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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Be steadfast in the faith
Text:1 Peter 5:8-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested
 
Added:2016-02-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Old Book of Praise (2004)

Ps. 18: 1

Ps. 119: 4, 13

Ps. 68: 1, 12

Hymn 34: 1 – 6 (APV Hymn 43: 1 – 6)

Ps. 138: 4

 

Scripture reading:       1 Peter 4: 12 – 5: 14

Text:                          1 Peter 5: 8 – 11

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Be Steadfast in the Faith                             

Old Book of Praise (2004):

Ps. 18: 1

Ps. 119: 4, 13

Ps. 68: 1, 12

Hymn 34: 1 – 6 (APV Hymn 43: 1 – 6)

Ps. 138: 4

 

Scripture reading:       1 Peter 4: 12 – 5: 14

Text:                          1 Peter 5: 8 – 11

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

We forget so easily that our life in this world is a spiritual war.   It happens so easily that, spiritually, we fall asleep and start to live comfortable lives.  

Sometimes we forget that the devil, with his host of demons, is out to destroy the church, seeking whom he may devour.

 

When we forget this reality, or start to live as if there is not a spiritual war raging, then we become comfortable in this world.   But it is then that church members start to sleep the sleep of death.  

 

There is also a different danger.   Sometimes we are indeed fighting the good fight of faith, but after a time become weary.    When it seems as if there is no end to the struggles and trials of faith, and when we are despised and pushed aside for Christ’s sake, we may think that it is now enough.   We may look around us and think that our suffering is exceptional, and start to lose courage.

 

Brothers and sisters, here in our text the Lord encourages and exhorts us to remain sober and watchful; and, in the midst of trials and persecution, to remain steadfast in the faith, knowing that the things we suffer for Christ’s sake, is part of the normal Christian life.

 

Yes, our faith is constantly tried and tested by various temptations, trials and afflictions.  

And here, with the words of our text, the Lord prepares and equips us for this struggle of faith. 

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme…

Be steadfast in the faith

 

We will note…

  1. The exhortation to be sober and vigilant
  2. That the suffering for Christ’s sake is common to all believers
  3. That the God of all grace will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle us

In the first place we note…

The exhortation to be sober and vigilant

 

The apostle Peter, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, comes with this urgent exhortation:

 

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (verse 8)

 

The devil, with his host of demons, is a terrible reality.   As we confess in the Belgic Confession:

 

“…The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and of all that is good.   With all their might, they lie in wait like murderers to ruin the church and all its members and to destroy everything by their wicked devices.” – BC, Art. 12

 

The Lord urges us to reckon with this reality.   He urges us to be sober and vigilant.   

The apostle exhorts us to prepare for battle, and for this purpose he uses two words: be sober, be vigilant.  

The word sober, here in our text, means: not to be intoxicated.    To be sober is the opposite of being drunk.  

 

Here in this context the apostle is clearly using this word in a figurative sense.    We need to be spiritually sober in order to resist our enemy, the devil.  

 

Now, what does it mean to be spiritually sober?  

Our mind easily becomes intoxicated by the cares of this world and the lusts of this world.

And our mind easily becomes drugged by the spirit of the time.

Scripture speaks of the ungodly in general as being drunk with the wine of Babylon, spiritually drunk, stupefied by the spirit of this world, being under the influence of Babylon’s harlotry.

 

A sober mind is a mind that renounced this world with its lusts and temptations.   It is a clear mind; a mind fully focused – fully focused on God and His Word.  

A sober mind is able to recognise the reality of our situation in this world for what it is.   A sober mind is not fooled by the glitter and the attraction of this world, but focused on the glory which God has promised us.

 

Also: a sober mind is alert.

The apostle combines this with watchfulness.   Our translation uses the word vigilance.   

The Greek word may also be translated: be awake, be alert, be watchful.

It is the opposite of being sleepy.   It is to be wide awake, alert, watchful.  

Again he uses it in a spiritual sense.   Spiritually we must be awake, spiritually alert and watchful.

 

And he mentions the reason: because our adversary, the devil, is walking about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

 

Dear congregation, this exhortation applies to each individual believer.   It also applies to the church as a whole.   When we look at church history we see how it often happened that a whole bond of churches fell asleep.   How a whole bond of churches became intoxicated with the spirit of the time, and as a consequence became spiritually stupefied, incapable of sound judgement.  

 

Being engaged in a spiritual war with Satan and his host of demons, we need to renounce this world and to put away from us the wine of Babylon.   In practice it means for example that you throw out that TV which is poisoning you and your children, that you restrict your internet access, that you cut off every temptation, and flee from it.

 

This world and our own sinful flesh are the devil’s allies in this warfare.   Therefore, as the apostle Paul also exhorts us, we need to put on the full armour of God.

Yes, it so easily happens that we become spiritually slothful, and imagine ourselves to be free from danger, and start to drift along with the flow of this world, and so fall prey to the wiles of the devil.

 

Therefore the apostle comes with this urgent exhortation: be spiritually alert, sober and watchful. 

 

The Lord tells us that the devil was hurled down from heaven like lightning, and thrown on the earth.   The apostle John describes this, saying:

 

“…Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea!   For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” – Rev. 12: 12.

 

He knows that he has a short time.   If we are not making the best use of our time, the devil is.

 

How then shall we stand?   And what is the armour that we need to put on?

The apostle exhorts us to be steadfast in the faith.

 

            “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” – verse 9.

 

Note that he does not simply say “in faith”, but: “in the faith”.   That is: the faith which we have in common; the one true faith.   He exhorts us to hold fast to the true doctrine of God’s Word, the gospel that has been preached to us.

Steadfast in the faith means: hold on to God’s Word.   Believe His word and live by it.

 

We need to be girded with the truth, and to take up the shield of faith.

 

The devil indeed aims at our faith.  These believers, to whom the apostle wrote, were having a hard time.   Throughout this epistle the apostle Peter is speaking about their suffering and trials.   Their faith is sorely tested by various persecutions and sufferings.  

The apostle Peter is telling them that it is not something strange that is happening to them.  

Their suffering for Christ’s sake is part of the normal Christian life.

 

And so he prepares and equips the saints for the good fight of faith.    Don’t count it a strange thing when your faith is tested by fiery trials.  

Don’t expect an easy life as a Christian.   On the contrary, while living in this world all believers may expect to share in the sufferings of Christ.

We note that in the second place, that…

The suffering for Christ’s sake is common to all believers

 

Resist the devil, steadfast in the faith…

 

“… knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” – verse 9

 

The apostle has been dealing with their suffering in each chapter.  

In every chapter he reminds them that their suffering is only for a while, and that if they endure, their suffering in this world will be followed by the eternal glory which has been promised them.  

 

In chapter 1 he exhorts them to set their hope fully on the glory that they will receive at Christ’s coming.   He first speaks of the incorruptable, undefiled, unfading inheritance that God preserves for us in heaven, ready to be revealed at the coming of Christ.   Focusing their minds on this glorious hope, he says:

 

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” – chapter 1: 6, 7.

 

Their faith is indeed being tested by fiery trials and sufferings.   The genuineness of their faith is being tested, like gold which is purified in a furnace.   If they endure the suffering they will also share in the glory which is ready to be revealed on the last day.  

 

And then he said, chapter 1: 13:

 

“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…”

 

It is a theme that runs throughout this epistle: endure the sufferings patiently, for it is only for a while.   After suffering for a little while in this world, you will inherit the eternal glory which God has prepared for you.

Arm yourself with this hope, that you may stand in the fiery trials, and endure!

 

He also emphasises that the sufferings for Christ’s sake is common to all believers.   They must not regard persecution as something strange, but know for sure that suffering for Christ’s sake is part of being a Christian in this world.   He says in chapter 4: 12, 13:

 

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”

 

The fiery trial by which you are tested, and your suffering for Christ’s sake, is not something strange.   Don’t count it strange.   Expect it and rejoice in it, because there is an eternal glory with Christ awaiting you – for those who now partake in His sufferings.

 

And again, here in our text, the apostle speaks of their suffering, and says: your brothers are all sharing in the same sufferings.  

“Your brotherhood in the world” means: all your brothers in the whole world.   These sufferings for Christ’s sake are common to all believers.

 

In this context, and throughout the whole epistle, he is speaking of the sufferings for Christ’s sake.   They are persecuted for their faith, and persecuted for doing good.

 

He assures them that this is very normal.   Each believer may expect to share in the sufferings of Christ, to be rejected and despised for His sake.  

 

With these words he prepares the saints and equips them for the good fight of faith.  

Focus your hope on the glory that has been promised you.   Gird your mind with it and be sober.  Know that the fiery trials by which the genuineness of your faith is being tested, and your suffering for Christ sake, is part and parcel of this warfare in which you are engaged.  

 

Well then, what sufferings are we to expect?   What are the sufferings for Christ’s sake?  

Dear congregation, when we hear of fiery persecutions we tend to think first of all of physical persecutions – being burned on a stake, or being beheaded, or something like that.  

However, when we read this epistle the apostle mentions most of the time a different kind of persecution: persecution with the tongue, being slandered, being despised and rejected.

Throughout this letter he says: they speak evil of you, they slander and revile your good conduct in the Lord, they defame you, and so forth.   

 

First he says:

 

“…this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.” – 2: 19

 

And:     “…when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.” – 2: 20

 

And then, further on, he gives a bit more detail, and says:

 

            “…if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.  ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.   But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.  For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” – 3: 14 – 17.

 

So there you have a few examples of this kind of suffering.  It is when the world hates you for doing good.  What kind of persecution may you then expect?  He says: they defame you, and they revile your good conduct in Christ.

That is: they insult you, slander you, and scorn your godly walk of life.

 

He also says:

 

            “…they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.” – 4: 4

 

They speak evil of you. 

These believers were falsely accused, defamed, reviled and slandered (also in 4: 14, 16).

 

One does not have to live in China, or North Korea, to experience this.  It is just as much the normal experience of a believer here in Australia. 

 

The apostle’s description of persecution is very similar to the words of our Lord Jesus where He said to His disciples:

 

            “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.   Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Mat. 5: 10 – 12.

 

The Lord speaks about persecution.   What persecution?   They revile you.   They insult you and speak evil of you falsely.   He calls that: persecution.   They persecute you by speaking evil of you and telling lies about you.

 

In Luke 6: 22 He says:

 

            “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.”

 

If you follow Christ you will be hated.   People will speak evil of you falsely for Christ’s sake.   They will exclude you.   You will be marginalised and despised.    We learn from Scripture that much of this suffering for Christ’s sake, much of this persecution, does not happen first of all in a bloody manner, with a physical sword, but most of the time with the tongue.   It is a matter of being despised and rejected, being hated, being treated as something dirty; to be tagged and labelled and pushed aside, for Christ’s sake.

 

This persecution is common to all believers.   All the saints in the whole world are acquainted with this persecution.    It is not strange when you experience it.   It is rather strange if you don’t experience it.   If the darkness does not hate you, then your light is not shining.

 

The apostle Peter is saying exactly the same.   When you pursue righteousness you will be slandered and be falsely accused.   People will speak ill of you and persecute you.

 

Yes, you will be called narrow minded.    If you are determined to hold on to God’s Word and to obey His commandments, you will be called a fundamentalist, and a square in a round world.   It will be said that you are behind the time, and that you are out of touch with the world.   You are called a misfit, because you don’t think the same, don’t do the same, do not look the same, and do not speak as others do.

This is common to the experience of all the saints.

 

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, saying:

 

            “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” – 2 Tim. 3: 12

 

Everyone who follows Christ will be persecuted. 

 

Yes, often this persecution with the tongue comes not from worldly people outside the church, but from false brethren within the church.   Think of David.   How many times do we read in the Psalms of his sufferings, how he is despised and rejected and reviled, not by the heathen nations out there, but by false brethren who rise up against him, even by those who ate at his table!

 

Especially in times of church deformation it can happen that the majority of a congregation go the wrong way, and that those who want to hold on to the truth of God’s Word, and live accordingly, become a minority.   Then the struggle can be very fierce within the church, a very lonely and bitter struggle for a few despised members, while the rest start to live like the world.

Yes, the persecution with the tongue is often present even within the church.    Christ says this is the way in which God’s covenant people, Israel, persecuted the prophets.   The persecution came from within the church.   It was the church leaders that crucified Christ.

 

So then, this persecution comes from various directions.   But whenever you experience persecution for Christ’s sake, remain steadfast in the faith, knowing that it is not something strange happening to you, but that the same sufferings are experienced by all your brothers in this world. 

 

Brothers and sisters, when you experience this, know that you are in good company, for that is what all the saints have to endure.

 

He says this to comfort us.  It is indeed a comfort when we know that this kind of suffering testify of our union with Christ, and of our union with His church.   We are sharing the sufferings of the body of Christ here on earth.  

 

Therefore, if all God’s children share this kind of suffering for Christ’s sake, then I do not want to be without it.   This kind of suffering testifies that you belong to Christ, and that you are part of His body here on earth.

And thus the apostle places our suffering in the right perspective.   We may joyfully endure It; and look to the reward.

 

That is indeed his purpose: to point us to the glory to which God called us.

We note that in the last place, that…

 

The God of all grace will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle us

 

After exhorting us to be sober and watchful, and after giving us the right perspective on our sufferings and the testing of our faith, he now strengthens our faith by focusing our hope on the glory which God has promised us.   He says:

 

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.   To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever...”

 

It is a prayer.   The words of this prayer are at the same time also divine revelation.    God Himself has laid these words in the mouth of the apostle.   And thus it is not merely a prayer, but also a promise.   God will hear this prayer, and do accordingly.

We may be assured that God will answer this prayer.

 

He, the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle us, after we have suffered for a little while.

 

The “little while” refers to our temporal sufferings in this world.   It is contrasted to the eternal glory which has been promised us in Christ.

 

God will complete the good work which He has begun in us.  

He will perfect us.   That is: He will complete His work of grace in us.   Ultimately that will be on the day of Christ’s coming.

He will also establish us.   He will cause us to persevere to the end, and establish us forever.

He will strengthen us, although we are now so weak and miserable.

He will settle us.   He will place us on a solid foundation, and make us to stand, even forever.

With these four words He assures us of completeness, firmness, strength and an eternal foundation.  God, who called us in His grace, will not leave us to ourselves, but preserve us to the very end, and bring us to the promised glory.

 

Brothers and sisters, God has already called you to this glory.  The promise has been proclaimed and sealed to you.   Set your hope fully on the eternal glory that God has promised you.

 

In the midst of your present suffering, know and be assured, that He will strengthen and establish and preserve you in Christ Jesus until that glorious day when Christ will return on the clouds of heaven in great power and glory.  

And His reward is with Him.

 

It is the God of all grace, who in His mercy, called us unto His glory.   Not because of any merit in ourselves, but because of His love for us in Christ.  

By His grace He will fully accomplish this promised salvation.  

 

Therefore all the glory belongs to Him.   It is all His work of grace for us and in us.  

And therefore the apostle closes with this doxology:

 

            “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever…”

 

To Him be the glory.   It is the glory of His grace.   It is the glory of our covenant God who remains faithful to His promise.      

 

Let us join the apostle in this doxology.   Let us rejoice in the grace and the power of our almighty and faithful God.

The battle will be fierce.   We will receive many scars and wounds.   We will suffer fiery trials and persecutions, and so share in the sufferings of Christ.   But let us, in the midst of this struggle, fix our eyes on the glory which God has promised us in Christ.  

 

Let us, through faith, rejoice; fully assured of the glory which will be ours at the coming of Christ.    Let us, with full confidence in the mercies of our God, and with full confidence in His faithfulness, say amen to His promises.

 

Dear brothers and sisters, saints in Christ, after we have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, will perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you. 

To Him be the glory and the dominion, forever and ever.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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