Perhaps you, like me, are thinking how best to serve our country and those we love in such difficult and dangerous days. How do we best follow Jesus as we are caught in the midst of such a deep political, moral, philosophical and spiritual divide?
As always, we can look to God’s sure Word to speak grace and truth to captives in pagan Babylon, to Christians in Rome suffering oppression, and to us in a Post-Christian culture. This past week, wondering how to navigate coming headwinds, I turned for counsel to the little New Testament letter of 1Peter. Peter is writing from Rome just about the time the crazed Emperor Nero blames Christians for the “Great Fire of Rome”. This letter comes shortly before his crucifixion around A.D. 64. His readers are Christians experiencing suffering as“exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1) In this letter Peter encourages readers facing ostracism, persecution, even death, to “stand firm” in the grace, yes, the grace of God (5:12).
Last week, while reading 1Peter, I thought, “This is a book for Christians in any kind of difficulty and trial.” I was especially struck by Peter’s wise counsel to Christians in chapter 5, verses 7-9:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. 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 the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
As we face the vicious pandemic, ongoing lockdowns, political turmoil, and economic uncertainty, Scripture invites us to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Anxiety is a burden which faith can cast from self onto God. As Jesus taught, we are to give to God our anxieties for ourselves, our loved ones, our church, and our nation. We can cast all our anxious thoughts onto God, trusting that Abba Father “cares” for us.Our Abba Father, who remembers the falling sparrow and hears the cry of ravens, will not forget His care for us in the days ahead.
As Peter himself faces great trial, he encourages readers to “be alert and of sober mind.” Peter uses a tense of the Greek verb in this sentence — the aorist imperative — that calls for urgent, immediate action. In other words, Peter is saying “Do it now!” Don’t wait until next week.
With Peter’s admonition “be alert” (Greek: gregorio), he likely remembers the very word the Lord Jesus used when telling him, “Stay awake” (gregorio), or “Be on the alert” (Matthew 26: 36,40). Peter knows how deeply he had suffered for not being spiritually alert to the dangers he was facing. So Peter wants readers to be fully awake and on the alert to dangers ahead.
Then Peter calls for readers to be “of sober mind” (nepho). Again, the aorist imperative tense of the verb calls for immediate, urgent action. Do this now! The Greek verb nepho means, keep a cool head; be calm, self-controlled and clear-headed. Do not be intoxicated by the culture or what you see on the news or read by forwarded email. Don’t let it throw you! As you cast all your anxieties onto God, be focused on this: being calm and able to look at things without the intoxication of anxiety, fear, or anger.
We must do this, Peter adds, because our enemy is ready to eat us up: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We must be on the alert and sober minded to face this. Though the devil cannot destroy us, he can terrify us. Peter likely remembers the Lord Jesus warning him about Satan’s coming attack and Peter’s failure to prepare (Luke 22:31).
As I prayerfully reflect on Peter’s words, I think I can best serve my country and those whom I love by the following:
- Frequently pray PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP. With my PALMS DOWN I let go into God’s hands all of my anxieties. With my PALMS UP I receive all of God’s provisions for the day.
- To be on the alert I will spend time in God’s Word each day while asking the Holy Spirit to transform my thinking and attitude.
- I will spend far less time watching and reading the news. Instead, I will devote time to meditation on Scripture, good music, good reading and good conversation.
- I will not be reactive to frightening emails or hearsay, but keep a cool head focusing on what I believe as a Christian and trusting my faith.
- Finally, I will set aside time each day to pray for those whom Peter describes as “the family of believers throughout the world who are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
We are living big history. This is a critical time, a time for God’s people to “stand fast in the grace of God” (1 Peter 5:12).
A Fellow Traveler,