(part 1)

Reading: 1 Peter 5:1-11
Therefore, 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, 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; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 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. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Does it seem to you that more and more things are spiraling out of control? Six months ago ask us how America is doing and ask us now how America is doing. The answers likely will be very different. Six months ago answers were formed by the perception that we are in control of our destiny. Now answers are formed by two perceptions: (a) the conviction that we are in control is highly questionable, or (b) that it is obvious that we are not in control at all.

What has happened? The Iraqi war just is not going as we had hoped. The harder we try, the more obvious it is that we are not in control. For those of us who are older, it reminds us of a conflict when our superior technology was no match for the sacrificial determination of a people. Talk to us about the struggles in Iraq, and you are very likely to hear the statement, "There is only so much we can do."

What else has happened? Gasoline prices are not at all going the direction we wish. We are a nation in love with our automobiles, and our automobiles are financially ruining us. I clearly remember being part of a discussion with some friends in business who said, "I cannot survive a dollar a gallon for gas." Don't you wish you knew somewhere accessible that sold gasoline for a dollar a gallon? When it hit two dollars a gallon, we said, "Ridiculous!" When it had $2.50 a gallon, $1.90 looked like a bargain! Did you ever dream you would spend $ 50 on a tank of gas--unless you drive a large SUV, then it is $75 to a $100 a tank.

What else has happened? The major destruction of two large hurricanes. Because of a gulf storm called Katerina and a gulf storm called Rita, hundreds of thousands of people have no home, no work, and no connection with past generations. The devastation is so extensive it borders on being unbelievable. Those storms will not leave scars for months; they will leave open wounds for months. It will take a few months before the full impact of the tragedy is evident.

  1. The temptation is to find a "fall guy," someone to blame.
    1. The "blame game" does not work--not anywhere: families, industry, churches, or societies.
      1. Blame may temporarily make us feel better by helping us escape any sense of responsibility; "It is not my fault!"
        1. The key word is "temporarily"--even if we are 100% correct in our blame assessment (which rarely is the case), the problem or problems still exist.
        2. Blame is a way to hide, not a way to fix.
      2. Correction is a matter of accepting responsibility rather than a matter of verbally hiding.
        1. Getting angry about who was responsible for causing the problem does not eliminate the problem.
        2. The problem exists--the issue is what are you going to do about it?
    2. We live among a people who love to determine "who is at fault."
      1. It is almost like we believe a problem is solved if only we can determine whose fault it is.
      2. First, we want someone else to take care of us.
      3. Second, we reserve the right to get angry if their care does not meet our expectations.
    3. I wonder when:
      1. We will realize that the world was not made for us, that we do not deserve "rights" other people do not have, and that social problems are more complex than a simple political solutions.
      2. We will realize that having the freedom of multiple cars may not be worth the price to ourselves and our society.
      3. We will realize that physical damage can reach a point of expense that it is too demanding to fix.
      4. We will realize that freedom involves restrain instead of indulgence.
      5. We will realize we that there is no existence that provides opportunity without risk.

  2. We began our worship with a reading of 1 Peter 5:1-11; focus with me on the message of that reading.
    1. The letter declares that Peter the apostle is its writer.
      1. Who is the person who dares write about the power and usefulness of humility?
        1. This is the man who dared take Jesus aside and rebuke him (Matthew 16:22).
        2. This is the man who participated in discussions about which of Jesus' twelve disciples is the most important disciple (Mark 9:33,34).
        3. This is the man who told Jesus on the night of his death, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You," and then denied Jesus three times before daylight.
        4. This is the man who learned the power of humility the hard way.
      2. Peter clearly understood the Christian community could represent neither God nor Jesus Christ if they were not ruled by genuine feelings of humility.
        1. The humble God created our means of forgiveness while we were still sinners.
        2. The humble Jesus left heaven, became a part of that which he helped make, and gave his life for us.
        3. Arrogant people cannot represent an humble God and an humble Savior.
        4. Peter, from experience, knew that.
        5. Peter understood how easy it is for humans to think arrogance is faith.
    2. This is the admonition from the man who learned the power of humility the hard way.
      1. Leaders, you exist as shepherds who serve, not as men who seek to control.
        1. There is someone bigger than you, and you will answer to him.
        2. It is not your flock--it is the Chief Shepherd's flock.
        3. You are just managers of his concern.
        4. Look after the flock willingly.
        5. Stay in touch with God's interest.
        6. Do not serve for the sake of money.
        7. Be examples rather than being controllers.
      2. Followers, follow well as you listen to those who are made wise by experience.
        1. Clothe yourself in humility in your interaction with the rest of your spiritual family.
        2. If you expect God's help, be humble, not proud.
    3. General admonitions to everyone.
      1. Humble yourself as you place yourself under God's control.
      2. Be humble because it is your choice, not because it is someone else's demand.
      3. Do not exalt yourself--leave exalting in God's hands!
      4. Give your anxieties to someone who can do something about them--give them to God.
      5. God's concern for you is personal!
      6. Be realistic!
        1. Never forget Satan is serious about destroying you.
        2. Do not let him control you with fear--resist him!
        3. Understand the only way you can resist him is through your faith in God.
        4. Never think you are the only one suffering--just look around you.
        5. God is bigger than your suffering and will ultimately make you triumphant.
        6. However, never forget your survival depends on God, not you.

  3. We like to believe that citizens of America are bigger than anything that might come our way.
    1. Only people in this nation are that arrogant.
      1. Other people have all kinds of problems they cannot solve.
      2. Most people are concerned about surviving, not about having fun.
        1. The key question with us is, "Are you having fun?"
        2. Most people in our world rarely ask that question.
        3. For most people, life is not about pleasure.
    2. Most people in the world might like to have our power, but they do not want our way of life.
      1. When you look honestly at our families, our values, and our addiction to materialism, you cannot blame them.
        1. To many people, Americans are morally a disaster.
        2. I would readily confess that most other people do not know us very well--their perceptions are often created by American television shows and American movies.
        3. I would also confess that we are a schizophrenic people.
          1. We are capable of great compassion as evidenced by the storms recently.
          2. We are also capable of great selfishness as is too frequently evidenced by our addiction to materialism and pleasure.
      2. I surely do not suggest that I know the answer.
        1. It is a huge problem.
        2. It is a complex problem.
        3. There are no simply answers.
    3. All I am saying is this: it is long past time that we realized that there are some things much bigger than we are.
      1. The world does not exist to sustain our way of life.
      2. We are not more important than other people.
      3. A hurt is a hurt, suffering is suffering, and hunger is hunger no matter where you live on earth.

  4. May I get very personal for a moment?
    1. My life has been based on prevention.
      1. One of our classrooms could not hold all the whole grain bread, cereal, and oatmeal I have eaten.
      2. I jogged for 17 years.
      3. I have been on an exercise program 5 days a week since 1975.
      4. I have been on a low fat diet since I was 40.
      5. I have watched my weight for over 25 years.
      6. I have taken flax seed oil and vitamins for years.
      7. I have never been a smoker or a drinker.
    2. Something bigger than oatmeal, exercise, and low fat diets control my physical life every day.
      1. I do what I can do every day, not what I want to do.
      2. I have been forced to realize some things I enjoyed doing I likely will never do again.
      3. And there is very little I can do about it--neither my physical will power nor medical science is in control of my situation.
      4. At best my daily situation can be temporarily improve.
      5. But my cerebellar atrophy cannot be fixed!
    3. I am not the only person who experiences a condition that cannot be fixed.
      1. There are two things such situations make you realize fast:
        1. The first is how small you are.
        2. The second is that the confidence that you are in control is extremely deceitful.
      2. The end result is a profound realization of the importance of humility.

This evening I want to affirm to you some good news. There are many physical situations bigger than you are. However, you can choose to belong to someone who is bigger than any of those physical situations.

1 Peter 5:6,7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 2 October 2005

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