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Humility and Facing the Enemy (5:5-11)

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Vigor and enthusiasm are some of the outstanding characteristics of youth. But these positive qualities can also be their downfall. In their enthusiasm the young are often tempted to dismiss the wisdom of those who are older and to defy the authority of those who are over them. Perhaps it is for this reason that Peter address the young in chapter 5, verse 5 of his first inspired letter. He writes, “Likewise, you younger ones, be subject to the elder...” By “the elder” Peter is not merely speaking of those who are more advanced in years. He is specifically referring to those who hold the leadership position of elder or pastor in the church. In the first 4 verses of chapter five Peter had given instructions to the elders to not lord it over the people in their care. If it is important for leaders to deal gently with those under them, it is also essential that those who are young be obedient to those who have been given the responsibility of spiritual oversight.

But it is not only youth who need to show humility. Both the old and the young, both leader and led, all need it. Peter continues his message by saying, “...Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”” (5:5) Pride boasts that it is self-sufficient. Humility, on the other hand, gives up self-reliance for reliance on God. God can give his blessings only to those who recognize that they need them and are therefore willing to receive them. Peter says that the followers of Christ should clothe themselves with humility. When we look at each other we take note of what kind of clothes the other person is wearing. When someone looks at a follower of Christ, they should see humility.

Humility on the part of a Christian makes it possible for God to bless him. But humility also has a cost. In verse 6 Peter writes, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time;” We want the solution to our problems right now. We want to take things into our hands. But if we are humble we will acknowledge that we don’t always know what is best. We cannot see all of God’s plan and therefore humility will cause us to wait on His timing. We can rest assured that if we humbly submit then, when the timing is right, God will lift us up. This confidence in God’s promise will allow us to do what Peter says in verse 7: “casting all your worries on him, because he cares for you.” Anxiety is actually a form of pride. Pride holds on. Anxiety is saying that we want to be in control of the situation. Humility lets go. It acknowledges that it is God who is in control and that He will bring good out of whatever happens. We all need to ask ourselves whether we are giving our troubles to God or whether we are holding on to them.

Every follower of Christ needs to understand that the difficulties he faces are not merely the result of bad luck. They have an enemy that is actively seeking their destruction. In verses 8 through 11 Peter writes, “Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings. But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”

Peter identifies the enemy of Christ’s people as the devil, not people. It is essential that we realize what this means. Though the devil often does his evil work through people, the Christian’s fight is not against them but rather against their master. The follower of Christ should not try to destroy those who cause them trouble, but should try to win them over. The Apostle Paul explains it this way, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

It is also important to understand that the enemy is deadly. The only thing that will satisfy him is the destruction of Christ’s followers. Peter compares the devil to a roaring lion. But what lion would announce his presence to his intended prey by roaring? It appears that the devil seeks to deceive his victims into thinking that he does not intend to devour them. Or perhaps he is so powerful, swift and cunning that he feels no need to conceal himself. It is because their enemy is so deadly that Peter instructs Christ’s followers to be sober and self-controlled. This is the third time he has told them to be sober. The actual meaning of the word Peter uses is “free from intoxicating substances.” From chapter 1, verse 13 we see that this is part of what is meant when the followers of Christ are instructed to be holy. In chapter 4, verse 7 we see that sobriety is necessary in order to pray, and here we see that it is necessary in order to combat the devil.

How can such a foe as the devil be resisted? It is clear that if we attempt to do so by relying on our own strength we will surely fail. How then can it be done? Peter says by standing firm in the faith. It is our confidence in God and Jesus Christ which will bring victory. And we do not have to fight the battle by ourselves. Peter reminds his readers that followers of Christ all over the world are facing the same kind of suffering. This helps us in two ways. First, we can be encouraged and draw strength from the example of our brothers in other places who are gaining the victory. Secondly, it encourages us to set a good example for those brothers who are in danger of giving up.

As a further encouragement Peter reminds Christ’s followers that their suffering will only last a “little while” while the glory that Christ is giving them is eternal. As in says in Scripture, “Therefore don’t throw away your boldness, which has a great reward. For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:35-36) On the surface it would seem that suffering would destroy Christ’s people, but Peter points out that after they have suffered a little while God will establish them and make them strong, firm and steadfast. Are we allowing suffering to overwhelm us, or are we allowing God to work through suffering to establish us?