The Caring God
April 18, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
First Peter 5:6-11
Resist The Devil!
1. "Be careful what you do and wake up!," (verse six). In Peter's epistle, which was read today in the second reading, the text said, "Be careful what you do and wake up!" "Be careful what you do" is a phrase with the meaning of "we are to be sober, we are to be calm." The opposite meaning to that is being wild, it is intoxication. You mustn't be that way. Be sober! The reason for it is written. "Like a roaring lion, t he devil, who is your enemy, is searching around to devour someone," (verse eight). That is the reason.
2. As per the common outlook today, this may sound a bit odd. For example, what would other people think if you went around telling somebody, "The devil is walking around like a lion?" They would probably look at you as some fanatic who has departed a bit from reality. You would definitely not look like a person who looks at things very calmly and rationally.
3. But, we need what Peter is speaking about here in order to be calm and sober. Why? It is because there are times that we get swallowed up in fights one person against another and get tossed about by hatred and anger. Or else, it is because there are times that we get swallowed up by suffering, we get under the control of grief and sadness, we can't see or hear what's important, and we fall into a condition where we cannot think appropriately.
4. The readers of this epistle were folks in the middle of persecution. They were being made to suffer by other people. When placed into such a situation, your attention is sure to end up on the person giving you the undeserved pain, the person insulting you and labeling you. Or else, your attention is sure to end up on the difficulties and hardships you are facing. However, it is precisely because of those reasons that we must make sure [we know] who our true enemy really is. The true enemy is not a human being. It is not the hardship itself against which we do battle and must conquer and resolve. Much rather, [we] call the true enemy "the devil." In order not to get swallowed up in the swamp of the battle with human opponents, in order not to get swallowed up by suffering itself, in order to watch what one is doing, a person must hear this message of "Like a roaring lion, the devil, who is your enemy, is searching around to devour someone," as pertinent for oneself.
5. If [I'm] fighting a human opponent, it is important that I'd be stronger than my opponent. But, if [I] were aware that the devil was the enemy, then [my] style of fighting would naturally be different. What does Peter say? Peter gives the exhortation, "Stand your ground by faith and resist the devil!," (verse nine). That's right. If it is a fight with the devil as the opponent, then the most important thing to do above all is that [we] "stand our ground by faith."
Standing Our Ground By Faith
6. In connection with the statement, "Stand your ground by faith and resist the devil!," and since something important was already stated before this, let's take a look at that. It was in the passage from today's reading, verse six. I will read it again. "Therefore, humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. When you do, then, he will have you lifted up at that time. Turn each and every worry over to God because God cares for each of you!,"(verses six and seven).
7. Just before that the text said, "Let each one of you clothe himself or herself with humility!" Today's passage is the next part after that. But, if he is merely exhorting us with humility as a virtue, then there would be no need for the words, "Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God. When you do, then, he will have you lifted up at that time. Turn each and every worry over to God!" Obviously this was written because the readers were in pain. It was written precisely because at that time [of pain] they were in a battle with the devil.
8. When they were in pain, when they were being hurt by someone, the first thing they had to consider was "Am I humbling myself before God?" -- Because there are times when we take on terribly insolent attitudes towards God without even realizing it. And because there are times when we forget to fear God. In fact there are even times we think that our being insolent towards God is permitted just because we're suffering. In the first place, have we learned humility before God, even before learning humility with each other? We must ask such a question. By every means possible, while in that place, we must come back to that place which is worth coming back to. The reason is that if we never prostrate ourselves under the mighty hand of God, we should not expect to be able to entrust God with our worries, as it is so written in the next part of the text.
9. You mustn't despise the mighty hand of God. We ourselves must lower ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We must learn and put on humility with respect to God. By doing that, we will come to know that the one with the mighty hands is also the God who cares for us.
10. The Bible declares, "For, God cares for you." It does not say, "Some day soon he will surely care for you." It does not say, "Sometimes he cares." It says, "He always cares for you." When we're so overly proud of ourselves and we forget God, God still cares for us. Even during those times when we turn our backs on him and we live depending on our own strength, God has cared for us. God is the heavenly father who always and all the time cares for us. However, as long as we have an arrogant and insolent attitude, we cannot see that truth. It is at the moments when we lower ourselves under [his] mighty hand that we can turn our worries over to the one who has cared for us right to this very moment.
11. "Holding our ground by faith" means something like this. It is not about something out there making me a strong person. Nor is it about having unshakable convictions. It is about humbling oneself. [We] lower [ourselves] under the mighty hand of God. And we are to keep our eyes on the one who cares for us. This is the very thing that becomes [our] resistance against the devil.
Turning [Our] Eyes On [Our] Brothers Practicing The Same Faith
12. In addition, Peter not only says, "Hold [your] ground by faith!," but as if he is supporting them with a prop while they try to hold their ground by faith, he adds on some valuable words that they mustn't forget. "Your brothers, who are practicing the same faith as you, are facing the same suffering in this world. That's how it is, which you know too," (verse nine).
13. Using suffering the devil is [always] trying to get us to doubt the love of God. "It's a downright lie that God cares for you. He cares about that guy. He cares about that other guy, too. But, God does not give a flying flip about you! The fact is you're suffering, right!? You've been abandoned by God, buddy boy!" We hear the voice of the devil going on like that. But, at those times when we are in the midst of suffering we must know that we are not alone. The readers of this epistle had to know that in their going up against Satan they were not alone. And we too must know [that].
14. If you just consider the church in Japan, you might not be able to see but, even though it is modern times, Christians can be found who proclaim the gospel and still hold their ground in faith while they endure unimaginable hardships, amid persecution and misunderstanding, or even amid poverty and insecure social conditions. Furthermore, when you go back over history, before we ever had any part in the gospel, the fact is that numerous folks have shed their tears and shed their blood but have held their ground in the faith and have proclaimed the gospel. During their hardships they did not doubt the love of God and turn their backs, but instead while in their hardships they fully experienced God's unchanging love, and with the fact that God certainly did care for them right before their very eyes, they lived overflowing with joy. As a matter of fact, Peter who wrote this was also one such a person. You can't forget the people like that!
God Restores One Completely.
15. Then, Peter goes on to add another supportive prop [for us believers]. It is written as follows. "But, God, who is the source of every kind of blessing, that is, God himself who has called you into eternal glory through Christ Jesus, will make you who have suffered for a while perfect, he will strengthen you, he will revive you, he will make it so that you will never be shaken," (verse ten).
16. In this text there is a contrast between "eternal" and "for a while." Suffering is not eternal. It is "for a while." It is "eternal glory" to which we have been called. That is not a temporary thing. You must not throw away for good "the eternal" salvation on account of something that's "for a while." You mustn't be like Esau who handed over his birth right as the eldest son for one bowl of food.
17. Suffering is not eternal. After it in the future, God himself, who has called us to eternal glory, has promised that he "will make you who have suffered for a while perfect, he will strengthen you, he will revive you, he will make it so that you will never be shaken." "To make you perfect" means something like "to restore something that is broken." Perhaps we could think of this as an injury that was inflicted physically through persecution. Or possibly, we could think of it as losing something or other. Whatever the case may be, no matter what injury or wound some person or some devil has inflicted on the body or the heart, or what they have stolen away from a person, after the suffering, God will ultimately and dutifully restore one completely back. He will bring everything back to full recovery.
18. He will strengthen you, he will revive you, he will make it so that you will never be shaken. There is a battle now. To hold one's ground by faith is a battle. It is a battle with the devil. There are times we might be shaken. There may be times we will even come close to falling. But those conditions will not go on for ever. Ultimately, in perfect victory, he will make it so that you will never be shaken. You will never be shaken ever again. You will not have to worry about falling anymore. The time is coming when the battle will be over. That time is coming. It will all come through God. We won't have to be strong and do our best. I repeat; the main thing we are to do is to lower ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Therefore, Peter concludes here saying, "May God have the might unlimitedly generation after generation, amen!" Yes, let it be. The main thing for us to do is to be humble before Him, and trust [our] mighty God as he cares for us, and to recite along with Peter, "May God have the might unlimitedly generation after generation, amen!"