Two weeks ago, while I was serving as a counselor at our children’s camp, I lead a daily Bible study out of I Peter 5. It was neat to see how God gave us practical assignments during the camp. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I love camp. People are outside of their comfort zones and situations arise where they get squeezed and what is on the inside manifests itself quite rapidly, unmasked and unfiltered. This totally happened while we were at camp and I would like to share it with you here. First, I want to take a look at the text and see what we can learn about ourselves and then see what God wants us to do with this information.
1Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion,seeking someone to devour. (I Peter 5)
I. Leaders, be an example
Peter starts off by addressing the leaders because God wants them, not only to teach the younger believers, but also to model what they teach. God wants the leaders to teach submission and humility to the people but, as they teach, they, themselves, have to be a living model of what they are teaching. Just because you are a leader does not mean that you do not have an authority figure over you. Jesus Christ has called you to serve the people and as you serve, you must remember that He is the authority figure to whom you submit and walk humbly before on a moment by moment basis. In the world, people want to be leaders so that they can be served. In God’s kingdom, people become leaders to serve. In fact, they become leaders out of their service. This makes them great leaders because they are already practicing the things that they are teaching. Leaders have to make sure that they are leading for the right reasons, to serve the Lord by serving His people and not doing it for money (as the sole motivation) or because they are power hungry. If you are a leader, why do you lead? If you want to become a leader, why, what are your motives? Are you serving now so that you will continue to serve when you do become a leader? Are you an example for the people to follow? Remember, we do not like “do as I say but not as I do”.
II. Younger believers, follow your leaders’ examples
Younger believers are called to grow in their faith and the only way that this is going to happen is if more mature believers (leaders) come along side of them and invest in them, being an example that they can follow and teaching them step by step. Peter focuses on two major keys to growing in your faith as you walk with the Lord day by day. The first is submission. The word submission literally means “to arrange under someone’s command”. It is a military term. When you are submissive to the Lord this will be shown through your willingness to be submissive to a leader. You hear the commands, understand the commands, and carry them out with the right attitude. If your leader asks you to do something that you might not fully understand, you listen, try to understand, do it, and have the right attitude, knowing that the leader is doing this to serve you and teach you how to walk with the Lord. Why is this so difficult to do? The text tells us. It is difficult to listen, understand, and obey with the right attitude because we have an enemy who wants to devour us (literally beat us/eat us down to nothing). He is against us because he is against God. He is strategic in his actions. He does not want you to hear God’s Word but if you do, he then tries to keep you from understanding It. If you do begin to understand, he then wants to convince you that you should not obey what you learned. If you do take the next step and apply what you have learned in obedience, he wants to convince you to have the wrong attitude as you do it. Have you ever experienced any of these? I know that I have experienced them. I try to expose myself to the Word of God on a daily basis and as I do, the enemy tried hard to keep me busy so that I do not have time to understand what I am learning fully. As my understanding grows, he tried to convince me that obedience is not that important. As I try to apply what I am learning, he tried to convince me that a bad attitude is okay, as long as I am obeying God. It happens every single time. What about you, are you exposing yourself to the Word of God on a daily basis? Do you seek to understand what is there? Do you desire to apply? What is your attitude like as you obey God?
The next key point is humbleness. If we want to grow in our faith we have to submit. The more that we submit to God, the more we will become like Christ, who was and is the picture of humbleness. He was and is extremely powerful, yet that power was harnessed and under control. We can be very powerful beings yet God wants that power harnessed and under His control so that our power can be useful to ourselves, to Him, and to others. A powerful engine in a car with no brakes is dangerous instead of being helpful. Humble people seek to serve the people around them instead of seeking to serve themselves and being served by others. There is one clear example of humbleness that I would like to use. The best example is Jesus washing the disciples’ feet in John 13. To set the context, I would like to explain why things happened the way that they did. Since there were no cars during Jesus’ day, He and His disciples usually walked everywhere that they went. After a long day of walking in the dust while wearing sandals, their feet would need washing before entering the house. Usually the position of feet washer was reserved for the one who had the lowest rank in the group. Each disciple walked in and decided that the duty of feet washer belonged to someone of a lower rank. When Jesus picked up the water bowl and the towel, each disciple realized, “I should have been the one who picked up the towel and water bowl.” They all learned a lesson in humility and service (a lesson that they never forgot). Now, after we learned this lesson from the Bible study, God gave us a chance to apply. Our group of 12 guys earned the right to go first for lunch. When your stomach is growling, you are slow to think about the needs of others first. Well, it just so happened that all week we, as young men, were learning to let ladies go first (girls included). During this long lunch line (100 plus people) all of the other boys’ teams decided to let the ladies go first. Our guys would not let the girls go first. They were only thinking about themselves. I reminded them of the lesson that we had just learned on humility and there response was, “we will act like Jesus after lunch!”. Their true colors came out. They knew all the Bible answers but application was missing. They finally decided to let one group of girls go first but they did not do it with a good attitude, which is something that we were also learning. When we are squeezed, what is on the inside comes out, unfiltered. Later that night, one of the boys repented of his sins and chose to follow Christ as Lord and Savior. His confession was, “I understand and want to obey but I cannot do it. I need God’s help.”. Let’s just say that I was on cloud 9. He got it. The Word of God did not return void. What about you, do you know all the answers yet avoid obedience with the right attitude? Do you see yourself as being a humble servant of others instead of serving yourself first and foremost? Do you realize that even if you understand, you cannot apply with the right attitude apart from God’s help? May the Lord help us learn to be submissive in all things and humbly serve the Lord by serving others on a daily basis.