Letting God …
I’ve been teaching my way through 1st Peter and just finished chapter 5. I was particularly challenged by verses 6 and 7:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Someone has said that humility is like our underpants. We should have it but have no desire to let it show. In other words, humility should be our constant companion.
The context for Peter’s exhortation is humility when under attack. In the verses that follow the apostle pens the now famous words about our enemy roaming like a roaring lion waiting to devour us. So the humility they are challenged to demonstrate is needed when they are under attack.
We spent some time examining this verse in our teaching team a few weeks back, so struck were we by the context. Why is humility so important when attacked we wondered? The answer was rather straight forward but incredibly encouraging.
Peter draws from Psalm 55 in this section. In that text the Psalmist is under attack and complains bitterly to the Lord. He is frustrated by the Lord seemingly turning a blind eye to his request but his complaint ultimately gives way to praise. He eventually rejoices that those who stand against him will be humbled before God.
So when under attack verse 6 seemingly asks us to do two things: humble ourselves and cast our anxieties upon Him.
Or does it?
As we examined the text we quickly discovered that there was more to this text than meets the eye.
Peter does say that Christians undergoing severe trials are to humble themselves but this instruction is a ‘passive’ exhortation in Greek. Basically that is a non-aggressive challenge to not fight the battle ourselves but to sit back and trust God to work on our behalf.
“Humble yourself” is therefore written much more like the encouragement to be still and know that He is God. In conflict situations we are being asked to still our hearts. Humility asks us to heed the wisdom of passages like Proverbs 16:32 and countless other texts that warn of the dangers of taking matters into our own hands.
The next exhortation, casting our anxieties on Him encourages us to actively give our problems to the Lord and await His actions to defend us. Verse 6 specifically encourages us to humble ourselves ‘under’ God’s mighty hand. I love the imagery. When the enemy waits to pounce, the hand of the Lord is never far behind. Those who willingly humble themselves before Him will be protected and exalted. Those who respond in pride, those who fight and take matters in to their own hands will, according to Psalm 55, be humbled. God does oppose the proud and on many occasions fighting back is an expression of such pride.
It is for this reason that Peter, like James before him (see James 4:17), doesn’t invite us to fight Satan. While we are challenged to fight against the power of the body of sin that seeks to control our actions, we are called to resist the adversary (through a steadfast faith). When we resist the enemy, just as Jesus resisted the adversary in the wilderness (Luke 4), we are told that the enemy will flee from us.
You under attack from without? You being challenged to compromise on your witness? You being socially ostracized for your faith?
In situations like these it’s tempting to want to fight back, but Peter encourages us to humble ourselves before the Lord and cast our cares on Him. When we do that God will exalt us. Whenever the enemy moves against us it is comforting to know that the hand of the Lord is never far behind!
The following illustration may help you grasp the significance of Peter’s words.
My wife, Wibke, and I married in Germany. To partake in the wedding celebrations my relatives had to fly to join us – driving was no option.
Unfortunately a few of them were frightened of flying. As the plane taxied from the gate to the runway some of them started to worship – yes, sing! Anyway, there they were singing away when the voice of the captain came over the loudspeaker: “I’m sorry but we have a technical difficulty and need to return to the gate.”
You can imagine the scene! Laughter, hysterical laughter and a lot puzzled stares from bewildered passengers.
Here’s my point. As my family sat on that plane at the gate, how many of them obsessed constantly over whether the plane was okay? How many of them wondered whether the pilot was properly trained? Whether he got enough sleep last night? Whether he knew the controls of this particular plane? Whether he knew how to navigate to their destination and land it safely?
Well, some of them may have thought these things but quite honestly they dealt with most of their fears before they got on the plane! The defect, while alarming, still brought them back to the issue they had before departing. They may have had fun with their fear but at no point did they rush the cockpit and double-check that everything was okay. To use Peter’s words, they ‘humbled’ themselves. At some point before boarding the plane they decided to humble themselves to the pilot’s stronger, more knowledgeable training. While on the plane they continued to sit in their seat. Nothing changed.
This is what Peter is calling on us to do. Just as my family sat in their seat, ‘casting their cares’ on the pilot, so too we are called to humble ourselves (sit in the seat) and cast our cares on the Lord.
Hopefully you can appreciate how interrelated the two commands are. As we humble ourselves we are actually casting our cares on the Lord! If we never humble ourselves before God we will always worry and we will never experience the wonder and thrill of seeing God lift us safely to our destination.
As you face trials or many kinds rest assured that God’s hand isn’t far behind…