1 Peter 1:13





Sermon preached on October 13, 1996 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 1996. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I remember reading a story that happened about a hundred years ago. It was about a boy from Newfoundland and how he had joined a Nova Scotian fishing schooner that had called at the harbor. At the end of the season, in November, he found himself in Halifax looking for a way home. He found a freighter headed for Placentia Bay and the captain offered him passage if he would work on the way.

A couple of weeks later they found themselves off Trespassy. The captain, who was unfamiliar with the coast, set a course for what he thought was the wide harbor mouth. But the boy knew that the ship was headed for a low-lying beach. Somewhat in awe of the captain, the boy began to walk up and down in front of the poop, repeating a singsong bit of doggerel: "You're safe on Cape Mutton but not on Powles Head." Back and forth he walked, repeating the refrain. Finally the captain took notice, "What the hell is the matter with you?" he asked. The boy answered, "Well, sir, you're safe on Cape Mutton but not on Powles Head." repeated the lad. "What do you mean?", asked the exasperated captain.

"Well, sir," said the boy pointing, "I was afraid to tell you, sir, but the way the ship is going now, she's heading for the ledges off Powles Head in there. And if she escapes them she's going ashore on that beach. The land ahead is no island. There's solid ground between it and the main—the long beach is so low you can hardly make it out. The harbor entrance is the other way, to port." "Glory be to God," exclaimed the captain. "Hard a-port. Trim the sheets."

Now that story shows us something of what the Christian life should be like. Just like the captain of that ship, we should be alert. In our text here Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action. He wants us to be alert. But of course, paying attention in itself is not enough. We need to focus on the right landmark. The captain in the story was paying attention, but he would have run aground in spite of that. He was focusing on the wrong point. In the same way, we need to be alert and focus on the correct point in the future. Look at what the Holy Spirit tells us here. He says,

"Therefore,
prepare your minds for action;
be self-controlled;
set your hope fully on the grace
to be given you
when Jesus Christ is revealed."

This morning I want to look at the first part of this verse. And what the Holy Spirit tells you here is that

you need to prepare your minds for action.

You are to set your hope fully on the grace to be given to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. That's the main thrust of the verse. But in order to do that properly, we need to do two other things as well. We need to have minds prepared for action and we need to be self controlled.

You see, in this section, Peter becomes very practical. He is talking about the kind of life that should result from the salvation we have. So far in this chapter Peter's been talking about
how great and wonderful our salvation is. He's talked about how it fascinated the prophets and the angels—how they longed to look into these things.

Now Peter comes to how it should affect us. And what he says is that we have to be alert and be self-controlled and focus our minds upon this great hope. Being alert and self-controlled are activities that will support this hope that we have. And this morning we're going to look at the command to prepare our minds for action.

You need to prepare yourself mentally for the Christian life.

A literal translation of what Peter wrote would be: 'Wherefore having girded up the loins of your mind.' He uses a metaphor taken from an ancient custom. Since they had long flowing garments, they could not make a journey, nor conveniently do any work, without being girded up. The long flowing garments were drawn up and tucked under the belt in preparation for vigorous activity. The loins are the seat of the strength of the body and the phrase to 'gird up one's loins' means to summon up one's inner resources in preparation for action. By applying this to the mind it is obvious that the Holy Spirit is ordering us to engage in strong mental activity. He bids us to remove all hindrances of the mind, so that we may be set free to serve God and to serve Him well. What we have here is a command to bring all of one's rational and reflective powers under control, to get them ready for action. It is a call for decisive mental preparation.

So what we see is that
there is a psychological aspect to Christian living that is very important. This relates to our mental attitude. A disciplined mind has a vital place in spiritual living. Indeed, it is indispensable.

Now the question I want to ask is

what's the essence of preparing one's mind for action?

How does one prepare his mind for action? What is it about the Christian life that requires great mental concentration?

I believe that a great part of being prepared for action

is having such a firm grasp of the truth that we are ready for surprises.

I think that there is somewhat of a parallel between our text and 1 Peter 5:8, where Peter wrote,

"Be self-controlled and alert.
Your enemy the devil
prowls around
like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour."

It is almost the same thought. Why should we be alert? Why should we be self-controlled? Because our enemy the devil prowls around looking to destroy us. We have to be alert because our enemy is powerful and vicious. If we're not careful he can take us by surprise.

And I think what the Holy Spirit is getting at in our text is that
we have to be mentally prepared for the battle. The enemy we face is going to send you fast balls, curves, sliders, sinkers and spit balls. He's going to hit you with balls and try to get you disorientated and vulnerable. And if all you're expecting is nice slow balls over the plate, you're not going to do well.

Your mind is prepared for action when you're expecting opposition and trouble and when it comes it doesn't discourage, dishearten or depress you.

But if you're expecting it—it's nothing unusual. You're not disappointed in God. You know that this is something that is supposed to be. We see Peter give this principle in 1 Peter 4:12-13. He wrote,

"Dear friends, do not be surprised
at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange
were happening to you.
But rejoice that you participate
in the sufferings of Christ,
so that you may be overjoyed
when his glory is revealed."

If you're expecting it, if you know that trouble will come, if you know that it's necessary for you to participate in the sufferings of Christ—you have a much better chance of enduring it successfully.

You see, there are many things in this life that are going to surprise us. Many things will happen to us that we will not understand. You need to be ready for them. You need to prepare yourself mentally for them.

There are two things involved here.

First of all, as I've already mentioned,

there's the opposition and hatred of Satan that we face.

He is like a lion seeking to destroy. And what he wants to destroy is God's work. So you are going to be the ones in his gunsight. The Christian life is not an easy life. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. We face a great and powerful foe.

But there's something else involved too. We need to be prepared for God's providences. We need to be psychologically prepared because

we don't understand God's providences.

God is involved here too. And we need to be mentally prepared for the fact that our good Shepherd is not always going to make things easy for us.

Think about some of the things that have happened to some of us.
John and Peggy and Chuck and Loni lost their homes to fire. We all know about the tragedy of what happened to Debbie Russell. Debbie Putney's dad died this past week. Sometimes Christians die after much suffering. Their deaths are not easy and comfortable. Not long ago a non-Christian asked me, "Well, what if you lose one of your children—how would you feel about God?" Something like that would be a terrible blow. And that has happened to Christians. It happened to Job. It has happened to many others.

We don't understand God's providences. And some of them are going to be so unexpected for us. But we must be psychologically prepared for them.

Remember what Jesus said to His disciples in
Matthew 10:16? He said,

"I am sending you out
like sheep among wolves."

You see, it's not just the wolves that we have to be prepared for. We have to be prepared for the fact that it's God who is sending us out into the wolves!

The things that you're going to have to face in your life are almost unbelievable
. Christianity is not about a walk in the park. Christianity is about the soldiers of the Kingdom of God doing battle against the forces of evil. We need to be psychologically prepared for the opposition we are up against.

Jesus' temptation

Remember when Jesus was in the wilderness? He had been there for forty days and at the end of forty days he was hungry. Satan came to Him and said,

"Turn these stones into bread."

The innuendo behind that statement was that the Father had abandoned Jesus. Satan was implying– 'You're going to starve to death if you keep trusting the Father. You'd better take matters into your own hand and turn these stones into bread.'

But Jesus knew that the Father would not abandon Him. So he was able to resist.

I remember once hearing a speech that Winston Churchill gave after he became Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1941. I can't remember his exact words but I do remember that he warned the British people that there would be an 'arduous struggle ahead. Blood, sweat, tears. He was preparing the people. No quick easy victory over the Nazis. He told the free world that there was a great struggle ahead.

We need to be psychologically prepared for the opposition we are up against. If we're not, we're easy prey for Satan.

Now consider some of the surprises that can come to us. I've already mentioned fires and sickness and suffering and death. But there are other things as well.

Think of betrayal

That can be so disheartening. Think of betrayal. Jesus was betrayed. And he told us that a servant was not above his master. In Matthew 10:21 Jesus said,

"Brother will betray brother to death,
and a father his child;
children will rebel against their parents
and have them put to death.
All men will hate you because of me..."

And in Psalm 41:9 we read about David's feelings at one point in his life. He wrote,

"Even my close friend,
whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.'

Or think how David must have felt after he had saved the city of Keilah. David found out that the Philistines were attacking it so he went and saved it. But when King Saul heard about it, he proceeded to go there to capture David. While he was on his way, David asked the Lord if the citizens of Keilah would hand him over to King Saul. And God said, "Yes, they will." (1 Samuel 23)

The apostle Paul also knew about betrayal.
He was working for the Lord, and what happened? Everyone deserted him. Everyone deserted Paul. (2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 4:16)

I remember talking to someone once and he was telling me how
his wife betrayed him. She betrayed him in the worst way. I still remember him saying to me, "And she was a Christian too. She had graduated from Wheaton College."

It was a surprise, a shock and a great ordeal for him.

God's providences are often so unexpected.

The Israelites in the wilderness didn't understand God's providences. They were often hungry, thirsty, not understanding what God was doing to them. They weren't mentally prepared so they fell into sin.

1 Peter 4:12,

"Dear friends, do not be surprised
at the painful trial you are suffering,
as though something strange
were happening to you.."

Peter knew about God's surprising providences. When they came to arrest Jesus, Peter was ready to fight and took his sword out. But Jesus told him to put it away.

Things like that can devastate us if we're not prepared mentally. The only way we can successfully undergo such trials is to be prepared mentally and rely upon God's grace. If we believe that only good things come to Christians, when something terrible happens to us it can absolutely devastate us.

But if we're prepared mentally,

it can help us take the correct action.

In Matthew 10:16f Jesus told his disciples to be,

"as shrewd as snakes..."

And in Luke 16:1f Jesus told the story of the shrewd manager. You know the story.

"There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' Luke 16:3 "The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg — I know what I'll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' "So he called in each one of his master's debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' "'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. "The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.' "Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?' "'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. "He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.' "The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

We are supposed to be shrewd.

Christians are sometimes so foolish.

William Blair tells about Robert J. Thomas- the second missionary to Korea. Went aboard the vessel 'The General Sherman' which was going to explore Korea. The other sailors provoked the Koreans by detaining 5 Koreans aboard the ship after one stop. The angry Koreans attacked the vessel, and killed all on board including Mr. Thomas who had come to bring the gospel to them.

We are supposed to be as shrewd as snakes.

Korean War, officer wouldn't stand up when the North Korean General entered the room. Wouldn't show any respect. He paid with his life. The general had the soldiers take him down to the town square where he was beaten to death.

Now don't get me wrong. I feel really sorry for that soldier. He gave his life on behalf of his country. But the point is, he might be still alive today if he had been just a little shrewd.

How important it is that we prepare ourselves mentally for the warfare that we are involved in. We need to be like Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 exhorts us to

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him
endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand
of the throne of God."

Suffering, hardship, difficulty, troubles will come before the glory comes. But let's be ready for them. Let us set our hope on the grace to be given to us when Jesus Christ is revealed, all the while recognizing that we are in a battle. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:9,

"For it seems to me
that God has put us apostles
on display at the end of the procession,
like men condemned to die
in the arena.
We have been made
a spectacle to the whole universe,
to angels as well as men."

Why are we here? We Christians are here to be holy, to show Christ living in us. But we need to remember Jesus' words in John 15:20 and Matthew 10:25,

"'No servant is greater than his master.'
If they persecuted me,
they will persecute you also."
"If the head of the house
has been called Beelzebub,
how much more
the members of his household!"

We are here to live for Christ— and if necessary, as Paul says, "To die in the arena."

Unbelievers.

You too need to prepare your minds for action. You're being duped, fooled by Satan. He has pulled the wool over your eyes. Focus your mind on Jesus, see His glory, His love—open your eyes. Go to Him.