In the Midst of Life's Troubles...
O Lord God, our blessed Savior, we are confronted by many and powerful enemies in this world, all of whom seek to destroy our faith and undermine our hope. You, however, are all-powerful and have through the redemptive work of Your Son defeated those enemies. Sustain us, O Lord, with Your strength and instruct us in the truths of Your Word. Then we shall stand and by grace shall gain the victory. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Jeremiah proclaimed God’s judgment upon the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem in view of their sins. He hoped thereby to lead them to repentance and renewed faith. They, however, rejected God’s words and threatened to kill Jeremiah. Christians of all ages must be prepared to face opposition as they proclaim the truths of God’s Word, including His judgment upon sin. Our goal remains the same as that of Jeremiah—leading people to repentance and faith!
God is light. Sin is darkness. We cannot have fellowship with God while we walk in darkness. Let us freely and frankly confess our sins, knowing as we do, we have the assurance that God will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
When the Samaritans rejected Jesus, James and John wanted to call down God’s immediate judgment upon them. Jesus refused, for His purpose is to save lives, not to destroy them. Our ministry has as its goal the public proclamation of God’s Word for the salvation of souls. May God grant us both faithfulness and success.
Text: 1 Peter 1:13-16
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."
In Christ Jesus, Who supports us in the midst of our struggles and calls us to action, dear fellow redeemed:
Dateline China: State security police raid a private home, where a small group of Christians conduct religious services. Worshippers are last seen being driven away in police vans. Dateline Sudan: Government planes bomb crowded market places in southern communities in further attempts to annihilate Christian minority populations. Dateline Indonesia: Muslim warriors execute dozens of Christians who refuse to convert when threatened by death. Dateline India: Roaming Hindu mobs beat isolated Christians—an elderly pastor dies from one such beating.
My dear friends, each of the preceding scenarios has happened in recent months in the places cited, the last of which occurred when one of our CLCI pastors died as a result of a beating by radical Hindus. It is easy to see Satan at work warring against Christ and His Church is such situations. It is perhaps even easy to see Satan at work when a prominent U.S. businessman ridicules practicing Christians as "Jesus freaks" or when college professors at state universities ridicule the trust young Christians place in the Bible. Satan, however, can and does use a whole array of struggles in his attempts to undermine our faith. He has done so since the Garden of Eden and will continue to do so until Judgment Day. Peter recognized that in the first century AD and it remains true today. Consequently, Peter’s words of admonition are just as important today as they were in the first century. Let us, therefore, listen as Peter encourages us IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S TROUBLES…
Be alert and prepared to act as God directs you! The Christians of Peter’s day were experiencing situations not unlike those of Christians in many parts of our world today. The government in China, for instance, will tolerate only state-approved and state-directed religious activity. Holding a worship service, such as the one we are now holding, would be illegal in China, even as it was in the Roman Empire of Peter’s day. Christians then lived with the knowledge that they might be arrested in the middle of the night and executed before morning’s light. To comfort them Peter began the body of his first epistle by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (Verses 3-4). Peter helped the Christians of his day to cope with their troubles, by pointing their eyes ahead to the glory won for them by Christ and reserved for them by God in heaven!
Troubles of any and all kinds are a part of life in this sinful world. Life must go on in spite of troubles. We each have God-given callings, which we are to fulfill in life as we await the certainty of the gift of life everlasting. Consequently, when we are confronted by troubles Peter comforts us as well with the promises of eternal life, but then he admonishes us, “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober!” Now, Peter’s words may seem a bit strange to us. What is he talking about when he urges us to “gird up the loins of your mind”? Peter is using a picture from daily life in the first century. People of that day wore long flowing gowns for clothes, gowns, which hindered active movement. When people were ready to get to work in Peter’s day, they would tie up their gowns around their waists to allow freedom of movement for their legs. To “gird up the loins,” therefore, meant to prepare to get busy and to go to work. When Peter, then, admonishes us, “gird up the loins of your mind,” he is urging us to be prepared to act. When he admonishes us to be “sober” he is urging us to be maintain our "self-control" and "balance." When troubles come, in other words, keep a level head. Do not be immobilized with fear, but do not rush out and do something rash. Rather, consider your situation, knowing that God is after all ultimately in control of all things. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure! He has promised us that (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13). Consequently, when we are in the midst of the troubles of this life, Peter says be alert and prepared to act as God directs you! That, in the end, is the key. It is important at all times to search our Scriptures to find God’s directives for our lives, but it is most important to do so when we are facing troubles. God speaks to us on an infinitely practical basis. Let us listen intently and then act as He directs us! Yes, IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S TROUBLES, be alert and prepared to act as God directs you!
Secondly, rest your hope upon the grace you receive in connection with Jesus Christ! Peter states, “Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Upon first hearing, we might be tempted to think that Peter is once again pointing our hope to the future coming of Jesus and the wonderful gift of heaven we will experience at that time. However, the intended idea is much broader. Peter indeed points us to God’s “grace” above all else. Our relationship with God is based entirely upon His “grace”—His undeserved love. We have no claim on God, in spite of any good works we may perform. We by nature are sinful and under His just judgment, but He in spite of our sin sent Jesus to be our Savior from sin, death, and hell! That is pure grace, for He gives us the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation in connection with Jesus Christ! It is to this whole revelation of grace that Peter refers. Literally, the passage reads, "rest your hope fully upon the grace that is being brought to you in connection with the revelation of Jesus Christ." Peter is urging us to remember the whole array of blessings we received through our Savior also and especially when confronted by the troubles of life!
We have a tendency, in view of our sinful flesh, to forget about God’s grace and many blessings when we find ourselves in the midst of struggles. We tend to focus only on our troubles and can so easily begin to assume that God is being unfaithful to us and that we therefore are justified in viewing Him with a critical eye. David, who endured many struggles during his life, was led by the Spirit to recognize that tendency both within himself and others. At one point he was led in near despair to ask God in what we now recognize as a prophecy concerning Jesus, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). He consequently wrote as a reminder to himself and others, “Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:1-2). Jeremiah, who has so aptly been called the "weeping prophet," remembered that truth, when he while mourning the destruction of Jerusalem said, “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24). Yes, he and others were facing severe troubles, but Jeremiah recognized that they indeed deserved much worst for their sins. He consequently, placed his hope in God and rejoiced in the grace that continued daily to come into his life even in the midst of his troubles.
Even so it is with us. We all face troubles each day in our lives, some greater and some lesser, but even in the midst of those troubles we receive grace from God in connection with Jesus Christ. His forgiving love cleanses us day by day as we lay before Him our sins. He provides for our daily needs richly and daily, and quite frankly provides beyond our needs in most instances. The hand of a Christian friend on our shoulder, or a word of Scripture that comforts and encourages brings us God’s grace. Yes, God provides us with His Word and in that word promises and directives, which if believed and followed bring us blessing! Yes, IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S TROUBLES rest your hope upon the grace you receive in connection with Jesus Christ!
Finally, strive to fulfill your calling with godly holiness! Peter concludes our text with a call for holiness. He urges us “as obedient children, not (to) conform yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance.” In other words, it is so easy when we are facing troubles to resort to the ways of the world. "Fight fire with fire," the world says. "Look out for number one…get everything you can get, while the getting is good," the unbeliever advises. Peter says, "No!" Do not allow yourselves to be molded into the selfish and self-absorbed image of this sinful world, which ignores or defies God.
Rather, Peter advises, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” Notice that Peter addresses us as individuals “called” into a special relationship with God. Later in this same epistle Peter describes our calling in these words, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who have not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). We, who were lost in sin, are now God’s beloved children by grace through faith in our Lord and Savior. He, who by grace cleanses us of our sin, is also the one who sanctifies us in this life. Consequently, when Peter calls upon us to “be holy in all your conduct,” he is not talking merely of outward morality. Rather, he is talking about obedience to God’s saving will in Christ, which will also result in our desire to live godly lives in accordance with God’s will. The Apostle John writes of this wonderful relationship when he states, “Beloved,…we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:21-23). What God desires, He also enables! Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
But, we at times say, "It is so difficult at times in the midst of so many seemingly insurmountable troubles." Yes, it is, for the Scriptures acknowledge that, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). But we are reminded by our loving God, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Our saving God is so much greater than any trouble we face. Let us, therefore, trust in Him with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding (cf. Proverbs 3:5). As our Savior was able to complete His calling on our behalf and announce, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), even so our heavenly Father will enable us to finish the course He has laid for us in this world as we look forward to life eternal in the next! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting