Humble, Watchful, Hopeful – 3

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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.

Twice a year, men at North Hills gather for an extended study that focuses on what it means to follow Jesus at home, at work, and in our culture. Allan Sherer will be leading our next men’s focus on Thursday evenings from 8-9:30 p.m. starting on April 16-May 21. This study will be hosted online using Zoom and will be going through the Journey study, Believe You are Free. You can learn more and register for free on our website.

Easter is coming up this week, and we have two exciting announcements for how we plan to make this weekend special. First, we invite you to join us on Friday evening for our Good Friday service as we consider Jesus’ sacrifice. This service will be made available on our website Friday afternoon just like every other normal Sunday service. If you have candles, we encourage you to create a somber atmosphere in your home while you worship and reflect. For Easter, we will be having a special live streaming service on Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. Unlike our other services that are pre-recorded and published on Friday, this will be a time for us to worship in unison across our city. In addition to live streaming, we will be having communion together as one church family. Please take time this week to set apart bread and juice for communion. You’ll be able to livestream our Easter service from several different places, including the home page of our website, YouTube channel, or Facebook page. Remember to tune in at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning for this celebration service.

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.

Hey, North Hills. I want to welcome you this week into your own homes. Welcome to gatherings in homes all over Greenville. Take a moment and imagine that since this service has been released this past Friday, that hundreds of your brothers and sisters have gathered in living rooms, bonus rooms, small rooms, porches, patios, Florida rooms and all done the same thing — focused on God’s Word, singing and prayer. Now, typically, when we gather in a large format at Taylors or Northwest, we spend time before and after the service greeting and encouraging one another. Well, we want to give you a quick way to do that this week. Continue using the #spreadingJesusnotgerms. Take a picture right now of your gathering and use that as a way to greet your brothers and sisters. Throw it up on any social media platform with the #spreadingJesusnotgerms and greet your brothers and sisters.

This week for our practice of prayer, I want us to pray a really big prayer. It’s found in the tiny letter of 3 John. John writes a letter to his friend Gaius, and at the very beginning John tells him what he prays. And John says this,

“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”

So, our practice of prayer this week is to pray that our physical health equals our soul health. So, after the singing today and after Peter preaches, I want to invite all of us to spend just a few moments together praying this really big prayer. Pray that all may go well with your family, with your friends, with the immune compromised, and simultaneously pray that their physical health may equal their soul health. Let’s all pray really big prayers this week.

Hi, North Hills. My name’s Quinn and this is Jenny, and we are so grateful to be able to lead you in this new way through technology for a couple of reasons. One, we can have multiple takes, which we’re not going to tell you how many takes, but we are very grateful for that capability. But also, we’re very grateful to be able to lead you so you can sing in your homes and with your families. So, we’re going to sing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”

So, as we were talking about what we wanted to say as we led, Jenny and I actually had the same thing on our hearts. And that was the fact that even in the time of uncertainty or in the time of discomfort and fear, our joy and our peace and our comfort comes from the faith that we have in what is coming. And it’s incredible, because the songs that we picked line up perfectly with that. I want you to listen especially for the lyric that says “The future sure, the price it has been paid. For Jesus bled and suffered for our pardon, and he was raised to overthrow the grave.” And so, in light of all uncertainty, in light of all fear, in light of all struggle or anything that might happen, our comfort and our peace is found in Christ who has made us more than conquerors, conquerors without any casualties. And he has seated us in the heavenly places, and we’ll never be separated from Christ through the love of God. So, as we go into this time when we’re thinking about a world that’s changing every single day, we can know, just like it says in Romans 8, that our current suffering is not worth comparing with the glory that is to come. So, as we sing, be ready for that lyric, “Yet not I, but Christ in me.”

Because we have this hope that Quinn was talking about, we can sing, and we can rejoice, and we can worship and praise you even in this time of difficulty. In this time of fear and anxiety we can still lift our voices up to you because of that hope that we have in Jesus Christ. So, let’s sing this out together, “Rejoice.”

God, we praise you that we can sing “Rejoice” in difficult times, and we cannot be fools for doing so because we truly have something to rejoice in, and that is the coming joy, the coming glory, the fact that you’ve saved us, that you have brought us back from destitution. When were just completely lost we can say rejoice because you have made a way for us, Lord. So, as we listen and as we learn about your Word from Peter, Lord, I pray that you would just be with our hearts, be with our ears, be with our minds to learn more about you, Lord. We thank you so much for this time to be able to do so. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Hey, everybody. If you would turn to 1 Peter 5. We’re going to be focusing in on the last two verses today, 10 and 11, 1 Peter 5. I hope you all are memorizing this passage, 6-11. And we have been looking at this for a couple weeks. Today will be the last in this little miniseries. 1 Peter 5:6-11.

Several weeks ago, I watched a sermon someone sent me preached by a pastor in Florida. He was continuing to gather, refusing to obey the government order. He viewed any compliance with the government’s recommendations and then eventually regulations as evidence of fear. And he was quite graphic. He said that any church that refused to continue to meet in big, big gatherings was doing so because the pastor “lacked the testicles” to say no to the government. And he kept emphasizing that word. He got a big response from the people clapping, shouting, amen-ing. And then he went on to prophetically promise that any church that met with a smaller group than what they originally were meeting with, in other words, any church that obeyed the government regulations at any level was giving up ground that they would in his view, statement “would never get back.” You will, these are his exact words, “You will never get it back.” In other words, if you’re a church that meets in large groups, and you begin meeting in homes, in smaller groups, there will never be a day when you will gather again. He was prophetically uttering this word. We’ll see if he is a true prophet.

He spent a big part of the message reading from a document off the Internet that outlined his concerns regarding a number of conspiracies. And I won’t go through all those conspiracies. There were many, but it certainly filled the people with a fear. But he assured them that he would tell them what was going to happen. They just needed to keep coming and hearing him. And then he promised, because he said God told him, that if they take communion at the end of the service, they will be protected. Implying they will not get the coronavirus.

Now, I want to be clear why I’m mentioning this. It is not at all to pick on him. I don’t really know him. I only heard one message. And as I was listening to his message, I was not trying to be critical. I was looking for things I could appreciate, like his passion for souls, his commitment to worship, to exalt Jesus. He was also very concerned that churches lack the courage to stand up to the government. Completely agree with that. Many, many of us lack that courage to disagree with the government. And even his point that there are evil people who will take crises like this and use them for malevolent purposes, evil purposes — totally agree. I agree with all of that. But his message prompted me to think about several questions.

One is, what do you want to go to jail for? What do you want to go to jail for? He decided to go to jail for refusing to comply with the government mandate to meet in smaller groups. And he was, he was arrested this past week. The sheriff, who is, I believe, as far as I could tell, a Republican, fairly conservative, not anti-church at all, said that he was concerned with (these are his words) “reckless disregard for human life.” Now, whether you agree with the sheriff, whether you think our government is responding well or way overreacting, that is a really good debate to have. But the point is, if you’re going to stand up to the government, do you want to stand up on an issue where, whether you agree with them or not, they’re at least trying to protect lives? It seems.

Second question, how do you know how to respond? In situations like this, what is the basis by which you determine your response? One of my major concerns with his sermon and many like it is he read a passage at the beginning of his message, and then that was it. There was no careful opening up of the Scripture. There was no walking through the text. There may have been a reference here and there, but it was mainly exegeting documents from the Internet, piecing together conspiracies, very little opening up of Scripture. There was a lot of fresh revelation that he heard and received. No one else had.

And then finally, the other question that I’ve been thinking about is, how should Christians view suffering? Does Jesus promise that if we partake of the Lord’s Supper we won’t get sick? We won’t suffer? Communion vaccinates us from the virus. Is that what the Bible teaches? Look at 1 Peter 5:10. First statement, “After you have suffered a little while.” Notice the assumption. You will what? You will suffer. And this isn’t just a passing reference. The verb Peter uses, pasxo, he uses twelve times in this short letter.

Let me show you a few examples. 1 Peter 2:21,

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

Implying, no suffering, no following Christ. Last week, we talked about suffering is not a sign of rejection but a sign of reception. It’s indicative that you’re on the team, you’re in Christ’s family. We are called to suffer, and we’re also called to prepare to suffer. Don’t misunderstand me. Not to pursue it, not to like it, but to prepare for it. 1 Peter 4:12,

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar [Notice you’re not rejoicing in what you’re experiencing, as if it’s fun, but you’re rejoicing insofar] as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

And this is why I described, weeks ago, this current time of uncertainty as somewhat of a fire drill. What if we can’t meet in big groups? What if we lose our jobs? How do we prepare for that? How do we think about that? 1 Peter 4:1,

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”

Now, what does that mean, “has ceased from sin”? It doesn’t mean if you suffer you’re sinless, or suffering atones from sin. No, suffering doesn’t make us sinless. Only Jesus’ blood can do that. But by God’s grace, it can help break our addiction to living by our sinful feelings or passions. Look at the context there in 1 Peter 4:1-2. And the reason this happens is when you do good, you expect to receive good. But when you do good, and you receive evil, you suffer. That rocks our worlds. And Peter is calling us to arm ourselves with a different way of thinking. This is why we’re in this series where we are called to be humble, to be watchful, and to be hopeful as we learn to think as Christians about difficulty — to be sober-minded, to be watchful. This is why Peter repeatedly emphasized the nature of our suffering — the reason, the cause for our suffering. Why are you going to jail?

Peter said it clearly (2:20) “When you do good and suffer.” Do good.

(3:14) If you “should suffer for righteousness’ sake.”

(3:17) “For it is better to suffer for doing good.”

(4:14) “If you are insulted for the name of Christ.

But [4:15] “let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evil doer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian …” Then Peter goes on to say something remarkable, which you would never anticipate.

(2:13) “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to the governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, [I love that. Live as people who are free.] not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

And the reason this command to honor the emperor, to be subject to every human institution is so shocking is in light of who was the emperor at the time. Do you know who it was? It was Nero, a man who would make our political leaders look like Billy Graham. Peter is calling us to obey the government as far as we are able. Live as people who are free. So, if we can comply with government regulations and still obey, ultimately obey, what God has called us to, we are free, and we are doing good for righteousness’ sake as Christians.

Pastor Huang Lei leads a church in Wuhan, China. This is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. He wrote this recently,

“The virus can’t stop us. First, we have more than 50 groups. Almost all the groups are meeting via the Internet. Praying, studying the Bible, sharing, witnessing, praising, and worshiping.”

He goes on to describe how some of them are gathering daily online for prayer, some forming 24-hour prayer meetings, pastors throughout the city gathering online to pray. These are our brothers and sisters who are experiencing intense opposition that goes well beyond the virus, and yet they are flourishing. How? 1 Peter 5:10 tells us.

“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.”

Three things we learn from this about God that make us hopeful in difficult times. Number 1, God provides. God provides. “After you have suffered a little while,” in light of the fact that we are called to suffer, there are three things about God that fill us with hope in the middle of this suffering. First of all, he provides. Verse 10 tells us he is “the God of all grace.” Grace is God’s undeserved, energizing favor. It is the smile of God through Christ that forgives and fuels us. God’s undeserved, energizing favor. And notice, he is the God of all grace. All grace — all in quantity and all in quality.

Quantity — He is unlimited in his grace. He is the source of every molecule of grace in the universe. Think about it. Our bodies generate around 10-50 trillion cells a day. Nobody really knows how many. And even the idea of trillion, outside of our politicians who can give away trillions of dollars that they don’t have, I don’t know that anybody really knows what are trillions. But our bodies, your body, is generating trillions of cells every day. Now multiply that by infinity (which we can’t do). God is generating an immeasurable amount of grace daily. He is the God of all grace. All grace comes from him and the grace that flows from him is an unlimited amount.

But also, it’s all in the sense, not just of quantity, but quality. It is a customizable kind of grace. 1 Peter 4:10 describes this as God’s “varied grace.” That word in the original means many-colored or comes in many forms or many expressions. When we need his fueling favor, he doesn’t just check his warehouse to see if he has some spare grace on some dusty shelf. “Yo, Gabriel, go in the warehouse and get 8.22 off shelf 5 on aisle 6 for Hubbard. He’s low on grace.” No, his grace is personalized. He doesn’t call David to wear Saul’s armor. He provides just what we need when we need it. And according to 2 Corinthians 12:9, his grace is so sufficient, that he can retrofit his power to our weakness so that his power is made perfect in our weakness. Just imagine his power made perfect in our weakness. That’s how powerful and perfect and customizable his grace is. He is the God of all grace. Hebrews 4:15,

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses … Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

God provides. Secondly, he not only provides everything we need, he calls. He calls. Look at verse 10. “Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ.” He called you. Now, what does it mean to be called? Think of Abraham, called to leave his country to a place he doesn’t know. Think of Moses, called to go back to rescue a slave nation in Egypt. Think of Jeremiah. Before he was even born, he was told he was called to warn a nation that would not listen to him. Think of  Elisha, ploughing with twelve oxen and receiving a call from Elijah, sacrificing the oxen, following. Think of the disciples, receiving the call, “Follow me,” from Jesus and abandoning their boats and following Jesus.

Notice that the one who was called did not initiate the call. You don’t call yourself. The caller initiated the call; therefore, the caller knows the way and the destination. Look at the destination. “Who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ.” This call spans from before the worlds were formed all the way to the eternal glory that is in Christ. Whatever momentary call he issues to suffering, it is embedded into this eternal calling. Notice the contrast between suffering for a little while and glory for a long while. Beginning of the verse, suffering is for a little while, glory for an eternal while. And the glory is defined by and experienced in Christ. His suffering that went from agony to glory, from death to resurrection, paves the way for our suffering to go from agony to glory.

Now, why is this so important in these uncertain days? Well, if you follow the news, if you read widely, you will notice everyone loves to predict. People crave prophets. And I’m not just talking about the preacher that I referred to earlier. I mean, we want doctors who can prophesy. We want politicians who can prophesy. We want news reporters and analysts who will stand up and say, “Hey, I know you’ve heard that it’s this way, but let me tell you what’s really happening. It’s going to be this way.” We crave that. And it’s not all bad. On one level, we need to think clearly. We need accurate information to plan wisely. However, there is a kind of planning that can degenerate into a kind of boasting. James forewarns us about this kind of boasting about the future. Our hope comes from a different place. We are the called ones. We didn’t initiate our calling. We won’t consummate our calling. It’s why my life verse is 2 Timothy 1:9,

“Who has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

That call imbeds us in the middle of this massive story of God and gives us confidence when we’re not sure how our temporary suffering is going to turn out. God is the one who provides everything we need. God is the one who calls us. He initiates it. He consummates it. We’re okay.

And then finally, God is the one who restores. He restores. He “will himself [notice the emphasis on personally, He will himself] restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” And let’s look at those four things. Now a couple of those words are interchangeable synonyms, and several are different. But I think what he’s getting at here is, whatever skill or proficiency you have lost, he will restore. Whatever position has been taken away from you in your suffering, he will confirm. He will put you in a firmly fixed place. Whatever stamina you lack, he will strengthen you. Whatever security you find elusive, he will establish you. He will put you on firm ground, firmly place you. Suffering tends to break us down, to strip us of our humanity. But God is promising whatever illness, aging, injustice, persecution — whatever is taken away — God himself will restore, replace, renew.

As the Heidelberg Catechism says, “All things work together for my salvation.” Now, sometimes we experience this immediately in life. We will definitely experience it completely in eternity. So, we are hopeful because God provides what we need. God calls us to his eternal glory in Christ. God restores everything this fallen world removes. And because of this, verse 11, “To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Dominion, he has the ultimate power. Peter ends the paragraph where he began. The beginning, the mighty hand of God. He ends, he has ultimate dominion.

In January 1945 the tide of World War II had changed. The allies were gaining ground, but the losses they were experiencing were astronomical. At the Battle of the Bulge, I think it was over 60,000 Americans were wounded or killed. Even in countries where victory had been achieved, atrocities continued to occur. For example, in Poland, as Andrew Roberts in his Churchill book highlights, the home army of loyal, Polish men was virtually wiped out, and many of the women and children were taken away to be exterminated in Russia. In Greece, the country was erupting in a Communist revolution.

On Christmas Day, Churchill flew to Athens, risking his own life. There were explosions occurring around him. He was trying to help point the country toward democratic elections. But many in the British press were against Churchill. And there were Communists within the British House of Commons who were seeking to bring him down. He had recently turned 70, periodically was battling illness. Some of the influencers were viewing this as the time to remove him. But despite having a cold, a sore throat, and having constant attacks from his critics, he stood up in the House of Commons, and he mesmerized the House (get this) with a two-hour speech. I know we can’t imagine that today. But he spoke for two hours. And one of the statements he made in that speech was this,

“Military victory may be distant, it will be costly, but it is no longer in doubt.”

Military victory may be distant, it will be costly, but it is no longer in doubt. 1 Peter 5:10 is saying something similar but far greater. Ultimate victory may seem distant. That’s suffering for a little while. It will be costly, but it is never in doubt because God is the one who provides. He is the God of all grace. He is the one who calls. He has called you to his eternal glory in Christ. And he is the one who restores. He himself will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you. And based on who God is, we are hopeful. We are humble, watchful, hopeful in these times. Let me leave you with a few questions that will help you and your family or friends or life group discuss what God is teaching us here.

Number 1. 1 Peter challenges us to prepare for suffering. In what ways do you feel well prepared for this season of uncertainty? What are some ways you want to prepare more effectively in the future?

Number 2. And by the way, if you want a written copy, you can go on our website and look at the transcript. This should be there. Our Father is the God of all grace. He has an unlimited amount of customizable, fueling favor. How does this change the way we pray? How does this change the way we pray when we realize he is the God of all grace, unlimited customizable favor? How does this change the way we serve? How does this change the way we give? I want to challenge some of you who have not lost your jobs to pray about when/if you get a check from the government, pray about giving that check to someone in our church who’s lost their job. Realizing that He is the God of all grace changes the way we respond in a time of difficulty.

Number 3. Do you live with a sense of call? Why or why not? And what difference do you think it makes in the way we respond to difficulty if we believe what 1 Peter 5:10 says about calling? And can you think of a specific regret or a loss that you have experienced as you follow Jesus? And in what ways is God’s promise to personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you encouraging?

Let’s pray. Father, you are the God of all grace — all amounts and all kinds. And you’ve told us that we will suffer for a little while and that we are not to be surprised or to respond in fear, because you have called us, you have initiated our relationship with you. And the one who initiates and the one who consummates will not abandon us in the process. You will personally restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. We cannot outsuffer your generosity. You are transforming us in this time, even this time of uncertainty, into the image of your Son. And you are doing it through means we could never imagine. So, may you receive all the glory, because to you be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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