1 Peter 5:6-11
Please turn your attention to our second reading for today, 1 Peter 5:6-11. In these verses, God, through Peter, encourages us to be alert because there are many things in this life that threaten our spiritual well-being, but he also encourages us to trust that he is always present to strengthen and support us.
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What worries you? What makes you anxious? Most people have a fairly long list. People are anxious about the weather, especially when there are storm warnings. People are anxious about job security; about their health; about the climate; about world politics and how they affect prices, or if there might be a war on the horizon. People are anxious about taking tests. They are anxious about what the future might hold for their children and grandchildren. Some people are anxious about having something to eat, or how they will pay their rent or their mortgage. But there is something I’m guessing very few would have on their list that should probably be at the top of the list of things that make us anxious- The Devil.
Peter says that the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion. He’s hungry and we are his prey. But think about how many people aren’t at all worried about Satan because they don’t think he exists, that he’s a figment of people’s imagination. Think about how often you are more worried about some insignificant thing than you are about the fact that Satan is ready to pounce and devour you any chance he gets. In fact, he is hoping that all the little things that worry you will serve as a distraction so that he can catch you unawares. Think of all the people who seem to think that they can treat the lion, Satan, like a pet; they can keep him around the house, play around with temptation, and think they will never get bit.
I’m sure you have seen a TV program that shows lions hunting their prey. They look for an animal that is distracted, focused on eating, or drinking, or playing. They sneak up on the unsuspecting animal, especially one that is alone, separated from the protection of the flock, or one that might be injured. And when the lion gets close enough, it pounces.
Peter says, don’t be like that lion’s lunch. Make sure that the cares and pleasures of this world don’t distract you. Have sound judgment. You might remember that the KJV translates Be sober. Always have your wits about you. Don’t dull your mind with drugs or alcohol. Be alert at all times. Realize that you are being hunted by someone who is more powerful than you are and who is the master of lies and deception.
Compared to anything else that might make you anxious, the fact that the devil is hunting you ought to be at the top of the list. But one of his greatest, most successful deceptions is getting us to worry about everything else but him.
Peter says, Have sound judgment. Be alert. Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. This is serious business. It affects where you will spend eternity.
Thankfully, we are not on our own in our struggle to stay alert so that we are not devoured by Satan. Like all the other things that make us anxious, Peter reminds us to cast them, to give them to the Lord. He reminds us to humble ourselves under his powerful hand. In other words, don’t think that you can stay alert and fight off the attacks of Satan by your own power. Pride goes before the fall. When Jesus told Peter that Satan was working to sift the Apostles like wheat, Peter bragged that the others might give in to Satan’s temptations, but he never would. We all know what happened. We have all seen what happens to the animal that is on their own, he’s the one that becomes lunch for the lion. The first step in remaining alert against the devil is admitting that you can’t stay alert on your own, you can’t fight him off on your own. You need help. You need God’s help, and the help of your fellow Christians. Cast your anxiety on the Lord. Ask for his help knowing that he will help you because he cares for you.
How do you know that the Lord cares for you? Because, the God of all grace, has called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus. He is the God of all grace. Everything he does for us is grace. Anything and everything he does for us is undeserved. He doesn’t owe us anything except punishment. There is no reason he should invite us to cast our anxiety on him. He should say, “handle it yourself.” When we wander away from his flock and make ourselves an easy target for the roaring lion, he should just let us go, after all, he has so many others to care for who have not wandered away. Why should he leave them exposed to come looking for us? But he is the God of all grace. He cares for us, each of us individually. His love won’t let him ignore us, or tell us that we are on our own. In love he calls out to us, warning us about the danger of trusting in ourselves. In love, he leaves the 99 and looks until he finds his one lost sheep. He calls us to trust that, no matter what happens to us on this earth, he has a place ready and waiting for us in eternal glory purchased for us by Jesus.
Pride not only shows itself in bragging, like Peter, that we can resist Satan and his temptations by our own power. Pride also shows itself when we get a “poor me” attitude and think that we have it worse than anyone else; when we think that God should be doing more for us because we don’t deserve to have as many troubles and temptations in our lives as we do. It’s prideful to think that you deserve anything from God other than his just punishment.
God makes it clear that in this world, this world that is cursed by sin and is filled with people who are born with a sinful nature- in this world we will have trouble. There is going to be suffering. There is going to be trouble, some brought on by our foolish, sinful choices; some because of the sins of others. Satan is going to be stalking you 24/7/365. But, know that the same kinds of sufferings are being laid on your brotherhood all over the world. Whatever it is, it’s not something unique to you. Suffering and temptation are things that are common to all sinful humans. But don’t despair. There is hope.
Peter says, stand firm in the faith. It’s important to remember that when Scripture talks about faith, especially THE FAITH, it’s not talking about having a confident feeling. True faith always has an object, a foundation, something real and firm on which it is based. That real and firm foundation for true faith is the promise of God.
Peter reminds us what the promise of God is. God will allow you to be humbled. But at the proper time, when in his perfect wisdom he knows the time is just right for you, he will lift you up. He will allow you to suffer. Troubles and temptations are a part of being a sinful person living in a sinful world. But, he himself will restore you. He will literally make you adequate. That’s what he has already done for us in the best way possible. In Jesus he gives us everything we need to be received by him into eternal life. In Jesus he has removed the guilt of our sins and he has covered us with righteousness.
As we humble ourselves before him, admitting that we cannot resist Satan’s temptations, nor do we have the strength to endure the trouble and suffering that comes with living in this sinful world on our own, he keeps his promise to establish, strengthen, and support us. Through the word and Sacrament he gives us the support, the firm foundation, we need. For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. Our faith is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. It is only in Jesus that we have the sure hope of eternal glory, of something other than and better than life in this sinful world filled with suffering and temptation.
As we continue to read and study God’s word daily, and receive the sacrament for the forgiveness of our sins, God promises that the Holy Spirit is at work to establish and strengthen us in our faith so that we can recognize Satan’s lies, be alert and watchful at all times, and resist him, calling on the name of the Lord. Then Satan will have to flee from us, for in Christ, he has already been defeated.
Peter concludes, To God be the glory and the power. You see, he not only wants to carry our troubles and keep his promise to restore, establish, strengthen and support us, he as the power to do it. All power in heaven and earth is his. There isn’t anything he can’t do. To God be the glory. When you see what he does for you; how he forgives your sins, how he strengthens your faith through the word, how he lifts you up when you are humbled, how he protects you from the attacks of Satan and defends you against his accusations; make sure you give him all the glory because without him you would be devoured.
Be alert. Realize that the Devil is always looking for an opportunity to attack. Realize that, in this world you will have trouble and suffering. Humble yourself before the Lord. Don’t try to endure suffering and temptation on your own. Don’t try to stay alert and resist the Devil by your own power. Cast all your anxiety on the Lord. Trust his promise to lift you up, to restore, establish, strengthen and support you. Rejoice that, as the God of all grace, he has called you to eternal glory in Jesus. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. AMEN