Hopeful Steadfastness

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One of the most frequent New Testament exhortations is for believers to remain “steadfast” in their faith. Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). He charged the Colossians to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast” (1:23) and to “continue steadfastly in prayer” (4:2). He thanked God for the steadfast faith of the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 3:5) and charged older men in the Cretan church to be “sound in faith, in love, in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2).

James added that testing produces steadfastness (1:12) and that those who remain steadfast are blessed (5:11). Peter exhorted his readers to complement “self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness” (2 Peter 1:6). In the closing section of 1 Peter, he exhorts his readers, similarly, to “stand firm” in God’s grace (5:12). As he wrapped his letter to these believers, this was his burden: that they remain steadfast in the face of the fiery trial that was upon them (5:6–14). He offered them several pieces of counsel to assist their steadfastness.

When we face trial, it can be difficult to remain steadfast in the faith. Suffering tempts us to throw in the towel and to give up on our profession. When we face are tempted to give up, we do well to meditate on these verses and to be encouraged to persevere steadfastly in our faith by following Peter’s counsel.

First, to remain steadfast in faith, we must humbly submit ourselves to God as we unburden ourselves to him in prayer: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (vv. 6–7). Rather than throw our hands up in exasperation, lamenting the trial that we are facing, we should humbly recognise that even our trials are subject to “the mighty hand of God.” Therefore, we should honestly admit our “anxieties” to him, confident in his care for us, even as we continue to submit to his sovereign hand in our lives.

Second, to remain steadfast in faith, we must be aware of Satan’s schemes: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (vv. 8–9). Suffering has a way of turning us inward and focusing on our own pain. Nothing brings the devil greater delight. He wants us to focus inward. He wants us to obsess over our own pain and thereby neglect the common lot of God’s people. Peter reminded his readers that their suffering was not unique to them. Their brothers and sisters across the world were experiencing similar suffering. Peter was himself in the heat of the battle. He wrote to them from “Babylon,” a probable reference to Jerusalem, where opposition to the gospel was perhaps severest. But he didn’t allow the opposition he faced to stop him praying for and ministering to others in need, and we must not allow ourselves to fall into that trap.

Third, to remain steadfast in faith, we must pray for God’s gracious gift of strength and steadfastness: “And 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.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (vv. 10–11). Steadfastness does not come naturally. The natural human tendency is to crumble under pressure. While there are no doubt practical disciplines that we can implement to aid our steadfastness, we must recognise that, ultimately, the ability to persevere steadfastly in the faith is a divine gift. Christ himself must “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish” us. Recognising this, we must plead with him for the gift of steadfastness.

Fourth, to remain steadfast in faith, we must meditate regularly on divine grace: “By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.  Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (vv. 12–14). As painful as suffering can be, it does not negate God’s grace in our lives. We stand by his unmerited favour whether we are on the mountaintop of victory or in the valley of suffering. We stand and fall by grace alone.

As you reflect this morning on 1 Peter 5:6–14, heed Peter’s fourfold counsel. Humbly submit to God, be cognisant of Satan’s schemes, pray for God’s gracious gift of strength and steadfastness, and meditate regularly on divine grace. As you do so, stand firm in your faith and enjoy the wonderful peace of Christ.