Humility Is Spiritual Warfare

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 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. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 5:6-11

The Battle Begins with Humility

When you think of your arsenal of spiritual weapons, what are the first few things that come to mind? Before Peter discusses our battle against the spiritual forces, he sets down the prerequisite of being humble. Peter writes in verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” So, before we jump into the battle, there is a foundational attitude we must have: we must be humble. Is humility in your arsenal of spiritual weapons?

The devil is real, and he is opposed to us. We all face this spiritual battle against our spiritual enemies every day. Worse yet, we are proud by nature, not humble. In our flesh, we resist God and His purposes for us because we think we can manage our lives better than he can. In our pride, we drift from trust in our caring God. When this happens, we are lured and distracted by this world and all it offers us. The devil loves to catch us in our pride, as he knows we are susceptible to his schemes when we lose our humility before God and one another: we are like defenseless sheep without a shepherd waiting to be eaten by the prowling lion.

Therefore, if we are going to have any chance to endure this battle, we must be humble. If we are proud, we not only face the lion who seeks to devour us, we also face the resistance of God himself! Oh, there is so little hope for the proud man. The devil can work with pride, but he doesn’t stand a chance against a humble child of God.

What we see, then, is that humility is spiritual warfare. When we are humble, we are strengthened in the grace of God, we are freed from the cares of this world, and we are able to assess the threats we face. When we are humble, we are able to stand firm in our faith, as we patiently endure suffering, knowing that our lives are hidden in Christ. When we are humble, we don’t have anything to prove on this earth, we don’t have a reputation to defend, and we don’t have to measure success the way everyone else does. In short, we are freed to live for the glory of God and the life to come instead of our own glory and the life we now have.

Being humble before God and putting on humility with one another is where we begin our spiritual battles. This is like making sure the supply lines for the troops are established before waging a major military campaign. You might have the most talented soldiers, but if you can’t feed them, they will be worthless. You might have great spiritual gifts, but if you are not humble before God and one another, you will be not be able to withstand the battle.

We learn from this section of scripture that there are at least three ways humility helps us fight our spiritual battles:

  1. We must be humble to endure suffering and battle anxiety;
  2. We must be humble to resist the Devil;
  3. We must be humble to stand in the true grace of God.

We Must Be Humble to Endure Suffering and Battle Anxiety

Peter writes in verses 6-7, “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.

The first question we must answer, then, is, “What does it mean to humble yourself under the mighty hand of God?”

We need to begin with defining humility. This word in the Greek simply means to be humble or modest. To be humble is to have freedom from pride or arrogance and to have a spirit of deference or submission. The opposite of humility is pride and arrogance. Pride is when we have excessive self-esteem (i.e, conceited), which means we have excessive appreciation of our own worth. Arrogance is an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner towards others.

To be humble, then, is to not think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3), to value others more than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), and to submit to God and to one another out of love (Philippians 2:4-8). And humbling yourself under the mighty hand of God means to willingly submit to the authority of God, to serve him and one another without pride, conceit, or an attitude of superiority, and to subject one’s own interests to the will of God and for the good of others.

The phrase “the mighty hand of God” is used multiple times in the Exodus story in the Old Testament to refer to God’s power to deliver his people from the bondage of Egypt (LXX: Exod. 13:9; Deut. 3:24; 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 9:26; 11:2).

Thus, we are called to humbly submit to God’s saving power in our lives. By his own hand he has saved us from sin and death; so, we must trust his love, care, and power to deliver us in the end. As one person wrote, difficult circumstances in our lives are a part of God’s deliverance. So, we receive them with humility, not becoming angry with God or with the people who are inflicting these difficult things on us.

We who are parents, teachers, coaches, or bosses know that we make our children, students, teams, or employees do hard things because we know it is for their good. They need to grow up, become more mature, accomplish their goals, etc. Even though it doesn’t feel good to go through hard things, we should know that God’s love for us is perfect. If he allows a hard circumstance into our lives, it for our good.

We can walk with humility because we can confidently trust God to bring justice and everlasting peace in the end. Like Peter wrote, God will exalt us in the proper time. When Christ returns in the end, we will be glorified with him because we died with him and our life is hidden in him (Colossians 3:3-4).

The Connection of Anxiety to Pride

Then Peter makes a striking connection: he says that humbling yourself means to give your anxieties to God because he cares for you. This means there is a direct connection between pride and anxiety. Peter is making an application of his teaching on humility to our hearts, which are full of the cares and worries of this world. This word translated as anxiety here can also mean worries or cares.

Jesus told a parable about a sower who went out to sow seed. Some of the seed fell along the path, and was eaten by the birds. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground: these plants quickly grew but were scorched by the sun because they didn’t have much soil and couldn’t grow roots. Other seeds fell among thorns, and these thorns choked out the plants. Last, there were seeds that fell on good soil and produced much grain.

Jesus later explains this parable, and he says the thorns that choked the seed out were the “cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23). This word for “cares” is the same word Peter uses that means anxieties. The Apostle John called this desire for the things of this world the “pride of life” (1 John 2:16). In another place, Jesus warned us to watch ourselves, lest our hearts be weighed down with the “cares of this life,” which will cause us to not be ready in that final day of judgement (Luke 21:34-36). Again, this is the same word as anxiety. Anxiety, then, is being overly concerned, worried, or apprehensive about the things of this world, this life, or the things you own.

Did you know your feelings of anxiety come from a root of pride that is looking for meaning and fulfillment from this life that can only be found in Christ?

Peter makes such a pastoral connection here between humility and anxiety. Humility is when we actively seek first God’s kingdom, submitting to the will and word of God, being content with God’s grace and provision, holding our time and possessions loosely, as we live for the glory of God and the good of others. When we live like this, with our trust in the loving care of our Father, it is hard to be anxious.

Because anxiety is rooted in pride, which manifests in thinking excessively about yourself, your future, your possessions, your successes, your failures, or your health. You start to believe that, somehow, you know better than God what is good for you. When you are proud, you exalt yourself. When you are humble, you trust that God will exalt you in His time.

For now, we are called to lay down our lives for Christ and His church. What Peter is teaching is that in giving up your life – in being humble – is where you will find a life free from anxieties. If you find yourself often battling anxiety, you need to look deeper. Pride produces anxiety. Receiving God’s grace with humility produces peace.

Anxiety in Your Life

What do you feel anxious about today? Where have the cares and pride of this life begun to choke out the word in your life? Do you obsess about what other people think about you? Are you worried that you will not have enough money to meet your needs? Do you fear that you will not obtain the one thing you think will make you satisfied with life? Are you always worried you will miss out on the next great experience in life? Do you fear failure? Are you overly concerned about your health? I want you to stop and consider why you are worried about these things. If the outcome you fear actually happened, what would that mean for your life?

Now, I want you to hear the words of Jesus:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life”! (Matthew 6:25).

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:30-34).

The Bible gives several antidotes to anxiety, and they are all sourced in humbly placing our trust in our caring Father!

  1. Pray: Philippians 4:6 tells us to not be anxious but to pray with thanksgiving.
  2. Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness: In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us the antidote to anxiety to put God first!
  3. Be content with today: In Matthew 6:34, Jesus tells us today has enough trouble. When we live for each day, anxiety will lift.
  4. Make Christ your treasure: In Luke 12:32-35, Jesus tells us to be generous with our possessions and money. We can live without fear in this because we have a loving Father.

King David wrote in Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” He also wrote in Psalm 68:19, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Our God is a God of salvation, and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death.

Every day, God is bearing us up. He wants us to cast our burdens upon him. He is our sustainer, and it is his good pleasure to give us the kingdom. Blessed be the God who saved us! He is our salvation! He has already delivered us from sin and death, and he has already given us the Holy Spirit as the seal of our inheritance that is to come!

Why, then, are we so worried? Why are we so anxious? Stand firm in your faith and trust that this same God who gave his only Son for your salvation will also provide the grace you need for today, for tomorrow, and for eternity. We have a sure inheritance in Jesus Christ.

We Must Be Humble to Resist the Devil

Now in verses 8-9, Peter continues his instruction by turning to our spiritual battle against the devil. He has shown us the necessity of humility, and now he adds two more imperatives, which are only possible if we are humble in the first place.

Let’s read verse 8-9 again: “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.

Peter says to be sober-minded and watchful. These are the two humility-dependent imperatives he adds to humbling yourself. Sober mindedness means that we are well-balanced and self-controlled in how we approach our lives.  We are not giving place to excess passion, rashness, or confusion. In this context, it seems that it would mean that we are not being taken in by the world or distracted by the world. We shouldn’t be those who are excited and consumed with temporary and meaningless stuff that is all just a vapor. Rather, we are those who set our hope on the grace of God!

Watchfulness means that you are constant in readiness and that you are on the alert. (Matthew 24:42, 25:13, 26:41; Acts 20:31; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Revelation 3:2, 16:15). These commands are given repeatedly throughout the New Testament. We need to live in constant readiness for the Lord’s appearing, living in a way that shows we are ready for the master to return, not piddling around with the stuff of this world, not presuming upon God’s grace.

The foundational attitude of humility leads to being sober-minded and watchful. Whereas pride causes us to to care about the wrong things and to forget who and what we are living for. The days are short, and it is a heart of wisdom that remains sober-minded and watchful. We are at war with the powers of darkness, and we need to have that kind of mentality in our lives. We must humbly come under the authority of God, and we must stay alert, watching over our own lives and doctrine, because we know how quickly our hearts wander from God and from trust in his word.

When we are proud, strutting about arrogantly, thoughtless of the imminent danger we face, we become susceptible to being devoured by the devil. This is exactly what happened to Adam and Even in the garden. The snake was ready to strike. And this same devil is now like a lion ready to pounce.

The devil is our adversary. This means he is our accuser, like the plaintiff in a lawsuit. He is the one who slanders us and accuses us. And he is going about, prowling, going here and there, looking for someone to completely destroy. He destroys us when he lures us away from the grace of God, when he gets us to go back to our sin and to the world and its ways. He destroys us when he entices us in our pride to reject the word of God because we think our own wisdom is more reliable.

So you can see the progression here: when you are proud, then you worry. Then the cares of this world weigh you down. In your anxiety, you begin to act in confusion instead of self-control and balance, and then you lose your spiritual alertness, as you have been completely diverted.

This is when you are most susceptible. Satan wants to come and tempt your pride, casting doubt on God’s love for you and his care for you. He wants you to think that God does not love you and that your best option is to turn your back on God. The devil wants you to think you can secure your own future through your own wisdom and resources. Then, you are devoured, as you are the helpless sheep that has wandered away from the flock and from the Shepherd.

If your heart is too attached to this world, then when suffering comes, it will be easy for the devil to lure you away. When you humbly recognize God’s sovereignty, however, you can face suffering, as you throw your life upon his good purposes, knowing that the real reward is what awaits you.

The devil is an accuser looking to destroy you. He’s waiting to bring his case against your pride and worldliness. He wants to bring an accusation against your faith. In the book of Job, which is all about suffering and the sovereignty of God, we find this image of the devil going to and fro looking for someone to devour.

In Job 1:7, it says:

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, ‘From where have you come?’ Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.’”

Then the Lord points out Job to Satan, and Satan immediately makes an accusation against Job’s faith. Like with Job, the devil thinks he can bring suffering into your life in order to disprove the genuineness of your faith. If we are consumed with ourselves, suffering will shatter our faith. In our pride, we don’t want to suffer or experience the rejection of the world. We want to be liked, we want to be wealthy, and, in short, we want to create a life on this earth that is most pleasing to us. But if we are humble, we will learn to respond like Job, who in the end humbly recognized the sovereign rule of God and repented of his sin. When we see God like Job did, we will repent in the dust and ashes (Job 42:1-6). Humility is the starting point of spiritual warfare.

Resist

So, we resist the devil when we humbly stand firm in our faith in the sovereign hand of God, not letting the cares of this world undermine our total trust in the care of our Father in heaven. This is true spiritual warfare! When we live in humility before God and with one another, standing firm in our faith in his love, we stand in opposition to the devil! In humility, we embrace the message of grace, and we resist the devil!

Resist by Looking Around and Ahead

Peter also tells us in verse 9 that we resist by knowing that all those who follow Jesus will experience suffering in this life, just like Jesus did. We can take comfort and strength in knowing that Christians around the world are enduring this same kind of suffering for the sake of Christ. We are not greater than our brothers and sisters, and we are certainly not greater than our master.

Christ’s humiliation was our salvation. He resisted the devil, firm in his faith. This was the ultimate spiritual warfare, as he purchased our souls with his blood, and he defeated sin, Satan, and death. And we resist the devil by looking ahead at the glorious future God has in store for us, just like Jesus did. Peter writes in verses 10-11:

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.

In humility, we can accept the short-term suffering in this life, knowing that God has called us to eternal glory in Christ! Have you thought about this in the past week? Have you pondered how glorious our future will be?

God is so merciful, so kind, so forgiving, and so just, that, while were still his enemies, he loved us and gave his Son for our sins! And not only that, but he has called us to eternal glory with his Son. This gift of grace is underserved and unfathomable, and this is what awaits us!

We can humble ourselves in this life, just like Jesus did, knowing that there awaits an eternal glory for us that is beyond anything that we can imagine. We know God will put everything back into proper order, that he will strengthen us, that he will establish us, and that he will give us everything we need for life and godliness.

For his throne is forever and ever. The scepter of his kingdom is a scepter of righteousness (Psalm 45:6). All power, rule, and dominion belong to him! We have absolutely nothing to fear, even in the darkest night of the soul.

God’s grace is sufficient for whatever you face. As Paul wrote, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

We Must Be Humble to Stand in the Grace of God

Then we come to the final verses of this amazing letter. Let’s read verses 12-14 again:

By Silvanus, a faithful brother as I regard him, I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son. Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Peter declares the message of this letter represents the true grace of God. This means there can be grace that is preached that is not true grace. Jude 4 references this:

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Thus, there is a false grace, a perverted grace, that says obedience and holiness are not important. The teachers of this false grace say that you can let sin increase because there’s always more grace. No! That is a denial of Jesus Christ! The true grace of God is the good news of the gospel. This is the good news that we are saved by grace, not by works. Yet, we are saved for good works. The true grace of God saves us from our sins and produces holiness in our lives.

Peter is exhorting us to stand firm in this true grace through trials, through suffering, and through persecution. Standing firm in the true grace of God requires us to be humble before God. We know that we are saved by grace and not by works. This means every single person is a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God. Before God, we are all breakers of his law, we are all those who have fallen short of his holy standard. With humility, we need to consider this everyday, even as we grow in the word, in knowledge, in wisdom, and in maturity.

There is never a moment in the Christian life when we are not utterly dependent on the true grace of God. Yet, this gift of salvation requires us to act. God saves, and he empowers, and then he demands our humble obedience.

Humbly Stand

So, like Peter, I encourage you to stand firm in the true grace of God. Do not become proud, anxious, distracted, and unalert. No matter what circumstances, no matter what suffering, no matter what persecution comes your way, you can wage effective warfare against the schemes of the devil by humbling yourself before God, completely trusting his sovereign hand and his care for you. If your heart trusts God, there is nothing the devil can do to you that will devour you. Walk in humility, and you will wage war against the devil.

Even if you die, you will conquer. Even if you appear weak, you will be strong in Christ. Even if your life looks like a failure in this world, you will inherit eternal glory in Christ Jesus.

You have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and you are being guarded by God’s power for salvation. Do not give up: stand firm in the true grace of God!

This is adapted from a sermon I preached at Living Way Church on December 8, 2019. You can listen to the message online at https://www.livingwaygreensboro.org/sermons/living-as-the-people-of-god/humility-is-spiritual-warfare-1-peter-56-14/.

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