“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

“Casting All Your Anxieties on Him” (1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11)

It came as a shock this past Monday morning. I got an email telling me that the son of a pastor friend of mine–that over the weekend this pastor’s son had taken his own life. Fifteen years old. A good kid. A bright kid. A faithful, church-going young man. I had gotten to know this boy a little bit at various conferences over the years, when his parents had brought him along. So that made it all the more shocking and sad. Just fifteen years old. And in a sudden moment of what must have felt like hopelessness and despair, he took his own life.

And this came about two weeks after another pastor’s son also committed suicide. This young man was twenty-five. So tragic, these losses. And these are in good Christian households.

And then there’s the added stress of the shutdown. Yesterday I saw a headline, quoting a doctor in California about what they’ve been seeing there. It says: “A Year’s Worth of Suicide Attempts in the Last Four Weeks.”

Dear brothers and sisters, there but for the grace of God, go you and I. There but for the grace of God go our sons and daughters. Sudden despair, overwhelming anxiety and depression, can overtake any one of us. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Truly we do walk in danger all the way.

See, here’s the deal: You’ve got an enemy who’s out to get you. He’s the devil, Satan, the old evil foe. And he means to do you evil, whether in body or in soul. The attacks can come in various forms: Mental anguish. Despair of God’s goodness. Spiritual doubts. Anger, hatred, and unforgiveness. Anxieties over your future. Physical worries, health issues. Financial worries. Family conflicts. Divorce. The devil will use any of these things to try to tear you away from God and to do you harm.

Or he may come at you from the other side. With good stuff. Again, his purpose is to separate you from God, from reliance on God’s word, and from being part of God’s people, the church. When things are going good, you may be tempted to think you don’t need God: “I’ve got enough money, I’m healthy, I’ve got fun things to do that I enjoy, so who needs God? Who needs church? That’s for weak people, but I don’t need that.” See? The devil can work both angles. Anything to get you to give up the faith.

Back in the first century, St. Peter knew about these dangers. He’s writing to Christians who may be tempted to give up on God. At that time, the Christians he’s writing to were undergoing severe persecution. They were suffering for the gospel, suffering for being Christians. It would have been easy for them to give up and just go along to get along, to avoid persecution by blending in with the unbelieving world around them. The devil will use anything he can get his hands on to get you to give up on God. And when you’re suffering persecution for being a Christian, the devil will try to take advantage of that. “Why suffer? Forget this Christianity nonsense? Look, what good is it doing you? Nothing! All you get is hardship and suffering.”

Peter writes to Christians to be alert to this danger–and not just the danger of the persecution itself, but also the greater danger of succumbing to the devil’s temptations when you do suffer. He writes: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

So it should not be a surprise when the world hates you for being a Christian. They hated Christ, didn’t they? And the world still hates Christ–and his Christians. Christians are still being martyred and murdered and massacred in various parts of the world. Muslim groups are still slaughtering Christians in parts of Africa and Asia and the Middle East. In Western Europe–post-Christian, secularized, atheistic Western Europe–the antagonism is real, although less bloody. I have a friend in Sweden who calls it a “gray martyrdom,” rather than a blood-red one. Christians there are ostracized, economically and socially marginalized, mocked, not given advancement, even within the supposedly Christian but really apostate national churches.

And how is it here in America? Well, not as bad as it is in Europe. Thank God for that. But still, Christians and our churches are facing opposition: opposition in the media, in education, in popular culture, and even in certain levels of government. Some governors in some states have been selectively singling out churches during this shutdown, compared to other places where people assemble, putting unnecessary restrictions on churches and depriving citizens of their religious liberty.

And the culture as a whole has been turning more and more against Christianity. Church membership is down, all across the board in America. The decline had been gradual for several decades, but in just the last ten to twenty years, the drop has been dramatic and drastic. America has been losing its religion.

We walk in danger all the way. Dangers from without: hostility from the world. Dangers from within: anxieties, despair, temptations from the devil. So we need to be on our guard. And we need help from above, help from God.

This is why what Peter writes to us today is so helpful and so timely. Listen to these words again and take them to heart: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

Humble yourself. Realize that you do need help. Realize your weakness. Know that you need to rely on God if you’re going to make it safely home. “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected.” Why? Because we are sinners. We too readily give in to temptation. Our fallen sinful nature is such that we do not trust God to take care of us. We think he’s holding out on us. We’d rather go it on our own, do what we want to do. But that is sin. That is our basic problem. The struggle is there, and the struggle is indeed real.

But then, this is why Christ came. He came to win forgiveness for our sins. He came to win the struggle for us. He is our great champion, marching out to slay Goliath for us. Which he did. Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations in the wilderness. He would not be diverted from his course. And his course would take him to the cross. Jesus walked the way of obedience, keeping the commandments, which we broke. And he was obedient unto death, even death on a cross. There the woman’s seed stomped on the devil’s head, delivering the death blow to Satan. Jesus by his death destroyed death and overcame the enemy for us. Christ’s resurrection shows the victory remains with life, life that Jesus shares with all who believe in him.

Now the old devil is like a dragon cast out of heaven, thrashing about here on earth, lashing out with his tail against all God’s children. If he can’t take down Christ, he’ll try to take down some of his Christians. St. Peter pictures him as a roaring lion: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”

So don’t let yourself be lion food! Realize that he’s on the prowl. And be wise to his tricks. Don’t give in to his ploys; you’ll recognize them. And in all of this, always be relying on God to give you the help that you need. The help comes in the means of grace. The Gospel, in Word and Sacrament. This is how you will be strengthened for the fight. This is how you will be firm in your faith. And you will need this help on a regular basis your whole life long.

But guess what? It’s a joy! Even in the midst of the struggle, there is joy in being a Christian! To know that you are forgiven, for Jesus’ sake. To know that you are God’s child, and that he’s watching out for you. To know that God cares for you, personally, individually, in all your messed-up ways. In your messed-up life that is far from perfect, God still cares for you! He hasn’t given up on you! He will see you home, safe and sound, even though you’ll pick up some scrapes and bumps along the way. It’s alright. God is for you and with you.

So cast all your anxieties on him. Cast all your sins and your burdens, your worries and your guilt on him. He’s big enough to handle it. Your Savior Jesus says to you today: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Yes, we do walk in danger all the way, but Christ is walking with us. Dear Christian, God is for you and with you. Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

And what will be the outcome? Here is God’s promise to you today: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Published in: on May 23, 2020 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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