February 24, 2019
1 Peter 5 – Perseverance
I trust everyone has had a good winter break-maybe you went somewhere or did something fun as a family this week. Our youth group students are away on their winter reatreat-coming back this afternoon. But all of our students have had a week off school-which is great. Time to hang out at home, sleep in, relax. But I want to start off this morning by thinking about school. It will be here tomorrow-but what was your favorite part about school? Quite honestly as a student I loved school. Granted the homework wasn’t great-but you got to spend all day hanging out with your friends. I’m not sure what there wasn’t to love about that! But usually the most common answer for someone’s favorite part of school wasn’t math or English-it was usually lunch or recess. I wish they would give out recess at work. Like wouldn’t that be great-a bunch of adults running out of the office to go to the playground for 20 minutes to climb on the monkey bars or play kickball! But that’s what I want you to think about. Turn to the person next to you and answer the question-what did you like to do at recess? Maybe you played soccer or kicked a ball around, maybe you jumped rope or played tag, maybe you liked walking around and talking with your friends, maybe you liked swinging on the swings or hanging from the monkey bars. I can still picture the playground from my elementary school growing up and it seemed huge to me-even the whole swings, monkey bars seemed huge to me. I would love to go back and look at it because I’m not sure it really was all that big-but as a 2nd grader the playground at my school seemed huge.
But the reason I bring this up is because is very tempting to picture life as a playground-pic. That in our day and age of technological advances life is fairly comfortable. We don’t really have to worry much about food and shelter or fending ourselves off from the attacks of wild animals. The daily necessities of life are basically met, modern medicine helps us live far longer than we used to, and we spend our days going from the comfort of our homes to the comfort of our cars to the comfort of our offices at work. Everything is convenient in this world; all our needs are catered to, communication is instant and there are all sorts of things to entertain us right at our fingertips with just the click of a mouse or opening an app-and there’s literally an app for everything! So we’re lulled into this false thinking that the world is a playground. That other than a few bumps along the road everything is easy and smooth sailing so we buy into the idea that our primary reason for being here on this earth is to have fun and be entertained-that comfort and happiness are the ultimate goals. But if we could actually peel back the physical layer of this world and see into the spiritual realm of what’s really happening, we’d quickly realize that we’re not living in a playground that seeks to cater to all our needs. In fact, the very idea that earth is just a playground for our entertainment is part of the lie the devil hopes we fall for-because the reality is that we’re living in a battleground-pic. There’s a war going on out there for our souls. That no matter how innovative technology becomes, no matter how advanced our culture gets, or the progress we achieve in society, we are living in the place where good and evil, right and wrong are in a constant battle with one another. And it’s always been that way. This morning we are taking our mid-winter break from the book of Colossians. We’ll pick it back up next week-but I want to pause in the series in order to dig a little deeper into the topic we talked about last Sunday. If you were here we asked the reflective question-does your walk match your talk. Is who we are as believers on the inside being vividly displayed to people on the outside? That’s the constant battle we face; that’s where the war is being fought on a daily basis within our hearts. Paul’s words capture this reality really well in Rom 7:15. Who hasn’t felt like that? Who hasn’t wrestled with doing the wrong thing and the whole time you’re doing it you know it’s wrong and wish you could stop but you don’t. Look at how Paul goes on-Rom 7:21. Talk about a battleground! Wouldn’t it be great that when we want to do right it just naturally happens without any obstacles or hindrances? That doing the right thing is what we always do-and we’d have to go out of way to do the wrong thing? But unfortunately that’s not the case-whenever we want to do what is right, evil lies close at hand. Not in the general area or vicinity-but close.
And it’s been that way from the beginning. I’m sure you remember what happened to Adam and Eve-Gen 3:1. Nowhere in the verse does it say that they asked the serpent to come over. Adam and Eve were just minding their own business, presumably thinking about how to honor and obey God-because that’s the conversation point the serpent jumps in at. Hey, don’t mean to interrupt-but I couldn’t help but overhear that you were talking about God’s commands-did He actually say not to eat of any of these delicious trees? But that’s what the serpent’s doing. Paul’s point about evil lying close at hand couldn’t be any clearer-there it is close at hand when Adam and Eve are trying to do what’s right and have their walk match their talk. Evil was wanting to trip them up. So this was the first battle in battleground earth. Mankind had to choose whether to trust God or trust this slippery-tongued serpent who’s always trying to make us second-guess what God’s said. And I don’t think his tactics have changed all that much because this is still the fight you and I face most days-wondering if we should second-guess God. Well I know God says not to act this way, but a little bit is no big deal, right? Doing this thing isn’t that bad, is it? Lots of other people do. It’s how I feel-why shouldn’t I? Or just a chapter later in Genesis, listen to what God says to Cain-Gen 4:7 NIV. God is saying that sin is right there, close at hand, crouching at your door. Sin is a beast who’s appetite is never full. So every day we have to fight the fact that it wants to take any opportunity we give it in order to snatch us in it’s claws and not let go. This is such vivid imagery of crouching at the door-like it’s trying to sneak up on us. Apparently I’ve been sneaking up on Monica too much lately. It seems like almost every time I stop by the Step By Step preschool room to say hi when she’s cleaning up after school I startle her and she says I had no idea you were there. And maybe you’ve startled someone lately-but I didn’t intentionally sneak around the corner and jump out-although now I want to since it’s been happening so much! But that’s how you catch people off-guard, you quietly sneak up and then jump out when they’re not expecting you-and that’s what sin is doing. It’s just waiting for us to walk by so it can spring up and say-Hey, here I am and you want what I’m offering. And we’ve got to decide what to do. Like Cain, will we give in and say-Yeah, I do want that-that behavior, that attitude, that desire is exactly what I want right now. Or will we do what the text says and rule over it by saying-No, I realize that isn’t good for me so I want no part of it, this doesn’t have to control me, I’m walking away. Sin will be constantly crouching by our doors, evil will always lie close at hand, so the Lord doesn’t want us to be caught off-guard and surprised or startled-but instead fully aware. He’s the one warning Cain here in Genesis-sin is ready to pounce!
It’s the same in the NT when Jesus warned Peter of sin’s impending attack on him-Lk 22:31. And that doesn’t sound great-to be sifted like wheat. Jesus is basically telling Peter that Satan wants to run him through the ringer; to shred him like a block of cheese. And what was Peter’s response? Help me, Lord. Give me strength! No-take a look-Lk 22:33. I got this Lord, you can count on me! And I don’t know about you-but I hear myself in Peter words-how my overconfidence is my own undoing. I might think that I’m beyond a certain sin or that a certain attitude won’t creep into my heart, that I’m really spiritual and quite capable of handling myself-and yet what happens? I end up doing the very thing I said I wouldn’t do. You see, Peter is at this moment thinking life is like a playground. Lord, I’ll be fine-that temptation won’t be a big deal-it’s easy, trust me, I’ll stand strong for you and not give in. And what a surprise for Peter when in the same chapter his playground suddenly transformed into a vicious battleground where he denied Jesus three times. Look at the account-Lk 22:56-61a; 62. Talk about a crash and burn! Overconfidence and willing to die for Jesus turned into fear and flat-out denial! But here’s what I love about Jesus’ words to Peter. Not only does He warn him but then look at what He says-Lk 22:31-32-and even though momentarily Peter’s faith stumbled and fell, it didn’t ultimately fail, because Peter does exactly what Jesus says here. Peter goes on to strengthen the brothers, to encourage the brothers, meaning all the brothers and sisters in Christ, with his words in 1 Peter 5.
Turn there in your Bibles and look at what it says. This will be our main passage this morning-1 Pet 5:8a. If you have the NIV it says to be self-controlled and alert-why? Because this world is not a playground. Peter will be the first to tell you that you’ve got to keep your head in the game, you’ve got to be ready, you’ve got to stay alert and have your spiritual armor in place because this world is a battleground. Too many Christians just blow that idea off-but look at what it says-1 Pet 5:8. And before we look at the rest of the passage, I just want to stop there and ask if that someone is you. Is there an area in your life, an attitude or an action or a sinful relationship or a secret behavior that the devil is getting you to indulge in? Is there a spot where he’s got a foothold in your life and he’s just devouring you? And maybe you’ve been acting like Peter from Luke’s gospel-Hey, I’ll be fine; I got this-and all the while you’re not. Examine your heart, look at your life and honestly evaluate it-1 Pet 5:8-9. I think Peter would tell us that Christianity is no cake-walk. That this isn’t for the faint of heart or those who act overconfidently. It’s a battlefield out there-and we’re all in it together-the brotherhood throughout the world-meaning that no believers are excluded, as brothers and sister in Christ we’re in this together. The devil never stops trying to devour us as believers.
So normally I eat a banana for breakfast most mornings-but today I had an apple. And I finished up eating it and this is what I have left-the core. Does anybody eat the core? I used to know a couple of people that did. They devoured the entire apple-core and all. I guess all they left was the stem. But for most of us nobody wants to eat the core. What good is a devoured apple? You can’t share this or give it to somebody else. A devoured apple is pretty useless. And that’s the devil’s goal for believers. He wants to render you useless and weak, to shatter your confidence in Christ and get you to depend on yourself -where he knows you’ll fail. He wants to make you feel defeated, discouraged and a slave to sin where victory seems impossible. And if that’s you then the devil’s got you right where he wants you-a devoured apple core! But here’s the great thing about this passage, Peter wants us to learn from his own struggles, from his failure of denying Jesus-and he’s saying that failure doesn’t have to be the end-1 Pet 5:10-11.
As you hear those words, do you believe them for the struggles and the spiritual battles you’re facing right now? Do you believe that God can take the scattered fragments and failures of your life-all the broken pieces-and put them back together? These four words-restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish-highlight His goal for your life. If you have the NIV it says-God will make you strong and steadfast. Talk about a mighty work! God isn’t there to just point His finger at you when you stumble or shake His head in disgust, He isn’t there to highlight all your failures or say-That’s it, this time you really blew it. If He was, Peter would have known it firsthand when he failed big time by denying Jesus. This would have been the place for Peter to say to us-Listen, don’t make too many mistakes or mess up too badly because if you do God will give up on you and make your life miserable. But that wasn’t the case at all, because after Peter’s failure, the Lord came and restored him. For every time Peter denied Jesus, He confirmed Peter by saying, “Do you love me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, I do love you.” Jesus Himself set Peter back on his feet. He established him and strengthened him. So Peter is writing these words from his own very personal experience saying-I blew it big time-at the very hour of Jesus’ greatest need-the night before He went to the cross to save me I denied Him, but amazingly and graciously He forgave me. He Himself restored me-not someone else-but Jesus Himself-and He’ll do the same for you. Did you see how Peter said that-v. 10. If you’ve been suffering or struggling for a long time, now is the time to let the Lord Himself restore you.
What a comforting truth that is because let’s be honest, you and I mess up a lot. Maybe you haven’t been struggling for a long time, because you only have to think back to how you’ve stumbled and fallen in the last few days. That your struggles and failures are all too recent and fresh. But Peter’s words remind me of that age old truth that says-Our sin is big. Don’t you feel like that? Sometimes it’s easy to look at other people and think they’re pretty good, they’ve got it together, they don’t have any struggles, their sin is small. But the reality is what we display to others is only a small part, really the best part we let others see, compared to what’s going on in the inside. Eric and I were talking about the illustration of icebergs a few days ago. It’s only the small part that’s visible above water, but there’s all the rest of it underneath. Our hearts are the same way-there’s a small visible part we let others see, we try to look as good and spiritual as we can, but there’s all the rest that lies below the surface-and we all know what’s in there-the attitudes and selfishness and bitterness. Just like the lower part of the iceberg is big-so our sin is big. And yet there’s Someone far bigger. How did Peter describe God in v. 10-if you like to mark in your Bibles underline that phrase-the God of all grace. Not some grace or partial grace or a bit of grace so use it sparingly-but all grace.
So yes, our sin is big-yours and mine-but God’s grace is so much bigger. And that’s the part we have to remember. Since God’s grace is so big forgiveness and restoration are possible and our mistakes aren’t the end of the story. Now life isn’t always like that-sometimes when you mess up big time that’s it. Maybe you get fired from your job, maybe a close relationship is ruined, maybe trust is broken, or irreparable damage is made and your mistakes are the end of the story-or the end of a certain chapter in your life. But the good news of the gospel says that isn’t the case with God. Because of His grace in Christ, forgiveness wins out. God removes your sin and restores you-and looking at the text, Peter tells us why-v. 10. That’s the other phrase to underline-His eternal glory in Christ. If you’re a follower of Christ, that’s God’s goal for you.
When was the last time you thought of that as your destiny? Eternal glory in Christ! To be a part of something so incredible, so never ending, a glory that never fades? Even though right now in life you feel attacked by the devil and all the different ways he tries to devour you, you can’t forget that God is preparing you to be someone fit to dwell in the neverending glory of His Son-Phil 3:20-21. That’s the product He’s after-the work He’s doing. Your citizenship, your passport, is a heavenly one, your destiny is being transformed to be like Christ-which means God isn’t merely interested in your life for the short-term, He’s in it for the long-term. While you and I get all wrapped up in the here and now and the daily issues we face, God has eternity in mind. He sees the whole panorama of your life and doesn’t judge you based on your failures or falls in any given moment. God isn’t just interested in who you are today, He’s interested in who you are becoming; who He’s shaping you to be-Phil 1:6. Or look at how Peter says it in chapter 1-1 Pet 1:6-9 NIV. God is after a glorious transformation in your life-but it takes time. There’s going to be those trials and struggles-God never said following Him would be smooth sailing. There will be ups and downs, there will be moments of defeat, mistakes you’ll make, stumbles you’ll take; things you wished you hadn’t done. Obviously Peter would have never wished that he’d denied the Lord-it was probably one of the biggest regrets of his life. But as the Lord restored and strengthened him, He will restore and strengthen you. So Peter is saying to us-Don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel or quit after you fail. Don’t let discouragement take over or feel that you’re a lost cause because you’ve messed up too much. God is in the business of restoration and He will make much of your life as you offer it up to Him and continue on in the faith.
So Peter’s challenge here in chapter 5 is one of perseverance. If life is like a battleground instead of a playground, then perseverance is of utmost importance. So there’s 3 takeaways this morning-3 applications to reflect on. Pt1:Perseverance says that current opportunities to obey God have eternal ramifications. What I mean is that in the moment of temptation, when you’d rather just give up the fight and take the easy road of sin, you need to remind yourself of what’s at stake. That this sin-whether an attitude or an action-is no light-hearted thing, that this sin isn’t something you can just dabble in, or brush off and say it’s no big deal, that no one will notice anyway. Instead you have to realize that it’s your opportunity, right now in this momentary life, to say no to that sin, and obey God-which is exactly what your eternal destiny is all about. You persevere because you realize who you are becoming. I love how Peter says this back in 1:13-15. It’s like Olympic athletes. They abstain from eating junk food and packing on extra pounds because they know it works completely against the very thing they’re trying to achieve by staying fit-which is becoming a world-class champion in their sport. Diving into a Big Mac and large fries doesn’t help their cause in reaching a medal, in fact it hurts it because it’s just extra calories they’ll have to eventually burn off if they want to stay on top and win. As a dedicated athlete their long-term goal of Olympic gold dictates their short-term choices for eating and exercising. And it’s no different for you and me. Our long-term goal of sharing in the eternal glory of Christ ought to dictate our short-term choices for obedience. Perseverance says you stay at it, using the current opportunities of the battle-the temptations and struggles that you’ll face later today or tonight or tomorrow-that in those battles you won’t give in but instead follow the road of your destiny by obeying God and choosing His path. Perseverance means saying to yourself in that moment of temptation-This isn’t who I am, this isn’t who I’m going to be. And you turn away-because you realize who you are-a child of the King.
But secondly, Pt2:Perseverance says to keep getting back up even after we fall. Because we do fall-and we will fall. I love how CS Lewis describes this-Business of Heaven, 1. The mere fact of the struggle in your life tells you that God is working. There’s a battle going on-because you’re not your old self anymore but someone new. Yet I want to honestly ask this morning if you’re sometimes tempted to give it up. Or maybe you feel like you already have. You’ve given in to discouragement and despair and thrown in the towel, thinking there’s no way you’ve ever get beyond that particular struggle or sin issue. Or maybe you’ve resigned yourself to bitterness and negativity because you think reconciliation with somebody is impossible. If that’s you-let me just say that you’re letting the devil devour you. If you’re laying there as a defeated victim and consumed with a bad attitude than he’s already won, his job is over, you’re right where he wants you. So let me challenge you to stand back up in faith and trust God to help you heal and find victory. Back to v. 10-with He Himself strengthening you, you can say no to sin, you can forgive, you can reconcile with someone, you can take that step of faith and see God work. Giving in to defeat and despair is never the answer.
And here’s why-Pt3:Perseverance says that the fight is worth it. Listen to Paul’s perspective in 2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV. Paul wasn’t perfect-far from it. We started off this morning reading about his struggles in Romans 7 and how he constantly battled sin. It wasn’t easy-but Paul never gave up precisely because he knew the battle was worth it. He knew what was at stake, he knew that the struggles and the sufferings here impacted the glory there, just like an Olympian knows that all the hours of painful training are worth it the moment he stands on the podium and receives that medal. And it’s exactly the same for you and me-and all who long for Christ’s appearing. The moment you step into eternity and see Christ face to face and receive that crown of righteousness, you’ll realize that all you went through, all the battles, all the struggles were worth it. You’ll realize that the eternal glory and joy of Christ there is worth the momentary perseverance here. Because we’re not after a gold medal that someone else wins 4 years later-we’re after the eternal glory in Christ. And no one showed more perseverance than Christ. If anybody should have given up and run away it would have been Him. If anybody should have been bitter it should have been Him. Jesus was the innocent, sinless, totally loving Son of God and yet He was misunderstood, He was slandered and arrested. His body was broken, His blood was spilled, He endured the pain of the Cross, never once running away, because He knew it was totally worth it-because without the Cross you and I have no salvation, no forgiveness, no eternal life or hope at all. But He persevered and endured the battle because of His love and obedience to the Father. And that means you and I can too. Look at how Hebrews says it-Heb 12:2-3 NIV. Life isn’t a playground, it’s not recess, it’s a battleground-so let us fix our eyes on Jesus and persevere in the strength He gives us, not losing heart.