I Peter 5:1 - 4Intro
As we have heard in the messages on I Peter, one of the themes of the book is that Christians will go through suffering. The believers will stay strong through suffering if their leadership is willing to lead the way and care about people's trials. All of us go through hardships. Sometimes during times of suffering, we begin to doubt and struggle because we think trials are the exception and good times are the norm. That is exactly the opposite of the picture that Peter is painting for us in this book. Tough times, struggles, and persecution are the norm for many Christians today. We grow through trials and challenging times. We learn that we have to depend on Jesus for healing, strength and comfort. When we have strong leadership who cares about the church as it goes through tough times, the body of Christ will be healthy and grow. If the minister is only in it for the power, prestige and money, the church can grow like a business but it will not produce reproducing disciples. It produces entertainment seeking religious people. Although some of this passage this morning is directed at elders, pastors or overseers, there is still a lot in it for the rest of us.
Let's look at the intro verse.
5 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who will share in the glory to be revealed:
Peter begins this section with an appeal based on being a fellow elder and being able to have seen the suffering of Christ and experienced the power of the resurrection. This section is directed toward the elders.
The term elder means OLDer. Maybe there are a few is us that fit that category. As much as I don't want to admit that I am getting into that phase of my life. Peter isn't addressing old people. He is rather addressing those who are spiritually more mature and are leaders in the churches that he is writing to. Remember he is writing to (1 Peter 1:1) "to God's elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of " North Central Turkey.
In the Bible, "elder" is a term used for one who is responsible for the leadership of a group of Jesus' flock. It does not refer to age necessarily but rather spiritual maturity. The term is used interchangeably with bishop, overseer, and pastor, (Acts 20:17,28; I Tim 3:1-7; Phil 1:1) The terms all have a little different aspect of ministry. Pastor refers to a caring function and bishop or overseer has to do with the leadership and guiding functions.
Although throughout the book Peter has talked about suffering, he does not focus on that suffering here, rather he focuses on the glory that will be revealed when Christ returns and the suffering ends.
Work of Shepherd and cautions.
2 Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
Let's look at the various appeals that Peter is making to the elders.
Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you, watching over them. Perhaps your flock is your family. Perhaps God has entrusted you to disciple just one person. Maybe you have become an elder and God has entrusted you with 50, 100 or more to guide into heaven.
This is God's flock not the pastor's. A pastor should never say, "My church"or "My congregation" because it belongs to God, not any person. Leaders are only stewards given the responsibility to care for the flock.
I would venture to say these admonitions are not only for the ones who are church leaders but all who have given the responsibility to lead whether in business or spiritual matters.
I hope that all of you here feel cared for. If not, leadership needs to know where the needs are. Some people are good at covering their hurt. All of us have blind spots and sometimes miss our God given responsibility, even pastors.
Peter goes on to give guidelines for elders offsetting the negatives with an alternative positive responsibility.
1st - Peter says, you shouldn't be an elder because you have to - Not because you must, but because you are willing. Never have the attitude - no one else will do it so I guess I might as well. No we do it to bless others, we do it willingly and joyfully because of what Jesus did for us. What greater way to show our gratefulness to Jesus than to serve His body the church?
2nd - Not for pursuing dishonest gain, eager to serve.
Some ministers see the position of the leader of the church as a chance to have a cushy job. Some of the pastors in Peter's day could have been using their position as elder in the church to gain financially. That was certainly the attitude of the Chief Priests in the Jerusalem Temple. They made money on selling stalls in the temple and other crooked ways to become rich.
3rd - Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being an example.
Some pastors enjoy their position because they can control and manipulate others. They like to be in control even if it is only a couple hundred people, they feel important that they are IN CHARGE. Some pastors are so controlling, they have to micro-manage everything in the church from the nursery to the budget. Instead of sitting in their air conditioned executive chairs, they should be out there sweating it out on the front line in the community working along side their flock.
Many pastors see their leadership as a job. A local church has unionized its pastors and almost anyone who graduates from a liberal divinity school with a degree in religion, agrees to their accepting homosexuals, and can stand in front of a group of people to read a sermon is accepted to minister. Many pastors want to put in a 35 hour week with office hours from 9 - 4 and Sunday morning with a couple evening meetings thrown in. They act like a CEO of a business not the caring pastor of a church. They don't want to be bothered after hours with calls about marriage problems, about the sick or even someone dying. The ministry is seek as a position, a job, not a calling and opportunity to use the gifts which God has entrusted to them.
When the pastorate is a job and done as a duty all joy is lost as work becomes a drudgery. The tone in the church with a leader like that turns negative and the body starts to fail. Maintaining a joyful willing spirit is often a challenge with all the cares and responsibility. Burnout is often a problem when the pastor gets so burdened that he forgets to keep his own spiritual life vibrant. Burnout happens when the well is dry and there is no living water inside to give to others but the responsibility still weighs heavily on his heart.
Going on to verse 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Jesus said in John 10:10b,11 I am come that you might have abundant life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The Chief Shepherd not only cares for His sheep, He laid down his life for his sheep. Can those who are leaders be so determined to disciple that they are willing to give up their own pleasures to make sure that others make it into the kingdom of God? That is something I struggle with - am I that committed?
Sheep are restless unless they know that the shepherd is defending them and caring for them. When the Chief Shepherd is caring for us and we put our full trust in Him, we can rest assured that the outcome will be to our benefit and to His glory.
The pastor should recognize the pain in people and be willing to care. What a great caring shepherd does, is to travel to Toronto to support a hurting couple with a dying child. We are blessed to have pastors who recognize the needs and reach out with the love of Jesus to care for hurting people. There is no greater joy than when leadership sees a loving united church that reaches out independently of coercing and brings people into an intimate relationship with Jesus. 1Pet 2: 25 For "you were like sheep going astray,"(Is 53:4-6) but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. What a thrill to see that kind of transformation.
A CEO is usually concerned about attendance, finances and programs. He usually does not care for people unless that affects the bottom line. A hireling flees in the face of danger or struggles, unable to help the helpless, because he himself is not connected to the Chief Shepherd who wants to bring healing and care to his life.
Peter ties into the responsibility of caring for the flock that Jesus is coming again. Are you ready? Every waking moment should be lived with the expectation that Christ may come at any moment. What do you fill your day with? Are you getting ready to meet Jesus? Are you introducing others to the Saviour who will be coming back to receive those who have made a commitment to be his children. Are you ready this morning? If Jesus were to show up at this meeting right now, would you be ready to meet Him?
Jesus said, "You won't know the hour" when I will return. Life will be going on "as usual" when that very unusual event occurs.
Mt 24: 38 - 44 reads, "For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
With the way current events are unfolding, there could be a move to world wide chaos, wars, earthquakes which trigger tsunami's, Nuclear bombs being created by many new nations to use as bargaining chips for power. ISIS is destroying property and life. They are killing Christians by the thousands and chasing out tens of thousands of Christians and others and taking their property.
Hamas, is trying to destroy Israel and then complains that Israel is defending itself. There is so much destruction going on in the world. Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
The other factor for motivation of an elder is that he will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Paul said in 2Tim 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
Jesus told John to write in Rev 2:10, "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor's crown."
These verses seem to promise those who are elders will receive a crown of glory that will last forever. Won't that be neat to see Pastor Jake, Pastor Lowell and other leaders walking around heaven with crowns of glory. That will be the glorious eternal recognition that they will receive for their sacrifice for serving others and guiding them in the truth here on earth. This should not be the motivation for our service here on earth but will be a reward in heaven. Least there be any sense of pride for our sacrifice that we are making as servants here on earth, we will get to what God has to say about pride next verse.
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
"God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." Prov. 3:34
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
V. 5 In the same way - What is the same way referring to? I believe Peter is saying that in the same way that the elders submit to the Lord younger less mature individuals in the church should submit to those who are elder.
Back in the early 70's I had prepared to work in the computer industry and had a good job. I was at the start of a great career, but we went out to Japan to help start churches there. We sensed God's blessing and direction to continue on serving in ministry in Japan but was that God's will. I read through the New Testament looking for answers to that potentially life changing answer. One thing that struck me was that God is not looking for volunteers, people who feel sorry for those in need and volunteer to help. I believe that this is one reason why some missionaries don't last. When a volunteer goes out, he can always come home when things get a little difficult.
I read in Acts 13 how Paul and Barnabas were sent out by the Holy Spirit as the leadership in Antioch was worshipping God. They were not volunteers. They were chosen, gifted people who were sent by the church and the Holy Spirit. I didn't want to be just a volunteer, I wanted to be sent. In the spring of 1978, I wrote to my home church asking that they discern God's will as to whether we should return to Japan or come home and work in the church. I was a young man submitting to the elders - the leaders in my home church at the time. Another verse that spoke to me at that time was Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy and not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
They determined that we should further prepare for ministry in Japan and sent us out in 1984 back to minister in Japan. Leaders in God's kingdom are held accountable to discern, equip and send. I don't think that many elders are doing that today. They would rather gather, entertain and build edifices with lots of staff to do the programming. We all have the responsibility to disciple. That can only happen when we work together, and have pastors like ours who care more about people than positions, giving rather than getting paid, serving not being self -serving, and discipling not disciplining.
Verse 5 tells us that we are to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another. Even though we have chosen leadership, God wants all people listen to each other and to serve as it says in 1 Peter 2:9 (HCSB) But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. All of us need to work together, loving our community so that we can bring them to the precious Saviour. We need to care for God's flock. If some of you need a little care, please humble yourself and ask for some help. Many people are too proud to ask for help. I again want to make myself available if someone wants some care.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Are we ready to confess our wrong attitudes, or wilful disobedience, our selfish attitudes and humble ourselves before Almighty God and pray that He will save us and prepare us as a bride without spot or wrinkle for that moment when He will return to receive all those who are ready to take us to heaven? Are you ready? I pray you are and will open your heart to the blessings Jesus, the Good Shepherd, wants for you. Will you prepare your heart and let Him take over? That is my prayer. Amen.August 24, 2014, Leamington Evangelical Mennonite Church