1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
4:13 But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
4:14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.
5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
5:8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
5:9 Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.
5:10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.
5:11 To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Say that to the mother whose stands at the grave of her child.
Say that to the husband who sits in the waiting room at the hospital waiting room as he awaits the arrival of a doctor to announce the outcome of surgery.
Say that to the person enduring painful chemo-therapy who is left wondering whether it is best to just give up, or press on in a battle against cancer.
Say that to the family who loses a house.
Say that to the young person struggling with questions of life-styles or orientation, searching for identity and assurance.
Say that to the student who struggles for a passing grade.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Easier said than done.
There is nothing new about anxiety or about worrying.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites worried endlessly as they wandered through the wilderness.
Right after God gave them freedom from their slavery in Egypt, and as soon as they passed through the Red Sea, they began to worry. They ran out of water, and the people turned to Moses and said, “Moses, what have you done to us? We have no water.”
Moses led them to water, but the water was bitter and the people worried even more. They complained to their leader, “Moses, what have you done to us? We had lots of water in Egypt. We should have stayed there instead of coming here just to die of thirst.”
God led them to an area with 12 springs – one for each tribe.
But a few days later the Israelites ran out of food. So they worried some more. “Moses, what have you done to us? We had plenty of food in Egypt. We should have stayed there instead of coming here just to die of hunger.”
So God sent bread from heaven every morning and sent quails every night. (Exodus 15 and 16).
Now you would think that after all of that the people of Israel would have learned to relax. All they had to do was to trust in God. God was a proven commodity. He had provided for the people time after time after time.
And finally, the people are on border of the Promised Land. They are about to enter their new homeland and take claim of it.
But when the leaders of Israel sent spies into the Promised Land to scope out the situation, the reports from these spies made the people of Israel nervous and worried.
“O Moses, what have you done to us? We had a great life in Egypt. But here we are about to be slaughtered by giants. We should have stayed in Egypt.”
Anxiety is part of our lives. It is a part of our history. We seem to be wired to worry all of the time.
And we do it so very well. We should – because we get lots of practice.
But against this, Peter tells us: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
In fact, the Bible tells us this over and over.
Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel (chapter 6), “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
And shortly afterward, Jesus says, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
St. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 4), “Do not worry about anything.”
In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes tells us, “Banish anxiety from your mind.”
Are you kidding me?
What were they thinking?
We’ve got mortgages, jobs, teenagers, parents, cancer, the IRS, terrorists, loss of privacy, Internet hackers, credit card debt, crime and violence,
Let’s be honest, we have REAL things to worry about.
“Banish anxiety from your mind?”
The next time you see a homeless man asking you for some food to eat, just see what happens when you say to him, “Ah, cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Try telling that to the waitress who serves you lunch in a little while, and who works at three different restaurants and still can’t get enough hours to work a 40 hour week, and whose mortgage payment is behind.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
Try telling that to a couple who is trying to qualify for their first mortgage, and who have been told they probably won’t get their home.
Meet a man coming out of the doctor’s office who has just months to live and try telling him, “Do not be anxious.”
Listen here - we have real things to be anxious about.
We have anxiety about the economy.
We have anxiety about our family.
We have anxiety about cancer.
We have anxiety about not having enough rain, or having too much rain.
We have anxiety about these things because we believe they are important and they are worth our anxiety.
Of course we are anxious. Don’t tell us not to be.
When your husband or wife is in the emergency room, the last thing you want to hear is some pastor coming up to you saying, “Cast all your anxiety on God.”
When you have a suspicious mole or a lump on your breast or a pain in your chest, you’d better be anxious enough to seek medical help.
The question is, what do we do with our anxieties? Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
But what does that mean?
Does that mean I can enter that wonderful state of denial? You know what denial is like. You’ve seen it in others and probably have experienced it yourself. The person whose spouse dies, but not a tear is shed, denying to everyone the pain that is felt. Or the denial of being deep and dangerously in debt, yet continuing to spend like there is no tomorrow. You know, like the US Government does.
That is denial – that is not what Peter is advocating.
“Cast all your anxiety on him, --- because he cares for you.”
That means that when we are anxious, we turn to God in prayer. Many of us, when facing anxiety, may turn away from God, but we are to turn toward God. We look to God for love. God never calls us to ignore our problems. He calls us to trust in him MORE than we fear our problems.
That is not easy to do – but it is the important first step.
This is made even more difficult by the fact that we often do not understand what is happening to us, or why. Understanding is not the most important thing – trusting that God is greater than your problem is the most important thing.
Proverbs 3 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
In the face of unemployment, cancer, death, that last exam question in our class – whatever anxiety we face, Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on God.” Turn toward God as your face your anxiety.
Secondly, Peter says, “Stay alert.”
If your anxiety is cancer, stay alert about whatever signals your body may be giving off.
If your anxiety is financial, stay alert about how you are spending, or mis-spending your funds.
If your anxiety is a teenage child, stay alert and be watchful over that child.
If your anxiety is your parents and how they want let up for a minute, stay alert to their love and concern for you.
Being free from anxiety does not mean that we free ourselves from responsibility. Anxiety is fear, discouragement, worry. Being alert is watching, being cautious, being vigilant.
So we are to cast our anxieties onto God, and we are to stay alert. Peter also encourages us with the fact that we are not alone.
For most of us, the last thing we want to hear is someone say to us, “I know exactly what you are going through,” because no one knows what we go through – not exactly. But it is good to go through experiences knowing that others have been through similar experiences and situations.
Alcoholics find strength through attending 12 Step Programs with other alcoholics.
Grieving widows find encouragement through support groups where they meet others who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Peter says in his letter, to remain “steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.”
Find someone to walk through your suffering with you.
Don’t go through your difficulty alone.
Last weekend, I was out of this pulpit. I was with about 40 members of our church at Cedarkirk Camp and Conference Center for the first of many annual retreats. A couple of weeks ago, I was with another group of church members for dinner at the Olive Garden – we do this every month. There is another group called the Lunch Bunch, and there is the Study and Fun, and there are many other similar groups.
It is not just about food and fun – although that is a great part of it. It’s about fellowship. It is about building community so that when one of us goes through a crisis, we know each other and care for each other and can be there for one another.
In the Old Testament, Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” (4:9)
Finally, know that whatever suffering you endure will end.
In his letter Peter says, “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”
The cause of our anxiety, whatever it is, will not last forever.
Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, said (4:16-17), “W are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.”
Now Paul was talking about death in his letter. And sometimes, that is the way our suffering ends. Now, that is not the way I want my suffering to end, but if it does – I know that death is not a defeat, but a victory through Christ. Because through Christ we have eternal life, which Revelation (21:4) described as being a place in which there was no more crying, no more pain.
But death is not the only way our suffering and anxiety ends. Things come into our lives, and then they go away. We endure, we survive.
I had great anxiety in high school when I was trying to get through Algebra classes. It ended – not with my death, and surprisingly, not with the death of my Algebra teacher. Mrs. Jetter and I both lived many years after Algebra. But it ended.
I had great anxiety when I was working in a state prison. It was a tough job. It did not end by my death, but by going into the ministry.
I had great anxiety over credit card debt many years ago. It ended when those debts were paid.
All of our sources of anxiety come to an end – in one way or the other. As Peter says, “After you have suffered for a while, God will restore, support, strengthen and establish you.”
Everyone has anxiety.
1. Turn to God and cast those anxieties on him in prayer.
2. While you are in your time of crisis, stay alert!
3. And seek fellowship of others who also have suffered – for they can help.
4. And know that eventually, tough times do pass.
Copyright 2014 The Rev. Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved.
Sermons are available online and can be found by visiting www.Pittendreigh.net