Humble, Watchful, Hopeful – 2

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Hey, Church, I’ve been thinking all week, what is the best way for me to welcome you to our online service this week? And my mind went to how Paul begins his letters in the New Testament with these big, rich greetings, which in today’s language might sound like this: To the dispersed Church of North Hills gathered around Greenville, grace and peace be with you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We all need a little bit of grace and peace. And we all need a little bit of normalcy in the midst of the crazy, which is why we’re doing our best to provide these online services that have everything that we would normally do when we gather, to reinforce that when we gather in homes, we can still worship, we can still read God’s Word, hear God’s Word taught, we can sing, and we can pray.

So, for the next few weeks we’re going to practice praying together in groups all over Greenville. One of our goals this year as a church was to grow in prayer, and perhaps this very cultural moment is our opportunity to grow in prayer. 1 Timothy 2:1 says,

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

Peter Hubbard, when he taught on that passage, he described it this way, “Make all types of prayers for all types of people.” So, this week we’re going to practice praying all types of prayers for one particular group of people — doctors, nurses and medical professionals. We’re going to offer up supplications (which are requests for them, prayers for them), intercessions (which is prayers on their behalf that we bring to God), and thanksgivings (why we are thankful for this particular group of people at this time).

Now, to do this it’s going to take a little bit of imagination for us to know how to pray for them, because some of us might not know a doctor or a nurse. So, imagine this: a nurse who works at Greenville Memorial and goes in and does a really long shift dealing with all the pressures that come with this COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of her shift, she has to go home and self-quarantine in her home. Imagine what kind of pressures are on this person at work right now. What kind of emotional feeling is at the hospital? What burdens they might have? What anxieties? Even someone who isn’t dealing directly with COVID but perhaps works in a doctor’s office where they’re short of supplies. What are things that you could request, pray, intercede, and thank God for on their behalf? We’re going to do that all together, gathered all over Greenville, so thousands of prayers are offered for this group of people. We’re going to pray literally for one minute. We’re going to listen to one verse of a song being played, and during that time I invite you to pray. At the end of that verse, I’ll lead us in prayer to finish that out, and then we’re going to spend some time singing together. So, North Hills, let’s pray.

Father, we come to you as a church, as a family, as a temple. And we cry out to you for doctors and nurses and medical professionals right now. Father, I pray specifically over them your words to us in Psalm 86:4, Gladden the soul of your servants, for to you, O Lord, do [they] lift up [their] souls.” God, would you gladden their hearts? Encourage them, bless them. We ask this as your people, on their behalf, with thanksgiving for all they do, amen.

Hello, I’m Bryan. This is Jenny. I’m excited to help you sing this morning, wherever you are, or this afternoon whenever you are. So, sing to our own souls here.

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
 Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end
Be still, my soul: thy God doth 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
Be still my soul the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord
When disappointment grief and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot love’s purest joys restored
Be still my soul when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine

As we keep singing, if you have a physical Bible near you anywhere, you could open it up to Psalm 62. We’re going to come back and try reading that out loud wherever you are a little later in the song. So, Psalm 62, have it ready.

He makes the woeful heart to sing

He makes the woeful heart to sing

He  makes the woeful heart to sing

Worthy
Worthy of every song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You,

Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You
And holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me
Jesus, the Name above every other name
Jesus, the only One who could ever save
Worthy of every breath we could ever breathe
We live for You
Oh, we live for You
Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

Let’s take a minute here, just 60 seconds. Again, if you have a Bible, turn to Psalm 62:5-8. Someone, if you’re by yourself or you with a small group, someone read that out loud, meditate on these words for a minute.

I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken
I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Holy, there is no one like You
There is none beside You
Open up my eyes in wonder
And show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

Let’s sing what a solid rock He is, what a firm foundation. A lot of things are changing, but the biggest stuff, the truest stuff, the realest stuff has not changed.

There is no other so sure and steady
My hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand
Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all
Your kindly rule has shattered and broken
The curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow
Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me
Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all
In all my sorrows, Jesus is better
Make my heart believe
In all my victories, Jesus is better
Make my heart believe
Than any comfort, Jesus is better
Make my heart believe
More than all riches, Jesus is better
Make my heart believe
Our souls declaring, Jesus is better
Make my heart believe
Our song eternal, Jesus is better
Make my heart believe
Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Lord Jesus, you are the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Ruler of all the nations. We come to you today with great expectation, asking you for your peace and your justice, for comfort. Protect us throughout these days. Help us to cast our cares at your feet and fall into your loving arms. But don’t let us remain there, afraid and anxious. Let us stand up and show your love to those around us. Help us to grow as your disciples and walk in a manner worthy of you. Through the gospel we are all connected, and all our life belongs to you, Jesus. Give us focus. Help us to remember what is significant. Help us to live in community with one another, in your mighty name, amen.

This week as I was writing in my journal some of the things God has been doing and giving thanks and noticing certain what we could call breakthroughs, the Spirit brought a request I had made back in January back to my mind. I looked back to the beginning of my journal, January 3-4, right in there, and I had specifically asked him to grow me this year in prayer. Teach me to pray, and that this would be a year of spiritual breakthroughs. By breakthrough I mean a sudden discovery or development, overcoming ignorance or resistance. A sudden discovery or development, overcoming ignorance or resistance.

And so you know what I’m praying for, imagine someone who’s just dabbling with Christianity. They’re all around it. They may come to church. They may even read their Bible periodically, but God seems very far. Their heart is cold. A spiritual breakthrough is when the when the Spirit, through the word, breaks through that shadowy numbness and penetrates our hearts with the reality of the gospel. And there’s true life rather than just going through the motions — that kind of breakthrough. Or if there is someone who is dabbling with sin or repeatedly going back to the same sin, having a breakthrough, realizing the gospel of Jesus by the power of the Spirit sets us free so that we are not in bondage to our old passions. Marriages that are hanging by a thread, suddenly the husband humbles his heart. The wife humbles her heart. They commit to let go of many of the hurts and resentments that are shackling their marriage and stifling their love. It’s a breakthrough. Someone who’s battling debilitating or discouraging illness, seeing God miraculously heal or even (going along with that) God miraculously transforming their hearts so they can see his purpose in the midst of the valley. All of these we are seeing happen and praising God for these breakthroughs and we’re praying for many more. Could we pray together as some of you are gathering in homes with your families or as individuals listening or watching? Let’s pray for more spiritual breakthroughs.

Father, we are asking that at this time of uncertainty, a time when the enemy wants to sow seeds of loneliness, doubt, discouragement, immorality, all sorts of defilement, that your Spirit would (by the power of God) move in the opposite direction. That you would break through our numbness, our coldness, our apathy, and use this season of uncertainty to shake us up, to wake us up, to bring us to greater intensity as we experience your love through Jesus. And do that now in your Word. Thank you that last week you spoke to us about humbling ourselves, trusting your control. You will bring us through this at the proper time. Trusting your care, we can cast our anxieties on you because you do care for us. And so, today we pray that you would continue to bring 1 Peter 5 home to our hearts, in Jesus’ name, amen.

At the end of the message last week, I encouraged you (as couples or individuals or friends or family, life groups) to memorize 1 Peter 5:6-11. I want to reiterate that call, that even as a church we are scattered all over Greenville County, and I’ve heard of others from all over the world that are joining in our worship time. So, wherever you are, let’s be united. Even if we can’t be united geographically, we can be united spiritually by the power of the Spirit in his Word, in what he is teaching us in 1 Peter 5:6-11.

It is answering the question for us. As Peter summarizes the message of the book, he is answering the question for us: What do Christians do in times of difficulty? How do we respond? And three key words jump out. We are humble, watchful, hopeful. Humble, watchful, hopeful. Last week we talked about humble. This week, we’ll talk about watchful. 1 Peter 5:8,

“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.”

This week Ben Sternick sent me this drawing he sketched out the last time he was reading 1 Peter 5. And I appreciate the intensity of the moment displayed in this sketch. First of all, notice, there’s clear danger. But notice the facial expression of this individual, this soldier. He is calm, no panic, but he is armed, he is prepared, he is watchful.

When I was in middle school, one night a friend of mine that lived through the woods in the same neighborhood came to our house in the middle of the night, knocked on the door, came up to my bedroom and was telling me that his house was burning. And it was. The firemen were there. And he was explaining to me this family tragedy. And I think I may have even sat up. I can’t remember how I physically responded, but I do remember what was happening inside of me, because I was hearing him tell me about what was happening to his family, his home burning down, and I was still dreaming. I was still asleep. So, I was incorporating this person coming to my house, telling me about a house burning, right into the dream I was having. So, you can imagine how frustrating that was to him, to my friend, because he wants me to respond. Come, look at what’s happening to my house. And I’m just staring at him, responding somewhat, hearing a bit, but overall very inactive, unresponsive in an appropriate, comprehensive way, very sluggish, because I wasn’t fully alert, wasn’t fully awake.

That image, if you can capture that image, it’s like when you’re coming out of surgery and you’re partially there but confused. Some of us live spiritually in that state. We hear words. We can hear a sermon like this, we hear words coming to us. We know certain truths, somewhat. But the gravity, the significance, the power, the responsiveness hasn’t set in. There’s not a full awareness, alertness to what is being said.

And Peter uses two words in this passage to call us out of this state. Verse 8, “Be sober-minded.” Sober-minded (that’s the first word) means clear-headed. Sober, not intellectually intoxicated or mentally impaired. Peter uses this verb three times in the letter. I want to show you the first time he uses this. If you have your Bible in front of you, skip back a couple of pages to 1 Peter 1:13.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, [that’s the word] set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.”

The context is that of old passions are seeking to come back over you. In light of that, (verse 13) prepare your minds for action. Be sober-minded. Now that that phrase, “preparing your minds for action,” is a modern translation of the King James, which translates that … Any of you remember that? “Gird up your loins,” the loins of your mind. Gird up the loins of your mind. Now that’s very confusing to our 21st century ears. First of all, what is girding? Loins? Not sure what to do with that. And loins of the mind? Although that’s confusing to our ears, it has a rich, biblical context.

Let me see if I can set that up for you. When Israel (way back in Exodus) was being called out of bondage in Egypt, God sent Moses. He communicated numerous plagues to Egypt. And plague after plague after plague Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, would not let God’s people leave Egypt. He didn’t want to let them be free from bondage. And so, the last plague, God warned Israel, was going to be worse than any of the other ones. And to prepare for the plague and to protect their families, they were to sacrifice an unblemished lamb. And then they were to put the blood from the lamb on the frame of the door, the lintel, the top of the door. And then they were to gather within the house and eat what became known as the Passover meal. But they were to eat that meal in a very specific way. Look at verse 11 of Exodus 12. We’ll put it on the screen.

“In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, [That’s odd, isn’t it? Why fasten your belts so that you can fill your stomach?] your sandals on your feet, your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.”

Think about what God was saying there. You are feeding on God’s provision, eating this sacrificial meal, feeding on God’s provision for your sin as the death angel goes over your home so that you are prepared to act on his salvation. You are feeding on his provision so that you can act on his provision. And to prepare to act on his provision, as you have fed on his … To act on his salvation, as you have fed on his provision, you need to have your belt fastened. Which, in those days remember, they wore the long flowing robes. They were not great to run with. They were hard to move, fight, work. So, they would pull the robe up around their legs. They would fasten that cloth underneath their belt that was girding up the loins in order to be prepared to act, to move, to flee Egypt, if you will.

And so, Peter, in 1 Peter 1, is applying this to our minds. Gird up the loins of your mind. Prepare your minds for action. Gather all that extraneous garbage that is flying around your brain. “Be sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Just as every Israelite had to shed this slave/master stuff, these things that were clinging to their mind and keeping them in Egypt, you need to shed that. Gird up the loins of your mind and prepare to move on God’s miracle. God is performing a miracle. You move on that. God has provided. You act on that. And so, in the same way, 1 Peter 1:14,

“Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”

You’re not to be enslaved to the lies and the lusts that have entrapped you. Let me say a word to young people. And really, this is for all of us. We have an unusual amount of time where we can be alone during this season of COVID-19. And if we are not watchful, if we are not sober-minded, we will clutter our cranium with garbage. We will lose ourselves in our earbuds and fill our eyeballs with music and movies and TV shows that are not helpful at all. So, when we have to be prepared to move, to act, to fight, to say no, we find ourselves completely unready. And this is what Peter is getting at when he says sober-minded. Don’t be intoxicated, inebriated spiritually, inhibited from responding.

He uses a similar word in verse 8 also, “watchful.” Stay awake. Spiritually, stay awake, be alert. And it’s interesting that Peter uses this word, “gregoreo,” because in Mark 14 when Jesus was preparing to go to the cross, he took Peter, James, and John into the garden of Gethsemane apart from everyone else. And then he said to them in Mark 14:34, “Remain here and gregoreo.” He uses the same word. “Remain here and watch.” And then Jesus went by himself and prayed. And the text says that his soul was sorrowful, even unto death. He was “greatly distressed and troubled.” The weight of what he was doing, about to do, in being beaten and cut off for the very first time from his Father, bearing the weight of the sins of the world. All of that was overwhelming him, and he was crying out to his Father. And then he went back to get Peter, James, and John. And verse 37 of Mark 14 says,

“And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? [Could you not gregoreo?] Could you not watch one hour?’”

Now, why does he address Peter specifically? James and John were snoozing as well. But I believe it’s because just a few verses earlier, Peter had boasted about the fact that “I’m ready to die for you, Jesus.” And it’s as if Jesus is saying, “Hey, Peter, you say you’ll die for me, but you won’t even watch for me? You won’t even stand alert and awake?” So, he goes on in verse 38,

“[Gregoreo.] Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I think it is significant that Peter, who is discipled by Jesus in that moment of weakness to gregoreo, to watch, is now turning to us in 1 Peter 5, and he is discipling us now. Gregoreo, be watchful.

These commands can still seem a bit inaccessible and unattainable. So, Peter brings them close to us with three realities, highlighting three realities. And to help even the kids memorize these, let me say it very simply where we’re going to head that will help us understand what it means to be sober-minded and watchful. And three angles he’s going to come at this: foe, faith, family. Kids, can you say that? Foe, faith, family. Yeah, we’re going to talk about each one of those. Foe, meaning you have a real enemy. Faith, meaning you have everything you need for victory. And family, you’re not in this alone. Let’s look at those one at a time as we learn what it means to be watchful.

First of all, your foe. Verse 8,

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

That word adversary is a legal opponent, a legal adversary, an opponent in a lawsuit. The word devil is diabolos. We get our word diabolical from that. It means slander. Our enemy loves to slander God to us. Like in Genesis 3:1, “Did God actually say?” Our enemy loves to slander us to God. We learned in Revelation 12:10 that he is the accuser of the brothers and he does it, he accuses them day and night before God. And he loves, not only to accuse God to us and us to God, but he also loves to slander us to each other, us to one another. Like in Ephesians 4:27, in a context of verbal conflict, relational tension, he says, don’t give the devil an opportunity. The devil loves to utilize moments of tension between one another, each of us, to drive a wedge and slander one another.

And he does this in a very specific way. Look at verse 8, he “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” Now, the first time I went to Kenya, this was over 25 years ago, I was driving through the bush with the Hinds and noticed far away there was this circle down in this valley. We are driving along, and I said to Tim and Cheryl, “What is that circle?” And they said, “It’s called a boma.” And it’s made up of sticks and then wrapped in thorns. Their thorns over there are really big. And the shepherds bring their goats and cows, cattle into this boma at night so that the lions can’t get them. But what the lions love to do, is when they smell these animals inside the boma, they will surround the boma, and they will prowl around. And they won’t touch the fence because of those long thorns, but they will roar around this fence until there are cattle that panic and then the cattle will smash through (at times) the fence and make a run for it. And as soon as they do, they’re easily picked off one by one by the lions.

And this story, which still happens today, is a vivid picture of the way the enemy does what Peter warns here. He loves to terrorize, slander, and then isolate, and then devour. And so, the reason that we are being called at this time of uncertainty when many of us are scattered throughout Greenville, and elsewhere, to be sober-minded and to be watchful is because we have a real foe who has a real agenda. And it is an agenda driven by fear. He has no power over us, but he can make us think he has power over us so that we will panic, we will stampede, we will isolate ourselves and we will be easily picked off. Our foe, we have a real foe. Be watchful.

Secondly, your faith. Your faith. How do we respond to our foe? Verse 9,

“Resist him, firm in your faith.”

Resist him, firm in your faith. Now, we are told in Scripture to flee a lot of things. We are told to flee the wrath to come. We are told to flee idolatry. Flee sexual immorality. Flee youthful passions. Flee the love of money. All of those things and many more, we are commanded specifically to flee in the New Testament. But we are never told to flee from the devil. And that might be why, if you look at the armor in Ephesians 6, there is very little on the back, very little protection on our backside. And the reason is because we’re never told to flee the devil. Take, for example, James 4:7,

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, [same word Peter uses for resist. Resist the devil.] and he will flee from you.”

Ephesians 6:13,

“Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to [resist, same word] withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

So, we are called to withstand, resist, oppose, stand up against with what? With our faith, with your faith. Verse 9, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” Now, today, faith is used in so many different ways — in a sense of positivity or optimism or a willingness to do anything. Or, like the Journey song, “Don’t stop believin,’ hold on to that feelin,’” as if faith is a feeling. And yet Peter tells us what he means by faith. He means your confidence in God’s competency to save completely through Christ. Faith in 1 Peter means your confidence, your faith means your confidence in God’s competency to save completely through Christ. And he uses this word faith five times in this letter. Four appear in the very first chapter and then only one at the very end, the one we’re looking at: “firm in your faith.”

Let’s look at the first four so we know what he’s calling us to here at the end. 1 Peter 1:3,

“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, who by God’s power are being guarded through [There it is. Same word.] faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. [So, by God’s power we are being guarded through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.] In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials [It’s what we’re going through right now], so that the tested genuineness of your faith [same word] — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him [and that word, believe is the same root, but it’s the verb form of the word faith. You believe in him.] and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your [there it is again] faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Those are the first three appearances of the word faith. And here’s the fourth one, the last one before we get to chapter 5. After emphasizing that we are redeemed not by the perishable, but by the precious blood of Christ, in 1:21 Peter says, “who through him [Jesus] are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” So, do you see why faith in 1 Peter is our confidence in God’s competence to save completely through Jesus? He lays the foundation in chapter 1 that you are being guarded, tested, prepared for the outcome of your faith, which is the salvation of your souls. Now in chapter 5, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” Your faith that what God began in Christ in your life, he is able to bring to fruition, completion in eternity.

One more reality and I’m going to tie it all together. We’ve seen your foe, your faith, now let’s talk about your family. Your foe, your faith, now family. Look at verse 9.

“Knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

Same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. This week, my wife and I were on a walk, and we began talking about when our kids started playing youth soccer (they were 4 or 5 years old). And it was so fun to watch the first time they got … Sorry, this sounds masochistic. This sounds bad … got hit by the ball or tripped or fell, got their uniform dirty, and immediately from the ground or they stand up and they immediately look to the sidelines primarily for one person, and that is mom. Their eyes are starting to fill with tears, and they want to be acknowledged that what they thought was going to be fun is not fun. This game is broken. It’s not working. I have mud on my uniform. I have blood on my knees. I have been hit, struck. There’s pain. This is suffering. Please acknowledge my pain and pull me out of this game. My wife was saying how there were times where (and I remember this) where she would have to actually look away, pretending to be talking to someone, so they wouldn’t lock eyes with her. And I’m cheering them on.

It’s like when my son, my middle son, Connor was driving a dirt bike. And this is, I don’t know how young he was, but he came out of the woods. We didn’t own dirt bikes, but friends of ours had let us use them for a while because he needed a place to store. He didn’t have a garage. So, my son was driving, flying through the woods, came out of the woods on the dirt bike, hit the driveway and there were wet leaves. And his bike went flying out from under him. And he goes across the asphalt and you can see his face, tears coming, blood on his knees, his arms. But at that time, we had a young man living with us who was an Army Ranger. He had served a couple terms in Iraq, tough as nails but then had become bound by drugs and had gone through the Overcomer program. And we were helping just give him a place to live for a while while he was getting back on his feet. Well, he saw Connor and he was closer to Connor than I was. And so, when he saw him take that fall, you hear out of his mouth just a scream of joy! “Connor, that was so cool! So cool!” Now, when a man who has served several terms in Iraq, an Army Ranger, tough as nails says to you, “That was so cool!” Suddenly, the tears are gone, and you realize okay, this is part of a dirt biking. I’m in the club now.

And so, this is what Peter’s doing. When you fall as a little kid, and you get your uniform dirty, and your knee is bloody, or when you take a fall on the dirt bike, you can think something is wrong. And many of us Christians, when we experience pain, suffering, loneliness, conflict, all these struggles, we can begin to think, “Oh no! Something is wrong. Maybe God has rejected me. Maybe I’ve messed up one too many times. Maybe I’m never going to be like those Christians who are really successful, really happy, really healthy, really fruitful.” And Peter is saying, “Listen, when you go through suffering it is not a sign of rejection but reception.” It is the uniform of Jesus. It is the sign that you are part of the family. That’s what he’s saying when he says, “the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” You are on the team. You are wearing the uniform. You are part of this global family. And don’t let the enemy tell you that when you struggle or you doubt or you are enduring great pain that that’s a sign of rejection. No, it’s actually a sign that you’re on the team. You’re part of the family.

And I know that what we’re facing with COVID-19 is not the same intensity as our brothers and sisters whom many of us pray for, cry out for as their house churches are being shut down, as their churches in many areas are being burned, as Christians are being imprisoned. But we are experiencing something right now that reflects the reality of 1 Peter 5:9 on a scale that is almost unprecedented.

This week, Tim Challies posted some pictures from families around the world who were unable to gather in large groups as churches, and so they took a shot of their family worshiping around a circle or in front of a screen. And I want to take you around the world in just a few seconds. Notice this family in Fiji, New Zealand, another one from New Zealand, Singapore, these kids watching their dad preach in South Korea, this secret church in China, a group of Christians gathering in India, in Sri Lanka, in India again, in Ukraine, in Ethiopia, in South Africa, in Romania, in Egypt, in Albania, in Russia, in Norway, Scotland, Italy, Spain, England, France, Ireland, Sweden, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador, Ecuador, Ontario, another one from Ontario, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia. Greenville. And even notice, online with the women’s Bible study here in Taylors and all around.

It is, yes, a difficult season because we can’t gather as a big group. And as I said last week, smaller gatherings are very special, but it’s not the same. The two are not the same. The early church did both when they were able. Right now, we can only do one, gather in very tiny groups. But in this form of suffering, we are living out what Peter’s talking about here. We are realizing that we are experiencing the same things that our brothers and sisters are experiencing throughout the world. I want to encourage you as part of doing this, that this Sunday, if you can, take a picture of your mini gathering, even if it’s just you and yourself, you and your cat, or as a couple or maybe a couple friends, or a life group gathering online, many of these, or a family gathering. And then hashtag “spreadingjesusnotgerms,” #spreadingjesusnotgerms as just a fun way to be united together in our worship even as we are scattered.

Peter is calling us, because you have a foe, because you stand by faith, and because you are united as a family, be watchful. Be watchful. And I want to leave you with a couple questions to discuss together as families or life groups. What are some indications that we might not be spiritually watchful? How will we know? Think about, how do you view your foe? How about your faith? You might even want to go, as we’ll see in the next question, to 1 Peter 1 and explore what does that really mean? Do I understand? Have I put my confidence in Jesus?

And then, am I aware of the family that I’m connected with around the world? One of the keys that I’ve noticed in reading what Christians are writing from countries that are ahead of us in experiencing the virus is they keep putting an emphasis on discipline — being alert, having a schedule, not just floating through your days — even though much has changed. And in a sense, they’re saying, “Be watchful. Don’t waste the virus. Utilize this time wisely.” Second question, in what ways is God calling us to prepare our minds for action, to gather up those thoughts of doubt and fear and move in the power of his miraculous provision? And how does faith enable us to do that? And you might want to look at 1 Peter 1:3-9 for that.

Third, identify some ways our adversary slanders us, slanders God, us, and others. Identify some ways our adversary slanders God, us, and others and then how should we respond? And this is an important one. Take, for example, the others, how does the enemy get us to slander one another? I think even in the way we respond to what is happening in our culture can be a perfect situation for the enemy to stir up division. Because you might have one person that feels very convinced they need to isolate themselves, quarantine, protect their family, and another person may be much more passive about that. And clearly this falls into Romans 14. Christians are going to differ in the exact way they live this out, but the enemy wants to get us to turn on each other based on our varying responses. Let’s pray into that that he does not, that we stay united. It’s just one example.

And then finally, when we suffer, we tend to feel isolated. How does verse 9 encourage you? So, jump on Zoom, gather as families, memorize these verses, and talk about these questions.

Let’s pray. Father, thank you that your call is clear. We are to be watchful because we really do have an enemy. And you have given us everything we need to flourish in victory. We stand by faith. We have a family that we get to go through this with. We are not alone. And we praise you for that. May this lead to a watchfulness in us as we humble ourselves. May we be watchful for the glory of your name and the good of our neighbors, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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