Sermons Updates

Strong Faith at the Right Time (1 Peter 4:7-11) – Mark Ottaway

Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time

The Urgency of Living the Christian Life

  • Peter 4:7-11


Turn to 1 Peter 4. A word that used to be used much in the past is procrastination, which means, “the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead.” I think we might all say that we struggled with this at one point in our lives, whether that was cramming for an exam or an essay at the last minute, or not finishing up something at work that you keep putting off for a long time. I love the part of the definition that says that we might put off something and focus on something more enjoyable. In other words, I know this needs to be done, but I am just going to do this over here. And why do we procrastinate? Well it could be that the task is something we don’t really enjoy or we do not have a whole lot of confidence doing, or it is something we just to do want to do. I do find it amazing how much we can accomplish sometimes when we have a deadline when we have to get something done. I am definitely a list-maker and gain great satisfaction from checking things off the list. And it must be foolscap, but it also has to be graph paper to make my list. Why graph paper? Because I’ve always used graph paper. Every week I have things at work that need to be done by a certain day. And you do too, and we can feel quite proud of ourselves if we accomplish the task that we had, especially if we feel we have done it well.


I also find that Anne can be far more urgent about some things than others, and I am the same way. Anne sort of has this focus in mind with certain things and I have mine. Some of them overlap, and some of them do not. One thing we always laugh about is our focus when we rent our cottage each year. Usually, about 2 days before we are about to go home, I notice that Anne will just subtly begin to get things ready to go. And I say “subtly” because she knows I am on holiday mode until the morning we leave. So I like everything looking like “holiday” mode until the very end. In other words day nine needs to look like day two! This was also true of our move to Arkona. As the time got closer, the urgency was a little greater for Anne. And the Monday, my day off, before we moved, I said, why don’t we just go for a picnic at the Pinery. And Anne is always good-natured, and we went for a picnic!


Now thinking one of the times when it is really hard to get focused is when someone close to you is dying. When my Dad was passing away, it was really hard to think about his funeral, and other arrangements while Dad was still alive, and Mom was really leaning on my brother, sister, and me to take control. And when my Dad passed away, it was amazing that within a day or two, we had everything planned. Why? Because we had to. There was an urgency to make plans, to decide. On our Sunday evening series in Genesis, we have been discussing a little what would some of the challenges of living to 800-900 years of age. And one of the things we spoke about was the lack of urgency to accomplish something. As I find the older I get, the greater focus I have on getting things done.


Well what we are going to see in our passage this week is that Peter sort of envelopes his message, or the urgency of his message with these words (vs 7), “The end of all things is at hand; therefore.” Yes, there is an urgency for everyone, for none of us know what time we have left. But there is something else that is going on here as well, and that is the end of all things is at hand. Not just the small picture, your life is closing in; but the big picture as well, all things are ending. And both those possibilities are imminent, as no one knows when their heart may cease to beat, or when the Lord may say, okay world, time is up. Just as in the days of Noah, people were doing everyday things, unaware that the Lord had already determined that things were about to come to an end. And it is true, the end for us personally or the for all things may happen today, or we could be here until we are 80-90 years and the world may be around for 6,000 years. I remember being a young Dad and while out on a call listening to the car radio of the US bombing of Baghdad, and thinking Lord this is it. And yet of course here we are years later, we are still here.


But what we must come to grips with are two things that Peter has said. One, that yes whether it is today, tomorrow, or many years from now, the end of all things is at hand. But notice what else he says in the same sentence; the end of all things is at hand. All the earthly things that we know will at some point end, not just our lives, but life on earth at some point will end, history will end. So let’s pray. Lord, if someone said since everything you have will be gone, then we would need to listen. And You have told us that all things are coming to an end, so may we heed Your Word this morning, amen.


“The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound thinking and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God⁠— whoever speaks, as one speaking the oracles of God; whoever serves, as one serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and might forever and ever. Amen.”

1 Pet 4:7-11 (LSB)


I want to share with you from this passage three disciplines we must strive towards, since, the end of all things is at hand, because of the urgency:


  1. A Meaningful Prayer-Life (vs 7)


Verse one, “therefore be of sound thinking and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” Sound thinking, the idea of being under control and having a proper view of oneself


“For through the grace given to me I say to each one among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound thinking, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

Rom 12:3 (LSB)


In other words, use the intelligence that God has given you, and sound thinking means to think right of who we are, of the real truth about ourselves. A spiritual discipline that we do not often consider in our culture. Sad to go through life and not actually contemplate the seriousness of our lives. Rick Baker said that this is a vital reason to make sure you are in church each Sunday, as it forces us to practice holy contemplation. And to think deeply of how the Lord has gifted each of us, and therefore how we might use those gifts for His glory. And then Peter adds to this, to be of sober spirit, sober, not drunk, not being silly or unwise. That you are fair and honest. That you are able to look at life without anger or bias. And also that things are not a joke to you, as serious things are taken very seriously. We can be encouraged in our society today to be light-hearted and to stay young. Yet this is often at the expense of people not being encouraged to grow up, when our world is desperately looking for mature grandparents, mature Moms and Dads, and mature young people. People of Christ who think soundly and have a discerning and right spirit.


Why? Well Peter is going to give us what we might think of as an odd answer here if we did not look at it deeper, for his reasoning that we are to be sound thinkers and sober in spirit is for the purpose of prayer. What do you mean by that Peter? Obviously Peter all Christians are supposed to pray. So why is prayer the result of sound thinking and a sober spirit. Well if we think deeply about this, I believe we will understand what Peter is driving at. One, we do not want to detach this from last week’s passage, where we spoke about the will of God not so much being about things, the red car, the blue car, which house, which location. But the will of God being centred on our service for God, that the will of God was to abandon sin and passionately serve Christ, because this far more trumps secondary issues such as temporary decisions. I even mentioned marriage, obviously a very important decision for us. Yet still marriage is dependent upon our spiritual willingness to serve Christ. Because whether I marry Sue or Sally is still a freedom for a Christian man. But serving Christ is not, for we are slaves of Christ. Now, when a Christian is passionately serving Christ, because that is God’s will, then it may become clearer to him whom to marry.


So yes, the Christian is to pray about such things in the wisdom of purchasing a home, vehicle, and workplace. But for the Christian whose primary focus is on Christ and is thinking far deeper about his relationship with Christ more than on other secondary things, then his prayer life also becomes far more about deeper spiritual issues. And so this is why Peter says that a deeper-thinking, sober, spirited, believer, is going to be in a far better place in regards to a deeper prayer life. In other words, what he or she is praying about is more in line with a deeper proper focus, a prayer life that is less about the temporal, not so much about surface issues, but things like his own spiritual growth and depth; the spiritual growth of his spouse, his children; the spiritual betterment of the church he attends, every single person sitting here this morning; the salvation of those he is connected to; his effectiveness in ministry; and his leading in ministry.


And we need to be warned here that our first reaction for many of us is to “do.” When there is a problem or a decision, what are we going to “do.” Yet God places an emphasis on prayer. On my first day at Peoples Church, it was like many jobs where you had to find your way a little bit before you really start to jump in. I certainly had much to learn. And I remember Pastor Kevin saying to me during that first week especially since I didn’t have so many concrete things to do yet, he said to spend some time in prayer. And of course, I was thinking “pray!” Why would I pray? Because the Bible places a massive importance on prayer. And to have a deeper spiritual relationship with God so that those prayers become so much more meaningful. The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 4:12:


“Epaphras, who is one of your number, a slave of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings, always striving for you in his prayers, that you may stand complete and fully assured in all the will of God.”

Col 4:12 (LSB)


And I would challenge each of us to wrestle with the Lord in prayer. Especially those things that do not seem to be answered. That we would continue to bring them before the Lord. Charles Spurgeon said:


“Sometimes when we do not receive comfort in our prayers, when we are broken and cast down, that is when we are really wrestling and prevailing in prayer.

Charles Spurgeon


A meaningful prayer life, secondly:


  1. A Meaningful Community (vs 8-9)


“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”

  • Pet 4:7-8 (LSB)


Now, these two little verses say a mouthful. And they are filled with a number of descriptive words. He begins by saying “above all,” meaning that what he is going to address now is of great importance. And then the word “keep,” insinuating that this is something they were doing and are to keep on doing. Then keep “fervent” or go to the max. Or we might say someone who goes the extra mile on behalf of someone else. “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another.” Why? Because love covers a multitude of sins. We will address that in a moment. Then, be hospitable to one another without grumbling. Common Peter! You need to help us here. For you have been talking about people coming after us, that we are going to face suffering and persecution for our faith, and that the world is going to come to an end. And now Peter you tell us, above all, have people come to your house and enjoy dainties, those little squares that ladies eat. And remember the coloured sandwiches. And don’t argue while you’re together.


Well, let me share with you where I believe Peter is going here. Firstly, he addressed a deep prayer life, and now he goes to community, church community. So, let’s consider these directives here by Peter when thinking of our church community, a deep love, a deep fellowship together, and don’t grumble. And Peter adds this comment about our love, that it covers a multitude of sins, Now what does that mean in the context of this letter? It doesn’t mean that we sweep sins under the carpet or that we do not confront sin or that there is no discipline for sin. So what is it? Well, Peter has been warning us that things are likely going to get tougher for the Christian, which will make life more difficult for us. This means there is going to be a need to forbear with each other. Because difficulties can bring friction. We’ve seen that.


Therefore, our love for each other will help each of us as we go through suffering to keep closer to the Lord. Young people allow the love of your Mom and Dad, those here within the church, to keep you close to the Lord, to keep you from sinning. I think of a number of people in my own life in the past and now in the present. Good Christians who love the Lord, who love me, and whom I love, and who also have a high expectations of me. I know growing up many times when there was a restraining hand in my life was simply due to the fact that I would not want to disappoint Mom and Dad. You know our church relationships, the love we have for each other. should have, according to Peter, a powerful impact on us. When we may look at someone sincerely eye to eye and say, I am so proud of you or I am so disappointed in you. Not in a condescending way, but because of such a bond of love between us. That’s powerful!

So, what I believe Peter is saying here in the context of this letter, is know that things will get tougher. Therefore, you are going to have to place a continued focus of deeply loving each other. You are going to have to fellowship together as a church and in groups. And don’t grumble. That motivates each one within the church to keep himself or herself from sinning. That we become very accountable to each other. And in fact, this bond of love between us will keep each other away from sin. And we need to do this as you cannot be connected like Peter is talking about here if you are not fellowshipping together. And it is an advantage of a smaller church because frankly, it is hard to hide here. You cannot attend here without being noticed. You cannot be absent without being noticed. In other words, if you are looking for a church home where you can come and enjoy maybe the music or the message and keep your distance this is not what Peter is talking about here. This is New Testament church life. Don’t miss this vital command to fervently love one another from the heart and in our homes, is such an important way in which to relate to each other as a Christian community. Meaningful community amongst believers. Finally:


  1. A Meaningful Ministry (vs 10-11)


“As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God⁠—11 whoever speaks, as one speaking the oracles of God; whoever serves, as one serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and might forever and ever. Amen.”

  • Pet 4:10-11 (LSB)


Every believer has been gifted by the Holy Spirit. That is the assumption of Peter here. And now the instruction of Peter is to use that gift as a good steward. In other words, God has given you something and the expectation is to use that something. And he uses the phrase “manifold grace of God,” which means that the gifts of God are multi-faceted. And even the same gifts are often demonstrated in a different way. And here is the importance of discovering your giftedness. And it really comes to light as you become more and more part of the ministry. I really did not know most of you here just over a year ago. But knowing someone for just a short time, it can often become easily apparent what someone is really good at.


Likely for Anne and I the most we ever did ministry was doing high school ministry for many years. Now, this did not come automatically, but the Lord led us in small steps. When we were first married we started to help out in the Junior High group at the church. I then started to teach a Junior High class. And we fell in love with that group of teens that we then moved up and taught the grade 9-10 class, and Anne was always with me. And before we knew it the Lord was placing in our hearts to help out with the high school ministry, where we ended up leading for over twenty years. Now I say this to let you know that the first time we went to a youth event, we were really nervous. We remember coming home after the first event, and just being excited because we spoke with someone, they were just small steps. We were so proud of ourselves! And this is often how ministry begins. It starts with being around church life and being available to help. And it continues by being willing to say “yes” when asked. Now it does not mean that you do everything. For it is far better to do a couple of ministries very well than to pulled all over the place. But whatever you become part of, you give it a great effort.


And Peter addresses ministry here by stating that it may be teaching, teaching the oracles of God. A Sunday School teacher, youth teacher, men or ladies Bible study teacher. Or he simply says whoever serves. And as I think of us here at Elim as this church is so blessed with faithful servants. We do not want to overlook this, and we never want to lose this. So many ministries that are needed here, are filled, as we have a great spirit of unity and helpfulness. Which the Lord loves and which Satan hates. And to remember that as each person has at least one spiritual gift, also no one has all the gifts and therefore the need for each one to be involved. There is no such thing as individualistic Christianity. And the only way in which we will have an effective ministry here in this place will be the result of all of us doing what we are gifted to do. And this church may do some things better than others, and other things maybe not as well. Why? Because as the Lord has gifted each one of us uniquely, He has also gifted each church as a whole uniquely. Yes, there are deacons and elders within the church. But all of us are ministers because we all have been gifted to do some kind of ministry. Listen, each of you is valuable here and is to be useful in the ministry.


In baseball, each player has his defensive position, infielders, outfielders, catchers, and pitchers. On many teams, there are what is known as utility players. And these guys are so helpful as they often can play second base and maybe an outfield position. But what you will notice in baseball is that there are pitchers and guys that can’t pitch. And sometimes when they don’t have a pitcher to come into the game, especially if they are losing, they will just throw out a regular player who often looks brutal out there. Why? Because the one who is uniquely gifted as a pitcher is needed. Because every person’s gift is needed. Yes, there are times when we can fill in for each other, but ultimately God has gifted each one individually to be used in the ministry of the church. Peter teaches that there is an urgency for a meaningful prayer life, a meaningful community, and a meaningful ministry. Let’s pray. Lord, we thank You for church, those we love, and those we rub shoulders with. And we are grateful for the group of believers that You have placed here at Elim. And therefore, might we be urgently about the Lord’s ministry, amen.


Why a meaningful prayer? Peter why is it that we are to learn to be concerned and pray about things that are very important and very deep? Why a meaningful community? Why are we to have such integrated lives with each other as believers? Why cannot I just live the Christian life on my own? And why a meaningful ministry? Why should I serve in the local church? Why has each Christian been uniquely gifted Peter? Why Peter?  Well, Peter tells us, end of verse 11: so that in all things (all parts of our lives, our marriages, families, workplaces, right down to our personal prayer-lives) God may be glorified (look good before everyone! – our families, neighbours, fellow believers, workmates) through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and might (this is what is right and proper, for this is the purpose of man everywhere, if the world is not glorifying God, they need to see God being glorified in us) forever and ever (our ministry has an eternal effect, even our little get-together after church with someone, has an eternal benefit to it). Amen.


Why Peter? Because when the focus of our prayers, when the focus of our fellowship with each other, and when the focus of our use of the gifts we have been given is placed over other less important things, this brings what? It tells us. This brings glory to Christ. In other words, this is deep living, for this is the way God desires us to live. And all God’s people said, amen.