Have you ever noticed that the fear of getting a shot is often worse than the shot itself? You dread the moment, dread the moment, dread the moment—then it happens, and you discover that you got through it just fine. Isn't that the way it is? You wonder why you wasted so much time worrying about a little shot.
It's often the same way with hard times. We wonder, What will I do if such and such happens? How will I get by? How will I survive? Then it happens, and we discover that we can get through it. It doesn't mean we like it. It doesn't mean it's easy. But we can get through it.
There are a few certainties in life. Here's one: As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, you will, at some point, face tough times. It's inevitable. It's unavoidable. It's inescapable. Sooner or later, if not right now, you will be up against some big, big problems—health problems, money problems, job problems, family problems, marriage problems. There may be people who oppose you for no reasonable reason other than they decide to bring trouble into your life. Or you may find yourself being punished for trying to do good.
A couple of teenage girls from Colorado learned this lesson recently. Last July, instead of going to a weekend party where there might be drinking, they decided to stay home and make cookies for their rural neighbors. They dressed the cookies with little pink hearts and wrote a note that said, "Have a great night." They rang the doorbell of each home and left the cookies on the doorstep. Sounds like your basic, run-of-the-mill good deed, doesn't it? Well, one of their neighbors didn't appreciate their thoughtfulness. She later filed a lawsuit against the girls, claiming that the unsolicited cookies triggered an anxiety attack that forced her to go to the hospital. Amazingly, the judge ordered the girls to pay over $900 in medical bills and court costs. That's more than $450 each, probably a month's pay for the typical teenager with a part-time job. Can you believe that one simple act of kindness could backfire in such a way?
There will be times when the events in your life take an unexpected and unpleasant turn, and you will find yourself exactly where you don't want to be. I don't know about you, but thinking about this doesn't make me very happy. I wish I could say that at the seasoned age of 45, all my dark days are done, but we all know it isn't true—not for me, you, or any of us.
Now, we can spend our time worrying about what bad thing might happen, wringing our hands and asking, What will I do? How will I make it? What if …? What if …? What if …? But that won't get us anywhere. Remember the shot at the doctor's office. Don't waste time worrying over something that you can certainly get through.
Notice I used the words "you can certainly get through." This is our trump card. We have an advantage nonbelievers don't: We have God's promise to see us through whatever storms life brings our way. These promises are scattered throughout Scripture. Today we'll focus on one such passage in the final section of 1 Peter.
Peter closes out his letter to suffering Christians with an encouraging word: "You're in good hands," he says, "because you're in God's hands, and God will not let you go." What does it mean to be in God's hands? Today we'll look at three things. First...
God will honor you.
Peter writes, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and in his good time, he will honor you" (1 Pet. 5:6). Another translation says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time" nasv. Let's take a look at this verse from back to front. Peter says, "He will honor you." What does this mean?
The vast majority of commentaries I read on this passage said very little about this phrase. They tended to zero in on the "humble yourself" requirement without saying much about the "being exalted" result. It's a concept that we're not very comfortable with. We're accustomed to hearing warnings against pride. We're accustomed to being told to be humble. But preachers are somewhat reluctant to promise people from the pulpit that God wants to exalt you.
When we hear these words, our first reaction is often, "No, it is I who should exalt God." Of course we should exalt God. But we can't deny that God has stated that it is his desire—his plan—to exalt us: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:10 kjv).
Yes, there is an obligation on our part. We'll get to that in a minute, but right now I want to focus on the result: God will exalt you. God will honor you. What does that mean? Among other things, it means that you will get the credit you deserve, the recognition you deserve, the esteem you deserve, the appreciation you deserve. It means that you will receive the blessings you deserve, the rewards you deserve, the results you deserve.
"God will exalt you." What else does this mean? Well, since God has promised to do it, you don't have to do it yourself. This should be a tremendous relief for all of us. We don't have to do our own pr. God will handle it for us.
Don King once said, "I am the greatest boxing promoter in the world. And, of course, I say that humbly." True? Maybe. Humble? Not exactly.
Will Rogers said, "Get someone else to toot your horn, and the sound will carry twice as far." Allow God to honor you, and you won't have to worry about honoring yourself. He will take care of it.
Notice the next phrase: "and in his good time he will honor you" (v. 6). "In his good time" or "at the proper time," you will get the blessings you deserve, the credit you deserve, the rewards you deserve, the results you deserve. God promises that it will happen, but it will happen according to his timetable, not yours.
Some of you may be thinking, God gave me the ability to do a certain job, and he gave me the desire to do a certain job, so when is he going to give me the opportunity to do this job" Or you may be thinking, I do what I am supposed to do, day after day after day, and nothing ever happens, nothing ever changes, nothing gets better. When will I begin to see results" In his good time. At the proper time. If it isn't happening now, it's because—in his wisdom—he knows that it is better for you, and better for his kingdom, that you be given honor then instead of now. But at the proper time, he will exalt you.
Now, let's look at the next phrase: "So, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and in his good time he will honor you" (v. 6). "The mighty hand of God"—what does that mean? I had always interpreted this to be a stern phrase, as if it actually said, "under the mighty fist of God." That's not what it means. In Scripture, the phrase "the hand of God" symbolizes the deliverance of God: "For with a strong hand hath the Lord brought thee out of Egypt" (Ex. 13:9 kjv).
Peter is saying, "Humble yourself under God's power, under God's protection, under God's deliverance." What does it mean to be humble? Here are three characteristics:
• Being aware of where the power comes from. It's God's power, not yours.
• Being willing to do good without getting credit for it.
• Being able to rejoice in someone else's success.
Work on being humble. God will exalt you at the proper time. The second thing I want you to notice is ...
God will take care of you.
Here is one of the most recognizable verses in Scripture: "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you" (v. 7 kjv). Careth, by the way, is not an emotion. It's an action. God takes care of you, like a parent takes care of a child. He knows what you need and when you need it.
Here's a hard lesson to learn: He knows what you really need and when you need it. Sometimes we think we have a financial need, but what we really need is to learn to live on less. Sometimes we think we need companionship, but what we really need is to develop intimacy in our relationship to Christ. Sometimes we think we need healing, but what we really need is to learn compassion and mercy for those who are suffering. Many times we think we need this when, in reality, we need that. The great thing about knowing Jesus is that when we need that, he gives us that! He takes care of us. He gives us what we really need.
What's our responsibility? "Casting all your care upon him." I like that Peter used the word cast. It means to throw. That's a good idea. Intellectually, toss your worries as far away from your mind as you can. Drop them into the sea of God's mercy and tender loving care.
If you're like me, you have a hundred things to worry about right now—at least. One hundred difficult situations. Some of them are nipping at your heals, and maybe some of them have you by the throat. One by one, as these cares present themselves to you, you need to make a spiritual decision to cast them as far as you can into God's direction. He will take care of them for you, because he has promised to take care of you.
When you're in God's hands, you don't have to try to exalt yourself, because he has promised to exalt you. You don't have to let your worries consume you, because God has promised to take care of you. And third, you don't have to give up in defeat, because ...
God will restore you.
Have you ever made a bad investment? You buy, for example, $1,000 in stocks, and the stock takes a dive. A few days later, it's worth $600, and all you can think about is how nice it would be to have the $400 back. Have you ever been there?
One of the most difficult aspects of suffering is the ground you lose in the process. Many times our problems not only slow us down; they knock us back a few paces. Soon we discover we're just not where we used to be in life. I've heard the advice, "Don't look at what you have lost. Look at what you have left." I've probably given that advice a time or two. But guess what, it's hard not to look at what we have lost. It's hard not to think about where we would be and what we would have if things had turned out differently. Our mantra becomes, "If only… If only … If only..." The longer we look at what we have lost, the stronger the grip of regret on our life. It can consume us.
The truth is that everyone from Bill Gates to Bill Hybels loses ground from time to time. We all have setbacks. We all find ourselves back at the starting gate sometimes. But God has made a promise to his people: these setbacks are temporary.
Listen to Peter's words: "After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation" (v. 10). What a promise! Let's look at it more closely.
God will restore you.He will put you back where you belong.
He will support you. The original Greek word means to make as solid as a rock.
He will strengthen you. This is an athletic term. Peter is saying, "God will give you the muscle to do what you need to do."
He will place you on a firm foundation.He'll put your feet on solid ground.
No matter what you're going through right now, this is what God has in mind for your future.
What's your part in this? "Take a firm stand against [the Devil] and be strong in your faith" (v. 9). In this passage Peter says that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour. So, "Stand up," Peter says. "Stand against him. Don't let yourself be pushed around by ungodly circumstances in your life."
Peter says, "Be strong in your faith." because being strong in faith comes down to a simple decision. Being strong is within your ability. He isn't telling you to sing like Celine Dionne or throw a football like Tom Brady. Those things are beyond your ability. This isn't. Be strong. You can do it. It comes down to a choice, a decision, a determination. Be strong. Take a stand. God will restore you and support you and strengthen you and place you on a solid foundation.
Peter closes this letter with these words: "My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens" (v. 12). Moments before he says, "Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are" (v. 9).
When you face hard times—and all of us certainly will—it is easy to think, I am all alone in this; there is no one to stand with me. Here's what I want you to remember: You are not alone. And no matter what happens, God's grace is with you.
You can endure anything life has to give. You are in good hands here, because you are in God's hands. He will honor you. He will take care of you. He will restore your life.