- Isaiah 40:6-11
- 1Peter 5:6-14
Dear friends in Christ,
Plastic changed our world. The toys we used to get as gifts were cars made of thin pressed metal. The doors and the windows were painted on with real paint. The wheels were from a sort of a cast iron and the axels were from real steel pins. Inside was an engine with a real metal flywheel. Sometimes they had a winding spanner with which one could wind a real metal strap. This made the car go like crazy.
I saw one valued at hundreds of dollars the other day. But after all, there were just toys.
But then plastic came in. Things became cheap. So cheap, that they are not precious anymore. You can replace them easily with another one. These days you get it for free if you buy a hamburger and a cool drink.
In some way we have become plasticky, and plastic has now enemy number one, even plastic cool drink straws. Our generation became addicted to temporary things. We became addicted to instant gratification, and in the process we lost our sense for value. The display cases in the corner of the lounge room with the valuable items created by skilful craftsmen is replaced by the television which constantly feeds us with instant and cheap entertainment. As someone remarked, we amuse ourselves to death.
Our day is rotten if the power goes out and we can’t watch TV! We lost a view on what really matters; we lost our view on eternity!
Be sober and alert
Let’s go back to where we left it last week. The verse is:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)
The Christian who has his mind controlled by the principles of this world cant’ be sober of vigilant. Such a Christian is easily trapped and devoured by the devil who like a lion seeks to devour.
So what’s the antidote? The next verse gives the answer:
Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Peter 5:9, NKJV)
Would it be too brash to put it this way, “Get real! When you resist the devil you’re in for suffering. But get this, your suffering is not unique; it’s is a common thing for Christians. But stand your ground!”
To resist him is to treat the devil as your enemy. To stand firm is to dig in your heals on the truth of the Scriptures. If we need encouragement if we want to give up, there is encouragement galore from other Christians who have gone and are going through the same sort of suffering.
I have a precious book by author Alexander Smellie, Men of the Covenant. It tells of Scottish Christians in the time of the Reformation. Amongst many recounts of men who trusted God it tells of a certain Donald Cargill, an 80 years old preacher. It was said of him that his praying and preaching were at its best when his was in great danger and distress. Cargill said the more adversaries thrust at him that he might fall, the more sensibly and discernibly his Lord had helped him. His favourite Bible verse was, “The Lord is my strength and song, and has become my salvation. Whom shall I fear?”
On the day he died on the scaffold he proclaimed,
“God knows, I go up this ladder with less fear, confusion or anxiety of mind than I ever entered a pulpit to preach. Farewell, all relations and friends in Christ; farewell all acquaintances and all earthly enjoyments; farewell reading and preaching, praying and believing, wanderings, reproaches and sufferings. Welcome, joy unspeakable and full of glory. Welcome Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
We need to indulge in the testimonies of brave Christians of yesteryear, as well as those going through persecution in modern times, to be encouraged to resist cheap Christianity and discipleship.
How do we resist and overcome?
Verse 10 gives us the answer. This verse is so stacked up with the riches of gospel truths that it actually deserves days of meditation.
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5:10, NKJV)
Before we look at this verse in depth, let’s briefly reflect on our reading from Isaiah this morning.
God’s people had been in Babylonian captivity for seventy years—the time God had appointed. But the time of punishment for its unfaithfulness has passed. Israel’s suffering was for a short while, but it was time to hear the good news of God’s mercy to restore them to their land. Now the prophet proclaimed the good news that, although man is like grass, “the Word [promise] of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). Sovereign God, who rules forever, would care for them as a shepherd, and tend them like they were his lambs (verse 11).
Why would they believe the prophet? Their God is the Creator of heaven an earth who made everything without the help of anyone (verses 12-14). His wisdom and power are infinite. More than that, He holds nations and their rulers in the palm of his hand (verse 17). No god can be compared to God who sits enthroned above all he has made. He controls kings and princes (verse 23). He is the everlasting God (verse 28). But although He is above all He has made, in mercy He bows down to give strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (verse 29).
God never changes. He is the sovereign God Peter knew and worshipped too. He is the One who speaks to us today—and his word is encouragement all the way.
He is the God of all grace
This phrase is rich in meaning ’God who loves us completely’, or ‘the God who shows his love for us without holding back,’ or ‘the God whose gifts are sufficient for every need and for every situation’. Because He is the God of all mercy, mercy is only limited to Him.
God called us
This call is far more that just talking to us and calling towards us. When God calls, He calls us into a relationship with Him. In this relationship He provides what is necessary to make the relationship possible. God calls His own by grace and to grace. He does this finally and only through Jesus Christ, who is the fulness of grace.
The fact that God is the One who calls and that Christians are the ones who are called, makes it clear that call is a another word for salvation. God calls men in Christ through His own means and for His own purpose. This is how we understand Romans 8:28-31
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28–31, NKJV)
This call is through the work of the Holy Spirit, it comes by the Word of God, and it is possible because of the work of Christ. This is what we heard about in chapter 1.
… you were … redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He … was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God… having been born again … through the word of God … which is the gospel … preached to you. (1 Peter 1:18–21, 23, 25 NKJV)
God’s eternal glory
God’s call to salvation is a call through which we share in his eternal glory. It is a call ‘into his greatness which will last forever’, or, ‘it’s a call into his greatness which will never cease.’
In other words, when God calls, included into that call is all He provides to make it possible for sinners to be lifted out of the slimy pit of sin and to become holy because He is holy. In the process God grace us a new identity in Christ, a new heavenly address, and an incorruptible inheritance. The result is—we will see his eternal glory!
When will we see his eternal glory?
We will see his eternal glory, now bound up and secured in Jesus Christ, after a short time of suffering. The suffering we might experience now is only a short time compared to the eternal glory which awaits us when we receive the final call into glory.
Israel had been in captivity which them probably felt like an eternity, but in God’s scheme of things, it was just for a little while. The gospel through the prophet was good news summed up in these words, “This is your God”, or, “Your God is here!” (Isaiah 40:9). The wait is over, salvation has come!
But between suffering and glory God provides for us. God Himself will restore us.
He will not forget our suffering. There is a limit to suffering, and God will end it in his own time. Till that time, we need to trust Him. The ‘himself’ in verse 10 is important. It means He is constantly aware of our suffering, He is with us in our suffering, and He will call an end to it when He reached his purpose with it. All along, the suffering Christian is not in the hands of those who cause the suffering; those who cause it are instruments in the hands of God.
God will make us strong, firm and steadfast
The emphasis is on spiritual and inner strength, and it means the God will ‘cause your heart to be strong’, or ‘cause your thoughts to be strong.’
God will see to that we will be firmly rooted in a strong foundation of trust and confidence in Him. Further, He also provide what we need to always endure. He holds us by the hand so that we will not be moved in our trust in Christ.
Peter knows what he is talking about. There was an episode before the cross of Christ when Christ gave him this assurance. And the Lord said,
“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31–32, NKJV)
Yes, there was the terrible failure to own Christ, and if Satan had his way, it would haven the end of Peter. But Christ prayed for him, and his faith did not fail. Almost all what Christ said to Peter then is now encapsulated in what is written verse 10. What Peter wrote in our verse was to show that God’s word never fails.
So, Peter ends his letter:
I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand. (1 Peter 5:12, NKJV)
My dear friend, stand in the grace of God. Hang on to the Bible; it’s the true Gospel. When the temporary plastic toy of no value leaves you disappointed and empty, seek God for permanent glory. Amen.
Sermon preached by Rev D.Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 12 August 2018