Peter wrote the letter titled First Peter when the church was in dispersion all over the known world. Persecution had come upon the church and the church was then spread out all over the place. This letter was most likely written in the mid sixties when the persecution had really intensified. In A.D. 64, on July 19th, Nero set the city on fire and then blamed it on the Christians. He did this to rally his empire back to him and to expand. My friends, government has done these types of things throughout history. They create many of these strategies in order to use them to further their cause and their purposes. That is exactly what Nero did. This led to many of the Christians being killed and slaughtered including, eventually, Peter himself. History tells us that he was crucified upside down. He refused to be crucified in the same way Jesus was, as he considered himself unworthy to do so. Peter was writing these instructions and exhortations to a church that was suffering greatly and yet he gives charges to the elders to lead well and to the people to serve God with great humility. Our circumstances, whatever they may be, do not give us a free pass to not lead and serve in obedience unto Christ and His word.
"Our circumstances, whatever they may be, do not give us a free pass to not lead and serve in obedience unto Christ and His word."
Be Clothed with Humility
God hates pride in all forms, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Pr. 6:16-19). God hates passive aggressive pride. He hates hypocritical pride. He hates authoritarian pride. He hates know-it-all pride. He hates pride at all levels. He hates pride in young men who are unwilling to follow the leadership of others, even those who are faithful elders. He hates pride. He hates pride so much that He even opposes the person that is full of it. Peter quotes this proverb in writing to the church, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble” (Pr. 3:34). God hates pride and places Himself in opposition to the person that is full of it.
Therefore, Peter says be sure to clothe yourself with humility. The term “clothe yourself” gives a picture of putting on an apron and tying it up in a bow. More specifically it is a picture of a servant putting on their apron and tying it up to go and serve their master. Everyday the servant chooses to put the apron on and then every night they choose to take it off. That is the picture that we can put on and take off humility that easy. We choose whether or not to put it on. Peter tells the church that is facing such extreme persecution that their response is to put on humility. Humility is not acting like Eeyore. Humility is emptying yourself of pride in order to honor and serve King Jesus. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself at all. It is not being a retreatist but standing unconcerned with what others may say or do. That is true humility. Jesus is the picture of humility.
"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's not thinking of yourself at all."
Specifics About Humbling Yourself
Peter then gives some specifics about the how and why the church should always be sure to clothe themselves with all humility. First, he says that the church is to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God. It is not man, the Roman empire that demands this humble obedience to them, but it is to God. We humble ourselves to God and strive to obey Him, which may mean that we humbly serve Him by resisting the wickedness of the government unconcerned about the consequences. It is the mighty hand of God that we must fear. The mighty hand of God flooded the entire earth and wiped out all people except for one family. The mighty hand of God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Humble yourselves under his mighty hand, not anyone else's. If anyone else tries to place a mighty hand over you, whether in the government, church, or home, you resist it as it is only God’s mighty hand that you humble yourself under.
Second, Peter says that you humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and allow Him to exalt you at the proper time. In this context He is obviously talking about the destruction of Jerusalem that was imminent and then the exalting of the New Covenant church that was about to take place. He is also talking about the final consummation when Christ’s Kingdom will be exalting over Satan’s Kingdom. His people, His church, will be exalted at that time.
Third, humbling yourself before God means you stop attempting to play God as it relates to future events and you cast all of your anxieties on Him. Anxiety is a form of great pride. We become anxious when we are worried about the future. We are worried about how things are going to play out. At the core we are anxious as we want to control the future. God says to humble yourself by casting your anxieties on Him. Why? Because He cares for you. He cares for you like no one else. He knows what you are going through like no one else. Often when I preach a funeral sermon I preach the story about Lazarus. Part of the sermon I talk about how Jesus wept with Mary. He wept because He is compassionate. God is compassionate and God cares for us.
"Humbling yourself before God means you stop attempting to play God as it relates to future events and you cast all of your anxieties on Him."
Be Humble and Serve
Let me give a very practical illustration and point for all of us to apply today. I will illustrate it through my failure. Failure is a great teacher as long as we are looking for the lesson. Early on in my conversion I felt a calling to serve Jesus as an elder. There was a burden to preach, teach, and lead. Like many young men, though, there was certainly a pride that lived within me. It was a quiet pride, but it was a pride nonetheless. I lusted after getting a “position” and after getting a “title.” I wanted people to recognize me as a leader. So, when I served and attempted to lead I wanted everyone to notice and to give me a pat on the back. I wanted them to say, “Job well done!” God eventually broke me of this and I read in a book that when we serve and obey Jesus we are not doing anything extraordinary -- we are just doing what is expected of us. The book said to begin to serve and don’t expect anything in return. That truth drove right through me. It was a moment in which I was praying to God and I recall making a commitment to Him that whatever His plan was for my life that I would do it with joy. That did not mean I was not going to strive and work hard, but certainly I would do whatever was placed before me with great joy and excellence. I specifically committed that if He wanted me to work at the restaurant and teach a Sunday school class for the rest of my life that I would do it with joy. I committed by saying, “I am going to be as faithful as I can with what you place before me and to allow you to exult to the next opportunity.” Clothe ourselves with humility.
"When we serve and obey Jesus we are not doing anything extraordinary -- we are just doing what is expected of us."
Are you troubled by the stage of life that you are in. Perhaps you are younger and worried that you might be “stuck” doing what you are doing right now for the rest of your life. You want more. You feel you deserve me. Be faithful with the little that you have. Perhaps you are in the middle of your life and you are saying, “How did I get here?” Keep serving Him faithfully with joy. Perhaps you are later in life and feel like you deserve more of a platform. Be humble. Serve Jesus and serve others. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.