Read This Page in My Language
Sermon: 1 Peter 5:6-11
Lent Midweek 6 – April 1, 2020 – Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
As I write this we are about in the middle of a fifteen day period in which we are to remain in our homes and to only go out for necessities. We are to be especially careful of social distancing ourselves from others. The hope is that these precautions, along with regular and careful hand washing and disinfecting surfaces in our homes, will prevent an overwhelming spread of the Coranavirus. We can only hope and pray that these precautions will slow or prevent the spread of the virus.
Whatever the case, our whole world, our nation, and state are in the midst of a pandemic that is throwing us all into turmoil. The truth is that as much as we depend on science and doctors and government leaders to guide us through this terrible problem, there are few who know exactly what to do. And that’s not a criticism of anyone. This is a new virus with no known vaccine or cure that seems to spread rather rapidly. People are only making their best judgments on how to handle it.
All of the concerns about this virus and the attempts to combat it are a perfect storm for a lot of fear, anxiety, and, for some people’s unrealistic fear and panic. On the other hand, all of the fear, anxiety, and even panic make for a perfect opportunity to listen carefully to the words of the Apostle Peter in tonight’s devotion: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Tonight we find real comfort from those words of encouragement
CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM
Peter was concluding his 1st letter. His readers were dealing with a lot of problems, stresses, and persecution. Peter and given them numerous encouragements to deal with these difficult issues. But now he seems to summarize all his encouragement in this one overarching directive: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
I was listening to a radio talk show the other day in which the host posed the question, Are religious people dealing better with all the anxiety and turmoil caused by the Coronavirus than non-religious people? Or we might rewrite the question to fit ourselves a little more closely: Are we Christians dealing better with all the anxiety and turmoil caused by the Coronavirus than non-religious people? And the point of the question is not to pat ourselves on the back as if we have such wonderful faith and trust in God but to genuinely examine if our faith in God is a significant help in the middle of this pandemic.
Actually I had already come to my own personal conclusion that in fact faithful Christians are dealing better with the anxiety and fear concerning the Coronavirus. As a matter of fact I think people who trust in the providence and care of God are going to do better emotionally and finally physically in any kind of challenge or disaster.
There are probably several reasons for that thought. First of all we recognize that nothing happens in this world and in our lives that God does not know about. The God who says that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, the God who says that he knows when every sparrow falls to the ground, certainly knows in detail every event, good or bad, in our world and in our lives. God allows major disasters, especially one like a world-wide epidemic, for his own purposes. He has his reasons for the benefit of us his people and for his kingdom. That’s why we can be absolutely sure that God’s hand is moving in this whole Coronavirus situation from beginning to end to accomplish something good for the benefit of his kingdom, for our salvation, and for his glory. We may not know exactly what that purpose is or how all this is going to end, but we do know the Lord is real aware of what’s happening and will control it and use it for his good purposes.
People who trust God may well be handling this virus with greater wisdom because we know that God is the one who forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases. If we get sick, or if a loved one gets sick, we can go to God in prayer for healing. And in the worst case scenario if we or a fellow Christian did succumb to the virus and die, we have a better life in eternity to look forward to. Like Jesus said to the thief on the cross who asked him to remember him in his kingdom, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Another reason that believers likely handle this troubling situation better is that they know they can’t control it. When you look at the map of the world that shows all the outbreaks of this virus, when you consider all the efforts that are going on to curtail it, when you consider all the variables involved, it boggles the mind. There’s just no way that one person can control this pandemic other than to take personal responsibility as we have been encouraged. The Christian realizes that he or she can’t manage or control these troubles. Only God can. And so we turn to God to take control and be merciful to us. Or as Peter says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Just prior to that verse he writes, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” In this difficult time, in every trouble, in the middle of guilt over sin, the only wise thing to do is to humble ourselves before God. Like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, in the end, we can only say, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And then we relinquish control to God.
A world that does not trust God, a world or a nation or individuals who do not humble themselves before God, have no greater source of refuge or help. And when they recognize that the problem is greater than what they can manage, they’re fearful and they panic. We see much of that kind of faithless behavior in this pandemic.
Peter also warns us where fear and panic and faithlessness come from. He writes, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Every trouble in the world goes back to Satan, the sin he brought into the world, and the results of sin. He would love nothing more than for this virus to make people sick, kill people, and create fear, anxiety, anger, and strife among people and to undermine their trust in God.
Peter is really telling us in this current situation or in any difficult time to be “self-controlled and alert.” Be self-controlled because you know God is in control. Be alert because you know the devil is out to devour you. Therefore Peter writes, “Resist [the devil], standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
That encouragement applies in a very unique way in this virus situation. In Peter’s day he was referring to the persecution that Christians in the world were facing. That encouragement of course always applies to us. But in this pandemic there are Christian people around the world who are dealing with exactly the same thing we are. And they are trusting the same God we are to carry us through this difficult time. You know that fellow Christians around the world are dealing with the same virus. Remember them, pray for them, and know that God is watching over them too.
We have good reason to trust God. In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul writes, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him graciously give us all things?” In this Lenten season we are especially aware that God loves us so much that he sent his Son Jesus to deal with our greatest trouble, the worst ever pandemic, sin and the eternal death it causes. Jesus died on a cross to atone for our sins and the sins of the whole world. When he rose again from the dead it became very clear that sin was paid for and the devil was defeated.
That God who was willing to do that gracious act of mercy for us is certainly going to care for us in all our physical needs, in this pandemic, and the next one that will come, in the next trouble that our world or we personally face.
Therefore in these troubling times, or in any troubling times, or in any times of life take Peter’s words to heart: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his 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.”
“Cast all your anxiety on him.” Amen.