Listen to Your Elders

SUGGESTED SCRIPTURE READING- 1 Peter 5: 1-14

FOCAL PASSAGE— 1 Peter 5: 1-8 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

5 In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

8 Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 
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When we first read verses 1-4 of this chapter, many Christians might look at these verses and say, “Well, that doesn’t have much to do with me; I’m not an overseer in the church, nor do I hold a position of responsibility”. In one sense these verses do indeed pertain to a particular group within the church, those with leadership responsibilities. The scriptures on the importance of church leadership are abundant, and it should not be taken lightly.

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28

But when we read verses 5-6 there is a second principle joined with the first. Peter moves from the shepherds to the sheep. Good leaders deserve good followers. God has established a chain of command in the home, in the church, in the workplace, in the government, and in society in general.

One part of that chain rests on the truth that wisdom comes not from the younger people, but from older folks. Now of course there are many exceptions. All of us know young people who are wise beyond their years, and sometimes, as my wife points out to me, we older folks don’t always show good sense. But the exceptions do not change the general principle in God’s design; with age comes experience, and from experience comes wisdom.

Patrice and I lived next door to the lady who sold us our house in Franklin for 14 years. She’s in her late 80’s now, and we love her dearly. Even though we now live in Murfreesboro, we still go back to visit. I always come away feeling like I have learned something important. The application is really quite simple. If someone is older than us, we need to listen carefully to what they have to say. It’s a wonderful thing when those who are younger go to those who are older and ask, “What do you think?” or “What would you do?” or “Do you have any advice for me?”

Now let’s take this one step further. There are some among us who have been Christians for much longer than many of our friends and family. And in this case, it may not mean that you are older in years, but “older in the Lord”. If you are a young Christian, find someone who is more mature in his or her faith and learn from them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions…let them “show you the ropes” of the Christian life. If you are a Christian of many years, let me ask you a question: What are you doing to mentor the newer believers you know? Peter goes on to speak to both groups in verses 6 & 7…

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.”

We shouldn’t be ashamed to share what we know of the Lord, nor should we be too proud to learn from others. Humility doesn’t come naturally to most of us…it is a tricky thing. It is a virtue which, if you think you have it, you probably don’t. I read this week that Dwight L Moody used to pray, “Lord make me humble, but don’t even let me know it.” It is through humility that we begin to understand the grace of God. He is everything…we are nothing. All we have is a gift…we earn nothing. Humility teaches self control, and it is with this in mind that we can heed Peter’s next warning in verse 8.

“Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”

The sense in which this is spoken is like that of an animal that could eat us in one big gulp. We would be foolish to think we aren’t vulnerable. We all have a weak point and most of us have more than one. It may be an area of temptation, a bad habit, or some repetitive sin in our life. But the instruction Peter gives us for overcoming is powerful…” casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.”

As we look back over these passages, we can see a wonderful message of hope in the tools our Lord gives us…older ones help the younger ones…young ones, listen to your elders. We are to bathe all of these actions in a cloak of humility, and stand firm in our faith, firm in His Word and most of all, casting all our burdens upon Him.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

 

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