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I Peter 5:6-7
“Does God Really Care?”
3rd Sunday in Lent, 03/04/2018
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Today is the Third Sunday of the Season we call Lent – a season of recognizing our own sin-nature, reflecting on what God has already done for us through Jesus Christ, rendering our faith and our lives more deeply into God’s power and presence.
We are journeying through this season with a sermon series wherein we ask some of the important questions of faith – and see where Scripture might lead us in our search for reasonable answers.
So far we have explored the questions of God’s existence and whether the Bible truly is God’s Word – and while we probably cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt either of these questions, we came to realize that even most atheists believe in some kind of transcendent Being. And that God does indeed speak to us through this Bible.
So, as believers in this Almighty God’s existence, today we ask if God Honestly Cares for His Creation.
What do you think? Does God Care? Does He care for you? Does He care for the infant in the ICU? Does he care about the starving children in Kenya? Does He care about the victims of war, or terrorism, or school violence?
These are fair questions. If God really exists, which we believe He does, and if He’s Almighty, why doesn’t He do something to stop the suffering?
Peter Atkins, a famous atheist and professor of physical chemistry says that the question of God caring is a ridiculously silly question. But for those who believe in some kind of All-powerful Transcendent Being, we are almost forced to wonder if this Intelligent Designer/Creator is really any good….
There is another group of people called “deists” – many of our nation’s Founding Fathers were deists. Deists do believe in God, but their claim is that after God created the universe He just sort of stands back and watches without must interest in what happens. I’ve heard this compared to a groundskeeper who chalks the football field and then just watches the game without a care in the world about who wins or loses, who gets injured, or what happens….
The Bible paints a very different picture of God.
Let’s start with today’s Bible passage, I Peter 5:6-7. Before we read that though, let’s do a little introduction: Most of us probably recognize Peter’s name as one of the 12 Disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him. Some of us can recall a few things about Peter’s character – he was a fisherman with his brother Andrew; he was often the first to blurt out an answer to a question; he is the one who, when Jesus asked the 12 Disciples who they thought He was, answered, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God!”; but he’s also often the first one to argue with Jesus – “No, Jesus. You will not die!”; and the first to claim total allegiance with Jesus – “I will die with you!” And then on that fateful evening of Jesus’ arrest and trial Peter is the one who denied even knowing who Jesus was – 3 times, let alone loving Him, following Him, and claiming Him as Lord and Savior! It’s also the same Peter whom the resurrected Jesus promised a role of leadership in His Church.
This Peter is the one who preached on Pentecost and boldly proclaimed the power of the Gospel!
So, in this open epistle to the Church, in a paragraph that’s really about how we connect to each other, Peter writes these words. Listen to the pericope, and then to the affirmation: I Peter 5:5-11 (6-7) …. —-
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 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. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Does God really care? Does Peter’s proclamation prove anything?
Let’s take a deeper look at the testimonies of our faith-founders:
Our very first “parents”, Adam and Eve, deliberately turn their backs on God and do their best to destroy their relationship with God. Do you remember God’s first recorded words with these “literal dirt-bags” (created from the dust of the earth??) after their sin? Genesis 3:9 tells us God calls out, “Where are you?”
This is obviously a rhetorical question; God is omniscient – He knows all things. He knows where they are hiding. (King David composes that we “cannot hide in the heights of heaven or the depths of sheol, for You are there” [Psalm 139].
Rather, what God is doing here is offering the world’s first sinners an opportunity to confess their sins and seek God’s forgiveness. It is an offer of care! They refused, and instead God promised a future Savior, fulfilled in Jesus Christ who “died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8)!
God’s care for His people works like a corner stone holding the weight of the Bible’s record of the whole of human history. Immediately after rescuing His people from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites spent 40 years wandering through the desert before entering their Promised Land. 40 years of rebellion against God, cursing God for taking them out of bondage, questioning God for His care for them, making and worshiping false gods, etc. And each step of the way God provided for their needs – water from a rock, bread from heaven, hens for dinner, Rules for faithful living, guidance by pillars of smoke and fire, etc, etc.
Time and again we read testimonies of God’s people admitting His unfailing care.
What is Job’s story ultimately about? How, even through the tragedies of his life, God took care of him!
Zechariah, one of the Old Testament prophets, writes: “The Lord of hosts cares for His flock! (Zechariah 10:3)”. King David’s beautiful poetry declares, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall have no needs! (Psalm 23:1)”
In another place King David, pondering how we tend to treat our God, wonders, “What is humanity that You are mindful of us? (Psalm 8:4)”.
Last Thursday one of our Thursday Bible Study classmates commented that one of the things she has told her family is that God never promises any of us that we will not be faced with suffering – disease, disability, debts, death, loss of life, loss of limb, loss of trust, loss of treasure – God does not guarantee health or wealth or success or excess – but God does promise to be with us, to walk with us, to hold us, to strengthen us, to embolden us.
She said, in essence, that we can cast our anxieties on God because He is trustworthy to carry us through the scary storms.
Peter says, “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”!
What causes you to be anxious? What is it that gives your heart and faith stress? Can you trust God to see you through? Do you trust Him?
Here’s one more thing: In James 1:27, this brother of Jesus writes that “pure and undefiled religion” includes “taking care of orphans and widows in their affliction”. “Orphans and widows” may be literally parentless children and wives who have lost their husbands, but it is also code word for anyone who needs help. This means that, while God does not require our assistance to accomplish His care, He does indeed invite His Church, His children, He invites you and me to join Him in caring for the needs of the poor, the dispossessed, the underprivileged, the sick, the disabled, the lonely, the vulnerable – around us and around the world!
Ultimately, this is a question of faith – but it is a faith that nothing has yet been able to defeat. And when we trust in His never-ending care, even in the midst of insufferable pain and paralyzing fear, we discover strength that is His gift to us. And we give glory to God!
As we move toward the cross of Good Friday, never forget that we also move toward that empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday. Amen.
Blanchard, John.; “Does God Care?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 12-13.
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church Thursday Bible Study Group; Spokane, WA; 03/01/2018.