8-11Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.
(I Peter 5:8-11)
As Peter wraps up the first letter to the churches, he sums up with a reminder of the importance of keeping our guard. There is a call to stay alert, aware of our surroundings, attentive to things that cross our path. Peter paints the picture of the Devil being "poised to pounce" much like a large jungle cat just laying in wait for its prey.
What does it take to stay alert and stand our ground in faith? He has given us some key points throughout this short epistle. First, he reminded us that we will go through times of testing, much like a refining process, that will purify our faith. A pure faith is one that can stand confident in the midst of trial and temptation. How is our faith purified? Peter tells us it is through trial - times of testing. The trial brings to the surface things that otherwise would be hidden from our attention and allows us to lay those things before God, trusting him to remove them.
Second, Peter reminded us that we need to be involved in our daily walk with a passion and a purpose - not just lazily accepting our lives as already being all they can be. In other words, we stay committed to growth - doing what it takes to grow up in Christ. This may mean doing what we don't necessarily feel like doing - daily time in the Word, gathering together in regular times of worship and teaching, etc. It means that we don't accept "good enough" as the basis of our Christian walk - we ask God for the best, and pursue it with the passion that he enables us to develop.
Third, Peter spent a great deal of time expounding on the importance of love in our lives - because it is the manifestation of how God has worked in us, creating a new life within. We are to be attentive to the needs of others, not always focusing on our own wants/wishes, but truly being sensitive to the plight of the other person. Love is learned at the feet of Jesus - love is lived out in the daily example we set to a lost and dying world. Love involves being kind with our words, encouraging in our actions, committed in our attitudes, and industrious in our work.
Fourth, we are reminded that it is very easy to indulge our ego at the expense of our spiritual walk. Whenever we focus on our wants before God's desires for our lives, we are putting self first. This is a place of danger for us! We are called to do good with both heart and soul - that makes us unstoppable in the kingdom of God. We cannot focus on our needs above those of another. We cannot control the outcomes of a man's life, but we can impact the outcome by the choices we make, the example we set, and the love we display.
Fifth, Peter pointed out the importance of a change of thinking - not dwelling on the old sinful ways of thinking any longer. In other words, he is telling us we need to have our minds (thoughts and attitudes) cleansed by the power of God's Word and his Holy Spirit. The exchange of thought pattern from one of focusing on self, sinful passions and pursuits, to that of how God would have us to live is a process of growth. We learn to "put on" the mind of Christ as we learn to bring each thought, desire, and attitude before him for his approval. Those that do not bring him honor he begins to point out, faithfully revealing to us what we need to lay down in the process and what we need to replace those thoughts, desires, and attitudes with. God is in the business of pointing out what needs to "go away", but he is also so faithful to provide what needs to "be put into" our lives.
Last, but not least, Peter tells us to be aware of our surroundings - standing our ground, alert, ready for the attack of our enemy. Satan is like a prowling lion, waiting to pounce, just looking for the opportunity to trip us up in our walk and impede our progress with God. He does this through doubt - causing us to question the sincerity of our heart commitment, planting little seeds of doubt that cause us to focus on what we are NOT, instead of what we ARE.
Be alert! Be ready! That is the call of this book. Don't let the enemy of your soul trip you up with his discouraging words, immobilizing thoughts, and tantalizing temptations. Stay on guard - in other words, don't grow lazy in your walk! Be prayerful, study often and study well. The best antidote to a lack of growth is to learn to take in that which will spur us to growth again - regular time in his Word, committed relationships with others walking with him, and attention to times of special communion with our God.