1 PETER 5:8-9 ' Be sober (Stay alert, be self controlled), be vigilant (watch out, be on your guard); because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, STEADFAST IN THE FAITH, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.'
We give the devil far too much credit for the mayhem and problems in peoples personal lives. The scripture tells us that the same negative experiences that we go through are also experience by our fellow believers around the world. There is much that can be said about this scripture, we can talk about the importance of our vigilance, we can talk about the devil and his role as a would-be lion and our resistance to him, but the phrase that stands out to me is "STEADFAST IN THE FAITH".
What does the phrase mean? Steadfast is not a word we use much in our society today but if we look at the dictionary definition it means to have a firm loyalty or constant and unswerving dedication to someone or something. Synonyms for the word are:
Resolute or Unbending
Firm or unmoving
Consistent or committed
solid or stable, completely dependable
The Apostle Peter is telling his readers to be STEADFAST in THE faith, to be loyal or unswerving in their dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a call to being resolute in following the faith they have embraced, both for their salvation and their ongoing new life in the Kingdom of God.
Do you seem to be always trying to fight off what you see as attacks from the devil? Peter gives us three key things that we need to do in our struggle against evil.
1. Be Alert, and vigilant
2. Resist the devil
3. Stand steadfast in the Faith
There has been plenty of teaching about "Resisting the devil". We've been taught the huff and puff of 'binding up the devil' and declaring our rejection of doubts, pulling down strongholds and so on. But this teaching plays into the devils hand in focusing the believer on the enemy. He loves the attention and without applying the two other principles mentioned by Peter is in and of itself limited in its effectiveness.
1. STANDING STEADFAST IN THE FAITH
Let me speak about the last one first: Standing 'steadfast in the faith' This is simply said a call to put GOD FIRST in our lives.
1 Peter 3:15 'Sanctify the Lord God in our hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.'
Scripture tells us to 'Sanctify the Lord God in our hearts' that means to set God in FIRST PLACE; to hallow, revere or make holy). If you have ever traveled into Asia - Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia or other countries in the vicinity you will find in most houses a nook or perhaps a small room where a shrine has been set up to one of the eastern gods. There are over 33 million Hindu and Buddhist gods and families in those regions have idols to their gods right in the centre of their lives. They have established a priority place in their family dwelling where their god is very evident and the devout never brush past this shrine without stopping to pray.
Although we do not set up idols, scripture tells us to SET GOD APART in our hearts, to give Him first place. I said a couple of weeks ago "What you prioritise will set the direction for your life". For us to stand-fast in the faith we must prioritise our relationship with God. If we truly value what Jesus Christ has done through the cross we cannot do anything less than make Him our first priority.
In sanctifying God in our hearts we hold precious those things that help us grow and develop in our faith.
Reading God's Word
Fellowship with other believers
Witnessing to our faith
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that "the word of God is living and powerful . . . . . . . .' Every time we read God's word we provide opportunity for the Holy Spirit to teach us something of God Character, His heart, His desires for our lives. His word is 'alive' in us as we seek Him.
2. BE ALERT, BE VIGILANT
As followers of Jesus Christ it is especially important in these days to stay alert, to be watchful and on guard against the deceitful work of the devil. His purpose is to destroy what God created and he will deceive many even using our 'Church systems' against God's people.
Today we have three GOSPELS prevalent in the Christian Church today. We have the PROSPERITY Gospel, we have the SOCIAL Gospel and we have the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.
We know a lot about the 'Prosperity Gospel' but are we alert to the 'Social Gospel' The social gospel we often hear comes from many of the 'Tele-Evangelists' and is subtle in its move away from the Gospel of Truth in Jesus Christ. It deals primarily with secular societal problems relative to education, economics, politics or poverty.
The social gospel will emphasise the material well-being or welfare of mankind.
It is a gospel that is relative to this world only.
It ignores the spiritual, the eternal and the divine centering on your life NOW in this world.
It emphasises the power within you and your ability to rise up over your circumstances.
The GOSPEL OF CHRIST emphasises the spiritual well-being of man, the eternal salvation of his soul (Matthew 18:11 says 'For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.') As Christians it is good to be involved in the social well-being of others but, as an expression of God's love and as a conduit to seeing people born again. You and I as disciples are to be the instrument through which the saving gospel of Jesus Christ is preached (not as a sermon) but as an interaction with people over a coffee in a coffee shop or whilst on a picnic with unsaved friends; whilst meeting a need in its many forms.
We are called on in 1 Peter 3:15 to 'always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. . . . .' Friends being able to bare witness to our faith is vital if we are going to STAND STEADFAST IN THE FAITH. If you cannot give an articulate reason why you believe in Jesus Christ it is time to learn some key Bible verses concerning salvation. Colossians 2:6-7 'As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.' We cannot walk in what we do not know; we cannot be established or become strong in what we do not apply in our lives. Please don't take the gospel of Jesus Christ casually, but be diligent in the application of the principles of God's word.
3. ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV) says 'Therefore my beloved brethren be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain.'
Our culture today is one of non-involvement, our modern society has taught us to be non-committal and it is COUNTER CULTURAL to the WORK OF THE LORD.
In Christian circles we now have a culture of 'casual attendance' at Church services, a generation of people who wish to partake of the benefits of God's Kingdom without commitment to it. Involvement only extends as far as perceived benefit is received. (Did you know statistics show us that less than 10% of Church attendees are actively involved in volunteering in any capacity in the Church.) Do you faithfully volunteer or are one of the 90% who receive the benefits without involvement.
Friends we are called to be a witness, a testimony to the saving power of Jesus Christ. we are called by God to ABOUND IN THE WORK OF THE LORD. Our faith should be displayed by our actions, actively reaching into the lives of others with good works so that we might fulfill the work of the Lord. What is the work of the Lord? Matthew 28:19 tells us 'Go and make disciples . . . . . teaching them to observe everything Jesus taught. Being willing to share our faith is the work of the Lord. Actively looking for ways we can speak the true gospel into the lives of our sphere of influence is what we have been called to do.
Hebrews 10:23 (ERV) 'We must hold on to the hope we have, never hesitating to tell people about it. We can trust God to do what He promised.'
Every good work that believers do in this life has eternal benefits that the Lord Himself guarantees. "Behold, I am coming quickly, Jesus says, and My reward is with Me to render to every man according to what he has done." Revelations 22:12.
Nothing we do goes unnoticed by God. I pray that the Holy Spirit will stir all our hearts to be faithful in the mission of Christ to declare the Kingdom of God is at hand. Your sphere of influence, your neighbours, your work colleagues, your friends, your relatives are your mission field. You won't have to go far to find someone with whom you can share the gospel, with love, humility and with respectfulness.
I thank you for salvation through Jesus Christ and pray you will stir all our hearts so that we willingly share that which you've done in our lives with others. Help us Holy Spirit to speak with boldness the truth of the Gospel and to live a life that demonstrates your great love for all mankind. Give us understanding and wisdom so that we may stand steadfast in the faith and abound in the work of the Lord. Amen