Summary: Humility helps when we're fallible human beings. Peter knew this form bitter experience.
By Rev Bill Stewart
I hope all of us can think of times when someone has done something to encourage and support us when we were doing it tough. Perhaps it was a phone call? or an invite out for coffee and a chat? or perhaps it was a letter? or an email? or even just a text message? I don't think I’d be wrong in saying that sometimes it was a more mature Christian who took the time to support and encourage us. What comes to mind for you as you think about this? Who was it? What was it that they did to encourage you? (Take a few moments silence to think about a time when this happened to you).
I am thinking of one of the most difficult times in my life about 10 years ago. To be honest most of that time I would rather forget. But one thing I remember with great appreciation was a letter I received from my boss at the time. I didn’t even know that he knew what was happening in my life. After all, he was actually away in England for six months on study leave. But when I opened the letter in just a few words he made it clear that even though he was half way around the world he was concerned for me. In fact, he could easily have said it wasn’t his responsibility at the time because it really wasn't! And you know his letter didn’t say much. He began by quoting Scott Peck: “Life is hard.” And he said that he was praying for me. And he thanked me for the work I was doing and said that it was important to God and valued by my colleagues and students. Just a few words but they meant the world to me at the time. Is there someone that we could be giving that sort of encouragement to this week?
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s the kind of letter Peter was writing here – even though he was writing to a group of churches rather than just one individual. Notice how he finishes his letter:
v. 12: “I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”
It seems to me that Peter has written a very personal letter. It is easy to miss this in the earlier chapters, but in chapter 5 it really stands out. Peter knows that the churches in exile are not finding it easy. And we feel, don’t we, that he is really speaking to them from his heart: “I have written this short letter to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”
Around Easter John Altmann lead us in a series of sermons on the life of Peter. I’m sure you remember John speaking about the extraordinary way in which Jesus restored Peter to leadership among God’s people after Peter had publicly denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion (see John 21:15-17).
Three times Jesus asked him: “Simon (Peter’s birth name), do you love me?”
Three times Peter replied: “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
Three times Jesus told him: “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my lambs.”
I’m sure Peter never forgot that experience. (Would you?) That’s the Peter who is writing here, isn’t it? The same Peter who learned humility and hope from Jesus through the experience of persecution, failure and restoration to a position of responsibility.