following the Shepherd

For our summer Bible study friends . . .

I am SO thankful to report that I am feeling much, much better!  Thank you for your prayers for me!  We are keenly aware that this experience with COVID could have been much worse, so we are incredibly grateful for the LORD’s healing and protection each step along the way.  For those who are following along as we study 1&2 Peter, see below for a recap of our chat this week . . .

YESTERDAY’S DISCUSSION – 1 Peter 5

Wow.  In this final chapter of his first letter, Peter covers a lot of ground.  With the help of Lesson 9 in our study books, our conversation touched on several different topics as well.

Peter first addresses fellow elders.  His comments give us a glimpse of some important qualities in those who demonstrate Godly leadership: they are witnesses of Christ, who care for members of the church willingly and graciously, who lead by example, and serve in humility.  We all agreed that these are important aspects to remember in parenting too!

As he mentioned earlier in this letter, Peter turns our attention to our Chief Shepherd as our ultimate example.  It was truly wonderful to linger over this section of the lesson that takes us to John 10, where the LORD JESUS describes Himself as the Good Shepherd with His sheep.  He is our Protector and Provider, who gave His own life for us so that we can be safe and secure with Him, the One who names us and calls us to come to Him.  We were reminded, too, that as good sheep we choose to follow, heeding only the Shepherd’s voice, running from the stranger’s voice that will only lead us to danger and vulnerability.  We paused for a moment to connect the first two thoughts from this letter – that a Godly leader is a good shepherd, serving self-sacrificially to provide a safe and secure place for the rest of the flock to thrive.

Peter then turns his attention to young men.  (We assume the same encouragement could be directed to young women.)  He urges the younger generation to accept the authority of those further along the path of Christ, to strive for a humble attitude that allows them to stay teachable, acknowledging that they are always in a position to learn something.  He is affectively asking them to trust GOD’s placement of those in leadership positions, and to make their jobs easier as shepherds by being good sheep!

But Peter doesn’t let anyone off the hook, so to speak.  He clearly directs ALL, young or experienced, to serve one another with humility.  As we have seen in James, this humble attitude allows us to be slow to speak, quick to listen, genuine in desiring to hear and understand someone else’s perspective or idea, and eager to welcome someone else’s strength to fill their calling.  From this lesson, we also gathered insights about humility from Proverbs (that humility leads to wisdom and Godly character) and from Christ’s example in Philippians.  Our Savior did not demand or cling to His rights, but took the humble position as a slave, not resisting the Father’s plan, but remained committed to that plan even when it brought Him great suffering.

Our lesson directed us one step further – to look at passages in Psalms, Proverbs, and Philippians, to help us see how a lack of humble trust in GOD will lead us to be frighteningly anxious!  When we yield to GOD’s plan, trusting in His best, we can experience positive outcomes in areas we were never able to control anyway.  These passages further encouraged us to cease from anger, to not fret for it only causes more harm, and to be still, waiting for the LORD to act when and how He knows best.

Before adding his closing comments, Peter again mentions the suffering these new believers were enduring – a great cause for concern and anxiety!  He is careful to point out that many of their trials are, in fact, attacks from the enemy of our souls, the devil himself!  Our lesson pointed to Genesis and Matthew to help us take a closer look at our enemy and his tactics:  prowling like a lion looking for any opportunity to devour, using terrorizing fear, casting doubt about the character of GOD, misquoting and twisting GOD’s truth.  Our enemy is always working to divide and isolate us, feeding us lies to paralyze and defeat us. 

Peter encourages those under attack to stand firm!  Our lesson provides a wonderful reminder of the full armor of GOD available to us, as described in Ephesians 6.  Many of us are fairly familiar with these resources, so it was interesting to ask one another what, in particular, grabbed our attention during this current study week.   One person mentioned the simple fact that during JESUS’ own temptation from the devil, it was His declaration of GOD’s truth, clear and plain and undistorted that silenced the enemy.  Someone else mentioned a very visual lesson for young children when she held up a physical shield, reminding her that our faith covers and protects us!  Others mentioned the phrases that seemed to stand out: to stay alert (this is serious business and our enemy is stubborn, sneaky, and unrelenting), and to persist in prayer by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We may feel horribly vulnerable and out of control, that there is nothing we can do to alter the course of events swirling around us.  BUT we can always PRAY!!!  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Our GOD hears and delights to answer!  He is able.  He is willing.  He is the Victor.  His plans are always right on cue.  Never deterred.  Never derailed.  When we stand with our Shepherd, we are safe and secure!

Whatever trials we face, Peter also points out that these moments, however intense, are temporary.  Much like the LORD JESUS set His gaze on the glory to come, Peter draws from his own experience of witnessing the LORD with Moses and Elijah on the mount of transfiguration, and casts our vision to future glory we can also anticipate!  It was simply mind-boggling to try to wrap our heads around verses from Philippians and Colossians that describe how we will be “partakers in the glory yet to be revealed to us!”  Our *real life* is not here, not in these bodies we fret about, not in these circumstances that threaten to bury us, but is hidden with Christ in GOD!  We will share in His glory!  That *real life* is never vulnerable, never in jeopardy, but is growing stronger and more vibrant in our vision every day.  Maybe our trials here simply allow us to grow a little more homesick for heaven, building our thrilling anticipation of the day when we will step onto heaven’s shores, see our Savior face to face, and know that we are Home to stay!

Peter adds one more precious comfort for our journey here on earth … we are never alone!  He reminds these dear believers (and us) that our brothers and sisters all around the world are facing the same struggles.  There are others who truly understand, others who place their faith and trust in the same GOD, the One who is worthy of our trust.  In his final benediction, Peter assures us that Our Shepherd, JESUS Himself, will restore, support, and strengthen us.  He will never fail us!

Lesson 9 ends with a great “apply what you have learned” section, directing us to reread passages from each chapter in 1 Peter and summarize a Christian view of suffering…

One of our group members summarized her thoughts in this way:

“As Christians, we are not surprised at the fiery darts of suffering often brought about by satan’s attacks meant to devour us.  But instead, we rejoice, knowing we are not alone.  Our brothers and sisters around the world are under the same attack.  Together, we look to our Living Hope.  When given opportunity, we are ready to defend our faith with kindness and love, knowing our Savior walked before us in suffering, and we joyfully follow in His steps.  Whatever the outcome may be, good or bad, we will reap a spiritual reward, for the Spirit of GOD rests upon us.  We will be blessed by a deepening of our fellowship with Christ, a maturing and strengthening of our faith, and an opportunity to testify to the world around us that we are His children.”

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!  Serve the LORD with gladness.  Come into His presence with singing!  Know that the LORD Himself is GOD!  It is He who has made us, and we are His.  We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.”  Psalm 100:1-3

photo credit: kcisradio.com

#summerBiblestudy #1and2Peter #learningtogether #CommunityBibleStudy #engagingGODsWord #Godlyleadership #ChiefShepherd #carefortheflock #humility #trust #honor #beagoodsheep #follow #hearHisvoice #safeandsecure #donotbeanxious #spiritualwarfare #armorofGOD #reallife #hiddenwithCHRIST #glorytocome #GODsviewofsuffering #homesickforheaven

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