humiliation, every missed job opportunity or job promotion will come to an end; for others – every lost home, lost family member, lost limb or lost life will one day be vindicated and rewarded by Christ in his glory.
As we close Peter’s great epistle today we should be reminded that the Apostle has spent this entire letter with one overarching theme and that is to encourage believers who are suffering on this earth that their suffering does not mean God has abandoned them but that, in fact, God is keeping them and loving them through their suffering and that current affliction in this life promotes within us true godliness.
Throughout the letter Peter brings these ideas together. For God’s people, suffering always leads to glory and never means that God doesn’t love you, you’re not elect, you’re not saved etc. That’s God’s pattern that has been true for all of God’s people and it was true for Jesus and also for us.
Stand Firm in Humility Because God is Sovereign (6-7)
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
As Christians, we are called to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. Here humility is focused on God’s power and authority.
Jesus taught this same principle recorded in Luke 18:14 (ESV) when he said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
James 4:10 says nearly the same thing, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
But this verse adds the phrase “under the mighty hand of God.” This tells us HOW we are to humble ourselves. The mighty hand of God in Scripture is indicative of both the hand that disciplines God’s people and the hand that delivers or protects God’s people from harm or from slavery. So we are to accept the work of God’s mighty hand through suffering both to discipline and thus to strengthen us and at the same time to protect us – so that God may exalt us.
The phrase “at the proper time” tells us when God will exalt us. This is undoubtedly a reference to the second coming of Christ as we have seen before. That is when believers will receive their reward, their inheritance, their exaltation in Christ.
7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
As Peter wrote this verse his mind was captured by the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 55. We know this because as he quotes from Psalm 55:22 the context is precisely the same. Trust God in times of trouble because He cares for us.
Psalm 55:22–23 (ESV)
22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
23 But you, O God, will cast them down
into the pit of destruction;
men of blood and treachery
shall not live out half their days.
But I will trust in you.
Peter shows us that the way David dealt with his affliction is the way God desires all His people to approach times of struggle. Trusting God in times of trial is how we cast our cares on Him.
God is trustworthy so cast your cares on Him. Be humble, trusting God because He is in control of all things.
Jesus cast his cares on his Father in his darkest hours when he said in Gethsemane, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not my will, but your will be done.” And later on the cross, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” and later, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Are you a worrier? One commentator writes, “Worry constitutes pride since it denies the care of a sovereign God. The antidote to worry is believing in and resting in God’s care for believers (v. 7b).
2. Stand Firm and Be Sober-Minded Because the Devil Seeks to Destroy You
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
These commands are embedded in Peter’s rich personal history. On the night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Peter had gone with him into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. On that tragic night, with all the world hanging in the balance, Peter slept. His mind wasn’t ready for battle. His body wasn’t prepared to be watchful. And as a result, he was ill-equipped to resist temptation when it came to him.
In the words of Jesus’ tender rebuke, Peter first heard the commands he now passes along to us: “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:37, 38).
We are to be sober-minded. That is, we are to think about him not with the fuzzy mind of a drunkard, but clearly, correctly, truthfully. We are to see him as he really is.
We are to be watchful, that is, not like one who is half-asleep, but like one who is fully awake.
We are told two things about the devil: what to think about him and what to do about him. First, we are told:
What to think about the devil.
8 Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
The enemy is at work.
One commentator wrote, “The goal of the devil is to devour, a graphic depiction of his desire to annihilate the Christian and, collectively, the church by assimilating them back to the evil ways of the world.”
It’s in the midst of trials that our thinking can get twisted. We may be deceived by the devil into thinking wrongly about our current trial. If the Devil can lure us into going down another path in our mind then he can deceive us and devour us.
An example might be something like this…
During a trial we may begin to think that God doesn’t really love me or that maybe I’m not really a Christian. These thoughts are generated in times of trials because we have been led to believe that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. We believe in things like Karma. These are devices Satan will use to get us off track.
So let us be watchful and sober-minded so that we can see clearly and respond quickly to our opponent, who is seeking to tear us apart, to devour us up as a lion devours his prey, to completely destroy us.
Second, we are told
What to do about the devil.
9 Resist him, firm in your faith,
We are to resist him, as one does an opponent, positively by standing firm in our faith toward God, by holding onto what has been planted in our hearts. The devil’s purpose is to destroy our faith in God, to cause us to disbelieve, to give up the faith.
We should stand against him by holding onto faith in God.
Ephesians 6:13 (ESV) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
James 4:7 (ESV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Finally, Peter tells us further
HOW to resist the devil through knowing that other Christians are going through the same struggle
9b knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
It’s easier to resist when you know you are not alone, when others are standing together with you, watching your back and helping you to stand. You are not simply resisting, you have joined the resistance, so to speak.
3. Stand Firm Because Suffering Leads to Eternal Glory
10 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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Here Peter explains what true grace looks like. He tells us that true grace is seen when our current suffering is directly connected to eternal glory. His point is that trials always precede glory. It seems that Peter repeats this thesis one last time as if to say, If you forget all I said, don’t forget this…We will be eternally established, confirmed, restored, and strengthened but first we must suffer for a little while.
First, we are promised that
The time of our suffering is little now compared to the eternal glory then in Christ.
10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ,
We will suffer for a little while now, but glory then will be eternal. Short suffering now, eternal glory then.
Paul wrote something similar to the church in Rome, For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18 ESV)
The early apocryphal manuscript known as The Acts of Peter was the first to purport that the apostle’s death came by inverted crucifixion. By the close of the second century Tertullian held the same view, and, in agreement, Origen is recorded as saying, “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he had desired to suffer.” Later Saint Jerome set his own seal of approval on this view, and eventually Michelangelo painted it into stone in a chapel at the Vatican. Tradition is fixed — Peter was martyred by inverted crucifixion. If this is true, than we can say that Peter’s long hoped for exaltation — his entrance into eternal glory — came after one brief and final season of human humiliation. In the end, for the Apostle Peter, Heaven’s inheritance (1:4) was gained only after being crucified head downward upon the earth.
Knowing that our suffering is limited in time makes it easier to bear. If we know that it will come to an end we can put up with it for now.
Second we are promised that during our suffering
the same gracious God who called us, will enable us to persevere to the end.
10b the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
God promises to finish what he starts in believers as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Four marvelous verbs. We will be completely restored, confirmed, strengthened, and established.
And finally, he concludes the section with a Doxology,
a burst of praise to God which further assures us of God’s ability to keep us to the end.
11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
To have dominion forever and ever means to have sovereign power eternally.
The dominion of God will never be extinguished. It will never be snuffed out. Throughout the centuries Christians have understood their sufferings in light of what is being accomplished for his eternal dominion.
What is the foundation of this type of praise? Peter tells us that because God called us we are promised glorification with Jesus.
4. Stand Firm Because This is the True Grace of God
12 By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. 13 She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. 14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
In this final bit of encouragement, Peter shows that there are others who are fighting the good fight just like us. He mentions Silas whom he tells us served as his secretary. Silas wrote while Peter dictated this letter.
Peter tells us that what he has given us is the true grace of God, the firm foundation in which we can stand on.
We are told that Peter has exhorted and declared to us the meaning of “the true grace of God.” Indeed he has. “True grace” is that mysterious union that joins suffering to glory — this present day with being born again to a living hope.
Then, finally, Peter extends as God’s apostle the blessing of peace to all Christians of every age. This blessing of peace comes from God through His apostle to each and every believer. This is the peace that passes all understanding. This is the peace that we have from God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the peace that doesn’t leave when times get difficult. This is true peace based on true promises coming from our faithful Father to all who are in Christ.
Our Heavenly Father, thank you for this picture of true grace. Give us the grace to finish well. In our trials, grant us patience. In our suffering, grant us your joy. May we know what it is to share Christ’s suffering. To God be the glory, Amen.