1 Peter 5:6-11 – True Advertising

1 Peter 5:6-11 – True Advertising

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 5:6-11NIV

According to a 2015 survey of 6000 people, the number one priority in a relationship is honesty, with a whopping 70% saying it is the most important aspect of a relationship (Croce, 2015). More than anything, we want to know the truth about where we’re at with the people we value most, even if that truth is painful or takes some getting used to.

It explains why so many people today are done with the institutions in our country. We sense, often rightly, we’re being sold something, but we aren’t necessarily sure what is really being sold. We’re afraid to commit to anything because we’ve been so often disappointed by false or misleading advertising. As the adage says, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” We long to connect with people and institutions who genuinely care about us, not just what we have to offer or what the other party can get out of us…but we’re skeptical anyone really is offering that kind of relationship. Even Christianity is more and more viewed as a group selling morality but not delivering.

In this passage, Peter is writing to fellow Christians during a time when Emperor Nero, the leader of the Roman Empire, is absolutely butchering Christians. One of the more well-known ways Christians were killed was by putting a group of them in the Colosseum and then releasing into their midst half-starved lions. The crowds would watch as they were hunted and ripped apart before their eyes.

It is interesting Peter describes Satan as a lion prowling about, looking for someone to devour. The implication is, as great as the threat of persecution for the Christian is, the threat of the spiritual attacks of Satan is just as great. He can also rip us apart…in soul-deep ways.

Does Peter go on to say, “But no worries…it’ll be fine”?

No…no he doesn’t. In fact, he goes on to write they will, in fact, suffer at the hands of Satan during their life here on earth. He doesn’t sugar-coat it. He. Is. Honest.

That means God’s priority in His relationship with us is exactly what we’re hungry for: honesty. He guided the writers of the books of the Bible to be completely honest with what the cost of following Him will be. He doesn’t try to make it look prettier or easier than it really will be. He doesn’t dismiss the struggle.

He points it out. Right up front.

In my book…that’s a trustworthy God. And if He’s honest about the suffering, then we can trust He’s honest about the promise, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

  1. How has your trust been betrayed by misleading promises?
  2. Why do you find it hard to trust what you hear in scripture?
  3. How is God’s honesty about the struggle helpful in your life?
  4. Challenge for the Week: Each day, keep track of struggles you’ve faced related trying to be faithful to Christ. Ask God to give you strength to stand firm in Him.

References

Croce, M. (2015, September 1). Forget sex, the secret to a good relationship is communication. Daily Record. Retrieved from https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/family-relationships/forget-sex-secret-good-relationship-6357824

John 10:11-15 – The Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10:11-15ESV

If you live in the parts of America where wolves are being reintroduced after they were wiped out by humans, then you know wolves and ranchers are always in contention. On the one hand, you have a species we drove to extinction in parts of the world that we’re now trying to do right by. The loss of the animal in the ecosystem, particularly in places like Colorado, has led to elk overpopulation and disease and a strained ecosystem not designed to support so many large, grazing mammals. On the other hand, you have ranchers, worried about the threat to their livestock represented by the reintroduction of wolves. Their livelihood is balanced on the well-being of their animals. It’s hard to ignore the concerns of a man who represents a threatened way of life in a country dependent on farming and ranching to survive.

This same dynamic of wolf, and in this case shepherd, played out in the ancient world. But shepherds didn’t have rifles and shotguns and big barns to protect their sheep. There was just the shepherd, with his staff and maybe a sling, standing between an entire herd of sheep and the wolves. And wolves are not mindless killers. They’re crafty, they’re intelligent, they’ve honed hunting down to an art in order to survive. They wait for a moment of inattention or distraction to find the weaker animal: one injured or sick or very old or very young. And they harass it, frighten it to run, to isolate itself from the rest of the flock and the protection of the shepherd. Then…the whole pack descends to bring it down.

Is this not a picture of what it is like to experience hardship in our lives? Trouble seems to pile on trouble. Conflict upon conflict. Disaster upon disaster. Your spouse gets sick, then they lose their job because they can’t work, then they lose their insurance, then the bills start to pile up, you can’t make payments and the creditors start calling, then your son or daughter starts struggling in school, then your car breaks down, then the IRS comes calling for an audit, then you start to get in trouble with your boss at work… You’re a wreck, but you don’t want anyone to know. You can’t afford counseling, even if you wanted to go. You withdraw from your friends. You’re drowning… and in the middle of it all, a traitorous voice in your head whispers:

“Where is God?”

“Why won’t He help me?”

“Surely if He’s so loving, He would do something.”

“Is this my fault? Is God punishing me?”

“If God were really there, He wouldn’t let this happen…”

“How dare He leave me like this…”

Because the wolves we face aren’t wild animals just trying to survive. The wolves who hunt us aren’t providing for their pack…they’re out to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10ESV). The wolves who hunt us are Satan and his demons, and they will do whatever they have to to separate you from the very One who can save your life: the Good Shepherd.

But our Good Shepherd is not a mortal man with a stick peering desperately into the darkness. Our Good Shepherd is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12ESV), the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6ESV), the “Strong Tower Against the Enemy” (Psalm 61:3ESV) and “God With Us” (Matthew 1:23ESV “Immanuel”). He does not become distracted, turning His eyes and attention to other things. We are the center of His focus. He lives within us, walks beside us, and carries us through every breath of our lives. He is the “Good Shepherd” whom the wolves themselves dragged down and murdered on the cross at Calvary…but they could not keep Him. Instead, He went into the den of the wolves (Hell) to announce His victory before raising from the dead so you, in all the brokenness you would know in your life, could know this one incredible truth: Jesus is ALIVE. The wolves of your life may harass you, but they cannot defeat the One who guards your eternity: Jesus.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 – We Can’t Handle It

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-11ESV

Have you ever heard the saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle”? If you’re like me, you’ve heard it more times than you can count. A lot of people believe this is actually a quote from the Bible, and it’s often stated in the face of horrific, challenging circumstances that seem insurmountable, intended as a word of comfort to “bolster” us against the hardship.

The problem with this statement is life will absolutely give you more than you can endure. Someday you will find yourself like Job in Job 16, sitting in the ashes of your life. There will be no easy out, no escape route from the agony, just the inevitable struggle stretching ahead of you to the horizon. If in that moment, all we have is “God will never give you more than you can handle”…what hopeless despair is our only gift from God! What rage would rise up in you to hollow you out inside and leave you empty! If that statement is true, God has burned our world down around us and left us up to our necks in the ashes of what we once loved intentionally. He destroys us and demands we handle the fallout alone. What a callous judge!

Imagine being the parent of one of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Imagine finding out it was your child the gunman found; it is your precious youngster, whom you still remember reaching out to you with sparkling eyes and a big smile as they stumble through their first steps, who will never come to your arms again. Imagine the heart-rending agony…and in the face of this statement you understand the God of the Universe conspired to murder your child and expects you to drag yourself from the cesspool of loss by your own sweat and labor. Such a God stands back from our spinning, blue globe and strikes us down, then with crossed arms observes us struggle through with judgement in a heart that feels no compassion.

Praise be to God this is not the God of the Bible. Christian…this is not the God we follow. This statement never appears in the Bible, either directly or through inference. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, our God is exactly the opposite of this smiting, demanding, disappointed, cosmic parent. Our God is “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 1:3b-4a).

When our world burns down around us, our mighty God isn’t the one holding the match and gas can, nor looking at us in frowning expectation this is “within our grasp” to handle. Our God, rather, enters into the pain with us. He suffers with us. He sends His people, His Church, as His arms of love and support as we experience a snapshot of Hell on earth (2 Corinthians 1:4). He knows we cannot handle the agony of this life alone, nor are we designed to (Genesis 2:18). Fall into the arms of the Creating, Father God we worship. Lean on His strength. He is the “God, who raises the dead”. His nail-scarred hands are there, no matter what, not to deliver affliction…but to carry us through it.

  1. Have you ever been told “God will never give you more than you can handle”? How did you feel when you were told that?
  2. Why do you think so many people think this phrase is in the Bible, when it’s easy to discover it is not?
  3. What difference would it make in a difficult situation to know God is there through it?
  4. Challenge for the week: we all have at least one friend or loved one going through hardship. How can you be the “comfort of God” to that person this week?