A verse in the book of first Peter chapter 5 stood out to me last week and I decided to read the whole chapter. I learnt some lessons from it which I thought to share. It changed my perspective on suffering and gave me a reason to smile through hard times. All verses in this post are from the New Living Translation (NLT) Bible except otherwise stated.
Peter wrote this book and could relate to the experiences of the elders in the church as he was an apostle of Jesus and had been a faithful follower also. In verse 1, he said, ”I too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I too will share in his glory when he is revealed…”
He wrote about serving God, especially caring for the Lord’s flock. He encouraged us to “watch over it willingly, not grudgingly -not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God” (v2). This speaks of the motive behind our service to God and it is important that we re-evaluate our hearts on a regular basis to see that our motives in serving in God’s house are right. Are you an usher so you can show off your new shoes? Or are you in the choir because your voice is the best and they totally cannot do without you? Well, God uses the foolish things [around us] to confound the wise(1 Cor. 1:27-29) so even a broken person who is bent over in fear and shame can be an instrument in God’s hand if they are willing, available and have their hearts right towards God. It is not wrong to look nice or wear the best of clothes, we are to be ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and I’m sure He would wear the best clothes had He been on earth now, but we are not to make that our priority. Our focus should be the Kingdom (Matt. 6:33) and its advancement.
The way in which you serve is also dear to God’s heart as Peter says in verse 3,“Do not lord it over people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.” The fact that you have a position of authority in church, fellowship or a small group is an opportunity given to you to SERVE God. You are not to boss people around or make them feel inferior. You are in fact a servant (Lk. 22:25-26) who should lead by example. Your life should minister to your followers so much that you wouldn’t need to speak much. They should see the character and virtue flowing from you and be impacted by it. This is the act of true leadership. It may not be easy, some people are easier to lead than others, but this is the place of grace. God who called you will grace you for the assignment and equip you with strength and everything you need. In all honesty, He has given you all you need already (Eph. 1:3). And God promises to reward our labour with “a crown of never-ending glory and honour.” (v4)
God favours the humble and opposes the proud (v5). “Oppose” means to “actively resist a person.” Some synonyms for oppose are “fight”, “challenge”, “confront”, “attack”. God clearly does not appreciate pride. It’s easier typed than done but He can help us to put away any elements of pride if we ask Him to. He also delights that there be respect and protocol observed in His house: younger men are to accept the authority of the elders. This means taking your pastor’s authority and obedience to deacons and leaders, even when you might not want to or agree with them. As long as it is in line with God’s Word, we are to honour them by accepting their authority. This is one of the ways to please God.
I remember a friend saying at a Bible study group that it’s better for you to humble yourself than to let God humble you. It’s probably just a wiser idea…His ways are not our ways, remember? Nor His thoughts our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9, get it?) I would rather He lift me up than humble me, because God does exceedingly, abundantly, above my expectations (Eph. 3:20).
This bit is hard for us as Christians, we seem to think that we can handle a lot more than we actually can. It’s a good idea to look through God’s Word and take it literally, just how He said it-
”Give all your worries and cares to God for He cares about you.”(v7)
It’s simple. Do your best to forget about it and give it all to God. He knew about the issues before they even came up and He has a million ways to resolve each of them and make you smile again. Remember Ephesians 3:20.
The enemy just wants to throw you off balance by bringing all sorts of situations your way but you need to “Stay alert and watch out for the great enemy, the devil…” (v8) He prances around looking for someone to take advantage of, like a bully really. But we must be “strong in faith” (v9) and resist him.
Verse 10 is my key verse in this chapter. It changed my perspective on suffering and hard times. I used to think “why me?” when I was going through hard times, but then I read this verse and I saw a different angle to hard times.
“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”
God is kind enough to allow me share in His glory, grace, blessings and mercy on a regular basis. And then I got to experience a bit of His suffering too, (just a few times this year). Should I really complain? It hit me that I should be thankful. God endured so much more for me on the Cross and did not complain or murmur, instead He said “…Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Lk. 22:42) I began to see my hardship as an opportunity to feel a bit of what God felt on the Cross, to partake in His suffering. I apologised for the “why me” feelings and thanked God for the opportunity to go through some of the emotions He would have gone through when He died for me. And for the fact that He is aware of my struggles and will never leave me.
The best part is that in His mercies, He does not let us suffer continuously. The second part of verse 10 says He will “restore, support and strengthen you and place you on a firm foundation.” I think He watches our reactions to the little mishaps in our lives and then picks us up for an upgrade. What is your reaction? Do you run away and curse God at the slightest appearance of trouble? God loves you and cares about you. Nothing happens without His permission (Lam. 3:37). If you run anywhere in the time of trials and troubles, let it be towards Him.
Peter ends with the purpose of this chapter in verse 12, “to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you.” This is the summary of this post. Peter couldn’t have said it better. He further encourages us to “Stand firm in His grace.”
I hope this has encouraged you and given you a slightly different perspective on suffering as a Christian. God “cares for us affectionately and cares about us watchfully” (1 Pet. 5:7, AMP). This is a huge reason to trust and hope in Him.
Love and hugs,