Serving the Lord

Resisting the Roaring Lion

We have been studying I Peter this past month in the Growing4Life Bible Challenge. It is really hard to cover this book of the Bible in just four weeks but we are taking in as much as we can! There is so much there! We are now on the final chapter, chapter 5, and verses 6-11 contain much that is profoundly helpful for us believers in 2022–

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called [g]us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The first verses gives us a framework for the rest of the passage: Humble ourselves and cast our cares on God. These are two very basic things for the redeemed to remember:

First, we must be humble. We must stop thinking more “highly of ourselves than we ought”, as Paul puts it in Romans 12:3. Later on in that same chapter, Paul puts it like this: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (vs 16). This is a key aspect in a healthy Christian walk for a number of reasons but the two that come to mind: To be in right relationship both with God and with others necessitates humility.

Second, we must stop fretting and worrying. Instead, God tells us to cast our cares on Him and choose to trust Him to care for us. He has promised to do this not only here in this passage, but throughout scripture. He loves and cares for His own. He will never forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

Now with those two exhortations, Peter goes on to talk about our adversary. In our modern day Christianity, many believers shy away from talking about the devil. Of course, there is the other extreme, where one blames everything on the devil or thinks he can be ordered around, as if that is their job to do so (It’s not!!). So what should be our right response to the truth that we Christians do have an enemy and it is the devil?

Peter gives us some instruction in verse 8: Be sober and be vigilant.

Dictionary.com gives these partial definitions–

Sober–not intoxicated or drunk.

Let’s think back to what it says in Ephesians 5: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit. From this, I believe we can deduct that Christian sobriety comes from being filled with the Spirit. And let’s remember: It is not just wine that makes us intoxicated! We can be intoxicated by any number of things: ungodly novels, worldly entertainment, temporal goals, money, hobbies; so much can intoxicate us into a state of caring little about spiritual things. This intoxication (or idolatry!) is what leaves us open to the attacks of our enemy. 

Vigilant–sleeplessly watchful

We are a spiritually lazy culture. Many people claiming Christ don’t even open their Bibles between Sundays. They are asleep spiritually. Caught up in their distractions and worldly living, they are uninterested in what really matters. Instead of being sleeplessly watchful, they are sound asleep and can’t see a thing. Vigilance is not a popular concept these days, but here in I Peter we are told it is necessary in order to protect ourselves from our enemy.

Why is it so important that we are sober and vigilant? What is the big deal? Peter goes on to tell us why it’s a very big deal:

Our adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour!

This is not just some fable or allegory told for our entertainment. This is 100% true.

We have an enemy who seeks to destroy us. Of course, if we are saved, there is nothing he can do about our eternal destinies. But he can, and often does, render the believer ineffective for the Kingdom of God by distracting us with the frivolous and the meaningless, by getting us caught up in unbiblical philosophies and practices, and, often, by tempting us to sin or to feel discouraged and without hope. And, since he often cloaks himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), he will be hard to spot–unless we are sober and vigilant and expect his attacks, both the obvious and the deceptive.

Peter goes on to say that we must resist the devil and remain steadfast in the faith.

We resist the devil and remain steadfast in our faith by submitting to God’s Will and obeying His Word. There is no other way. And, in fact, this is one of the biggest areas of life that Satan attacks us, for he does not want us in the Word of God, understanding God’s care for us, feeling conviction of sin, and recognizing the need to surrender our dreams and passions to God.

Of course, for all of us, resisting the devil and remaining steadfast in our faith is not an easy task. As Peter says, it often brings suffering. If you have read the biographies of men and women from the past, you will know that they suffered greatly as they battled Satan and stood for the truth. Whether on the African plains, in the Chinese village, or in the cathedrals and monasteries of Europe, wherever there have been people who share the Gospel and stand for truth, there is suffering.

Peter tells us to expect this suffering and to know that these same sufferings have been experienced by other believers all across the world.

But Peter doesn’t end there! (Aren’t you so glad he doesn’t??)

He goes on to remind us that God won’t just let us drown in suffering but, after suffering for just a while, God will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us. I wonder if God doesn’t use the suffering for these very purposes? For it is in suffering that we often experience these things. True believers aren’t weakened by suffering. They are strengthened. True believers aren’t shaken by suffering, they are settled. God, in His goodness and in His ultimate perfect plan works all things out for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

And then there is the final verse that reminds us of just how big this One, True God is that we belong to, as Peter reminds us that all glory and dominion belong to Him! We know glory means great praise, honor, adoration. But what does dominion mean? Well, in a nutshell, it means the “absolute right to rule”. God is the King of all.

While it may look like Satan is winning, he isn’t! Some battles may be lost, but the war will soon be over now and we are on the winning side! May this truth help us stay sober and vigilant. May it remind us that we are not resisting the devil alone, for we have the God of the Universe fighting with us and for us. And may we remember this truth as we suffer for our Savior, whom we are given the privilege to serve during our short time here on earth.

God has been so kind to give us His Word in this crazy, upside down world. I pray it is an encouragement to you as you go out into the world to soldier on for the Lord this day!

 

 

The Next (Little) Thing

A month or two ago, I had the privilege of sitting down with an elderly couple and talking with them about life. The one spouse is in pretty ill health and so they are confined and unable to do much of what they did in the past. Several times during the conversation, one of them mentioned how they used to enjoy visiting people like themselves and how often they would do this. I think it is very hard for them to be a “visitee” rather than the “visitor”… as it would be for most of us, I guess.

In the course of the conversation, it came up how few visitors they actually have. Even after they spent so much time visiting in the past.  My heart grew just a bit sad for them as I contemplated them sitting alone, day after day, unable to go much of anywhere, due to circumstances beyond their control.

This conversation has been much on my mind since it occurred. Why don’t more people visit the elderly, the sick, and the shut-ins? Why is this relegated only to the official “clergy” when it is something any of us could do? What is keeping us from this act of love and kindness?

As I have been pondering over this, I have recognized that it could be because there is no immediate reward for this type of service. While feeding the poor, taking care of orphans, being a social media influencer for Christ or doing some other public thing often yields much praise and fanfare from the church; other acts of love, such as being a full-time mommy, care-taking, visiting the sick and the elderly, teaching Sunday School, making meals for others, witnessing to someone at work, and a whole host of other “behind-the scenes” services, don’t tend to yield the praise of men.

So this makes us naturally believe (wrongly) that these services may not be as important. Often, it is not even that we are consciously thinking this. It is just what our experiences teaches us: If a service yields the praise of men, it must be important. If it doesn’t, it must be unimportant.

But, truly, nothing could be further from the truth. Thankless jobs that yield no applause are often the most important!

God tells us in His Word that we are all needed to make the body of Christ run as it should–

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be? (I Corinthians 12:15-19)

Each of us is given a different role in the body and this is a wonderful thing! If we were all a foot or an eye, how could the body of Christ even function? Some people are called to minister in very public ways and they are often truly an inspiration to us! Others are called to behind-the scenes jobs that go unnoticed. Both of these people are important in God’s eyes and necessary to keep the body of Christ functioning as it should.

We also find out in scripture that God has specifically prepared good works for us beforehand

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

God knows our strengths and weaknesses. He gave us our talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts. He knows what we are good at and where we can be used best in the Body. And that’s what we are supposed to be doing.

Many years ago now, when my youngest daughter was about twelve, she really wanted us to adopt. While we were not quite ready for that, we did decide that perhaps we could do some fostering so we enrolled in a short-term program to care for kids. When we got our first (and only) placement, it was incredibly difficult. Now, I am not scared of difficult. Many times, the path we are to walk on is difficult. However, it was more than that. I just felt in my heart like this was not what I was “cut out to do”. And I felt incredibly guilty about that. Shouldn’t everyone be cut out to take in children? Was I simply being selfish?

I eventually figured out that, no, everyone is not called to that ministry. And that this is as God has designed it. Because there are so many other just-as-important things to do for God’s Kingdom. While I have great admiration for those of you who are called to foster and adopt children or are passionately serving the poor and sharing the Gospel with them, it took me awhile to understand that there are so many of you, quietly serving the Lord in ways I will never know, who are doing jobs just as important. We need to pray and ask the Lord to show us what He wants us to do. Where He wants us to be serving right now– today– and then do it as Colossians 3:23 says: heartily and as unto God, not unto men.

And, in doing what God has set before us to do, we are promised to be prepared! In fact it says we will be filled with all grace abounding towards us, always having all sufficiency in all things to do what God has called us to do. That is quite a promise, now, isn’t it?!? Paul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 9–

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

A few months ago I was feeling a bit at a loss. Am I still doing anything good with this tiny little corner on the internet? Should I be working on something “bigger” and “better”? In talking with my wise mother (whom I am still so blessed to have in my life for counsel and guidance!), she reminded me of the value of building into the lives of my grandchildren and the importance of supporting my children as they seek to raise children for Christ.

It was a very clarifying conversation. I didn’t need bigger and better. I just need to be faithful in what God has called me to do right now. Today. And, until He shows me differently, this calling is spending time with my grandchildren, helping my husband with our landscaping business, teaching Bible Studies, and writing to encourage the saints at a tiny, unknown blog called Growing4Life. That’s what God has for me today. I don’t need to be searching for anything bigger or better or something that yields the acclamation of men. I just need to be faithful with the things that God has for me to do on this day. And to be willing to do what He has for me tomorrow.

What does God have for you to do today? It may be adopting orphans or feeding the poor. But it may be something else. Something just as important but much less public.

May we seek the Lord in how He would have us serve Him and then may we go about it with much joy and perseverance, knowing that we are doing it for God and not for men. May we just faithfully do the next thing God has given us to do. Be it big or little.

 

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