This is a condensed transcript of my May 29, 2011 sermon.
In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter reminds us that we have an enemy. He says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Satan prowls, roars, and seeks to devour followers of Jesus. Behind the persecution and suffering of the early Christians (to whom Peter was writing) stood Satan. He wanted nothing more than for the suffering and persecution they were experiencing to cause them to fall away from their faith in Jesus…and he wants the same for us today as well. 3rd Century church father, Cyprian described Satan this way:
He goes around us individually, and like an enemy besieging those shut up, he examines the walls and explores whether there might be some part of our members less firm and less trustworthy, by entrance through which a way inside may be effected. He offers to the eyes unlawful appearances and seductive pleasures, that he may destroy purity through sight; he tempts the ears by harmonious music, that he may get rid of and weaken christian strength by the hearing of a pleasant sound; he arouses the tongue to reviling, he urges the hand to capricious murder when it is excited by injuries; he provides unjust gains, that he may make a cheat; he piles up dangerous profits, that he may ensnare the soul by money; he promises earthly honors, that he may take away heavenly ones; he manifests false values, that he may steal away the true. And when he is not able to decisive secretly, he threatens clearly and openly, bringing forward the fear of violent persecution in order to overcome the servants of God; always restless and always hostile; he is cunning in peace, violent in persecution.
Satan is intent on seeing that Christ-followers fall away, making it so bad and so hard that we just give in. This is why Peter says twice in our text: STAND FIRM! Satan uses people and circumstances to trip us up. If you remember, Satan even used Peter himself to try to get Jesus to falter and give in.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Jesus recognized Peter’s attempt to keep him from suffering and dying ultimately came not from Peter, but from Satan himself. And now Peter – the one whom Satan used against Jesus to try to get Jesus to falter – tells early Christians facing suffering and death: STAND FIRM! He reminds them (and us too) that the enemy would like nothing more than for you to crumble under the pressure of persecution and suffering. And so, He encourages Christians with some reasons why we should stand firm in their faith until the end…
#1 Stand firm because suffering for following Christ is universal.
1 Peter 5:9
Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
Knowing that what happens to us is happening to others can be a great comfort. Peter says that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by the family of believers throughout the world. This was bigger than just the early Christians under Rome. He’s telling them to take comfort in that; to press on because others are.
Oprah Winfrey just concluded 25 years of unprecedented television success. Why was she so successful? I submit that she was so successful because she offered millions of women each day “you’re not alone” comfort. Millions of women gathered around the televison each day and discovered that they’re not alone with their struggles. There’s great comfort in this, and this is what Peter was appealing to. You can resist the devil and stand firm because there are many others who are experiencing the same sufferings…and they are standing firm.
#2: Stand firm because our suffering lays the foundation for our future in Christ.
1 Peter 5:10
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.
We know that God uses suffering to mature, grow, and glorify us in Christ now. He uses suffering to begin the process of restoration, confirmation, strengthening, and establishing our lives in Him right now…with the promise that ALL will be made right (in you, me, and this old earth) when He appears in all His glory one day. But that process begins now, and suffering is a tool He uses to accomplish this.
We stand firm in our faith – even in the midst of trials and suffering – because we know that there will come a day soon when Jesus comes in all His glory and the suffering ends. In the meantime, we allow the pain, trials, conflict, and loss on this earth to do it’s maturing, foundation-setting work in us through Jesus Christ.
#3 Stand firm because Jesus did.
1 Peter 2:21-25
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Jesus was called “the man of sorrows.” He was rejected by his own brothers. He was betrayed by his own disciples (including Peter). He was left alone to carry the weight of His impending death – even after asking his closest friends to support him. And He wretched over the prospect of the cross. But He stood firm in His calling. He resisted the devil and faced His suffering head-on. And Peter says: “Follow His example”. We stand firm until the end because the One whom we follow did.
I love how Peter ends the letter…
1 Peter 5:12
I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God.
STAND FIRM IN IT.