Wednesday, July 26, 2023

           In I Peter 5:6, the apostle wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”  It is not hard to imagine a much more mature and a much older Peter writing those words.  At that point in his life, he had likely given up on the boisterousness, big promises and sense of invincibility.  The circumstances of life had likely humbled him.  And, even more, his ongoing walk with Christ likely humbled him and seasoned him.  Grace has a way of doing that.  Walking with Christ tends to open our eyes and lives to things we might otherwise choose not to see or address.  Like John the Baptist, Peter was decreasing so that Christ might increase in and through him.  If we consider the way Peter was earlier in life, it seems remarkable and almost unbelievable that he could write such a profound and eloquent sentence.  As a young and brash fisherman, the word humble did not seem to be part of Peter’s vocabulary or lexicon of emotions and behaviors.  Peter was likely the kind of guy who had a good fish-story ready to share at a moment’s notice—the kind of story where the size of the fish is always growing. Let’s dive into what Peter wrote to see what his own words might say to us in these days that we live.
            First, Peter issued a command to his readers.  “Humble yourselves” is a direct admonition.  It requires action.  It calls for a change in perspective, thinking and living.  We recognize that we do not have all the answers and we lack the power to be and do all that we might wish to do.  We recognize our need for Christ.  We recognize the limitations of our strength and the magnitude of our sins.  We adopt the mindset of Paul who realized that before Christ and apart from Christ that He was the chief of all sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  To be humble means we give up trying to make a case for our own goodness.  Indeed, we realize that there is no case to make at all.  We are empty-handed in life and any victories we think we have won are hollow at best.
            Second, when we humble ourselves, we are not left alone.  We place ourselves willingly under God’s “mighty hand.”  We are the safest place we could possibly be when the shelter and shade from God’s hand rest upon us.  There was a competition where two artists were asked to paint a picture of utter peace and serenity.  One painted a beautiful landscape with a glorious and glowing sunset.  A few trees were sprinkled into the painting and some gentle rolling hills.  The other artist painted a raging storm by the sea but in the corner of the picture, sheltered in the clef of a rock formation, rested a baby bird protected by the wings of its mother.  The second painting is likely the better representation of peace and serenity as depicted in Scripture.  God’s hand does not always remove us from storms or trials but His hand does encircle us and protect us from what is raging around us.  Peace is not the absence of trials but the security of God with us in the midst of them.
            Third, Peter gave us a promise.  He stated that God would lift us up “in due time.”  Immediately, we recognize that God’s timing is not our timing just as His ways are not our ways.  When we go through trials, we must always recognize that the Father’s hand is on the thermostat.  He knows what is necessary to refine us and to shape us.  God’s timing is always perfect.  How often does a blessing arrive at the right time?  How many times does God give us an answer or a breakthrough just when we thought that we could not go any further?  How often does God bring rest and times of respite into our lives when we can feel that we are already running on something less than fumes?  We cannot always see God’s timing—and frankly we usually never see it.  But we trust His timing is good, right and true.  If we had a fleeting moment where we could look perfectly into the heavenly realms and see God at work, we would find ourselves in utter awe and on our knees in worship.  To peer into the realms of God’s workings and timing would astound us.
            Fourth, Peter used the pronoun “you.”  He was writing to people like you and me.  Indeed, the Bible speaks to ordinary people like you and me—not just the popular, powerful and well-heeled.  God made us and God keeps His promises to us.  His hand does extend over you and me.  If we needed further encouragement, Peter used the pronoun “you” again in 5:7.  He wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”  Again, we find a promise for people like us—not just an elite cadre of super-disciples or super-believers. To “cast” means we toss our cares on the Lord just like we might toss some dirty clothes in our washing machine or a crumpled wrapper in the trash can.  May we learn to toss our cares on the Lord automatically and reflexively.
            We can read Peter’s letters as messages from a seasoned disciple to folks like us who are still on life’s journey.  He is teaching us from his own experiences—both good and bad, victories and defeats.  Perhaps his letters would encourage you to invest in others and to help them grow in faith and discipleship.  One of Peter’s great strengths for folks like us is his genuine humanity and honesty.  The Bible does not clean him up for us to see.  Rather, we can witness his growth and maturation in faith and service.  His life bears a resemblance to the lives many of us lead today—steps forward and occasionally some stumbles and tumbles.  But it has been said that a saint is just a sinner who falls down but still gets back up.  Stay in the fight!  Or, maybe it is time to enter the fight!  Wherever you may be today, let Peter be a blessing to you.  Have a great Wednesday!  Join us for our worship time tonight as we gather to pray and praise at 6:30!

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