1 Peter 5 ends this letter from Peter. Short but packed with truth that matters. He begins with admonition to the elders about their role and how they should exercise it. We are given some contrasts in how the job should be done but it all focuses on the idea of “shepherd the flock”. The elders are to be responsible for the protection, care and leading of the people in their patch. They are the ones who will have to give account. Check out the contrasts Peter gives in doing the shepherding well in “exercising oversight”:
– “not under compulsion but willingly
– Not for shameful gain but eagerly
– Not domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock
Bottom line is that shepherds are to be willing, eager examples for the flock to follow. Shepherds lead. They set direction and take their flock to the place they are safe and can grow. And when done well, scripture tells us those elders will “receive the unfading crown of glory”. There is an eternal reward when leaders lead well!
He goes on to remind “you who are younger, be subject to the elders “. Many resist the idea of being under the authority of another person spiritually. After all, we each have our own relationship right with the Father Himself – we don’t need someone else telling us what to do. Right? Isn’t that how many think? But it is not God’s plan. He is orderly and structured and knows that left to our own devices we will fail. We don’t do the right things just because we have access to the King. We still go into the weeds and get lost in sin. We need to have others who are leading and guiding our path, and particularly protecting and correcting us. That means we need to learn and practice humility. “Clothe yourselves….with humility toward one another….Humble yourselves…. so that….he may exalt you”. It really is a pretty simple plan. We are told to humble ourselves – which means to put others in a place over us – SO THAT – we may be exalted. Humility brings us to the end game – exaltation before God. The opposite is also true – if we refuse we miss out. This is an if…then kind of action. Humility leads to our hearts and souls being in right relationship with God’s plan and economy. It is not optional. We must submit to authority – just as God Himself is authority – so are the elders He allows in our lives to lead us.
Peter ends his letter with some important direction for us. First the admonition to pray: “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”. Are you a prayer warrior or a worrier? God has told us to let Him take care of the burdens in our life. Yet we hang on and are unwilling to let Him be God. We just refuse to let Him have them. Why? Obviously we don’t believe He is able. We don’t trust Him. We have to remember that He cares for us. He sent Jesus to prove that point. God can handle whatever the issue is – so let Him have it. Peter goes on to warn us that we should be “sober-minded; be watchful”. So many of us live our Christ Follower lives on autopilot and pay no attention to what is happening around us. Bad answer. Why is it important to pay attention? “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. We have a very real enemy and his goal for our lives is destruction. That is not the outcome God desires.
SO what do we need to do? “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”. We can defeat the enemy prowling around us. But it requires that we recognize him, resist him and have a faith that we can stand on. We have to be living and walking actively as Christ Followers – plugged into God’s Word and standing on our faith. We can win in the battle with evil. But we have to be in the game. It does not mean that life will be a bed of roses. Suffering is real and happens. And it is likely part of our growing up in the faith but look at the promise that comes with it: “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”. God won’t abandon us at all – He will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. He has a plan. A little suffering will likely occur to help clean up some areas in our life that need attention but only for a period before we are restored to God and His blessing. Be encouraged. God has a plan. He loves us. He is in control!