Scripture: 1 Peter 5:7-11
Sermon prepared by Christopher Fluit, Penfield, New York
Dear people of God,
The first letter of Peter is admirable in a number of ways. For one thing, Peter is very practical. Throughout this letter, Peter gives us very specific instructions about how to interact with our neighbors, our spouses and other people in the church. For another thing, Peter is very rational. Whenever Peter tells us to do something, he invariably gives us a reason for doing it. It’s almost as if he says, “Here’s what I want you to do. Here’s why.”
Today, we look at Peter’s final set of instructions as recorded in chapter five. In this passage, Peter remains true to form. He gives us three final instructions which are specific and practical. Plus with each instruction, he gives us a reason why we should do as he says.
First, Peter tells us in verse seven: “Cast all your anxiety on God.” Peter is not the first person to suggest that God’s people should do this. This verse is considered to be a reference to Psalm 55:22: “Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” In his letter to first century Christians, Peter echoes the words of the psalmist: “Cast all your cares on God.”
The theologian Alan Stibbs writes a wonderful response to this verse. “We cannot throw away our troubles,” he says. We cannot run away from our problems or pretend they don’t exist. “But we can get rid of the anxiety that is caused by our troubles. We can refuse to be burdened down by care. We can reject the kind of worry that disturbs our peace and distracts our mind.” What we do instead is to turn to God.
We find relief in God. We hand our worry over to Him so that we don’t have to carry our worry ourselves. We pour out our anxiety to Him in prayer. We cast our cares on God. When we do this, we can feel at peace. We can be calm even in the midst of times of trouble. We can experience the serenity that God promises and that Jesus exemplifies.
“Cast all your anxiety on God,” Peter says. Then, Peter gives us a reason why we should do this: “Because God cares for you.” God made us. The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 139 that God fashioned and formed us, that He knew us when we were still in our mother’s womb. God continues to care about us. Jesus reminds us in the Sermon on the Mount that God cares for us as deeply as he cares for the lilies of the field and the sparrows of the air, and they do not have to worry. God loves us as a Father. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 7 that even earthly fathers know how to give good gifts. Surely, our heavenly Father will take care of our God-honoring wishes and our needs as well. God made us, loves us, and cares for us. For these reasons, we can cast our cares on God with confidence. We give our cares to God because God cares for us.
There’s another reason for casting our cares on God that Peter doesn’t mention. God is big enough to carry our cares for us. We can’t really do this for each other. Have you ever tried to tell a friend about your troubles, and it seemed like all they wanted to do was tell you about theirs? We often can’t ask someone to carry our burdens because they’ve got enough burdens of their own. But God has broad shoulders. God is so big that He can carry all of my burdens and all of yours. Even the burdens of the whole world are not too much for Him.
Therefore, Peter says to us, “Cast all your cares on God because God cares for you.” Now, there is a danger in telling people this. There is a danger that instead of becoming carefree, we become careless. Some people have a very fatalistic view of God. In one fictional account in James Clavell’s novel “Whirlwind,” a woman warned her driver to slow down so that they wouldn’t get into an accident. The driver replied that it’s up to God. “If it’s God’s will, we’ll get there safely,” he said. “If it is God will, we’ll crash and die. Either way, it’s up to God.” The passenger complained, “If we die in a car crash, it isn’t God’s will; it’s human stupidity.” We should cast our cares on God. But unlike the driver in this story, we do not use this as an excuse for fatalism, laziness or carelessness.
In verse eight, Peter moves on to a second instruction, “Be self-controlled and alert.” Again, this is not a new instruction that Peter gives to us. He mentioned it near the beginning of this letter in 1:13: since we have heard the good news by the Holy Spirit, “prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled.” Peter mentioned personal discipline again in 4:7: since the end of all things is near, “be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.” There is an incredible scope and range to Peter’s call to personal discipline and self-control. From the beginning when you first hear the gospel to the end of all things, be self-controlled. This is an instruction for the first day of our walk with God and the last day on which we draw breath. Be disciplined. Be alert.
We cast all our cares on God. Yet we are still disciplined in the practice of our faith. We should attend church and worship on a regular basis. We should pay attention to our spiritual needs through Sunday school classes, small groups, spiritual retreats and other opportunities. We should pray regularly and routinely. This isn’t something that we do in spite of casting our cares on God. This is something we do that helps us cast our cares on God. When we worship, when we pray, we come to know God more clearly. The more we know God, the easier it is for us to give our anxiety to Him.
Peter says to us, “Cast your cares on God, yet keep alert.” Again, Peter gives us a reason for doing as he says. We should keep alert because the devil is on the prowl. The devil is like a young lion, ready to devour any prey that comes its way.
It’s safe to say that few of us have experience with predators like lions. But perhaps we have some experience with scavengers. When we go camping, we often have to deal with scavengers who want to get at our food. Depending on where you camp, you might have to protect your food from ducks or seagulls, maybe raccoons or even bears. If you were to go camping in South Africa, apparently you’d have to worry about monkeys trying to get at your food. In each case, you have to pay attention to your food. You have to keep an eye on it, clean it up when you’re done with it, put it away safely. If you forget to do this even one time, the scavengers will invade your camping space and get your food. They will keep coming back for more. In order to prevent this, you have to keep alert.
Peter tells us to keep alert about our spiritual lives in the same way and for much the same reason. The devil wants to undo all that we’ve done. He wants to break down our habits and our spiritual disciplines. He wants to interfere in our relationship with God. He wants to pull us away from the nurturing arms of the church, where our faith is sustained. He wants to devour us. If we let him in even once, it’s that much easier for him to get in a second time. Be disciplined so that you do not give him an opening. Be self-controlled. And be alert.
Peter moves on to a third instruction in verse nine: “Resist the devil, stand firm in the faith.” This instruction sounds like the second, and the two verses do have a lot in common. In one verse, Peter says, “Be disciplined about your own faith and be alert of what’s out there.” In the next verse, Peter says, “Now, resist what is out there and be steadfast in your own faith.” Yet, while they are very similar, this third instruction expands upon the second.
In verse eight, we were told to be alert, to keep an eye out for the devil. In verse nine, we are now told to resist him. We should be clear about what we mean by resistance. This is not an armed resistance or an active opposition, like the French and Dutch Undergrounds during World War II. When Peter tried to take up a sword against those who would arrest Jesus, Jesus told him to put his sword down. We aren’t taking the fight to our enemy.
However, we are resisting our adversary’s fight against us. We do that by being steadfast in the faith, by standing firm. In a scene from a television show, a character who has been fighting in a civil war is captured and imprisoned. While in prison, he is interrogated and tortured. At one point, his torturer says to him, “You cannot win, you know.” The prisoner replied, “Sure, I can. All I have to do is say ‘No’ one more time than you tell me to say ‘Yes.’” That’s how we resist. We stand steadfast in our faith. The devil tempts us, “Eat of the apple and you will be like God.” “No.” The devil says to us, “Bow down to me and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world.” “No.” The devil tries to bully us, “Admit that Jesus is not real, that He never walked upon this earth or rose from the dead.” “No.” The devil whispers to us, “Since you’re saved by grace anyway, you don’t have to bother going to church or praying.” “No.” We stand firm in the faith. We resist the ploys of this world and the whispers of the devil. We are steadfast.
Then, Peter gives us a reason for standing firm. The reason he gives is more than a little surprising: remember that “your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” We are not the only ones going through this. We are not the only ones facing financial hardship. We are not the only ones facing temptation. We are not the only ones who stand accused of wrongdoing by the world. Our brothers and sisters throughout the world suffer as we do. Many of them face much, much worse. And Peter tells us, “Be strong for their sake and derive strength from them.” The devil may be able to break one of us, but he cannot break us all. We are stronger if we stand together. It’s a surprising reason. Remain strong in the faith for the sake of the church and with the strength of the church.
That’s it for Peter’s instructions to us. But he isn’t quite done yet in this passage. Peter gives us one last reason that covers all of his instructions. He reminds us of God.
God is the God of grace. God gives of His gifts freely. He freely forgave us our sins and paid the price with his own Son. He freely gives us grace even now, grace that sustains us and upholds us. We know that our salvation is not based on our works of righteousness. We know that our entry into heaven is not an attendance award. Our salvation is based in the promise of Jesus Christ. The Father includes us in His promise because He loves us in His grace.
God is also the one who called us in Christ, as Peter reminds us in verse 10. Sometimes, Paul is accused of having invented the doctrine of election, as if it were something devised by humans instead of God. Yet, here we find a reference to God’s call in the first letter of Peter. “God called you in Christ,” Peter says. “God called you to eternal glory.” This isn’t a choice that we made and can therefore unmake. This is something God has done. And if God did it, He will see it through to the end.
These truths about God should give us great comfort. They should give us great hope. And they should give us great strength. If the God of all grace called us in Jesus Christ, then He will restore us, support us, strengthen us and encourage us. In times of discouragement, He will encourage us. In times of weakness, He will give us strength. When we fall down, He will support us and pick us back up. When we suffer, He will restore us. When we are tempted, He will strengthen us. When we fail, He will forgive us. Remember that God cares for us.
We can cast our cares on God. We can stand strong in the faith. We can be disciplined and avoid temptation. And we can do all of these things because we know that God is on our side in Christ Jesus. That is why we can say with Peter, “To God be the power forever and ever. Amen.”
Order of Worship
Call to Worship: Psalm 139:14
Opening Hymn: “We Praise You, O God” PsH # 237
Prayer for God’s Greeting: “To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be ours in abundance.” Congregational Response: “Amen.”
Hymn of Praise: “Holy, Holy, Holy” PsH # 249
Call to Confession: Psalm 32:1, 3-5a
Prayer of Confession
Hymn of Confession: “Forgive Our Sins As We Forgive” PsH # 266
Assurance of Pardon: Psalm 32:1-2, 5-7
Hymn of Thanksgiving: “When Peace Like A River” PsH # 489
Words of Instruction: Psalm 32:8, 1 Peter 4:8-11
*Hymn of Praise and Dedication: “Take My Life And Let It Be” PsH # 288
Prayer of Illumination
Scripture: 1 Peter 5:7-11
Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
ALL: Thanks be to God!
Message: “Cast All Your Cares On God”
Prayer of Application
Leader: O Lord God, we ask that you would lead us to respond to your Word to our benefit and to your glory. Remind us to rely on you in all things, and teach us how to cast our cares on you that we may be free from worry and experience the fullness of your peace. Help us to be aware of the many temptations that are around us and to stand firm in the faith. We cannot do this on our own, so we ask that you would grant us your Spirit to guide and sustain us. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen.
Hymn of Response: “Come To The Savior Now” PsH # 535
Prayer concluded with “The Lord’s Prayer”:
Closing Hymn: “God Be With You Till We Meet Again” PsH # 316
Leader: “May the Lord bless us and keep us. May the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us. May the Lord turn the light of his face toward us and give us peace.”
Doxology: “To God Be The Glory” PsH # 632
Concluded with “Threefold Amen” Ps H # 641