Sadly, this video did not record well. But, the audio is intact!
Good Morning New Journey!
It is a blessing to have you join with other Brothers and Sisters in Christ from around Wabash County and even the United States.
As I spoke with several of you this week of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I couldn’t help but sense some weariness. Where that comes from, I think, is all the unknowns. When will I get to see my family and friends again? When can I go to a restaurant? When will I be called back in for work? And, am I and my loved ones at risk of serious illness?
When we cannot see an endpoint, a finish line, it feels like we have no traction and we’re making no progress.
Our family has been reading the Chronicles of Narnia series and we just read the story of the poor boy Shasta and the talking horse Bree crossing an expansive desert to escape slavery and experience the freedom of Narnia. There is a period of time where they can no longer see where they’ve been, nor can they see the land they are longing for.
I think this describes how many of us may feel right now. What I’d like to remind you of, is Jesus promise in John 4, that
“those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”John 4:13 NIV
It’s true, the world is in a tough spot. But, while we traverse through the desert, unable to go back to where we were, nor see our destination, we can take with us the wellspring of life.
This leads us into our responsive reading this morning. I chose this passage from Psalm 63, written by David while living in the Judean wilderness. Notice how he doesn’t long as much for physical necessities like water, but for God Himself.
O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.
6 I lie awake thinking of you,
meditating on you through the night.
7 Because you are my helper,
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your strong right hand holds me securely.
Dear Church, receive these promises. He does satisfy, He does overshadow you, He is your helper, and His strong right hand holds you securely.
At this moment, I invite you to stand and respond to Him in gratitude through song. It’s our time of worship. Don’t forget to look around and say, “It’s okay to sing bad here!” Let’s make a joyful noise to Him.
Thank you, band. It’s now time to go to prayer.
Right now, go around the room and share prayer requests. And, after everyone has shared, pray for the person on your right.
If you’ve never prayed out loud before, simple say “Lord Jesus, please be with _______” If you feel led to pray more, great. If not, that’s okay. But, it will get you started. For larger groups, split into smaller groups. If you’re online, please share as much as you are comfortable so we might lift one another up to God. Here’s a five-minute count-down.
Amen. 1 John 5:14 says “This is the confidence we have in approaching God. That anything we ask according to His will, He hears us.” Know that God has heard you today.
Now, let’s jump into our message. We’ll begin with a couple of discussion questions. Please, answer these in your group, or the online comments.
What is a piece of advice you could give to someone?
What is a lesson you’ll always remember from someone you love and respect?
Sometimes it isn’t until someone is gone for a while you begin to remember the words they spoke to you. As many of you know, my stepfather passed away in a tragic accident two years ago next month. He taught me a lot of things I didn’t pay much attention to at the time, but I find myself reflecting more on. Sure, there were things like saving up to pay with cash and not opening something I bought until I mailed in the rebate form. I even received a lesson on locking the door when he staged a burglary in our bedroom while we were gone. But, it’s those deeper pieces of advice, sometimes spoken through consistent actions that we take with us each day. Working hard, helping others, staying faithful, listening more than you speak, and taking an interest in others more than sharing about yourself. Spending time with the elderly. These are the kinds of things I think about now that Jeff is gone.
And, today, being my final Sunday here at New Journey, I couldn’t help but think about what advice I would share with each of you. I wondered what spoken and unspoken things you may have gleaned throughout our time together the past four years. Also, I continued to read through 1 Peter, and saw he, too, shared some final instructions to these Christians enduring suffering. As I pondered the words in 1 Peter 5, I felt that he said it best, and so, we’ll conclude our study on 1 Peter, and allow it also to be final instructions from me to you.
- Instructions to Those Leading
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. 1 Peter 5:1-4 NIV
Peter appeals to the leaders of each local church in his care. He comes to them, not with a domineering, top-down attitude, but alongside them as a fellow minister. He helps them understand that his advice is not given from the isolation of an ivory tower, but from experience in the trenches. He also reminds them that suffering is part of our faith, having started with our leader, Jesus. But, that hope is also part of our faith, for after Christ’s suffering came His glory. The same is true for us.
Then, Peter exhorts the leaders to shepherd God’s flock they’ve been given. It’s not a general flock, it’s their flock. And, it’s not a shepherding out of compulsion, but out of compassion.
If you’re watching this right now and you are in any leadership position at all—Team Leader, Small Group Leader, Strategy Team, Board Member, or Ministry Director, God has given you a great blessing. He has chosen you to care for the sheep. To feed them the Word of God, to lift up constant intercession for them, to train them in righteousness, and to be an example to them.
In verse three, you’ll see that Peter instructs you not to “lord authority over others” but instead be examples. That word “being examples” is the Greek word γινομαι and it’s almost always translated as “becoming” I thought that was worth noting, as most of us, including myself, don’t feel I’m a very good example most of the time. But, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about becoming a better leader each day.
If you do, Peter says there is a crown of glory that will never fade away. Specifically, Peter uses the word for “garland of victory” instead of “kingly crown” He’s talking about that leafy half-crown you think of on the heads of those participating in ancient Olympics. I don’t doubt the imagery is meant to remind you that this crown must be earned as we run the race marked out for us. It’s not a crown you get by positional authority.
May I ask you this morning,
Are you caring for the flock? Are you doing so, willingly? Will you let God help you become an example to others?
Mark Hatfield was a US senator for thirty years and tells the story of touring Calcutta with Mother Teresa. He visited her “House of Dying,” where sick children are cared for in their last days and where the Poor line up by the hundreds to receive medical attention. Watching Mother Teresa minister to these people, feeding and nursing those left to die, Hatfield was overwhelmed and asked “How can you bear the load without being crushed by it?” To this Mother Teresa replied, “I am not called to be successful, I am only called to be faithful.”
We’re not perfect, but, dear leaders, let us become faithful.
Next, Peter gives final
- Instructions to Those Growing
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV
Peter now addresses, not the leaders, but the flock themselves. Younger here most likely means less “of less authority” or “less seasoned in the faith” Notice his exhortation to submit to your elders begins with “in the same way” That means, Peter is asking both those growing and the leaders to submit to each other, but it’s done in different ways. For the leaders, it is to love faithfully, consistently, and out of a heart that desires to serve. For the general congregation, to submit is to humbly respect and accept the instructions and guidance given.
In the days, weeks, and months ahead, New Journey as a local body of believers needs to stick together. There will need to be decisions made about tough things like finances, how many people we gather together, and what strategies to take in reaching out to our congregation and the community. I encourage you, dear friends, humble respect the leaders. Just as I have encouraged the leaders to respect and serve you.
Last week we talked about the body. If you missed that segment in the beginning, go back and watch it. Join in that responsive reading. Because the hand needs the body, the body needs the head, and the head needs the heart. We all have different gifts, but one Spirit fills us. We are all members of one body, so let us humble serve and submit to each other.
I ask you now to consider,
Do I humble submit to leadership? Do I believe God gives special grace to the humble? Do I believe God opposes the proud?
There’s an old story of a ship captain who looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send the message, “Alter your course 10 degrees south.” Promptly a return dispatch was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north.”
The captain was angered his command had been ignored. So, he sent a second message: “Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am the captain!” Soon another message was received: “Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am seaman third class Jones.” Immediately the captain sent a third message, “Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am a battleship.” Then the reply came “Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am a lighthouse.”
When we are proud, we shut our ears to all voices but our own. But, when we are humble, we take a leap of faith that I may not have all the answers after all. Church, stay humble, and joyfully respect the leaders of our church.
- Instructions to All
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. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:7-11 NIV
Background and Application
Peter ends his letter with these five verses. The Spirit inspired him with several connected encouragements for the churches experiencing suffering. First, cast your anxieties on God because He cares for us. Since the Connections Team challenged us to memorize Scripture, I’ve been committing a verse to my heart each week. It’s been transformative. My verse this week is Psalm 55:22, and pairs very well here: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never let the righteous be shaken.” Have you ever thrown something really far? Perhaps, a rock into a pond? There’s this moment of feeling its weight, and then making an effort to launch it. Then, a moment of finality as it falls and sinks out of sight. Can you imagine making an effort to cast your anxieties, your cares on the Lord? He cares for you. You are noticed. You are seen. He is not only able, but willing. So, what are you waiting for, in this time of suffering? Go to the only One who is not shaken.
Second, we are called to be aware of the spiritual battle around us. Did you know that Satan and the demonic forces are not in Hell? They are here. Yes, they will be judged and cast into Hell. But, right now they are here. Do I believe you should be afraid? No, the opposite. However, you do need to be aware. I’ve noticed that I am often lulled into spiritual apathy, tempted, and then accused. This is the work of demonic forces. I’ve also noticed when emotions are high, there is arguing, fighting, pride, and deep hurt, yet nobody can put their finger on “why,” it’s often the work of demonic forces.
So, we must be watchful. By being in prayer, Scripture, attending worship, we continue to have a mindset of the unseen realities around us. It’s absolutely true that when you pursue God there will be resistance. When you are fulfilling the “good works prepared in advance for you to do,” there will be resistance. Don’t be unaware. Wake up. Sober up. Look around. And fight.
Lastly, Peter encourages us, once again, that this is not all there is. This life is not going to be a perfect picnic, because the story was thwarted long ago in the garden. And, this life is not going to be you getting beat up and victimized your entire life, because there is victory in Christ. It’s a battle ground. There are ups and there are downs. But, ultimately, Peter points our hearts and heads back to Heaven. Our ultimate destination, our ultimate hope, the “Narnia” we long for on our journey across the desert of life.
Hang onto this promise, dear friends, “after you have suffered a little while, [He] will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Are you casting your cares on God? Are you being watchful of the spiritual realm? Is your hope in Heaven?
Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 NIV
If you are trying to get through life without any real hope, your heart is going to grow sick. Please, put your hope in Jesus. He will fulfill your longing and the depths of your contentment will grow as a mighty tree, bearing the fruit of life.
These are Peter’s final instructions for a church in suffering, these are my final instructions to you. Please, join me now in responding to God’s Word through song.
Please receive this final benediction from me as your pastor, the original benediction found in Numbers 6:22-26
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Don’t forget to fill out your connection card, give online, and stay after service for announcements and an update from our Board.
It’s been an absolute pleasure to serve you these past four years. Remember, we aren’t moving away, so we look forward to enjoying fellowship with you in our home in the coming months.
Go with God.