Pride, the Devil, and how to endure suffering as a Christian

So the point yesterday from 1 Peter 5:7 was:

Humbly trust that God is able to give grace because his hand is mighty, and he is willing to give grace because he cares for me; and he gives such grace to those who are humble.

Today, we’ll look at verse 8:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

So what is the connection between humility and pride in verses 5-7, and sober thinking and vigilance against the devil, in verse 8?

The imagery in this verse is not insignificant. Peter is painting a picture of pride for us: the lion is a powerful and proud beast, much moreso when it struts and stalks its prey, confident to destroy it. So, he says, be “sober-minded,” — think of yourself rightly, clearly, as you ought to— under God’s mighty hand. Do not become puffed up, proud, and full of the swagger of the lion who does what he pleases and submits to no one. The devil in his pride made himself out to be God and hates God. He loves his ways and his strength, and he would rather you compete with him in your pride than submit to God in humility. The point is, you are not mighty; God is mighty! The devil fell into the trap of pride and now all he does is consume others.

This verse is not merely meant to warn us against the devil who is “out to get you”. Peter already warned us against that in 3:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” In some cases, to be sure, the things the devil would have us give ourselves to in the “passions of the flesh” are the tools he aims to use to devour and destroy us. On the other hand, I think what is in view here that the devil wants to do to us to devour us is more like what he did to Job: to strike us with suffering and pain so that we will deny and reject God. He is looking for weaknesses in us to exploit, a chink in the armor of our faith, whereby he can instigate doubt and unbelief through pain. A win for the devil here is a denial of God’s love.

How does this connect to the theme of 1 Peter?

I do not want to miss that this is not the first time the phrase “sober-minded” has been used in this letter. Rather, there is a theme in the letter that this is a part of, a refrain almost, for Peter.

The context of the letter seems to be present suffering as a believer. I note a few such observations:

  • they are “elect exiles” (1:1, 17; 2:11)
  • they are under trials (1:6; 4:12-16)
  • some were suffering as slaves (2:18-20)
  • they were experiencing “various evils” (3:9)
  • they were suffering for righteousness’ sake (3:13-14, 17)
  • they suffered “in the flesh” (4:1)

And so Peter puts forth a call to sober-mindedness as these Christians endure trials. Here are a few such examples:

  • believers should “prepare [their] minds for action, being sober-minded, and set [their] hope fully” on future grace (1:13)
  • since the end is near, believers should be sober-minded and self-controlled for the sake of their prayers (4:7)
  • believers should be sober-minded and watchful against pride and against the proud devil who wants to devour them (5:8)

This refrain of sober thinking marks a pattern that is present in the book. First, a description of their suffering (1:1, 6-7; 2:18-20; 3:17; 4:4; 4:12-14; 5:9-10), then a call to sober-mindedness and reflection on Christ’s sufferings (1:13, 18-21; 2:21-25; 3:18-4:1a; 4:5-7; 4:13; 5:10), then a description of how to live as Christians enduring suffering (1:22 – 2:17; 3:1-16; 4:1b-3; 4:8-11; 4:15-5:9; 5:10). This pattern is not lock-tight, but if you follow the passages in each category, you’ll see how this theme develops.

So to put these observations together, I think the theme becomes clear:

When you face suffering, and you may already be, consider Jesus and his sufferings for you and through such considerations, have a clear mind that is set not on your earthly trials and pain, but rather be filled with humility and self-control as you hope in the future grace God will supply, fully confident that God’s mighty hand is able and willing to be all you need for life and joy. That is how you endure trials as a Christian.

God gives grace to the humble.

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. 

1 Peter 5:6-7

Context

Peter has turned in this letter briefly toward the elders and given them a brief exhortation (5:1-4), and then turns to everyone else in the church: “Likewise you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you…” (5:5a). So this verse and following is directed once again to all the members of the churches in the five cities he expected to receive and read this letter (1:1).

In verse 5, he says, “Act in humility toward one another” (my paraphrase), because, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (5:5b), and then elaborates in the next verse, “Humble yourselves…”.

Questions

1. How is the command to be humble connected to our anxieties?

I think the connection is highlighted in a kind of “grace sandwich.” It goes like this:

  • (5:5) God gives grace to the humble
  • (5:6-7a) Be humble and trust God with your worries
  • (5:7b) God cares for you

So here we have obedience and faith smashed between the bread of two of God’s promises. Be humble (obedience) and trust God (faith) with your worries.

1a. Peter why are you even bringing up anxiety here? Aren’t you still talking about humble obedience to the elders in the church?

I am tempted to highlight here how pride is connected to anxiety. I do not think Peter’s aim is to show how anxiety indicates a lack of faith and a sense that you know better what you need or desire than God does, and how you ought to repent by humbling yourself and repenting of the kind of pride that produces anxiety. But the connection is there nonetheless, or putting these themes together this way would make no sense. We would be left scratching our heads going, “Peter why are you mentioning my anxieties right now? We’re talking about pride and humility!”

The reality is, there is something in anxiety that causes us to feel or believe that we must take matters into our own hands and fix it and (looking back at 5:5a) perhaps not obey the leadership of the elders God has entrusted me to.

Humble trust in God’s ability and God’s love

This kind of humility, on the other hand, stays those impulses—to go take what I feel that I lack, or force what I want to happen, or cheat so I don’t have to wait—and turns away from a focus on my present need or desire. Instead, it looks to God’s “mighty hand,” which is able to give all I need for joy and for life, and trusts in the promises, “God cares for you,” and “God gives grace to the humble.”

John Piper wrote a fantastic book called Future Grace. The main point is that the Gospel looks both backward to past grace (which brought justification) and forward to future grace (final sanctification and glorification), and that all of life as a believer ought to be lived thankful for past grace and in anticipation of future grace—goodness we can trust God to give because of his many promises in Scripture. We may receive some of this future grace here in this life, and some in the next, but we can rejoice because our God has given us himself through Jesus, and has made us many promises we can trust in his mighty hand to fulfill.

Steadfast, Atoning Love and Fear That Turns Our Hearts From Evil.

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil. – Proverbs 16:6

What a refreshing reminder of the gospel and the beautiful doctrines of justification and sanctification! When I am tempted into (or drift back into) thinking that may standing before God is dependent upon my will and ability to clean myself up, this verse proves me dead wrong. I cannot atone for my own iniquity (sin), that comes through the steadfast love (Hebrew: chesed), the unconditional lovingkindess of God and his faithfulness, through Jesus Christ. In the midst of the mire and corruption of all my lust and pride and self-dependence and self-love, he reaches in, despite those things, and atones for my sin by dying on the cross in my place, perfect and undeserving of it though he was. And even now, his steadfast love makes him stand at the right hand of the Father as my great Advocate (1 John 2:1).

Yet that is not all, but there is more truth here.

“By the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.”

Once I have experienced such beautiful, atoning love and mercy, I become free to see God and fear Him rightly. His perfections make me pure, and therefore I ought to fear Him, to be in awe of His majesty and perfections and beauty, and by comparison to him love no vile, low, sinful thing, or even myself, more than Him. Therefore, by fear of God, I should “turn” from evil, despise it as a low and mean thing, unworthy of the joy and pleasure to be had in abiding in God. No other thing in the whole Universe can have this effect — to truly cause someone to turn from evil. Nor can one rightly fear the LORD and so turn without the preceding truth, without knowing through experience the steadfast, faithful, atoning love of God.

“Oh Jesus! Please let me see and hear and feel your atoning, steadfast love today and every day! And let that joyful experience lead me to a good and proper fear of You that I might turn daily from evil and never again prefer its empty promises of pleasure and self-glorification to your Love.”

Copenhagen.

Copenhagen.

It’s hard to believe my time in Copenhagen is already up! It has been a wonderful adventure to explore this beautiful city, to learn its patterns, quirks, and see so many amazing things it has to offer. I’ve explored buildings, museums, quaint and trendy coffee shops, and ridden its streets alongside the locals on a bike. It would be difficult to summarize my experience here in just one blog post, so hopefully you’ve been following me on Instagram for the play-by-play.

IMG_0125.JPG

Adventure every day.

My hope and goal coming into this trip was that, since everything I experience is new, that instead of being afraid, I’d simply view it as just part of the adventure. I wanted to expect to get lost, to meet new people, to be embarrassed, and then to just accept it and even enjoy it! So I committed to having an adventure every day.

Often this was as simple as going to a new coffee shop to work instead of returning to one I knew had good internet and a power outlet (that works) for my laptop. Other times, I’d consult the internet or this book, which my hosts have a copy of, and just look up how to get there and check it out. I would just pick something I had read or heard I should see here, and then just go do it despite the cost or the mess I’d get into.

Lessons learned.

#1. The weather is nuts. I learned along the way it is best to just keep my raincoat with me, even if the sky (and my weather app) say its going to be good weather. One thing you can count on in Denmark is for it to rain randomly for ten minutes, or two minutes, and then stop and become a beautiful sunny day again. Otherwise, the weather here is amazing. Temps are in the 60-70-degree range (F˚) and its rather dry, despite the frequent rainfall. Houses and buildings often don’t have, or need, A/C, because it is sufficient to open the windows to make it feel nice inside.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.27.18 AM

#2. Biking is betterI also learned when it does, and does not make sense to travel by train/metro. My neighborhood, Peter Bangs Vej (Frederiksberg), is a few stops away from the popular parts of town of City Centre, Nørreport, etc. But by the time you travel to the station,  wait for your train to arrive, stop at every station, it works out that it takes longer to travel by train than it does to ride a bike. Also, biking is free, good exercise, and a great way to see more of the city. The trains typically cost about $2 each direction. Thankfully, this past week while the Williams’ have been on vacation, I’ve been able to ride Patrick’s bike into town, which also makes traveling around town a lot easier. Biking in Copenhagen is the preferred transit method of “Copenhageners,” so I’ve felt more like a local from being able to bike around!

IMG_0360

New friends.

I made a point to get out there and just talk to people. It was tempting at first to just rely on Patrick and Chelsea for everything, but that’s boring and not adventurous! This also required me to redefine my old definition of “friends,” which was egregiously narrow and far too reserved for what most people mean when they say “best friends.” To me now, if we hang out and enjoy each other’s company, we’re friends.

So here’s to my new friends! Matt and Cindi Nipper, with whom I enjoyed exploring their garden last weekend; Gabriel Koc, owner of the awesome Buzz Kaffebar, with whom I enjoyed so much good conversation about Christianity, Islam, politics and just life in general; Chris Crespo and Mikael Petersen, my brothers in Christ with whom I had the pleasure of fellowshipping at meals after church and at Torvehallerne; Ida Jensen, my Danish friend, who took me all over the city and explored the Round Tower, Botanical Gardens, Christianshavn, Christiania, and Church of our Savior tower with me and introduced me to delicious Danish food. If you’re reading this, thanks for welcoming me to your city!

Adventure is out there

Adventure is out there

 

Leading up to my trip, I thought a lot about what it would be like to travel alone, and I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to set reasonable expectations. I recognized the possibility of becoming lonely, of missing home, of becoming depressed. But I also wanted to get myself psyched up about launching into an adventure!

Those of you who know me remember that I LOVE PIXAR movies. In fact, one of the main reasons I studied Film Studies at UNC Wilmington was because I wanted to get experience doing digital animation and storytelling and maybe work there someday. I also really enjoy analyzing films and narrative. So before my trip, on a quiet evening by myself, I popped in PIXAR’s Up to get pumped about my adventure.

If you are unfamiliar with Up, it’s the story of Carl Fredricksen, a crotchety old widower unwilling to part from the house in which he shared his life with his deceased wife, who embarks on an adventure to fly his house, levitated by 1 million helium balloons, to Paradise Falls in South America. His plan is blown off course by an unexpected storm and a well-meaning, but annoying Wilderness Explorer named Russell, who accidentally gets swept up with the house. I won’t explain the whole plot here, just watch the film.

Life’s real adventures are made not in the epic experience of the Paradise Falls we long to perch our house upon, but in the relationships we enjoy all the time.

The theme of Up is that life’s real adventures are made not in the epic experience of the Paradise Falls we long to perch our house upon, but in the relationships we enjoy all the time. Carl and his wife, Ellie, had always wanted to go to paradise falls. But when he finally gets there, it is not all that he hoped it would be, and his house is only half of what it used to be.

Charles Muntz, famous adventurer and Carl’s hero, banished himself to the Falls trying to prove the existence of the Kevin bird and clear his name. He let his pride drive him to isolation, with only his dogs as friends. He had gone so far down his own path of jealousy and pride that he even became a murderer, killing the only other humans he came into contact with. See Charles Muntz made adventure all about himself, his desires, his trophies, his reputation, and he missed out on his life.

By contrast, Carl never went to Paradise Falls with Ellie, but he had lived a full, meaningful life full of adventure with his best friend. And even when he finally got there, though reluctant at first, he learned that life and adventure are not all about perching your house atop a beautiful waterfall in South America. See the temptation when you’re living the mundane moments of your life, picking out ties, fixing the car, and enjoying simple picnics in your small town, is to believe that your life is boring and not adventurous.  But maybe the best adventures in life are actually dreaming about adventures with your best friend, or eating ice cream on a curb counting blue and red cars with your dad.

Reflecting on this, I decided that I didn’t want to go on my adventures in Europe like Carl Muntz, hiding behind my camera lens and my cell phone apps. I’m using my phone and posting to Instagram, obviously, but I wanted to be making friends every day. So one of my goals on this adventure is to meet someone new every day, have a conversation, get their perspective and story, and share my adventures with them.

 

One week in.

One week in.

My first week in Denmark has been amazing! Thank you to all who have been following my Instagram and Facebook photo stream. Though I’ve tried to give you a thorough pictorial summary of my journey so far, I thought it would be fun to just write about my first few experiences and friends. I’ll write more about my impressions of Denmark, Copenhagen, and the Danish folk in a later post.

First, Patrick and Chelsea Williams, my Copenhagen hosts, are an amazing family. I enjoyed spending my first few days here with them, getting advice on where to visit, eating delicious meals, and “reading” to their adorable daughter, Kinley (she likes to look through the photos in an enormous National Geographic book).

I went to their church, First International Baptist Church of Copenhagen, on Sunday and made several new friends, including a family that lives in Birkerød, where I’ll be staying the next three weeks after this weekend. The church members were very welcoming and we went to lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant together. The service was very simple, but it was beautiful to see how the Gospel brings together people from all the nations and makes us family together in Christ.

I made friends with the owner of Buzz Kaffebar near Nørreport, where I am writing right now. His name is Jibril (in english, Gabriel). He is a very kind and generous Muslim man. We have had many great conversations about our faiths, politics, and the difficulty many immigrants to Denmark, especially Muslims, face. I have come back to his coffee shop three times now.

It has been really fun to go out each day and try to have a daily adventure. I’ve enjoyed giving myself “missions” each day to go see something, or meet someone, or try something new. Today, my mission was to go back to the Round Tower and take photos from the top now that the weather is nice, and to visit the Denmark National Museum. See my Instagram story for that (you’ll have to follow me 😉 ) Others were to find the Strøget and eat at Paper Island with a friend I made at the airport in JFK, visit the Kastellet and St. Alban’s Church, visit my friends’ community garden, go to FIBC (church), attend a programming Meetup, and just find a new coffee shop to work from.

So my goal of making friends here is being met. It’s been a humbling and very rewarding experience. Humbling because I often have no clue where I am or where I need to go, I know few people, and have been graciously welcomed by so many wonderful people.

P.S. Danish is really hard to pronounce. Like really hard. Trying to say the names of streets and places is often very embarrassing.

Time’s up! Let’s do this!

Time’s up! Let’s do this!

It is time, friends. Today is launch day! In about ten minutes, my amazing brother Travis Lockey will arrive here from Winston-Salem to hang out with me at breakfast, and shuttle me to the airport!

It’s surreal that this day is finally here. I feel like when I was a kid anticipating Christmas all month and having made all sorts of preparations and then the morning comes. “It’s today!!” All of my possessions are safely stowed away at my good friend David Williams’ house. I’m checked into my flight on the American Airlines app, and the only thing keeping me from Denmark and my adventure is a 7-hour layover in JFK and an 8-hour flight between two strangers on probably the biggest airplane I’ve ever been on (it has two aisles!?!).

So for my last blog post before I depart, I want to say a few words of thanks.

To my family, Mom, Dad, Chad, Travis, Carlie, and Caitlin, thank you for supporting my desire to go to a foreign place for three months, and for even encouraging me in it. It’s not easy to send off someone you love far away where you can’t keep them safe yourself, and where you may not be able to contact them instantly all the time. Thank you. To Travis Lockey, thank you so much for coming to Raleigh this morning and seeing me off. You mean so much to me, brother.

To Garrett Anderson, thank you for 2.5 fun, chill years of having me as a roommate and talking me out of buying a house already like three times. I wouldn’t be doing this if I had bought a house in March.

To Alex Slater and Brad McCorkle, thank you for working with me to make this trip possible. I feel as if you have seriously bent over backward to make my dream of this trip happen, and feel amazingly blessed, respected, trusted, and loved by you and our team to put up with me through this and help in so many ways as I’ve prepared to go. Now, let’s see if we can’t crush it with Rise Hire even while I’m away!

To Dawn Locklear, thank you for telling me about your travel experience, pointing me to HelpX.com, and convincing me that my silly idea of traveling for an extended period of time is totally feasible.

To Patrick and Chelsea Williams, thank you for welcoming me into your home when I arrive in Copenhagen! I know my list of thanks to you will grow in the next week or so, but I am truly grateful for your generosity, and hope I can be a blessing to you during my stay.

To David Williams, thank you for taking all of my stuff into your house, including my car, and saving me the time, money, and frustration of dealing with all that when I get back and am homeless.

To my WWOOFing hosts in Denmark and Ireland, thank you for welcoming me to your homes and farms! I greatly look forward to sharing part of my adventure with you!

And to so many other wonderful friends not mentioned here who have encouraged and supported me in this trip, who have committed to praying for me, and who have desired to follow my progress and adventure online.

Let’s do this. Leeeeeroooooooooooooooooooooy!