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Strategies for Winning

1 Peter 4

Jim Davis

The Christians to whom Peter writes are engaged in a furious spiritual battle. They are being afflicted by the onslaughts of the enemy. In chapter one, Peter describes what they are going through as fiery trials.

1 Peter 1:6-7
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (NIV)

It is imperative that these suffering Christians face their spiritual battles totally dependent upon the resources of God. Peter writes, "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." (1 Peter 4:19 NIV)

In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown winds up on the pitcher's mound, and with self confidence quotes Scripture: "Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the pestilence that walketh in darkness..."

In the next frame, WHAM! the ball comes zooming back from the batter, catapulting Charlie head over heels. Then in the last frame we see him lying face down on the ground with stars dancing around his head. He concludes, "But those line drives will kill you!"

Sometimes real living for God is not much different.

Developing the Mind of Christ

A believer living with the attitude of the world toward sin is a powerful weapon in the hands of Satan.The world seeks to make everyone conform to its way of thinking. (Romans 12:2)When the world thinks someone is strange, it begins to pressure him or her to live differently. Non-conformity is threatening. The world may shame us back into our old way of thinking and living. The world seeks to desensitize us to morality. The world seeks to get us accustom to sin. Instead of opposing sin we end up getting used to it.

Peter encourages us to wage spiritual battles armed with the mind of Christ. Peter writes, "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2 NIV)

The key to winning spiritual battles has to do with how well you arm yourselves before the battle begins. Victory comes through developing sound strategies before battles transpire. Jesus said, "Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:31-33 NIV) Solomon wrote, "Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance." (Proverbs 20:18 NIV)

The battles of life are fought and won in our minds. Battles are won as we develop the mind of Christ and speak the words of God. Our attitudes are our weapons for Christian warfare. Weak or wrong attitudes will lead to defeat.

1 Peter1:13-16
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (NIV)

Developing the mind of Christ enables us to serve Christ with the strength God provides. Yielding ourselves to Christ way of thinking develops a mind that is set against sinning. It helps us overcome the sinful ways of living.

1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (NIV)

The physical wars of the Old Testament reveal to us spiritual truths through earthly realities. They allow us to view earthly struggles from heaven's vantage point. We find such a battle in 2 Kings.

The king of Assyria came to wage battle against Israel. The king of Assyria challenged king Hezekiah saying, "You say you have strategy and military strength-- but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?" (2 Kings 18:20 NIV) Hezekiah had told his officials not to answer his enemy's threats. (2 Kings 18:36)

Hezekiah sought the mind of God. Hezekiah dared not speak until the Lord spoke to him. When Hezekiah heard the words of his enemy "he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and went into the temple of the LORD." (2 Kings 19:1) He also sent his officials to ask the prophet Isaiah for advice.

2 Kings 19:5-7
When King Hezekiah's officials came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, "Tell your master, 'This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard--those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. Listen! I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.'" (NIV)

God's power for victory was discovered as Hezekiah yielded himself to God.

Developing the Lifestyle of Christ

Peter was concerned about Christians retreating into the world for safety in tough times. Tough times may turn Christians back into seeking the old lifestyles they lived before becoming a Christian. Peer pressure from the world may make retreating appealing. Drawing the line in a new life will antagonize former friends. They may find our new life in Christ strange and threatening.

1 Peter 4:1-5
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (NIV)

The decisive line of demarcation between a life to Christ and death to sin is drawn at baptism. Baptism marks our union with Christ. (3:21)

1 Peter 3:20-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (NIV)

There are three major perspectives seen in the act of baptism. There is the past, present and future. We must live focused clearly on each perspective. First, baptism reminds us of our death with Christ. Peter is calling on us to remember the past life to motivate us to shun sin. Baptism reminds us that our death with Christ was death to sin. That death we experienced at baptism reminds us that we are through with sin. "For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do-- living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry."

There are two ways to live. The way the pagan lives or by the will of God. Those who have died with Christ will look at the former lifestyle that swept them away with fear and revulsion. How many times have you wished you could erase those wasted years from memory? But you can't. But we now have a new life with Jesus Christ and Peter reminds us that there is no turning back.

Second, baptism gives us a clear perspective on the present. We have died to sin and are alive with Christ. We are in the process of putting on the life of Christ. Paul said, "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to lusts." (Romans 13:14) In the present we must cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)

Our death to evil human desires naturally brings suffering as we seek to die with Christ. However, death to sin is proof that we live with Christ. Having died to sin makes us alive to God. Dying to sin doesn’t mean that sin no longer presents a problem for us. But once we have died to sin we have the liberty to seek to live for Christ.

1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NIV)

Third, baptism gives us hope for the future. We must live the rest of our lives seeking to do the will of God. "As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God."

Romans 6:8-12
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (NIV)

The greatest challenge Christ has for each of us is the call to die with him. When we refuse to give way to sin we make a decisive choice to die with Jesus Christ. When we make that decision, it is a decision to suffer with Christ. The decision to suffer with Christ renders us dead to sin.

It is essential that we preserve our sanity in tough times. Difficulties have a tendency to cloud our thinking and judgement, which affect the way we live. When our thinking is clouded, we may seek to work things out own our rather than seeking God's help.

Clear thinking allows us to see what is important and what is unimportant. It allows us to look beyond the instability of emotions as we plot a steady course to Christ. Steadfastness is accomplished when we view our activities in light of eternity.

Developing Our Mind for Prayer

The suffering difficulties bring have a tendency to alienate us from God. We begin thinking we are strange because strange things are happening to us. Feeling like a stranger tends to alienate us. Peter writes, "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray." (1 Peter 4:7 NIV) Earlier Peter admonished husbands to live with their wife according to the knowledge of God so their prayers would not be hindered.

1 Peter 3:7
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (NIV)

Romans 12:11-12
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

Prayer requires clear thinking and alertness. Prayer is not a cold rational exercise.
No doubt Peter remembers when he slept in the garden when Jesus charged him to pray. Peter knew something of the agonizing prayer of Jesus Christ. Jesus kept a clear mind of what was required of him as he prayed.

Matthew 26:36-46
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" (NIV)

Responding to a question about time spent in prayer, George Mueller said that he prayed for hours every day, but he went on to explain that he lived in the spirit of prayer. "I pray as I walk, when I lie down, and when I rise," he said. "The answers are always coming. Tens of thousands of times have my prayers been answered. The great fault of the children of God is that they do not continue in prayer. They do not go on praying. They do not persevere."

The continual awareness of God's presence is not reserved for great prayer warriors like Mueller. All of us can have this moment-by-moment fellowship. When we "live in the spirit of prayer," the lines of communication are always open.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Developing Our Minds for Relationships

Peter admonishes us to maintain loving relationships in difficult times. The easiest thing to do when difficulties come is to become anxious and irritable. When this happens we have a tendency to take it out on those closest to us.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. (NIV)

How we maintain relationships in difficult times gauges the depth of our love for Christ. Living for Christ is a community experience. It is the fervency of our love for one another that binds us together as God's people. The love of Christ is enduring because it is a deep love.

Ephesians 3:16-21
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (NIV)

Christian Love covers a multitude of sins and prevents grumbling. We do not love others if we grumble against them and find fault with them. "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs." (Proverbs 10:12) Love stretches our abilities to overlook the wrongs of others. Our love can forgive when it is willing to pay the price Christ paid for our sins.

Christian love manifests itself in hospitality. Hospitality manifest itself when we greet one another as well as when we visit in one another's homes. The church also shows hospitality as we greet our visitors. Hospitality opens a person's heart to be receptive to Christ.

Hospitality reveals itself in service to others. Peters says that we have received our abilities from God to serve others with them. Our abilities are found as we endeavor to serve. It is in humble service that we discover the abilities we have.

1 Peter 4:10-11
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

A wealthy woman was interviewing an applicant for a job on her household staff.

"Do you know how to serve company?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am, either way," replied the young girl.
"And what do you mean by `either way'."
"Why, so they will come back or so they won't."

We must become effective managers of God's grace. When we serve out of our love for Christ we discover the strength God provides for ministry. If God is to be glorified in service, it must be a service enabled by his power. We must not only serve in the name of Christ, but we must also serve with the spirit of Christ. When we serve for the purpose of bringing praise to God through Jesus Christ, God empowers us. It is easy to begin a work for Christ and then begin to take the glory and honor for yourself.

Motivation for Persevering

We can rejoice when we participate in the suffering of Christ. Keeping our minds clear requires knowing that the glory of God rests upon us when we are insulted for the name of Christ. This gives us reason to rejoice as we participate in the suffering of Christ.

1 Peter 4:12-14
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (NIV)

After enduring some heartbreaking experiences, a missionary was asked by a friend how he could remain so cheerful through adversity. He replied, "Suppose someone sent me on a journey and warned me that I would come first to a dangerous crossing over a river and then to a forest filled with wild beasts. I would feel a sense of satisfaction when I actually encountered these obstacles, because they would prove to me that I was traveling the right road. The same is true in the Christian life. The Lord told His disciples that they could expect tribulation. When difficulties come, therefore, I find encouragement, for I know I am walking the narrow path of God's choosing."

We must remember that judgement begins at the house of God. In the book of Revelation John reveals God's judgement against an evil world. In John's revelation God's judgement began with the seven churches in Asia. It began with the house of God.

1 Peter 4:16-19
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (NIV)

In Africa there is a certain tribe that elects a new king every seven years, but upon the installation of the new king, the old one is killed.

During the seven years of his reign, the king has absolute rule and enjoys every possible comfort and abundance in life. One thing he cannot do, however, is to change the custom of the old king being killed after his seven-year reign.

One would think there would not be very many candidates wanting to become king. Nevertheless, there are always plenty. There are those who prefer seven years of absolute rule with abundant enjoyment of everything that life can offer in spite of the end that comes to it all after seven years.

Although we are surprised at such a custom, we too accept it. Without realizing that we are like those kings who want temporary enjoyment of power and pleasure regardless of the tragic end that comes at the conclusion of that period of time. We want to enjoy life here and all that it can offer us without even thinking of what the end of life will be.

 

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