Fear sells. Lately, it seems if you aren’t afraid you are insensitive at best or a callous jerk at worst. News agencies tell us to be afraid of people on the other side of the political aisle. Other news agencies tell us to be afraid of those news agencies. Fear is everywhere. Even well-meaning Christians get swept up into it. If the wrong political party gets elected into office, it must mean the end is near. Here’s the truth. The end is near. It has been for 2,000 years. Knowing this fact shouldn’t cause us to live in fear, but with urgency for the mission of God. Check out what the Apostle Peter said.
1 Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
In these verses Peter outlines for us how our lives should be different. Suffering well does not mean we sit idly by. We are to maintain our unity while doing everything for the glory of God. The end of all things is near. This is how we as the church are to live in light of that reality.
CHANGE YOUR THINKING
In verse seven Peter again goes straight to our thinking. We are to be alert and sober-minded for prayer. The idea that is being communicated is to keep your head. Juan R. Sanchez said “Fear of the end can cause many to ‘lose their heads.’ Because the end is near, Peter commands his readers to keep their heads about them, to be clear-headed.” End times theories are all the rage. Many want to hunker down and wait for the end. Many are constantly in a panic. We are currently in an election year and let me tell you, panic and fear are the norms. But Peter cuts through the panic and tells us not to lose our heads, but think clearly. Don’t panic—pray. Yes, the end is coming! The fact that the end is coming should drive us to our knees in prayer. When we feel anxiety rising in us because of the current state our world is in, we need to take that to Jesus. We need to urgently pray that people would come to know Christ and his kingdom agenda would be advanced. Praying is an indicator that we are dependent on God and hopeful that he will work. Even though the end is at hand, we know that God is in control, so we don’t need to panic, because this means our exile is nearing its end.
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THRIVING IN EXILE
The book of 1 Peter tell us that we are strangers and exiles. This world is not our home. We are now priests in God’s kingdom. Part of our role as priests is to point others to Jesus through the way we will live our lives-especially in suffering. When we anchor our hope to Jesus we can show people in our lives a better way to live. One that rises above fear with the unshakable confidence that comes from being secure in Christ. Living for eternity today gives others hope for tomorrow. Thriving In Exile will walk us through the book of 1 Peter and show how we can live holy lives that point people to Jesus while we navigate our own suffering.
LOVE ABOVE ALL
Next, Peter challenges us to endeavor in our love for each other. Peter even goes so far as to say ABOVE ALL maintain constant love towards each other. This type of love that believers are to have for each other shows the unbelieving world that our faith is real. See what Jesus said in John 13.
John 13:35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Loving one another is also the entire fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13:8-10 Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.
So it’s no wonder Peter says “above all, love each other.” When we are walking through difficult times it is so easy to stop loving others and get incredibly sensitive and become incredibly divisive. Often we go around looking for faults in others because we think that will soothe our pain, but it never does. Peter tells us that holy living is the opposite, it covers a multitude of sins. This doesn’t mean we don’t take sin seriously, but it does mean we seriously love people. We don’t go around looking for the faults in other people, but thinking the best of others. We don’t linger over people’s flaws, but we are quick to forgive. Peter was no doubt thinking of Proverbs when he wrote this.
Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.
In verses 9 and 10, Peter continues to show us how we are to go about our lives while walking through hard times. In the New Testament Christians didn’t have buildings to meet in. They weren’t able to book hotels when they traveled. They had to depend on each other. Hospitality was a vital part of living out their faith in Bible times. When a Christian missionary like Paul was doing work in a region, he would have to depend on the hospitality of the saints so he could do what God had called him too. Week in and week out Christians would open up their homes so the saints could gather. Fellow believers would inconvenience their lives to give someone, often a stranger, a place to stay, all without complaining. Too often we view our homes as a retreat from the mission of God instead of an outpost for the mission of God. Opening up our homes is an amazing way we can demonstrate our love for others and these verses challenge us to make it a regular part of our lives.
As we endeavor to grow in our hospitality we also seek to serve others. Just like we have received grace from God, we should use that grace to serve the believers in our lives. God has entrusted each of us with unique gifts, but not so we could simply be gifted. He has gifted us so that we can bless others with that gift. This is why it is so important to be plugged into a local body of believers. When each member uses the gift that God has given them, needs are met and the mission of God moves forward.
TRUST IN GOD’S STRENGTH
Then in verse eleven, Peter wants to make sure that as we are endeavoring to live a life of holiness we do so in God’s strength. We couldn’t even begin to do all this in our strength. We would burn out faster than a cheap match, especially when we are hurting. Serving can be exhausting, but we are not left to do it on our own. God has made us and gifted us for this and he provides his strength so that we can make a difference in our world for the glory of God. When we serve in God’s strength, he gets the credit and glory. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever.
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