Humbled before a Caring God
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 5:5-7
There’s something about the human spirit that enjoys a good underdog story. We don’t typically enjoy hearing about pain and suffering, but it seems like there is a certain kind of satisfaction when we hear that pain and suffering and oppression give way to victory. It seems like the sadness of a story makes the happy ending all the more happy. That’s why we have stories like “The Ugly Duckling” and “Cinderella.”
But we don’t have to turn to fairy tales to be reminded that pain and suffering can lead to victory and triumph. The greatest example of victory through suffering we know to be Jesus Christ. He was rejected by men. He was betrayed and denied by His closest friends. And He was condemned to die like the worst of criminals.
But all this was part of God’s plan to accomplish an eternal redemption. Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. And He rose from the dead in a powerful victory over sin and death. And now, all who follow Him will rise one day as well in victory.
In the time leading up to Jesus Christ, and in the time since, there have been many examples of those who have endured unjust suffering but who we know received an eternal reward.
Abel was killed by his brother Cain, but He was commended by God. Joseph was sold into slavery and falsely accused of immorality, but it was all part of God’s plan to preserve and prosper His people. Even if it didn’t seem like it from an earthly perspective, those stories ended in victory.
We could say the same about Paul and Peter and Stephen. Those men gave their lives to serve Christ, only to be rejected and ultimately put to death. But their lives ended in glory and victory.
As Christians, we need to have that hope if we’re going to walk in holiness and faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Hope is the motivation that fuels our holiness and our faithfulness.
In the opening verses of chapter 5, Peter spoke to the elders, the pastors and leaders of the church. And in instructing them how to watch and care for the flock, he ends by pointing them, once again, to their heavenly reward. The Chief Shepherd will appear one day, and His people will receive the unfading, eternal crown of glory. Our struggles, our perseverance, will end in glory.
That principle applies, not just to the leaders of the church, but to everyone who is a part of Christ’s flock. If you belong to Jesus Christ, you have a reward waiting for you. But the promise of that reward should never mean you just get to sit back and wait without exerting any effort. The promise of that reward should compel us to faithfulness. In fact, if we are unfaithful, that’s a major warning that we may not actually belong to Jesus Christ. We may be self-deceived.
There may be external morality and intellectual knowledge of the faith and religious involvement. There may even be conviction of sin and some kind of active ministry. But unless there is a real love for God and for Jesus Christ and genuine repentance, everything else is meaningless.
One of Jesus’ most terrifying messages was what we see near the end of the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.”
So, what does it look like to do God’s will? There are many expressions of that in our life, but as Peter is wrapping up his letter, he turns his attention to one specific expression of holiness and obedience and faithfulness. In a word, his focus is submission. Submission.
The Christian life is a life of submission. On the one hand, that is a basic element. We enter into eternal life by surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ. That’s what it means that He is Lord. He is in charge. So, submission is a basic element of the Christian life. At the same time, it’s also a very distinct characteristic for a mature disciple.
Younger Christians might understand the principles of submission, but they will struggle more with it than those who have learned to trust in God. Submission is a key attribute. It’s a key mark of maturity. And for those of us who want to grow spiritually, it should be a quality we focus on.
Understanding that, it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that as Peter closes his letter, he comes back to the topic of submission. Back in chapter 2, verse 13, we were instructed to submit to the governing authorities. Verse 18 narrows that instruction to slaves, telling them to submit to their masters, even if they are cruel and unjust. In chapter 3, wives are instructed to submit to their husbands, even if that husband is an unbeliever.
Now in chapter 5, we step back once again to a more general application for all of us. The Apostle Peter, speaking the very words of God, commands us to demonstrate three kinds of submission.
First, there is to be a specific submission to elders. Second, there is to be a general submission to others. And third, there should be a total submission to God. Submit to the elders, submit to one another, and submit to God.
But Peter doesn’t just list these commands in an authoritarian way. He’s not trying to intimidate us or threaten us into submission. Like how he spoke to the elders, Peter wants us to remember the grace of God in our lives. He wants us to keep in mind the coming of Christ and the reward that awaits us.
So, let’s look a little more closely at this message. And let’s understand, not just what we’re being told to do, but how it is that the command we’ve been given connects to the heart we should have as we obey. First, we have the instruction to submit to the elders. Look at verse 5—Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
In light of Christ’s return, elders are to care for the sheep with a willing and pure heart. They are to lead with gentleness for the good of the flock. And likewise, in light of Christ’s return, the sheep are to submit to the shepherds.
The verb “submit” in the Greek is hupotasso. “Hupo” means “under,” and “tasso” means “to arrange” or “to order.” And in this case, the etymology of the word helps us understand its meaning. It means that you are arranging yourself underneath someone else. In this case, it doesn’t mean you recognize an inferiority, but it means you place yourself under the authority of that other person or group.
It’s not simply addressing your behavior; it’s addressing your heart. You recognize that God has created a structure, and right now, in this situation, you are in a position of submitting to that other group.
That’s what you should do with a police officer, or with your employer, or with your parents. There should be an attitude of respect and honor for that position because you recognize that God has, for His glory, and for the common good, ordained this structure to exist.
Submission is part of how a healthy relationship works between someone who leads and someone he is responsible to lead. When that authority is abused, or when that authority is rejected, the relationship stops being effective for God’s purposes.
Speaking of a members’ heart toward the elders, Hebrews 13:7 says we are to remember our leaders and imitate their faith. That’s a form of following. It’s a form of submission.
Later, in verse 17, it says “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
The leader’s ability to care for the flock is hampered when the sheep rebel. It’s a lot more difficult to keep the flock moving forward, when you’ve got stray sheep wandering off in another direction, or when you’ve got sheep biting and attacking one another.
The author of Hebrews says to us, make sure the elders see you as a joy, not as a reason to groan. So, submit to the elders.
Submission to leadership is difficult enough because we are sinful, finite, limited men. And that submission may be especially difficult for younger men. I think that’s why Peter focuses this command at the younger ones. There’s a reason we assume that young ones will struggle to submit.
A little baby is completely dependent on his guardians. And a grown man might recognize the wisdom of his father and appreciate the camaraderie. But in between those stages, as a child grows, he learns some things for himself, and he may foolishly assume that he’s ready to face the world on his own. And that leads to a certain kind of frustration from both parties. Kids want freedom and independence, and they might push back against authority.
That happens in the family, and it happens in the church too. Younger members, once they’re starting to grow will be tempted to think, “If I was part of the leadership, I’d do things the right way.” Well, there’s a respectful way to talk about improvements, but there is definitely a way to dishonor God in the way you think about and respond to leadership.
And just like elders need to guard themselves against a domineering attitude, the members need to guard themselves against a disrespectful and complaining heart. God has put a structure in place, and each part needs to learn to function within that for the glory of God and the strength of the church.
That heart of humility that should be seen in the relationship between leaders and members, should also be seen in the church-life as a whole. Remember, we said there is a submission to elders, but secondly there should also be a submission to one another. That’s the second command in this section. Submit to one another.
Look at verse 5 again—Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. And then it says, Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another.
The Greek word for “humility” is a compound word that means “lowly minded.” Colossians 2 talks about a false humility, which is done with a false motivation, either to be seen by others, or thinking that self-affliction will help you spiritually. But that’s not what Peter is talking about.
Peter is talking about a heart that serves others, that recognizes we are all made in the image of God, and that your brothers and sisters in the faith are members of equal standing in the body of Christ. And just like Christ humbled Himself to serve others, we should do the same.
That’s the familiar message of Philippians 2:3—Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Showing preference to others is how we demonstrate humility. We don’t have to get our own way. We don’t have to assert our own rights. We can show honor to others. In fact, we’re called to do that.
The word for “clothe yourselves” is a reference to tying a knot, and it was used for the apron a slave would wear to serve others. It identified someone as a slave. And Peter picks up that word and says, in effect, “put on the apron of humility.” Serve others.
Over time, service can gets more difficult. We might assume others will honor us more. We might assume someone else can do what we used to do. But Jesus calls us to have a heart to serve. Jesus wrapped a towel around Himself and washed the feet of his immature, foolish disciples. And He did that as an example for us. That’s the kind of humble love we need to b showing one another. That’s the difference Jesus makes in the lives of His followers.
In a church that serves Christ, and in a church that puts Christ on display, there will be submission to the elders, and there will be submission to one another. Husbands will be honoring their wives. Elders will be joyfully serving the congregation. And people will see the love of Christ in tangible ways.
And what’s so beautiful about Peter’s message here is the motivation he gives. Again, this isn’t a threat. This isn’t an ultimatum. This is an invitation. Why should we submit? The end of verse 5 tells us—for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
That is a general principle in the Bible. And Peter’s words come from the Greek translation of Proverbs 3:34. The ESV says it like this: Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.
I think we understand this, even from a human perspective. If you’ve got a group of kids, and one of them feels entitled and mocks you, your heart is turned against him. But if there is a child who demonstrates humility, your heart is turned toward him. There is an attraction to humility.
That’s what we saw back in chapter 3 when Peter talked about the wives. A submissive, gentle, and quiet spirit is beautiful and precious. It brings God’s favor.
And the question behind Peter’s words here is: which group are you in? What do you want from God? Do you want God to actively oppose your life? Or do you want His favor? Do you want His grace to be evident?
God is actively opposed to the arrogant. That’s a clear biblical message. God hates pride. It’s an abomination. Pride is the heart of Satan. Pride is what led to the fall of the human race. In Proverbs 8:13, Wisdom tells us: The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
Proverbs 11:2 warns us—When pride comes, then comes disgrace. But with the humble is wisdom.
Proverbs 16:5 says: Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.
You don’t really get much stronger language than that. God is opposed to the proud.
But, on the other hand, He pours out grace on those who are lowly in heart. He shows mercy and compassion. He gives a special blessing to the humble. He is near to the brokenhearted.
You don’t want God to be actively working against you. You want Him ready to bless and support you. You want to see His grace in your life. So, submit to the elders, and submit to one another. Show humility to one another, and God will bless you. He will reward you.
Now, your submission the leadership of the church, and your submission to your brothers and sisters in the church is really just an expression of a greater submission, and that is the third command for today. It’s all an expression of your submission to God. We are to submit to the elders. We are to submit to one another. And we are to submit to God. Verse 6—Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God
Based on what Peter has just said about being exalted by God, it doesn’t make sense to see this as some kind of a threat, as if Peter wants God’s power to compel us to obey.
No, instead, Peter is reminding us about the power of God to bless us and to watch over us. It’s the same sentiment behind 1 Peter 4:19—Let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
The more you meditate on the power and the might of God, the more easily it will be to submit to His will by submitting to others in the church and in the world. God is in charge. He’s watching over you. And He, in all His power and glory, is FOR you, not against you.
He gave you His Son. He sent His Son to die for your sin. How will He not continue to be faithful? How will He not graciously give you all things? That’s the rhetorical question Paul asks in Romans 8:32.
God will give us the victory He has promised. Our pain, our suffering, our difficulties will end in glory, just like with Joseph and Peter and Paul and Stephen. Just like with Jesus Christ Himself.
If you stop resisting God’s will, if you embrace godly submission, God will give you grace. God will exalt you. It may happen in some way in this life. It may not. But it will definitely happen when this chapter of the story ends.
Notice again the motivation Peter wants for us. Verse 6—Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.
That’s the reward. That’s the promise. We submit. We serve because we are motivated by our heavenly reward. We are motivated by the powerful and faithful God who has called us to Him eternally and has a purpose for us in this life.
If you believe that, if you are entrusting and submitting yourself to God, then there will be one very specific application of that in your life. And that brings us to verse 7, and this what we’ll be closing with. Look at verse 7— casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Most of the times when I heard this verse growing up, I didn’t hear it within the context of the rest of 1 Peter. Left alone, it just sounds like it’s saying you need to give your cares to God and not worry so much. That’s not a bad message, but it isn’t the entirety of Peter’s message here.
The best translations here in verse 7 will not start a new sentence, because in the original, verse 7 was not a new sentence. Verse 7 is an extension of verse 6. The verb there is a participle, which we typically end with “ing.” That means it’s describing the main verb in the sentence. If you have a more literal translation, verse 7 should say “casting all your cares.”
That’s a significant distinction because it highlights that casting your cares is connected to the main verb of the sentence, which is in verse 6: “Humble yourself.” In other words, you humble yourself before the Lord by casting your cares on Him. Being humble before the Lord is connected to casting your cares on Him.
Let me share with you two ways this connection between humility and casting cares affects your life.
Number 1, it means if you want to be more humble before the Lord, then you start by actively taking your cares and concerns to Him. You do that in the morning. You do that throughout the day. You do that at night. You teach your kids to do that.
Peter doesn’t say just take the really big concerns to God; he says cast ALL your cares on Him. That includes the ordinary stuff like a test, or a bad hair day, your dinner plans, and traffic. And obviously that includes the bigger things, humanly speaking, like sicknesses and relationship issues and financial issues and spiritual issues. Take all of it to the Lord.
A second way this connection affects your life is that it helps you realize that when you feel overwhelmed with worry and concern, that is really an expression of pride. It’s a lack of humility. And that needs to be said more in our current culture.
Most people today, I assume, picture someone who worries as a victim; it’s like they’ve been attacked. And there’s some truth there, since we’re all afflicted with sin and we all live in a fallen world. But that doesn’t mean we are free from any responsibility.
When Jesus told the crowds not to worry about the basic necessities of life, He called the people, “O you of little faith.” When the disciples were terrified in the storm, He asked, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? Where is your faith.” And He said the same thing when Peter sank into the waves. “O you of little faith.”
Worry is a lack of faith, and it’s an abundance of pride. To excessively worry is to assume that you are the one ultimately responsible to make things work out. That’s not your job.
Let’s say that after this service, I’m on my out to my car, and I drop to the floor in the middle of the parking lot. And somebody calls 9-1-1, and I end up in the hospital, and they realize I had a heart attack, and I need a double bypass surgery ASAP. So, they find the best heart surgeon in the county, and with the one or two hours of free time I get, I start looking all over the internet doing my own research on open heart surgery.
And during my final talk with the surgeon, I present to him a printout, and I give him my speech. “Doctor, you know, open-heart surgery is very tricky. There’s a lot of stuff that you need to be aware of, and there’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong. So, what I’ve done is I’ve created this flowchart for you, Doctor. And I want you to be very careful about following all these instructions during my surgery. This should help you do a good job.”
If my doctor has any credibility, I’d want him to say, “Get out of here with that list! Are you an open-heart surgeon? How many times have you done this before? Mr. Cardenas, let me worry about the surgery.” Do you get what I’m saying?
Many times, when we are worrying excessively, it’s because we are trying to step into God’s role. We think it’s motivated by concern or by a desire to help, but really, it’s a form of pride.
In his book Seeing with New Eyes, the late David Powlison says it like this: “Even self-belittling tendencies —[like] ‘low self-esteem,’ self pity, self-hatred, timidity, fears of failure and rejection—fundamentally express [your] pride failing, [your] pride [being] intimidated, and [your] pride despairing.”
Pride is the root of sinful worry. It’ wasn’t Daniels’ job to keep the lions at bay; that’s what God did. Daniel couldn’t have been successful no matter how much he wanted to.
Many times, out of humility before God, the best thing you can do it just leave stuff alone. You take care of what you need to take care of, and let God take care of what He’s supposed to take care of! It’s that simple! It might not be easy all the time, but it’s simple.
If my kid is going in for surgery, or if my wife is going to have another baby, it’s not my job to make sure everything turns out okay. My job is humble myself under the mighty hand of God by casting my cares on Him.
I know there are some very real, very delicate, very serious concerns in your lives. I hear about them. I go through similar things. Relationship issues, money issues, health issues, spiritual issues, marriage issues, issues with your kids. And the list is endless.
Whatever it is that you’re facing, think about what you know you are responsible to do. Consider making a list, on paper or in your head. And then, make a list of everything else that God is responsible to do. Once that’s all done, show it to someone to see if they agree. And then, ask God for the grace and the strength to do what you have to do, and give the rest of it to Him. “God, this is your job, not mine. I can’t make money appear. I can’t change my kid’s heart. I can’t change my wife or my husband. I can’t convert my neighbor. I can’t heal my own body. I can’t do any of that.”
That’s humility before God. That’s a recognition of His sovereign power. That’s casting your cares on Him.
I love the way David expresses this sentiment in Psalm 131. Psalm 131 is a psalm of confident trust, and it’s only three verses. Here’s what David writes:
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.
Because of his humility, David wasn’t getting involved in stuff that was beyond his ability. He took care of what he needed to do, and the rest He entrusted to God. As a result, he says, he was like a weaned child with his mother. His life was composed. His heart was quiet. He was content.
A weaned child is no longer simply concerned for what his mother can do for him; he just enjoys being with mom. He loves her for who she is. That was David’s relationship with God. He loved being with God. He trusted God. And it was all the outflow of a humble heart.
Don’t you want that kind of life? Don’t you want that kind of relationship with God? Don’t you want a growing peace and contentment and confidence in the victory God has assured His people?
Then humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, knowing that He cares for you. Those are Peter’s final words. That’s the true motivation for humility. God cares for you. You matter to Him. He hears you and He responds for His glory and your true good.