Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 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. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. – 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV
Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand.
Cast all your anxieties on God.
Resist the devil, standing firmly in your faith.
Know that you are not alone in your suffering.
Suffer well, knowing that it is temporary, but that God’s plan for you is eternal.
Sometimes we just need words of reminder and encouragement, because this life can be difficult at times. The promises of God can appear to be so distant and even unrealistic in our daily lives. The peace He promises can seem non-existent. The joy He offers can be overwhelmed by the sorrows of life. The satisfaction He said we would find in Him can leave us feeling, well, unsatisfied. And we can sometimes feel as if His love for us is nowhere to be found, even though He promised that nothing could ever keep Him from loving us. When it comes to our relationship with God, perception is not always reality. How we feel is not always a good indicator of how things really are. What we sense to be the case rarely is. So we need to be reminded to keep our eyes focused on God. We need a gentle nudge to realign our thinking and recommit our trust to God and His Word. And that is exactly what Peter seems to be doing as he wraps up his letter.
For two chapters, Peter has addressed the issue of suffering. It was an everyday reality for his audience. The likelihood of them suffering for their faith was not a matter of if, but when. So he took great pains to discuss the topic with them. It was his desire that they suffer well. He wanted them to keep their focus on the promises of God. That is why he wraps up his letter with the simple admonition: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6 ESV). They were to willingly submit to God’s faithful plan for their lives, recognizing that suffering was part of that plan. As the sovereign God of the universe, He was in control of all things. He was well aware of all that was happening in their lives. And He had a purpose for it all. James gave similar words of encouragement in his letter.
But he [God] gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:6-10 ESV
Humility is a state of mind, not a condition. It is not to be confused with humiliation. Humility is a mindset that communicates our willing reliance upon a God who is bigger, smarter, more powerful, and far more loving than we could ever imagine. It is an attitude that looks past circumstances and zeroes in on the character of God. He is loving, faithful, all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign over all, and never fails to keep follow through on His commitments. Peter does not deny that we will have anxieties and worries in this life. Those things are natural and normal human reactions to difficulties. But he tells us to cast them on to God. We are to give them over to Him. Why? Because He cares for us. He knows we have doubts. He if fully aware of our fears and apprehensions. He is not blind to our struggles and sorrows. But rather than dealing with them on our own, God wants us to bring them to Him, recognizing that He alone can help and comfort us. Peter is not telling us that God will take away all our problems and pain. He is not promising us that God will eliminate all our difficulties. But he is saying that God is to be our one and only place of refuge and hope.
We have to live in this world with a sober-minded outlook, recognizing that we have a real enemy who is out to destroy us. Jesus warned us about the intentions of our enemy. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). We can’t go through this life with a cavalier or complacent mindset, thinking that everything is meant to be easy and care-free. As believers, we walk around with target on our chest and a real-life enemy who is gunning for us. Which is why Peter warns, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV). So we need to resist him. Paul warned the believers in Ephesus:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV
We are in the middle of a spiritual conflict. It is a real battle with real casualties. And our only hope is our faith in God, trusting in His power and leaning on His promises. The church is under attack all over the world. And where we stand the most vulnerable as individual believers is when we allow the enemy to cause us to doubt, deny, and disobey what God has said. That was the point of attack of Satan in the garden. He said to Even, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). His attack was subtle and sly. He wanted to get her to doubt God’s word. Because he knew that doubt leads to disbelief and disbelief ultimately results in disobedience.
The key to making it through this life is to keep our focus on the life to come. God has called us to “eternal glory in Christ” (1 Peter 5:10 ESV). That is the ultimate outcome of our faith in Christ. And the day is coming when God will “himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:11 ESV). Yes, we can experience that in some measure on this earth, but the real fulfillment of our hope is the future redemption of our bodies and our final glorification. We have to constantly remind ourselves that our team wins. God is in control. His plan is perfect and unstoppable. We may suffer now, but the day is coming when we will never suffer again. He rules. He reigns. He finishes what He starts. He fulfills what He promises. “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.