Reaching the End of Suffering (1 Peter 5:6-11)


Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | February 26, 2012


Text:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for 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. 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. (1 Peter 5:6-11)

Notes:

This is the final sermon in the 1 Peter series. Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.

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 snub, every sneer, 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.

If you are suffering for your faith, or if you ever do suffer for your faith, you are or will likely ask such questions as, “How can I endure this suffering? How will I make it to the end? When will it end? How can I keep from giving up on God because of the pain and loss I am experiencing? How can I keep from giving up my faith just so the pain will end?

In this final section before his last personal greetings, Peter summarizes his message by returning to his initial theme in 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV) In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faithmay result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed

Peter tells us three ways God enables us to reach the end of our suffering, to endure to the end:

  • By accepting God’s purposes
  • By resisting Satan’s ploys
  • By trusting God’s promises

When we suffer, the natural reaction is to ask, “Why did this happen to me? or What did I do to deserve this? Or to become angry with God or the people who are attacking us.

This passage tells us, rather than resorting to our natural reactions, we should begin by

By accepting God’s purposes (in suffering)

A few weeks ago we listed ten purposes that we had covered so far, and added another four or five to it. Here we find yet another purpose of God in our suffering to add to the list, or at least another side of a previous purpose.

God’s purpose in suffering according to this passage is to exalt us, but it must be done in his way and in his time. Verse 6 says,

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

But purpose is exaltation, but God’s pathway to exaltation is through humiliation, through humbling ourselves before him.

Jesus taught this same principle recorded in Luk 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.

As 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) says, No temptation (that is, no suffering or persecution) has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 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.

Just as Jesus came into the world “in the fullness of time” or when the time was right in God’s plan, so he will come again “at the proper time” so that we might be exalted with Christ according to God’s purpose.

This the first reference to time. We will see another in a few moments. J.S. Bach wrote a cantata in his day entitled, “God’s Time is the Best Time.” And so it is.

What does humbling ourselves before God mean? It means to accept difficult times as coming from God, in obedience to him. That is what Jesus did as we see in Philippians 2:8-9 (ESV) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…

Because he humbled himself to suffer the shame and pain of death as a despised criminal on a cross, God has exalted his above every name, and on the appointed day every knee shall bow to him as Lord. And God’s promise for those who believe in Christ is that as we accept suffering from God’s mighty hand, we too will share in Christ’s exaltation on that day.

But how can we accept such suffering? How did Jesus accept such suffering? Verse 7 tells us,

7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

 “Casting” modifies “humble yourselves.” It tells us HOW we are to humble ourselves – by casting our cares or anxieties on the one who cares for us.

This is what the psalmist tells us in Psalm 55:22 (ESV) Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

This is what Jesus tell us in Matthew 6:25-32 (ESV) “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Paul wrote to the Phillipians, “Be anxious for nothing but in all things by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

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.”

Since God cares for us, we can cast our cares on him. That is how we can accept the suffering God brings to accomplish his purpose of exalting us.

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).

To reach the end of suffering, we must begin by accepting God’s purpose to exalt us with Christ in due time by humbling us through suffering for Christ in this life.

Second, to reach the end of suffering, we must continue by

 Resisting Satan’s Ploys

A ploy is a tactic or maneuver, especially calculated to deceive or frustrate an opponent. Satan is represented here as our opponent, our adversary.

The devil is found only here in 1 Peter. He is the unseen, yet very real evil force behind the human forces that persecute you for your faith.

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 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

As before, 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.

And as before, we are to be watchful, that is, not like one who is half-asleep, but like one who is fully awake.

So that we can see clearly and respond quickly to our opponent, who is seeking to tear us apart, to gobble us up as a lion gobbles his prey, to completely destroy us.

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.” Karen H. Jobes. 1 Peter (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 314). Kindle Edition.

Second, we are told

  • What to do about the devil.

 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

 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, to become apostate.

But 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.

A few questions arise here.

 First,

  • Who Causes the Suffering?  (from John Piper’s sermon on this passage)

Earlier we said that the suffering of the Christians is the judgment of God? I Peter 4.16-17 said,  If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God. So the suffering of Christians is God’s purifying judgment.

But now we are saying that suffering is Satan’s attack. Is it the judgment of God or the devil’s attack? It’s both. It was both in the life of Job (cf. Job 1:12212:710), and it was both in the life of Paul. Paul says his “thorn in the flesh” was given to him to keep him humble (by implication, from God). But he calls it a “messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7). 

Since God is sovereign over all things, including Satan, when Christians suffer, though the devil’s design is to destroy us; God’s design—in the same suffering—is something constructive – to purify us and prepare us for glory.

 Second,

  • Can a true Christian be devoured or completely destroyed by the devil? John Piper says it this way.

“No they can’t, because true born again Christians resist the devil firm in their faith. That’s the meaning of being true born again Christians; they have the Holy Spirit inside moving them to fight the fight of faith.

If God says—which he does say in 1 Peter 1:5—that he will keep us eternally secure by his power through faith, then it is foolish and presumptuous to say, I am eternally secure without a life of faith. The promise stands sure in many wonderful passages of Scripture (Philippians 1:61 Corinthians 1:81 Thessalonians 5:23–24Hebrews 13:20f.,Romans 8:30): God will bring us safely through the jungle of this world and keep us from being devoured by the devil; and he will do it by his power through faith. Therefore the person who says, I believe I am eternally secure, and so I don’t need to resist the devil firm in my faith is contradicting God and throwing away the warrant of his assurance. Those who are called by God do not do that. They fight to the end. And that is their badge of being born of God.”

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.

So to reach the end of your suffering –  to persevere to the end through trials – you should begin by accepting God’s purpose, and you should continue by resisting the devil’s ploys, and

Third, you should finish by

Trusting God’s Promises

Most passages like this are wishes or prayers for the believers. This is neither. It is filled with the promises of God – what he will do to enable you to finish the course, to reach the end of suffering.

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)

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.

This is a restatement of what he read earlier in chapter 1

“To those who are elect… 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…3According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

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.

He does this through his sovereign power in four ways that are essentially synonymous.

First, he promises

  • to restore us or repair what is damaged so that we can continue along the road through suffering to glory.  Heb 13:21 that he may equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight

Second, he promises

  • to confirm us

Confirm means with strength or to add strength, Luk 22:32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 

Third, he promises

  • to strengthen us

Isa 41:10 (ESV) fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Fourth, he promises

  • to establish us

2Th 3:3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.

This is similar to Romans 8:30 (ESV) And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 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. Nothing and no one is greater than the sovereign.

Where is our assurance found?

It is in the gracious God who called us into his kingdom and by his sovereign power is able to keep us through fiery trials to the end. Jude, the last book of the bible before Revelation concludes this way (1:24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,  to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.


Click here for the series of twenty-three sermons on the entire book of 1 Peter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s