Stress, worry, anxiety, fear, discouragement, depression, overwhelming debt, racism, changing government, PANDEMICS… These are the things that are on many people’s hearts & minds as we move into a new year. Our world appears to many people to be spiraling out of control and heading toward disaster. Yet in the midst of it all GOD IS IN CONTROL! “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. Why should the nations say, ‘Where, now, is their God?’ But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Ps. 115:1-3)
The enemy of our souls is working hard to bring discouragement into our lives. He is alive and well and working diligently to carry out his wicked schemes (2 Cor. 2:1-11). He would love to hinder God’s work (1 Thess. 2:18) and devour God’s people (1 Peter 5:8 – the word devour means to “swallow down, eat alive, make unfruitful”). He wants to rob us of God’s joy and peace and convince us that we can’t make it! BUT God is on the throne and He wants us to experience His peace in the midst of stressful situations (John 14:27; 16:33; Phil. 4:6-9). He wants us to have victory over the devil (James 4:7) and bear much fruit as disciples of Jesus (John 15:8).
How do we gain His peace and have victory in the spiritual battle? 1 Peter 5:1-11 (see also James 4) addresses this issue head on and gives us great insight into the battle we face. What kind of believer would be easy prey for the devil? A PROUD one. This snare of the devil will destroy people in positions of leadership (v. 1-4); young men aspiring to leadership (v. 5); and all others in the church (v. 5). Peter says to the leaders: look to Christ’s example (v. 1), suffer and serve humbly (v. 2f), and look to a future reward (v. 1, 4). He says to the young men: put yourselves under godly, humble elders and learn from their example. Then to ALL, Peter gives 11 steps to overcome this terrible sin of pride (“I want to be in control of my own life”) and its twin sin: anxiety (“I’m out of control”).
1) PUT ON A HUMBLE MIND (v. 5). He says to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another. The enemy wants to divide us but he can’t if we have humble minds! If we have lowly thinking (Phil. 2:3-4) we will not allow our mind to run rampant with loose thoughts about self, independence, etc., but we will think about unity and service. Even though we have been hurt by people in the past we will “look for opportunities to serve instead of reasons to be hurt.” A humble mind is the foundation!
2) RECOGNIZE PRIDE’S FUTILITY (v. 5). God is “opposed” to the proud. He lines up His army in battle array against us if we are proud, but He “gives grace” to us if we are humble. If we are proud, God will fight against us! If we are humble, He will get behind us and help us to victory!
3) ACCEPT GOD’S HUMBLING (v. 6). The phrase “humble yourselves” literally means to “start allowing yourselves to be humbled.” God WANTS to humble us! He is working on us to make us humble and we need to cooperate! “Under the mighty hand of God” tells us that there is a PURPOSE in the humbling situations we are going through (suffering; persecution; etc.). We need to cooperate with God in being humbled or He will oppose us and possibly allow Satan to attack and break our pride (2 Cor. 12:9-10; 1 Sam. 15). Perhaps a new slogan should be: “Let God Humble You!”
4) WAIT FOR GOD’S EXALTATION (v. 6). God will exalt us at the proper time. He made Moses wait for 40 years then used him mightily. He made Saul/Paul wait several years then used him mightily. He will do the same with us. There is so much work He desires to do in our character, knowledge, experience, and skills. We need to wait patiently for the right time when He will use us to carry out specific works designed for us (Eph. 2:10). But how do I allow myself to be humbled?
5) CAST OUR ANXIETIES UPON GOD (v. 7) = PRAYER! The word “casting” means to throw something on someone else (i.e., clothes on an animal to ride – Lk. 19:35). The word “all” means the whole of our worries, distractions, things that divide our loyalty to God. These are extreme cares that keep us from focusing our entire life upon God, His Word, and sacrificial service. This is a prayer of committal where we give everything in our lives (past, present, future) to the Lord and leave them in His hands (life, family, finances, health, abilities, friends, etc.). We also resolve to cast ALL future worries upon Him with the result that when these things come up, we won’t worry. You can do this because “He cares for you” = you are HIS concern! He is more concerned with you than you are! (Mt. 6:25-33; Phil. 4:6f). You DO matter to God! He is totally aware of your situation. People often say, “BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE HE CARES!” “Where was He when I lost my spouse; was divorced; was raped; was cheated on; went bankrupt; had a miscarriage?” When we feel this way we must recognize it as a lie from the enemy. Satan wants us to feel like God doesn’t truly have our best interests at heart (Gen. 3). If we are experiencing anxiety we aren’t truly humble! There is pride in our life saying we want control because God can’t handle it! We can’t truly be accepting God’s humbling process until we have CAST ALL OUR ANXIETIES UPON HIM!
6) CONTROL OUR THOUGHTS (v. 8). The word “be sober” means to control our thoughts, mind, and emotions. Get SERIOUS about our thought life! He attacks us in our mind and we had better take those thoughts through the grid of Scripture to see whether they are truth or error (2 Cor. 10:5). If they are truth we must embrace them, but if they are error we must reject them! Error will lead us to bondage, but the truth will make us free!
7) BE SENSITIVE TO SATANIC ATTACKS (v. 8). “Be alert” means to be awake or watchful. Don’t drop our guard! The devil wants us to be proud like him and will do anything to get us to make decisions independent of our heavenly Father. As we walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-23) and let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16) we will become more sensitive to the subtle snares and attacks of our enemy.
8) DEFEND OURSELVES WITH TRUTH (v. 9). “Resist firm in your faith” is a defensive term, not offensive. It means to challenge those thoughts / feelings with TRUTH about God from His Word. Don’t ATTACK Satan, RESIST his attack! James 4:7 = “submit therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resist how? TRUTH! JESUS! Fight with the Word of God and he will flee! Why will he flee? To go find someone else struggling with pride and anxiety that he can attack! But we must continue in #7 above as Satan will come back later when our guard is down (Lk. 4:19).
9) RECOGNIZE WE AREN’T ALONE (v. 9). There are other brothers & sisters going through the same things and they are being caused to grow more mature through these trials. Seek out fellowship where we can be encouraged to go on with the fight! We also need to be honest with others about our battles so they will realize they are not the only ones struggling with these things.
10) LOOK TO A SECURE FUTURE (v. 10). We face temporary hardship, but eternal glory (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Rev. 20-22)! God Himself will “perfect” (mend, equip – Eph. 4:12), “confirm” (strengthen), “strengthen” (make firm or secure), and “establish” us (give us a solid foundation). That is what God will give us as we allow ourselves to be humbled and walk in truth!
11) GIVE DOMINION TO GOD (v. 11). The word “dominion” is the same word as “mighty hand” in v. 6. Forever and ever God will be the One and Only God! We should therefore surrender ALL to Him forever!
A humble mind lets go of cares and trusts in God alone. Therefore Satan has no foothold and he will flee to someone else! There is only one God and He has the right to rule our life as He desires. We must learn to live for Him alone and He will make us FRUITFUL for His Kingdom.
God is in control! We have no reason to fear, be discouraged, or be anxious. We have every reason to be filled with FAITH and humbly go forward to serve God with all of our being. May God work mightily in all of us this coming year and bear much fruit for His glory alone!