1 Peter 5:1-6
Topic: Gospel Living Passage: 1 Peter 5:1–5:6
I believe that God has put, in the heart of every true Christian, a desire to serve in some way, to bless others, to encourage others. There is this cry in our hearts, “I want to be used by God”. That desire is a work of the Spirit and he has given you a gift or a calling, so that desire can be fulfilled. Peter said in chapter 4, some have speaking gifts, some have serving gifts.
Some within God’s family, are called to be elders. That is who Peter specifically addresses in this passage. He writes “To the elders among you”. He says, what they do and how they are to serve and what kind of tone and atmosphere they are to set, what attitudes they are to have. That is important for you to know for a couple of reasons. It will help you recognize the right kind of pastors and keep you from the wrong kind, who could harm you. And some here may someday be elders, this passage will give you a clear picture of what that should look like.
But, whether an elder or not, this passage shows us some of the heart attitudes with which we are all to serve God. There is much here that applies to all, so don’t mentally check out this morning, thinking this has nothing to do with you.
In the NT, believers were called God’s flock. In each city or town or village these believers, gathered in the name of Jesus. They were not gathered around the teachings of a certain theologian or famous Bible teacher, not gathered around impressive, charismatic personalities, not drawn to a program offered by a church, but gathered around the person Jesus Christ.
And, in each local area, a few men were to shepherd the flock. They were to care for the people as a shepherd would care for his own sheep. The church established by the apostles was not a massive complex hierarchy, with layers and layers of bureaucracy and impressive titles. It was shepherds and the flock; it was elders and those under their care.
In this passage, Peter address these elders or shepherds of these local churches, so my points will apply to elders, but also to all of us. I will call these the attitudes of heart that God wants in our service.
*First: Take care of people, don’t harm or neglect them. We are called to take care of people! Peter writes, “Be shepherds of God’s flock”. Elders are to “Be shepherds”. They are to do the things a shepherd would do, to have a shepherd’s heart, a shepherd’s approach to people. Jesus told Peter, If you love me feed and tend my sheep. Feeding the sheep is the elder’s first responsibility. Another part of their task is to tend, or take care of the sheep. Peter said, “Shepherd the flock that is UNDER YOUR CARE…”. Protect them, guide them, look to their spiritual welfare.
The verse goes on, “watching over them”, or “exercising oversight”. We are to be aware of people and their needs.
In John 10:10 Jesus said the good shepherd is concerned about the life of the sheep. He said, “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy; I came that they may have life and it abundantly”. Being a good shepherd is being concerned about others thriving and flourishing, about others experiencing this life to the full.
In John 10:11 Jesus describes how the good shepherd puts the interests of the sheep above his own. He said the hired hand is not concerned about the sheep. If a wolf comes he will run away to protect himself. But the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Of course he was talking about himself as the good shepherd, but we are to be that kind of shepherds too.
Paul demonstrated this kind of concern for those under his care. In 2 Corinthians 11:28,29 Paul said, “I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led in to sin, without my intense concern?” He cared about people and how they were doing.
In Ezekiel 34 the Lord says, “Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” Then he accuses the leaders of Israel of poor shepherding. “You have not strengthened the weak, or healed the sick, or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.” All that is what we are NOT to be like. We are to be faithful shepherds.
In one sense all of us are shepherds to some people. We all have people entrusted to us. We are to do all that we can do to help those under our care flourish in the Lord. We are not to abuse and bruise people, but to take good care of them. Who are the people God has entrusted to you? Your spouse, your children or grandchildren, perhaps parents, friends or some brothers or sisters in the church family …. Have the heart of a shepherd toward these people.
*Second: Volunteer to serve God and do it eagerly. The NIV says, Shepherd the flock of God, NOT because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be”…. “eager to serve”. The NASB says, “shepherd the flock….not under compulsion, but VOLUNTARILY”….”with eagerness, according to the will of God”. The ESV says “as God would have you”. Meaning God would have you serve with eagerness.
Just as God loves a cheerful giver, he loves a cheerful and eager server. We enjoy Tuesday lunch at the Cafe in Ames. I don’t know who trains their waitresses but they serve with such eagerness. Cindy asks for a large coffee with two creams, if she needs more coffee they almost always offer to get more more creams. When we are done they say, “Can I get you a coffee to go?” Instead of making you feel like you are asking for a lot, they say, “Well of course”.
The point is you feel like they want to wait on you and enjoy doing it. They do it with eagerness. That is the way we are to serve others in Jesus’ name. Psalm 100 tells us to serve the Lord with gladness.
Any kind of ministry has some hard things in it. There can be disappointments with people. There can be discouraging results, at times. People can leave that we wanted to stay. It can take great perseverance, and setting aside other pleasures and interests. But we are not to feel sorry for ourselves, or serve with a chip on our shoulder. We are to be EXCITED about serving! We are to be glad to serve! And this applies if you are an elder, leading a Bible study, teaching Sunday School, or cleaning the bathrooms.
Peter says to Volunteer for what you do. “Shepherd the flock VOLUNTARILY”. I love it when I hear of people volunteering to serve! Jesus himself is our example. He said, “No one takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own will”, or willingly. He volunteered to go to the cross for us.
When you lay down your own life, you never have to feel like a victim. It is a great help to keep this mindset: we have chosen to serve and love and pay the price; no one is making us do this.
*Third: Don’t do it for selfish or worldly motives. Peter said, “Do it because you are willing, not greedy for money”
Rex Tillison was asked why he would consider serving as Secretary of State, and make so much less money. He said, “When I considered all the reasons why I would say ‘no’, they were all selfish, so I said ‘yes’”. That’s a great way to think!
Peter points out a danger that some could somehow figure out how to use the ministry to make money and do it for that reason. Today some can make lots of money, selling books, from fees for speaking engagements, or collecting money on Television and radio programs.
Those opportunities to make money are not available to most of us. But we can have an attitude that I am on the worship team for my own fulfillment, or how it makes me feel, or I am leading this Bible study so I will look a certain way to others. We CAN find ourselves serving, but NOT really for the right reason. We are seeking some kind of present, or worldly gain for ourselves. But..
If you do ministry for what you will presently gain, from people, you will likely become bitter. “I tried to start this group and nobody came. I suggested we all do this and nobody responded. I did this for that family and it was like they didn’t even notice; I got no thank you, no appreciation. What’s the matter with people anyway. I do this week after week and nobody else ever never lifts a finger.” Thinking like that shows our motives are not right. We don’t serve Jesus for how it is going to benefit us here and now, in a worldly sense.
*Fourth: Influence people by example not force. Peter says, “Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but proving to be examples to the flock”. Biblical eldership is a soft leadership. It’s not weak, but it is not authoritarian. It is not demanding. It speaks God’s word with authority, but it is not supposed to be a domineering kind of leadership. Think of our text for this month. Jesus said, “I am gentle and humble in heart”. If the Chief Shepherd is that way, we all should be that too.
People you care for are “entrusted to you”. You don’t own them. They are not yours to dominate, to manipulate, to severe with. They belong to God! God has simply entrusted them to you. Where the Bible gives freedom, we need to give freedom. Francis Schaeffer once described legalism as like being in a coat that fits too tight, it hurts every time you move. Being under leaders (of any kind), who lord it over you, can feel like that. However you serve in the body, watch out for the tendency to take charge in a way that squelches people.
Instead of pushing people around, we are to be examples. There is nothing you can do as an elder, or as a Christian, that can substitute for being a good example. Fathers, there is nothing you can do for you kids, no sports you help them be good at, nothing you can buy for them, no education you can give them, that will substitute for you being a good example. For elders, there is no amount of Bible knowledge, or skill in preaching, that can substitute for being a good and godly example.
*Fifth: Your service to others in Jesus name, will be greatly rewarded Verse 4 “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”. Peter reminds the shepherds of the local churches that the Chief Shepherd will reward them, greatly.
The crown of glory is not just for elders but for all who love Jesus and are faithful to what he called them to do. We all report to Jesus. We all serve Jesus and it is from Jesus that we will receive our crown of glory. Jesus highly values the work of taking care of people in his flock.
Peter calls it “the crown of glory that will never fade away”. The reward for service is magnificent and way out of proportion to what we do. We don’t know exactly what that is, but when something is so great that it is beyond our ability to understand the Bible uses the word “glory”. The glory you will receive for serving Jesus, in any way, will be beyond your wildest imagination.
There is nothing wrong with serving God, because you want a reward… from him! He who comes to God must believe that he exists, AND that he is a Rewarder of those who seek him. Moses left all the riches and power of Egypt for the reproach of serving Christ, why? “For he was looking to the reward!” The problem is NOT that we want a reward for doing the Lord’s work. The problem is that we want a reward here and now from other people.
It creates all kinds of heart problems when we look for our rewards too early. We might say, “I’ve been doing this for years and God seems to have forgotten about me”. He hasn’t forgotten! He already told us when the glory comes, when the Chief Shepherd appears. If you are looking for it early you could grow disillusioned!
Sixth: Do all that you do for the Lord with the utmost humility. “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble”.
Peter has called the elders to a humble manner of serving the flock. Peter demonstrated a humble spirit in the way he wrote this. He had a high position as an apostle, yet he wrote, “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder..”. Spurgeon wrote, “It will always be our wisdom to put ourselves as much as possible into the position of those whom we address. It is a pity for anyone ever to seem to preach down to people; it is always better to be a nearly as possible on the same level as they are”.
He goes on to say, “In the same way”, you younger men, respond to your elders in a humble manner. There are many ideas why he specifically mentions younger men. Perhaps they might be too eager to take over, or challenge the elders, I don’t know. But he says be subject to your elders…
Part of the way this humility is shown is in being subject to your elders. One thing my dear wife will often tell people who have gotten themselves into a painful mess is, “Go talk to the elders and do exactly what they tell you to do for 3 months, and see what happens”. There is a reason God says to be subject to your elders. It is not for their glory, but for your good.
And he makes it clear this attitude of humility is for everyone. “All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another”. Cover everything you say and do with humility. Elders, younger men, all of you!
Every sentence that you speak, every face book post, every phone call, every thing you share with other believers should be wrapped in humility. Clothe yourselves with this. Instead of wearing a the clothing of arrogance, or condescension, put on the clothes of humility.
It would be an understatement to say there have been strong feelings and beliefs about our recent presidential election among Christians. I am not troubled by Christians having strong opinions. But it has troubled me the way many believers communicate their convictions without humility and grace. Believers have maligned one another, and devoured one another with charges and counter-charges with a glaring LACK of humility. When we feel strongly about our positions on the Bible, or about an issue, that does not exempt us from clothing ourselves in humility when writing or talking about these things. Whatever we have to say to a brother or to the body of Christ, they ought to be able to say, it came with humility.
When people come into our fellowship, they ought to sense the presence of God, the love we have for one another AND the humility we have to one another. This is not some false kind of humility where you can’t even have an opinion. He is saying come at everything and everybody with humility.
So these are the attitudes of heart that please God. These are attitudes of the heart that elders are to have, and all of us in some way are to be growing in. Pray for your elders here to excel in these things. Pray for us to be good shepherds. Then also ask the Lord to give you these attitudes of heart toward those people that you have care over.