Humble, Watchful, Hopeful – 1

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Hey, everyone. I’m Justin, and I want to welcome you to North Hills Church, especially if this is your first time joining us. We’re going to get started in just a few minutes. But first, here’s this week’s Need2Know.

We wanted to take this time to help you know what to expect in the coming weeks. Currently, all services and activities are canceled through the end of March. However, we encourage you to join us each Sunday morning by worshiping from your living room. Moving forward, the sermon will be posted on our website by Friday evening each week. In addition to posting the sermon on Fridays, we will have a video update from our elders every Tuesday. The best way for you to stay informed throughout the coming weeks is by subscribing to our text updates. You can do this by texting the keyword UPDATES to 864-999-2525. By doing this, you’ll get all the important information and new communications sent by text directly to your phone.

One last thing before we get started. As a North Hills Church member, if the pandemic has created a financial hardship for you, please contact OneAnother, the Benevolence Ministry at North Hills. You can do this by emailing oneanother@northhillschurch.com. Please leave a short, clear message and someone will get back to you within 24 hours.

There are so many opportunities to get connected at North Hills. Please visit the Need2Know section of our website to learn more about different ways to connect and get involved. That wraps up this week’s Need2Know. Have a great week, everyone.

Welcome, North Hills Church and anyone who is digitally visiting our service today. As I speak, I’m greeting families, small gatherings of life groups, perhaps a couple, and people who are home by themselves. We hope to utilize the common grace of technology as our collective connection point. Over the next three weeks we are going to take a break from our Revelation series and dive deep into 1 Peter 5. We will discover Peter’s pertinent message to cast all our anxieties on God. Why? Because he cares for us.

Also, this week, we want to provide you with assistance to worship through music. Some of you may have a musician among you and have a plan for singing together. We love that. However, some of us are not musically gifted, and it can make singing in a small group difficult. Further, for many, singing in a small group feels more intimate and awkward. Our voices can no longer get lost in the midst of hundreds of people. Rather, they may stick out like a sore thumb. Let us all embrace the awkward. We will have the opportunity for the next few minutes to pray and ponder, to listen and to sing. We invite you to do both, even if it feels awkward. Dare to sing, to pray out loud with your family, with friends, and even by yourself. COVID-19 doesn’t have the power to stop our songs.

So, North Hills, gathered in homes all over the upstate, remember what Jesus said.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

You are loved.

Good morning or good afternoon or good evening, whatever time of day this is finding you. My name is Bryan, and I’m really honored to be on your screen right now. We’re going to use Psalm 46 to lead us in prayer and worship. It describes the scene where mountains are shaking, and the seas are foaming, and the kingdoms are freaking out, the nations are freaking out, kingdoms are tottering. And then God’s voice rushes in, and he says “Be still. Be still and know that I am God.” So, there’s a lot we don’t know, there’s a lot that’s unknown right now. But there’s one thing we do know, that “I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Not fear, not anxiety, not uncertainty. There are lots of other things that are being exalted in the earth right now that feel really big, really high. And God is saying, “I will be exalted.” So, we’re just going to practice exalting and making him the biggest thing in our minds and our imaginations. We’re going to use a couple of songs, we are going to use some prayer and just anchor ourselves on the Lord of hosts, who is with us. We are just going to practice being with him.

So, get yourself in a position where you can breathe deeply. We’re going to practice being still, just doing what he said. “Be still, know that I am God.” Take some deep breaths in and out right now. Let’s practice praying this prayer from St. Patrick as we breathe.

“Christ with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ in me, Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ, when I lie down. Christ when I sit down. Christ when I rise. Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me. Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me. Christ in every eye that sees me. Christ in every ear that hears me.”

Can we sing, “In Christ Alone?”

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand
In Christ alone! – who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live
There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

We’re going to just keep focusing on the goodness of Jesus, the bigness of Jesus. We’re going to practice 1 Peter 5:7 casting all of our anxieties on him because he cares for us. He’ll do the caring. So, we’re going to just sing this prayer or a song that kind of teaches us how to pray. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” we’re just going to practice. Whenever there’s an instrumental part between the verses, practice bringing an anxiety or a care to mind, a burden, something that’s weighing on you, and hand it to Jesus. Look at Jesus looking at that. How does he look at it? You might want to even practice kneeling or laying down or lifting your hands out in the space that you’re in right now. Just before him casting anxieties.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Let’s carry those things to him.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? Jesus, Savior is our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer. Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Jesus knows our every weakness. Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Where do you feel weak? Take that to him right now. Let him be strong in my weakness.

Blessed Savior, you have promised all our burdens you will bear. May we ever Lord be bringing all to you in earnest prayer. Soon in glory, bright, unclouded, face to face will be our prayer. Joyful praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Practice even out loud worshiping him. Just tell him what you love about him. Jesus, I love how kind you are. I love that you are with me right here, right now. I love that you take away all fear, that your perfect love casts out all fear. I love that you are sensitive to our weaknesses. You’re no stranger to our weaknesses. I love that you are on the throne, you are God, that you’re making all things new.

Father, you are eager to take what we don’t want — our cares — and to take them upon yourself. It is amazing, a wonder that you do this, that you actually invite us, command us to do this. And so, we pray that you would teach us today how to do this, how to cast our cares on you, knowing that you care for us. And we thank you in Jesus name amen.

I am already so missing you all. There is nothing like gathering with my brothers and sisters in one big group — just the passing conversations, the Tom Brady slams, the spontaneous prayer times, the divine appointments. Just the way with a bigger group, God brings people who are so different from one another. And we all look together to the one who is so different. Holy, holy, holy. Even the inappropriate amens, I miss. And so, we are not able to duplicate that online. We’re not trying to. It’s not the same. But God has made it clear that he is up to some good things in these weeks. Out of respect for our government’s recommendations, social distancing, not out of fear at all, out of love for the most vulnerable, we are not gathering as a church family.

But we want to continue to do what God has called us to do. And let me strongly encourage you to do this. God has called us to believe his Word, to connect with his family, to share his story. That’s what our church is all about. So, even if we can’t do those things in the way that we have done them, we can still do those things. We will not be distracted. We’re not going to spend all our time trying to figure out conspiracy theories as to what’s really going on. There may be a time for that. But right now, it’s the time to do what God has called us to do. And so, we want to wrestle with this these couple weeks. I want to spend today and the next two weeks answering the question, what should we be doing? How should we be thinking?

And if you’ll turn to 1 Peter 5, 1 Peter 5. For many years I have said that we should all have certain passages that we instinctively turn to in crisis. They’re burned into our hearts and our minds, and we turn to them instinctively when the floor goes out from under us, when our entire schedule gets exploded, when things happen that we had not anticipated. Where do our minds instinctively turn? And when things are good, we should be burning into our hearts and minds certain passages and promises of God’s Word so that when things happen that are unexpected, we naturally turn, supernaturally turn to these places. Last week I talked about one of them, Psalm 90. This week we’re going to look at 1 Peter 5. At first, I thought I could do the whole thing in one week. But as we, as I and some other elders talked and prayed, we feel like this little passage has a big message that we need to hear at this time. And so, Lord willing, we’re going to spend three weeks — Don’t worry. We will come back to Revelation. Revelation has vital stuff to say about what is happening now. We’re going to come back to that very soon. But for right now, we want to practice as a church family, even though we can’t gather together, we can still be together in his Word, clinging to his promises, and focusing on what really matters.

1 Peter 5:6-11 is a passage like that. It’s almost like a finale at the end of a fireworks display where Peter fires off three big mindsets that Christians take on, assume in the midst of crises. We are humble, watchful, hopeful. And we want to live in these for the next few weeks. Humble, watchful, hopeful.

For today, let’s focus on that first one, humble. Look at verse 6. 1 Peter 5:6,

“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.”

Now why would Peter call suffering Christians to humble themselves? At the beginning of the letter, he called them the elect exiles of the dispersion.

So, he’s writing to a great group of Christians who are scattered throughout what was known as Asia Minor, today Turkey, scattered throughout, experiencing intense opposition, feeling isolated. He wrote so much wisdom about who they are and how to respond. And here he is summarizing what he called them to be and do and think with these three key ideas. And the first one is, humble yourself. Now, aren’t they already humbled? They’re being mistreated. Experiencing opposition, suffering, and he’s saying, humble yourself.

This is a big idea that you will not hear talked about today, and that is, my proud heart is more dangerous than Coronavirus. Hubris is more deadly than virus. Do we understand that? Hubris, arrogance, vanity, pride in all of its forms kills more people — I’m not minimizing the danger of virus — but is more dangerous ultimately than a virus or than persecution or any other form of suffering. This is important for us to understand, that suffering and disappointment can at the very same time deflate and inflate. It can deflate us by crushing our spirit. It deflates our spirit. We’re discouraged. But it can inflate us by elevating our thoughts. We can at the same time feel discouraged and insecure and justifiably frustrated, angry, feel like we are right to be upset. And in that sense, pride is bipolar. There is a high pride of self-promotion and a low pride of self-pity. We can be insecure and insolent at the same time.

So, Peter writes to these Christians living in uncertain times to first and foremost in this summary call to say, humble yourselves, humble yourselves. Now, that seems a bit abstract. So, what he does is he applies it in two very specific ways.

First of all, humble yourselves regarding God’s timing, timing. Look at verse 6.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”

So, place yourself under the mighty hand of God — hand of God represents his hand over history like in Exodus 13:9, where God said, “With a strong hand [or Moses], with a strong hand you brought them out of Egypt.” When we suffer, our thoughts can be inflated with questions about God’s timing. Why now, Lord? How long, O Lord? When are you going to grant relief? What’s taking you so long? And we kick into what we could call a spiritual survival mode. It’s like physical survival mode where we forget about his provision in the past, we can’t see what’s coming in the future, we are lost in the now. Time begins to be displayed in digital rather than analog.

Historian David McCullough believes the triumph of the digital watch is a symbol of and these are his words, “an imbalance of outlook in our day.” An imbalance of outlook in our day. I would say it this way, we see what time it is; we can’t see what time is. We see what time it is; we can’t see what time is. No, obviously, there is a place to be in the moment. We need to be present. But we need to be present with an awareness of what God has done in the past and what God has in store for us in the future so that we don’t become stuck in the naked now, unaware of the past, unable to see the future, unsituated, dislocated, chronologically homeless. Because when we are in that place, when our thoughts begin to assume that the sovereign hand of God has somehow lost track of timing, is out of control, is my schedule, my calendar. The way he’s working in history is unsuitable, untimely. When we get to that place, we are seeing our days in digital, not analog. And the result is a loneliness, a disorientation that leads to hopelessness. God sees everything in absolute analog. Meaning, he sees all of time. And so, as Peter says, we are called to humble ourselves under God’s timing, to trust the one, as we talked about last week, Psalm 90, “who is our dwelling place from everlasting to everlasting.” His sovereign hand is in control of all things, and so we humble ourselves and trust his timing. He will exalt us. That’s a very general statement, referring to any time we feel like, “God, we need you to come through. We need you to resolve this. We need you to lift us up out of this.” He will at the proper time. At the proper time. He is the one managing our calendar.

And so, what if God really knows what he’s doing? What if our country needed to slow down, to recalibrate, to be reoriented to what is really important? What if I needed to be dislocated from the routine that I was in, for that to be disrupted so that I can look at my life from a perspective that is transforming. So, will we trust his timing?

Secondly, his caring, his caring. Look at verse 7. His caring.

“Casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

And this call is flowing right out of the command,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you”

and then flows right into, and another way we humble ourselves is we cast all our anxieties on him because he cares for us.

Notice how the casting depends on the caring. We will not cast if we don’t think he cares. Mark 4, Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a ship, a boat. And the Sea of Galilee is below sea level, so they had massive (still do) downdrafts that led to these sudden storms. And the disciples are in the midst of one of these. The wind is blowing. The water is filling up the boat. Jesus is asleep in the stern, sound asleep in the back of the boat. And so, the disciples frantic go to Jesus, and they ask him in Mark 4:38, “Teacher [Really, they’re probably hollering, yelling over the sound of the roaring wind.] “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? Do you not care?” That word “care” is the same word that Peter uses in 1 Peter 5:7, “He cares for you.”

So, the disciples are being crushed by their cares because they are assuming that Jesus is careless. Because you, Jesus, are obviously concerned about your nap. Perhaps you’re concerned about kingdom things somewhere else, big things. But you apparently are not concerned about the fact that we are perishing. The wind and the water are overcoming us. Do you not care? And I cannot even imagine, and I don’t want to try to impose something on Jesus that the text does not tell us about. But I can’t imagine what the look on Jesus’ face might have been when they said, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus wiping the sleepies out of his eyes is looking at them with water spraying and wind roaring like, really? You think because you feel uncared for that you’re not cared for? You think because you think I’m distracted, that somehow I am not in control of everything that is happening? But he doesn’t say anything at first. He just turns to the thing they care about, speaks directly to the wind and the waves and says, “Peace! Be still!” Mark 4:38 says “The wind ceased, and there was great calm.” Great calm. The wind stopped. The water turned to a sea of glass. You could hear the drops of the water dripping off the mast. Suddenly, everything is still.

Our souls can be like that sea, right? Gusty, turbulent, windswept, choppy, noisy, tempestuous, agitated. Some of our insides are loud with the voices of fear, uncertainty, frustration, even conspiracy. But David Powlison writes,

“Most of the noise in our souls is generated by our attempts to control the uncontrollable.”

Most of the noise in our souls is generated by our attempts to control the uncontrollable. Like the disciples, we assume that if Jesus is not going to keep things under control as we assume he should, in the way we demand, then we’re going to do it. And we know how well that goes. Will you trust? Will we trust his caring? His timing, his caring. Will we cast our cares? Remember, we won’t cast if we don’t think he cares, so we end up holding onto these cares. They build up. They crush us. So much noise going on inside, so much weight that we’re bearing. Look at how David dealt with this in Psalm 131:1.

“Oh, Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O, Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.”

Notice the relationship between humility and tranquility. My heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; therefore, I’ve calmed and quieted my soul. Verse 7 talks about casting, casting your anxieties on him. That verb is only used two times in the New Testament, one here in 1 Peter 5 and the other in Luke 19:35. And there it’s used in a physical sense of the disciples throwing their cloaks on the colt so Jesus can ride the colt into Jerusalem. So, picture it this way. As the disciples threw their cloaks on the colt, they’re taking them off. They’re throwing them on. That’s the image in 1 Peter 5, not in a physical sense but in an emotional, spiritual sense. We are peeling off, taking out the burdens, the cares, the concerns, and we’re casting them on the one whose shoulders are strong enough, the one whose heart is kind and caring enough to bear them. And this is the one who is King of kings and Lord of lords, the one whose voice speaks, and the wind and waves obey. He can certainly carry our cares far better than us.

“Be still my soul: thy God death undertake to guide the future as he has the past. Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; all now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know his voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”

So, we humble ourselves in two ways: one, trusting his timing, and the other, trusting his caring, his caring.

Let me leave you with three action steps. Number one, will you discuss and pray over these things? And I know you’ve got to get creative for some of you. You’re listening to this alone, so it may mean calling a friend, setting up a time where they’ve listened to the message, and you’ve listened to the message, and you talk about it. You pray with one another over the phone. It may be life groups. A number of our life groups are meeting on Zoom or in tiny gatherings. It may be face time or with families. But gather to discuss. Let me give you three questions that can help direct your discussion and lead to prayer times.

First of all, in what ways can our thoughts be deflated and inflated at the same time, specifically in a time of crisis, uncertainty, suffering? In what ways can our thoughts be deflated and inflated at the same time that can lead to us being discouraged and defiant simultaneously?

Second, during this challenging season, how can we pray for one another regarding time how we think about God’s timing? As Christians, we often do better at short trials than long trials. We’re pretty good at starting, not great at finishing. So, as we think about this uncertainty, this time of uncertainty, many of us are doing really well up front. But let’s begin praying into the timing. What if this goes weeks? What if it goes several months? How are we thinking about God’s timing? Will we trust that at the proper time, at the proper time, when we begin to feel like God is dragging or tardy, how can we pray for one another?

And then three. Why is casting our cares on the Lord humbling? Why is casting our cares on the Lord humbling? Why does it require, why does Peter say, “Humble yourselves so that you will cast your cares on him, for he cares for you”? And I would encourage you to share a care, share a care, and then practice casting. What does that look like? Like the disciples did with their cloaks. You will notice cares are clingy. They are clingy. We cast them on the Lord, and they tend to come back and stick on us again. How do we pray for one another if we cast those cares, to be able to leave them with the Lord? Discuss and pray about those things, and feel free to add more questions. That’s number one.

Number two, memorize. Will you memorize 1 Peter 5:6-7 this week? And then each week we’re going to look at two verses over the next couple of weeks. So, we’re going slow enough so that we as a church family, even though we’re separated geographically, can be united in this passage together as we beg God to burn this into our hearts and minds.

Some of you may want to calligraphy these. Write them out. Print them out on your fridge. Burn them into your hearts. Meditate on them in your car as families. When my kids were little, we used to work on verses together and then as dessert, when they got the verse, you know, M&M rewards. Whatever it is that you like doing. Rather than binging on Netflix, let’s soak on God’s Word. Memorize.

And then finally, flowing out of this, care for one another. Now we’ll talk about this more as we get into the next two verses, we’ll get into this. But as we trust his timing and his caring, the overflow of this is a contagious peace and love that that has to get out. There are many ways in which we can’t do this right now because of social distancing restrictions, but we can be creative, creatively use a phone. I would encourage some of you to try to call one person a day or even if it’s one person a week, someone from your life group, maybe a neighbor, someone you wonder, is anybody looking out for them? That’s my biggest fear as a shepherd, and the elders. We’ve talked about this, many of us. Our biggest concern is there are people that are not, were not in a life group, were not connected to other believers who are out there alone. We don’t know who all of them are. You might know some. So, if you would reach out to them, check on them. And if someone has a financial need, you can get on our website. Click on ministries, go down to OneAnother, and you can see there’s a place you can email if someone is out of work because of the Coronavirus restrictions. We as a church would love to help financially.

We’ve got a lot of good things happening. People are delivering meals. People are running errands for one another. You are loving one another well. Let’s keep doing that.

Let’s pray. Father, it’s in you alone our hope is found. Thank you, Jesus. You are our Light, our Strength, our Song, our Cornerstone, our solid Ground. You are firm in the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love, what depths of peace when fears are stilled and strivings cease. You are our Comforter, our All in All. Here in the love of Christ we stand. We humble our hearts to trust your timing and trust your caring. We cast our concerns on you. In Jesus name, amen.

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