This week's Bible Study - August 17, 2014
1 Peter 5:1-11
Quote of the Week:
"You cannot fulfil God's purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans. "
Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?
What do you think about when you hear surrender? In the context of war, to surrender implies that you are giving up and ceding the victory to the opposing side. Nobody begins a war with the thought of surrendering, but that is ultimately what it takes for a war to end. In ending the Second World War, the Pacific Allied Commander gave terms of unconditional surrender with no qualifications to Tokyo. When surrender occurs, you do not get to select optional areas to hold back. In war, a side doesn't surrender until they see have no other choice. This is the essence of Christianity, as we will surrender to Christ when we see that He can provide for us in a way that we never could.
One of the hymns that I remember singing when I was growing up was called "I Surrender All". In this song, we sang of our surrender to Christ, which is voluntary. For many believers, this idea of surrender takes a long time to really sink in. Many readily accept Jesus as their Savior, but it takes much longer to truly see Jesus as our Lord. When He is truly our Lord, we surrender to Him. We wish that we could truly surrender all, but it is apparent that we do not achieve perfection and we all struggle with sin and a desire to live for self. Most believers will sing the words I Surrender All, but for many people, the true words might be I Surrender Part.
Surrender is difficult for us to do, as we tend to think we would do better to maintain control in our own lives. We must remember that Jesus told us that we must die to self daily. We are to pick up our cross each day and follow Him.
Peter addressed this passage to elders among the church and those who were the leaders. Peter appealed to them as a fellow elder and the things he was writing to them were things that he was saying to himself. As pastors, teachers and others who share the word of God with others, we must remember that we are not merely sharers of God's word, but we are also to see the application to our own lives.
Peter also appealed as a witness of Christ's sufferings and as one who would share with them in God's glory to be revealed. Peter truly was a witness, as he spent time with Jesus and also was present at the time of His crucifixion and a witness of the Lord's resurrection. Although you and I were not witnesses in the same way as Peter, each of us who are believers are indeed witnesses of Christ in our own lives.
Peter wrote that the elders were to be shepherds of God's flock that was under their care. In doing so, he gave a few negatives followed by positives that should be prevalent as they led their church. They weren't to lead simply because they must. What is the perception when someone does something because they feel like they 'have to', as opposed to a true desire to do it? You can likely think back to times where it has been obvious that things were said or done out of obligation, rather than sincerity. People have been told to say 'sorry', when they obviously weren't. We must examine our own lives and ask ourselves if we are living out of obligation or sincerity. It is easy to see how this can apply to leaders in a church. In the past, there was a time in my church where the deacons were supposed to call every family to pass along some information. It was intended to be a personal touch. When my deacon called, he said something along the line of 'they told us we were supposed to call everybody', as if it was his "job" and less of something that he agreed with doing. If you are a teacher, or a leader in some other capacity, do you find yourself acting because you are supposed to or out of sincerity? In those times, we would do well to pray in accordance with Psalm 51:12, which states "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
Peter said that the leaders should not be greedy for money, but instead they should be eager to serve. Certainly, in careers, promotions and raises are motivators to performing our jobs. But, even there, you will be less effective if you are only doing it for the money. In the church, Pastors who are mostly focused on higher and higher salaries should question why they do what they do. On the converse, we as churches should pay our leaders well, as a sign of appreciation and as acknowledgment that they are doing what God wants them to do.
Lastly, Peter said that the leaders should not lord over those entrusted to them, but should serve as examples to those in the church. In the end, the leaders are not to use their position for personal advantage, whether it is for financial reasons, positions of power, ego trips or any other reasons than to serve the Lord.
We need to realize that the church is not 'our' church, but it is the Lord's. Christ is the Chief Shepherd. We see many problems when churches tend to focus on things other than what God would have them do. Is your church more focused on its own goals or do we see that we are truly Christ's church?
Peter carries on the idea of submission, as the church is to submit to its leaders. He encourages the younger people to submit themselves to the elders. On an aside, I have often thought that we lose a tremendous resource in our churches when we partition everyone away based on age. In my own experience, I have learned so much from those older than myself and who have shared many lessons that have helped me in my life. Along the same line, we should be willing to share our experiences with those who are younger. Have you ever thought about the situations you have dealt with in life and the things that you have learned through them? Are we willing to share with others?
A church is called to submit to its leaders. God established an authority structure for our churches. If a church refuses to follow the direction of a leader that is seeking God, the church will suffer. However, on the other hand, when a leader of a church begins pushing their own agenda and expecting blanket submission, there will be problems. A wise leader can achieve much by showing respect to church members by creating an open dialogue as to the direction of the church. Ultimately, the direction of the church is the responsibility of the leader, but a wise leader will seek to understand different perspectives in a respectful manner. When either the leader or the church becomes arrogant and self seeking, the church will suffer.
Humility is not the normal human response. In fact, there is something within each of us that tends to be self puffing. I remember a quote from Charles Barkley, when he was playing basketball, saying "I will never say that anyone is better than I". Certainly we don't see this among believers, do we? Do you recall Jesus speaking of the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14?
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
We are not called to humility as a merit system. In fact, if you begin to see yourself as better because you are more humble, wouldn't that be the opposite of what humility means? We are called by God to live humble lives.
We read that we are to cast our anxiety on God because He cares for us. Have you ever thought about how powerful it is to know that God truly does care for you? So many religions point towards a deity that can only b be worshipped and feared. Certainly, we are to be in awe of God, but we also know that He cares for us.
We tend to want to take care of ourselves and live the way that we see fit. Some people don't want to share their needs with others, as they believe that they are just to suck it up and take care of themselves. God puts others around us in order for us to live in a community, finding those who will care for us and pray for us, as we pray for them. Are you part of a community that is sharing life with you? In the end, we aren't called to cast our cares on that community, but on God Himself. We can walk beside others that are struggling and offer assistance, as well as praying for them.
Peter writes that we have an enemy that seeks to destroy us. When we know that there are problems, we are more alert. Even when we aren't wearing our shoes, we know that we need to walk more carefully. There are other places that we will be more alert, due to the danger that may be present. If we could only see the enemy or the threat, perhaps we be more alert.
Do we realize that we are in a war of sorts, even though we don't see that with our eyes? Even though we would like to think that there is not a force that wants to trip us, up, we read that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. If there was a hungry lion walking around in your neighborhood, do you think you might prefer to stay inside? We'd bring our pets inside and perhaps stand at the window, snapping pictures, but we wouldn't want to go outside and approach that hungry lion, right? When we drop our guard in life, we open ourselves up to potential problems in life.
Are you self controlled and alert? Are you standing firm? The church is here to provide a solid front to the enemy. Unfortunately, we often give the devil a foothold within our church walls. Living in the St Charles, Missouri area, we have seen our share of floods in surrounding communities. At different times, large groups of people have come together to place sandbags in key positions, in order to slow the impending floods. The water tends to search for that one weak area and when it has found it, a trickle starts that will become a creek, then a river, flooding everything on the other side. None of us wants to be that breach in the levee, but when we are not self controlled and alert, we are more apt to allow ourselves to be in situations that can bring much harm to ourselves and others.
We certainly do not see persecution to the same degree as it may be found in other parts of the world, but we have certainly seen this increase in recent times. At the time of this writing, there are believers that face death, unless they turn from their faith. For these people, the enemy is very apparent and a choice must be made. For many of us, we tend to isolate ourselves from these types of problems and refuse to believe that we face an enemy each day. We may even fool ourselves into thinking that we will never be put into this type of situation.
Although the enemy is on the prowl and although we may face persecution at times, we can rest assured that the God of grace has called us to his eternal glory in Christ. We will suffer in this life, but God will restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast. This isn't based on who we are or what we can do, but it is all based on God's promises and provision.
The Christian life is difficult, if you try and live it as we are called to live it. We have to examine our motives behind what we do and realize the impact that caving to the world will bring upon us. Are you willing to surrender yourself to the Lord and put your life in His hands? We tend to think that life is safer when we are in control, but at some point, we realize that we are not in control. There are certainly things that we can do, but in the end we cannot control outcomes of situations or even what others do. Are you prepared to live your life in a way that makes it evident that you belong to the Lord, despite whatever opposition you face?
This lesson spoke about humility. What problems are solved in the church if people are humble with one another? Unfortunately, you can only be humble for you, despite what someone else may do. We need to be sober and alert as we live this life, realizing that we do have an enemy that wants to trip us up at nearly every turn.
Before we were believers, we didn't see any need to surrender to the Lord. Perhaps we thought that we could handle things best if we lived in the way that we decided was best. However, over time, we realize that there is much more to this life than what we can control. Make a choice to surrender your life to the Lord.