June 13, 1993
Bethlehem Baptist Church
John Piper, Pastor
ANXIETIES: TO BE CAST NOT CARRIED
(1 Peter 5:1-11)Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The opposite of boldness is fear or anxiety. It's not surprising then that God not only calls us to be bold for Christ and his kingdom, but he also makes a provision for us to get rid of our fear and anxiety. Giving us courage and taking our fear are two ways of doing the same thing.
Today's text is not a direct call to boldness. It's a call not to be anxious. And so it's an indirect call to boldness and courage.
But there is something very unusual about this text. The threat in this text that tempts us to be anxious is not explicitly prison or injury or slander or plundering of property or loss of money. The threat is humility. Or to put it another way, the reason Peter deals with the problem of anxiety is because he is dealing with the problem of humility. Somehow the command for humility makes the command to cast our anxiety on God more urgent, more needed.
Notice this in the flow of thought from verses 5-7. The chapter starts with a word to the elders of the church to shepherd the flock willingly and eagerly and without being motivated by money. Then the focus turns to the others in the church.
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; (then to all the church) and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time . . .
Now right here comes the connection between this call for humility and the command to cast all your anxiety on God. The command for humility seems to cause anxiety to rise and so Peter deals with it.
The NIV and RSV put a period at the end of verse 6 and make verse 7 into a new sentence. "Humble yourselves . . . Cast all your anxiety on him." But that break obscures the connection. The NASB and the KJV don't have a period because verse 7 does not start a new sentence in the original Greek. It is part of the sentence in verse 6 and continues with a participle: not, "Cast all your anxiety on him . . ." but, " . . . casting all your anxiety on him."
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on him because He cares for you." Not: "Humble yourselves. And cast your anxiety." But: "Humble yourselves . . . casting your anxiety."
The point is that casting your anxiety on God is somehow part humbling yourself. Casting your anxiety on God is crucial if you are going to humble yourself under God's hand and clothe yourself with humility toward each other. Casting your anxiety on God is not simply a separate thing that you do after you humble yourself. It's something you do in order to humble yourself, or in the process of humbling yourself.
There is something about humbling yourself under God's hand and humbling yourself before other people that makes casting all your anxiety on God necessary. Or to say it another way, there is something about casting your anxiety on God that makes humbling yourself under God and before others possible.
It looks like humility is a threat that causes anxiety. And if we are going to be humble with God and with each other, we are going to have to cast our anxiety on God. That's the connection between verse 7 and what goes before. "Clothe yourselves with humility toward each other and humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God by casting your anxiety on God."
But why does humility create anxiety? Why does humility take courage? Why do we need someone to take our anxiety away in order for us to be humble?
You can see the answer easily if you just start thinking of some examples of humility. What does it mean to be humble? It means, when you've made a mistake, admitting it and saying your sorry. It means, when you are weak or sick or inadequate for a task, not being too proud to ask for help. It means doing some ordinary jobs and spending time with ordinary people and being indifferent to accolades.
In other words, in all its forms humility is the risk of losing face. Humility is the risk of not being noticed, not being appreciated, not being praised and not being rewarded. Lowliness runs the obvious risk of being looked down on.
And being looked down on is painful. Being unnoticed and unappreciated is painful. Losing face is painful. Being made little of is painful. And therefore humility causes anxiety. And the command to be humble under God and to be clothed with humility toward each other makes us anxious.
So if we are really going to be humble, we have to solve this anxiety problem. If we are going to have the courage of humility and the boldness of lowliness, someone is going to have to take our anxiety away.
That's the point of verse 7: "Be humble by casting all your anxiety on God." The secret of humility is being able to cast your anxiety on God. Note the connection between humbling yourself under God's mighty hand in verse 6 and casting your anxiety on God in verse 7. God is the focus in both verses, and the connection is this: before you can put yourself humbly under God's mighty hand, you have to put your anxiety confidently in God's mighty hand.
There is a fearful cowering under the mighty hand of God for the rebellious and the proud. But that is not what Peter is calling for in verse 6. The humility Peter commands under God's hand is the peaceful, confident humility that comes because we have cast our anxiety on God with the confidence that he cares for us.
I love these two images side by side: humbled and lowly under the mighty hand of an infinitely holy and powerful God, and confident and peaceful because that very God cares for us and carries our anxiety. Before you bow down and step under him, cast the burden of your anxiety on him!
Now what does it mean to cast your anxiety on God? How do you do that?
This word "casting" in verse 7 occurs one other time in the New Testament--in Luke 19:35, in exactly the same form. It's Palm Sunday and the disciples have been sent to get the donkey for Jesus to ride on. Then verse 35 says, "They brought it to Jesus, and casting their garments on the colt, they set Jesus on it."
So the meaning is simple and straight forward: if you have a garment on and you want an animal to carry it for you, you "cast" the garment on the animal. In this way you don't carry it anymore. It's on the animal not on you. The donkey works for you and lifts your load.
Well, God is willing to carry your anxieties the same way a donkey carries your baggage. One of the greatest things about the God of the Bible is that he commands us to let him work for us before commanding us to work for him. "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you" (Psalm 55:22). "Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save" (Isaiah 46:4). "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).
God wants to be a burden bearer because it demonstrates his power and puts him in a class by himself among the so-called gods of the universe. "No one has seen a God besides thee, who works for those who wait for him." So throw the garments of your anxiety onto him. He wants to carry it.
Practically how do you do that?
You do it by trusting the second half of verse 7 very specifically in relation to your specific anxiety. The first half of verse 7 says, ". . . casting all your anxiety on him . . ." and the second half of the verse says, " . . . because he cares for you."
Here is where the rubber meets the road. How do you practically make the anxiety transfer from your back to God's back? The answer is: trust that he cares for you. Believe this promise. Trust him. It's a matter of practical trust.
That promise does not hang in the air. It is connected to a command and the promise is meant to show you how to obey the command. The command is, Cast your anxiety on God. The promise is, God cares for you. That means, he cares about the thing that has you worrying. He wants to be trusted for that.
So often we trust God in the abstract. Yes, he is a trustworthy God. Yes, he can save sinners in general. Yes, he will work it all out, generally speaking, for my good.
But a text like this means, Lay a specific anxiety on God. Trust him specifically that he cares about that. Believe that he is God. His purposes cannot be thwarted. "I know that you can do all things, says Job, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2).
When it says that he cares it means he will not stand by and let things develop without his influence. It means he will act. He will work. Not always the way we would. He's God. He sees a thousand connections we don't see. The lost credit card might result in an evening of searching and take you away from a TV program that unbeknownst to you would have put a lustful desire in your mind and made prayer unappealing so that you failed to seek God's power and missed a golden opportunity to speak of Christ to a ready colleague the next day, which because of that lost credit card you did not miss. God sees a thousand connections we do not see.
Casting your anxiety on God means trusting him for handling this specific situation. If you believe that he cares (which is what the promise says), and believe that he is God, then your fears will be lifted.
There is one other thing to say about this act of casting anxiety on God, namely, the connection with prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
So 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Cast your anxiety on God by trusting that he cares for you." And Philippians 4:6 says, "Cast your anxiety on the Lord by praying and letting your requests be made known to him." The connection is simple. Trusting that God cares about your anxiety is expressed in prayer. Prayer is the trust turned toward God and spoken.
Which brings us now to our new summer adventure for the next hour of "praying the vision."--taking what we have seen of God and his will and turning it into prayer.
We have been talking about boldness and courage and risk-taking for some weeks. And we are planning a summer full of opportunities to do just that--sports outreach, inviting people to the Gate, survey teams, street witnessing teams, personal harvest appointments, bar ministry, drama outreach. Every time you humble yourself and love someone like this you run the risk of losing face. What shall we do with this repeated threat of anxiety this summer?
We will pray, every Sunday morning for the next 12 weeks for 45 minutes as an extension of the morning service. And we will trust the promise of God--"I care about you . . . I love evangelism, and when my people call upon me together I will pour out on them a Spirit of peace and power."
Ideas for prayer:
- "With thanksgiving" (Phil. 4:6)--expressions of praise and thanks that God is sovereign over our anxieties and is wise enough and caring enough that we can entrust ourselves to him.
- Payers for humility and for more of the Spirit of the lowly, servant, risk-taking Christ (Phil. 2;3-8).
- Prayers for more faith in God's promises and that every binding obstacle to joyful trust would be overcome.
- Prayer for God to call people to all the outreach ministries on the insert to the bulletin; that we would cast our anxiety on God and hear his call.
- Broaden prayers out to the summer ministries of other churches and pray for the prosperity of God's kingdom in every fellowship where Christ is truly named.
- Broaden further to pray for courage and humility on the front lines of world missions and that this summer would be a period of powerful advance for Christ and his kingdom in Africa and Asia and Europe and South America, as well as America.
Copyright 1993 John Piper