Easter 7

Preached: June 1, 2014

Your Mighty King Strengthens You
1 Peter 5:6-11

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God before us today through which the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith in Jesus is 1 Peter 5

Therefore be humbled under the mighty hand of God in order that he may lift you up at the right time, casting all your cares on him because he cares for you.

Be sober-minded. Keep watch. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that the same kind of suffering is being worked out in your brothers in the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you for his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him is the power forever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11).

This is the word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Lord, are you at this time going restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6 NIV84) the disciples asked shortly before Jesus' ascension. Before we criticize them, note how far they had come. Forty days earlier they were hiding behind looked doors, cowering in fear, mourning Jesus' death. Now they were convinced he had powerfully risen from the dead. Now they were willing to stand with Jesus. Now they were not ashamed to follow their mighty King. Yes, they still appear to be too focused on the earthly aspects of his kingdom, but should that surprise us?

How often doesn't the earthly disturb our faith or shake our confidence in the might of our King? Maybe like the disciples we struggle to see how his kingdom on earth will survive much less advance, considering how small and weak it appears compared to the powers of this world. But more often than not, our focus is much more narrow. When something rattles my earthly life or my family's or my community's (my own small corner of this world), then I question Jesus' might or wonder why he doesn't use his power differently. Does he really reign as King over all? For you see, I was depending on my earthly lot to assure me of God's love and power. Through the hardships of life God shakes us loose from leaning on these earthly props, so that we follow the King whom we do not see, so that we trust his mighty power that is hidden in weakness, so that we rely on him as our only strength.

Yes, dear Christian, your mighty King strengthens you. Ponder that theme as you watch him ascend. Your mighty King strengthens you to cast all your cares on him. He strengthens you to resist the lion. And he strengthens you to anticipate the glory.

A. To cast all your cares on him

A man started his run with his backpack over his shoulder. “Do you need any help?” someone asked. “No, I can do it on my own,” he answered. But as the day wore on, that backpack became heavier and the sun grew hotter. His run slowed to a jog, then a walk, then a crawl. Now when someone asked, “Can I carry that pack for you?” guess what he answered.

Although a degree of self-reliance and self-confidence can be useful in our dealings with earthly things and the people of this world, how deadly they are in our relationship with God! For they seek to rob him of glory and to retain some pride in ourselves. Clichés such as, “God helps those who help themselves,” feed this deadly pride. I can't even take a breath without God, so how can I ever help myself?

Throughout the Scriptures we see the Lord lifting up the lowly and bringing down the proud. He makes the first last and the last first. He brings hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless. Look at how God the Father chose an unknown young lady from the small town of Nazareth to be the mother of our Savior. Look at how Jesus chose simple fishermen and even a tax collector to be his apostles. His strength displays its completeness through our weakness.

So humble yourself under God's mighty hand. Humble yourself by casting your cares, your worries, your anxieties—throw them all onto him—yes, all of them, not just the ones you think are too big for you to handle, but all of them. Don't wait until you collapse under their weight. Every day, every moment, live with this prayer on you heart. “Lord Jesus, you are my mighty, ascended King. You reign over all. Help me bear whatever your hand brings this day. Strengthen me to let your light shine through as I patiently carry my cross, so that you are glorified.”

Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you. Your mighty King died for you. Is their any great love? Now he reigns over all for you. His heavenly Father cares for you. Look at how he richly and daily blesses us with all we need and guards and protects us. What’s more, he gave up his dearest Treasure for you, sending his Son to be your Savior.

At the right time your mighty King will lift you up. That might not be until he returns in glory on the Last Day. Until then your mighty King will strengthen you, so cast all your cares on him.

B. To resist the lion

Now don’t imagine that this reliance on our mighty King or casting our cares on him is an excuse for laziness. For you see, a life that relies on our King, continually draws on his strength to resist that lion who seeks to devour us.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith ...” (1 Peter 5:8. 9 NIV11).

The devil already has the unbelievers. It’s you and me, dear Christian, that he hunts. He allies himself with the sinful impulses within us. He tempts us to feel greed, lust, envy, selfishness, rage, and malice. “Be alert and of sober mind,” the apostle urges. Don’t drink up those sinful impulses, letting them fill your mind. Be alert and on watch against the many ways the devil mixes up his cocktail. He tries to mask the soul-numbing effects by convincing us that indulging in sinful impulses now and then doesn’t hurt anyone and let’s off some steam. But their addictive. Sins of the mind overflow into our attitudes, our words, and our actions, often in ways we don’t realize.

Once he has led us down this path, then the lion pounces with his accusations. “Look at your sin. Look at that filth in your heart. How could God ever forgive you? You’re beyond hope. You might as well live up this life now, since you’re coming down to hell with me, you damned sinner.” Such doubt devours faith.

Don’t listen to this lion. Resist him standing firm in faith. For faith tells Satan, “You may roar and prowl, but I will not listen. Your accusations will not stand in God’s courtroom. For “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV84), and that includes me. Jesus has freed me from the law’s death sentence because he fulfilled the law in my place. His blood has erased my sinful record. How can you, Satan, bring any charge against me? “It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:33 NIV84). He has already acquitted me by raising Jesus from the dead. What’s more, as my ascended King, he’s at God’s right hand interceding for me.”

Yes, dear Christian, the devil still roars and prowls, but as long as you are with Jesus, you are safe. Sing with Martin Luther, “Though devils all the world should fill. All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not overpow’r us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the dead is done! One little word can fell him” (Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal 200:3, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”). Your mighty King will strengthen you to resist the lion.

C. To anticipate the glory

Now as the disciples kept looking up after Jesus’ ascension, the angel assured them that Jesus would return in the same way they had seen him go. Until that day our mighty King is with us to strengthen us, and we look forward anticipating the glory.

Do the burdens and hardships of life make you stoop so that you only see the ground in front of you instead of the glory of your King? Remember the first part of the sermon. Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you. For then we can look past the earthly problems and anticipate the heavenly glory.

Do the attacks of Satan and his roaring drown out the heavenly chorus that awaits you? Remember the second part of the sermon. Resist that lion by staying all the closer to Jesus standing firm in faith. Faith clings to the promises of our King. Faith fills our ears with the words of our Savior instead of Satan’s roars. And faith cherishes the Scriptures and Sacraments, for they bring us the strength of our King, the strength to anticipate the glory no matter what we’re going through.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to this eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10, 11 NIV11).

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313