What must believers do to persevere through persecution? – Part 2

Almost every night the boys and I wrestle with one another. Apart from trying to beat me down to the ground, one of the things they like to do is run full speed down the hall, into the living room, and right into me. Thankfully, at least for now, I’m able to resist them from knocking me over by standing firm. Just as I stand firm against the kids blows, Peter tells us we must stand firm against the devil, resisting his roar of persecution.

(3) Believers must resist the devil by remaining firm in their faith

In contrast to me wrestling the kids, we learn that we aren’t to resist the devil in our own strength. Instead, we resist him by faith. In other words, resisting Satan doesn’t involve herculean acts of strength on our part. It involves continued faith in God’s mighty hand.

Admittedly, continuing in faith is easier said than done, especially when you’re staring a lion down. Peter knows which is why in the next two and a half verses he works to provide the motivation we need to stand firm. He begins in verse 9 by telling us that: Persecution is a common occurrence for the Christian. Look at what he says in the second half of the verse,

“knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Pe 5:9b)

While we might feel isolated when we are standing before the mighty roaring lion of persecution, Peter tells us that we aren’t alone. There are others all over the world experiencing persecution. The implied idea seems to be that they are standing firm, resisting Satan’s attack. If they can do it, so can we. Not in our own strength, but by humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God, trusting that He will provide us what we need in order to persevere.

After telling us we aren’t alone, Peter continues to motivate us to persevere by telling us that: Persecution will not last forever. Look at verse 10,

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Pe 5:10)

One of the ways I like to get my exercise is to run. While the part of Texas in which I live is generally flat, the area right around my house. There aren’t any mountains, but the hills right around my house are deceivingly steep. When I’m out running, I like to push myself to run those hills as fast as I can. Starting out its easy, but there is always this point about half way through where I’m ready to throw in the towel and slow down. While the struggle is real, what allows me to push through and make it up the hill is knowing that the end is near. Peter wants us to see the same. He wants us to see that suffering, though painful at the time, isn’t going to last forever. It’s going to end. We might experience the end at some point in the future.Or we might not experience it until Jesus returns. Either way, persecution is not going to last forever. God will finally and fully deal with it at Jesus’ return where we will be vindicated.

But until that time comes, God will cause to persevere. That’s what Peter is getting at with the four rapid fire verbs he uses at the end of verse 10. While each are slightly different, they all combine to make the same point — God will strengthen and fortify us so that we persevere until the end. We not only learn that in verse 10, but we also learn the same at the beginning of the letter. Starting in verse 3 of chapter 1, we read:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, [and here is what I want you to see] who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pe 1:3–5)

Notice that God causes us to persevere through faith. Faith, He mightily works in us. That’s an important point to get because it tells us that we don’t persevere in our own strength, but through God’s strength as He works the faith needed for perseverance in us.

God is able to cause us to persevere because: God has dominion and control over this world. Look at verse 11,

“To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pe 5:11)

This verse is a doxology — a written praise to the Lord — but Peter includes it here as a means to strengthen our faith. Knowing that God is sovereign and in control of this world, that nothing happens outside of His sovereign control, that He is not blindsided or overpowered when we face persecution, should give us the confidence we need to press on in resisting the devil by exercising faith in God.

Conclusion

So we see that persevering through persecution requires us to: humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, remain clear-headed and alert to the devil’s plan, and resist the devil by standing firm in our faith. If we do those things, we will be successful in persevering through persecution.

What must believers do to persevere through persecution? – Part 1

I recently sat down with my youngest son to build an alligator from a lego set we bought him. Before I opened the box I thought, “I got this. I mean, how hard can it be to build a lego alligator?” Well, let me just say, my tune quickly changed as soon as I opened the box. Whoever designed that alligator had a great imagination. They were using Lego pieces in ways I would have never imagined. Instead of trying to go at it on my own, I did the wise thing, I pulled out the instructions and followed them step by step. And in no time, we had an alligator.

Putting that alligator together with my son reminded me that we are created with a need for instruction. While we all inherently know that’s true, there is something in us that drives us to go at it on our own.

But if we can’t handle putting together something as simple as a Lego alligator without following the instructions, what makes us think that we can handle the difficulties the world throws at us on our own?

We need instruction. Not just anyone’s instruction. We need God’s instruction. Especially, when we are facing something as difficult and all-consuming as persecution.

Because our God is a good God who loves us and wants what’s best for us, He gives us what we need. He gives us the instruction that we need so that we can persevere through persecution. Let’s look at what He has to say.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pe 5:6–11)

One of the greatest acts of betrayal a father can experience is when a son rises up against him. Throughout history, many fathers, leaders, and kings have had that experience. King David is no exception. His son Absalom made a power play for the throne. After four years of secretly working behind the scenes to build the support of the people, he put his plan in motion. By God’s grace, on the day Absalom decided to cash in on his hard work, David heard about the conspiracy and was able to escape to the wilderness.

While he avoided Absalom for some time, the day of battle finally came.  When that day came, David did something strange. Something you wouldn’t expect a deceived father, a king who had been humiliated, his throne ripped from him to do. He told his army to “deal gently…with…Absalom” (2 Sam 18:5). David not only gave that command because he loved his son, but because he fully trusted in the Lord. We know that because Psalm 55 allows us to peer into David’s heart during this difficult time. Starting in verse 16 he says,

“But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, because they do not change and do not fear God.” (Ps 55:16–19)

Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David turns to the Lord. When we are facing difficulties we must do the same.

Believers must humble themselves under the mighty hand of God

We learn this from David, as well as we learn this from Peter. After telling us to literally clothe ourselves in humility in verse 5, Peter says in verse 6,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,” (1 Pe 5:6)

Pride says, “I can do it on my own. I am strong enough to handle it.” Humility says, “I recognize that I’m not strong enough, that God is mightier than I, and that I don’t have to do it on my own.” We don’t have to pull own our bootstraps and go out it on our own, instead, we are to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand like David did, trusting that God can and will deal with the difficulties of life, especially when it comes to persecution.

Why can we humble ourselves?

We can humble ourselves for several reasons, but I’ll offer two:

(1) God is great and mighty God who fights on behalf of His people.

Throughout biblical history God has done just that. Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt is one of the greatest displays of God’s care and glory besides the cross of Christ. If you remember, God’s people were enslaved in Egypt. They were being treated terribly. Hearing His people’s prayer, God rises up against the Pharaoh, displaying. His power through 10 plagues that ultimately result in Israel’s release.

God, however, wasn’t done showing His power. With Israel’s back was against the Red Sea and the Egyptians bearing down on them, God literally parts the sea so that His people are able to walk across on dry ground. Seeing that the Israelites were getting away, the Egyptians ran into those walls of water which were soon to become their tomb. As they were running through this magnificent site, God removes His mighty hand and the waters came crashing down, drowning the mighty Egyptian army. Our God is a mighty God, who uses His power on behalf of His people

(2) God is a great and mighty God who cares for His people.

Did you know that there are 7.6 billion people on planet earth? That is unbelievable! A number I can’t even fathom. With so many people there is no way that we could ever know what is going on in their life. We can’t even do that for the 5,000 or more people that live here in Decatur.

But you know who does know? God knows. He doesn’t just know about us. We aren’t just a statistic to God. No, He knows us intimately. He knows us in that way because He cares about us. Because He cares about us, we can cast our cares on Him. Look at verse 7,

“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Pe 5:7)

Our God is a God who cares, which means that nothing that we are facing is insignificant to Him. It doesn’t matter if it is something that is small or big, God cares. Because God cares, we can cast “all” not just some, “all” of our anxieties on Him. Anything that causes us to worry, we are to take it to God. Don’t think that the problem you are dealing with is too small for God to be bothered with. No problem that we face is insignificant to Him. Our God is a God who cares!

So we need to quit trying to handle things on our own. Instead, we need to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, allowing Him to handle it for us. That is what He instructs us to do and that is what we must do. This is especially true when we are facing persecution. That’s because persecution is not a flesh and blood battle it is a spiritual battle, it’s spiritual warfare. We need God to fight that battle for us, to strengthen us, to work in and through us. We need Him to deal with our persecutors.