Peter had begun with joyful celebration in the redemption and salvation of the Lamb of God, then taught on all the ways believers live out that abundant joy in an unbelieving world. Built up as living stones in the beautiful, eternal, sacred and holy house of God, then spreading that grace and beauty out into the lives of those who surrounded them, believers become priests.
Love from the heart, serve as God would have you serve, yield to each other, shepherd and heal with the ardent desire to see Christ’s glory made evident. Expect suffering, and allow suffering to sanctify. Trust God with your vindication. This is the example of our Lord Jesus, and God will be every bit as faithful to you, Peter wrote, as the Father was—and is—to the Son.
Now Peter closed his letter with words of reassurance and a bracing up of courage. You are not alone! God is with you, I (Peter) am with you, and all the saints are with you in spirit.
All of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that [God] may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on [God], because [God] cares for you.1 Peter 5:7-8 (NRSV)
All those who live by faith have felt God’s humbling of them, and rested under God’s might hand, trusting that God would, in due time, place them where they needed to be, fill them with God’s power and enabling, and prepare them for the moment they were to fulfill their calling.
In a sense, God’s humbling is also God’s anointing. Jesus showed us the way when the Holy Spirit drove him into the wilderness for a time of testing. Jesus resisted raising provision for himself, but rather rested in the provision of God, as scanty as it was—for he fasted forty days.
There are side effects to fasting: fatigue, aches and pains, emotional duress, headaches, nausea, the symptoms of colds and flu, which are all caused by the temporarily increased levels of toxins in the body inadvertently stored along with energy. Jesus was likely experiencing all these side effects as he fasted and prayed.
Forty days is about the limit a human body can fast before dying.
Imagine, then, Jesus’ anxiety.
Satan’s test began with Jesus’ identity.
- Are you really the Son of God?
- Then why are you on the brink of starvation in a world that is supposedly under your rule?
- And does your Father really love you (because the Father is obviously not providing for your needs)?
- Is God really pleased with you?
- Since God has abandoned you, and does not seem to care, do you not think you should at least do what it takes to survive?
It would not help your ministry to die of hunger, what a waste! What is it to God if you create for yourself a little bread?
But, Jesus’ response was to humble himself completely under God’s hand, and to cast all his anxiety on the Father.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.1 Peter 5:8 (NRSV)
Jesus himself was on constant guard against the adversary’s undermining, having even censured Satan in Peter’s voice. Peter had taken Jesus aside when Jesus had begun teaching that he would have to undergo great suffering at the hands of the religious authorities, and that he would be killed. Jesus reassured his followers he would also be raised up on the third day, but Peter was concerned Jesus was being moribund and defeatist.
God forbid it, sir! he had told Jesus, using strong language to chastise the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. This must never happen to you! It was so clear to Peter how Jesus’ star was rising. If only his rabbi would be more confident and take this tiger by its tail! Have more faith! God forbid your gruesome prediction is anywhere near the truth!
But to Peter’s shock, and deep hurt, Jesus turned on him, his beloved voice raised in rebuke, Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.
From a rock of faith to a stumbling block in Jesus’ way.
Later, the night before the cross, Jesus had said to Peter—in the hearing of all the disciples—Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift you all like wheat. But I have prayed concerning you, Simon, in order that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.
Now, Peter passed on the wisdom of Jesus to this new generation of disciples.
Be vigilant in your caution, a Christian is always “on.”
That night, the devil tried to destroy Peter when his guard was down. Peter was not being self-controlled or alert the night he denied Jesus, even though Jesus had warned him that Satan was on the prowl. Peter’s failing of lying about his relationship with Jesus had given Satan the “in” he was looking for.
Perseverance of Faith
One of the lion’s chief strategies is to isolate the weakened prey, and spiritual prey are no different. How easily you and I can begin to think we are all alone in our calamity, or our burden, no one understands, no one can help us.
Peter also felt isolated and alone the night he followed Jesus to the Sanhedrin’s courtyard. He had come with John, who knew the servants there, but John had gone inside the high priest’s house, leaving Peter by himself outside.
Resist [the devil], steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.1 Peter 5:9 (NRSV)
You and I are not alone!
When that sense of isolation, of being alone as the prowling lion circles, creeps into your soul, please, please reach out to someone.
Be wise now.
Think of who that safe, compassionate, strong person will be, then ask them if they can be ready, praying for you and prepared for the day when you will call.
Provision of God
Peter continued to write from his own personal experience. It had been the nadir of his young life, suffering so gutting he had run blindly away from the courtyard of the high priest’s palace, his eyes full of tears, and his heart constricted in anguish.
He had not been prepared for the devastation he would feel, coming to know what he was capable of. He had failed his beloved friend and revered rabbi. He had spoken out of turn, he had refused Jesus’s ministry of washing his feet out of a misplaced sense of propriety, he had misunderstood every cue, slept when he should have prayed, struck his enemy rather than follow Jesus’s example and teaching.
Satan had indeed sifted him, and it must have seemed to Peter that nothing was left of him but chaff.
Yet, after his resurrection Jesus had restored Peter by a charcoal fire, giving Peter three chances to affirm his love as though to erase the three times he had denied it, standing by that other charcoal fire as Jesus underwent his trials.
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 5:10-11 (NRSV)
- Humble yourself under God’s might hand, that God might lift you up in due time. Accept your suffering, for it is doing a sacred sanctifying work within you.
- Cast all your anxiety on the Lord. In letting it go, turn worry into continual prayer, and concern into constant thanksgiving. God understands and has compassion for you.
- Trust God’s promise that after a little while God will restore you, making you strong, firm and steadfast.