Can you say that your life is without any burdens, concerns, or worries? You have probably heard someone say, “that guy doesn’t have a care in the world.” But is that true? Not on your life! We all have things we are concerned about to one degree or another. In fact, the carefree person is most likely covering up a host of cares by his or her carefree demeanor. Even if we are not wringing our hands in worry, we all have things in our lives that we are concerned about. The Apostle Paul, for instance, spoke of “the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).
If, however, you have been a Christian for any length of time, you are probably well aware of 1 Peter 5:7, “casting all your anxiety (care) on Him, because He cares for you.” In fact, many Christians know this verse by heart, have claimed it in their lives, and even shared it with others in stressful situations. It is a wonderful verse, but unfortunately, we too often apply this verse apart from its context, and in particular, apart from verse 6 to which it is linked and dependent.
Why do we tend to do this with God’s Word? First, we are simply not as careful with the use of God’s Word as we should be. We tend to pull out isolated verses and apply them apart from the context and purpose of the passage in which the verse is found. Second, we all want God’s care, but we too often want it on our own terms. We tend to dissect His care from His purposes and plan. In our consumer-oriented society, we tend to treat God much like a vending machine in which we drop a coin and choose what we want to satisfy our hunger as we perceive it. We think, if I just had this or that, I would be secure, or significant, or satisfied. But the promise of 1 Peter 5:7 must not be taken like this.
As an introduction and foundation for thinking through 1 Peter 5:6-7, I want to consider four Scriptural propositions with you which I believe are important to our understanding and a proper application of this passage and its counsel concerning our cares.
One of the great purposes of God for you and me is that we might be transformed into the image and character of His Son, the Lord Jesus. This is plainly declared for us in Romans 8:28-29.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; (emphasis mine)
Plainly, God wants to make us like His Son. This transformation is part of the “good and perfect” will of God that He has for each one of us (Rom. 12:1-2). Why? Because this is the place of peace, joy, real meaning in life, and fruitfulness. Only in this way can we be restored to God’s purpose for us as human beings.
Unfortunately, however, we are often more interested in our own will which is usually wrapped up in our personal wants and plans, and in our comfort and pleasure. We want God to care for us, but we want it on our terms and according to our agendas. We ask God to bless our plans rather than seek His direction according to His purposes.
Perhaps nothing manifests the fallen condition of mankind—and this is still true for even regenerated people—like our commitment to operate independently of God. But how do we do this? By trusting in our own resources through which we seek to handle life—find happiness, significance, security, satisfaction, and deal with those problems in life that threaten our agendas or whatever stands in the way of our plans.
The Old Testament prophets often addressed this very issue and to do so, they sometimes used certain word pictures to illustrate this inborn tendency that lies stubbornly in each of us.
(1) The picture of filling one’s life with the substitutes of the world: Like one fills an empty bottle we often seek to fill our emptiness with the world’s substitutes to meet life’s needs rather than trusting in the Lord and filling our lives with Him and His Word (Isa. 2:5-12). In Isaiah 2:6, the word “filled” (Heb. = male) suggests the idea of attempting to remove a void, the problem of personal emptiness, but this is something which only God can fill. This word was used of filling something like a pitcher or a bottle with some needed substance (cf. John 7:37-39).
(2) The picture of lighting our own firebrands by which we seek to direct our way. Rather than trusting God by walking in the light of His Word, we tend to fabricate our own sources of light (Isa. 50:10-11).
(4) The picture of building our own cisterns rather than drinking from God’s resources as the one and only Fountain of Living Water. But as it always turns out, our cisterns are always broken cisterns (Jer. 2:12).
(5) The picture of the arm of the flesh. I am reminded of the picture of the arm and hammer on a baking soda box with the implicit promise that this product will do the job, but the arm of the flesh will not (Jer. 17:5). When the term “flesh” is used metaphorically like this in Jeremiah 17:5, what exactly does it mean? It stands for human resources rather than God’s resources. This is the idea in each of the above pictures.
The “flesh” may be defined as that strong and rebellious disposition in people to operate out of their own resources to meet their needs and wants, the things they perceive they must have for security and significance. Rather than trust in God, the flesh is a spirit of independence, a commitment to do one’s own thing, in one’s own way, and from one’s own resources. The flesh represents man’s attempt to find security, significance, peace, and satisfaction, and purpose apart from God, or at least apart from total dependence on Him.
How else may we define this fleshly tendency to go our own way and handle life on our own?
The Bible defines the pursuit of life by our own resources by the word, PRIDE or ARROGANCE! And what is pride? It is man’s attempt at becoming his own god which is pure idolatry. Pride is the position of a swollen estimate of one’s own powers, resources, and abilities which causes us in turn to ignore God in one way or another. Several passages of Scripture are instructive here:
Out of God’s wisdom, love, mercy, and grace, He wants to draw us to Himself as the only true fountain of living waters, the only source of true refreshment, life, and fruitfulness. However, because of our proneness to go our own arrogant and independent way, God must operate as a heavenly Father who chastens His sons and as the Vinedresser who cleans and prunes the branches to cause them to abide and keep them healthy and fruitful.
In essence, what is God doing when He prunes or disciplines? He is humbling us. He is working to bring us from the arrogant position of self-dependence, of going our own way and using our own resources to a place of faith/dependence on Him (cf. again Deut. 8:2, 16).
With these propositions in mind, let’s look at 1 Peter 5:6-7. Please think of this passage in three movements: (1) The Responsibility or Command: “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” (2) The Recipe or Procedure: “Casting all your care on Him.” (3) The Reason or Motivation: “For He cares for you.”
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God”
The first word, “therefore,” directs our attention to the preceding statement of verse 5, “for God is opposed to the proud, but give grace to the humble.” God is telling us that He is not going to let us get away with arrogant independence without His personal opposition.
But why? Let me suggest two things: First, because the proud person dishonors God. The proud person fails to acknowledge that all that he or she is or has accomplished is ultimately dependent on the Lord.
Illustration: A farmer invited a visiting preacher to dinner after the morning service. After a scrumptious meal, most of which was home grown, the farmer took the preacher out to show him his farm with its rolling landscape complete with fat, well-bread livestock grazing on beautiful green pastures. He saw rows of fruit trees, fields of grain, and a garden that was out of this world. After seeing the beauty of the farm, the preacher commented, “You and the Lord certainly have a beautiful farm here.” To this the farmer replied, “Yea, but you should have seen it when the Lord had it all by Himself.”
Second, the proud person will also dishonor and hurt others, and even ruin his or her own life. Eventually, pride results in a fall whether it’s a person, a church, or nations. This command in 1 Peter 5:6 occurs in a context where leaders are warned against lording it over the flock and where young men are exhorted to submit themselves to elders and all are challenged to clothe themselves with humility. Arrogance is harmful and a hindrance to effective ministry and the body of Christ.
Proverbs 16:18-19 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. 19 It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud. (NASB)
Illustration: (From Mongolian folklore comes this helpful little fable of the boastful frog.) Two geese were about to start southward on their annual autumn migration, when they were entreated by a frog to take him with them. The geese expressed their willingness to do so, but were at a complete loss as to a means of conveying the frog. The frog ingeniously produced a long, heavy stalk of grass and got each goose to take an end of the stalk while the frog clung to it by his teeth in the middle. In this manner the three began to make their journey when they were noticed from below by some men. The men loudly expressed their admiration for the device and wondered who had been clever enough to think of it. Whereupon the proud frog opened his mouth to say, “It was I.” Needless to say, that was not only the end of the journey for the frog, but also the end of the frog. Indeed, pride goes before a fall.
“Humble yourselves” is not perhaps the best translation of the Greek text. Though this is a command and points to a responsibility to obey and respond to, the verb in the Greek text is in the passive voice and would be better understood as “be humbled” or “allow yourselves to be humbled.” It is somewhat equivalent to “submit yourself to the humbling process of God.”
What exactly does it mean to allow yourself to be humbled? Remember that God wants to bring us to the place of humility which is the place of God-dependence rather than arrogant independence. The reason for this is because dependence on the Lord honors God and is the place of blessing and fruitfulness. It is equivalent to the branch depending on the vine.
One of the key subjects of 1 Peter is suffering. The word “suffer” or the concept of suffering occurs over 15 times in this book. Peter sees suffering (trials) as one of the necessary elements of life.
What does suffering do? As a loving Father, God uses suffering or the experience of the tests and trials of life as tools to get our attention and to cause us to grow. Suffering is designed to turn us from depending on our human strategies to living by faith in Him. It forces our faith to the surface, puts it to work, and purifies it from a life of dependence on ourselves and our solutions like possessing the details of life (cf. 1:6-9, 13-16, 17-21).
Suffering helps us to see our weakness and the insufficiency of our strategies so we will respond to God’s Greatness!
Illustration: On a visit to a museum in Bonn, a young American student became fascinated by the piano on which Beethoven had composed some of his greatest works. She asked the guard if she might play a few bars on it. To help persuade the guard, she also slipped him a lavish tip. The guard agreed and the girl went to the piano and played a short portion of Moonlight Sonata. As she was leaving she said to the guard, “I suppose all the great pianists who come here want to play on that piano.” The guard shook his head and said, “Paderewski [the famed Polish pianist] was here a few years ago, and he said he wasn’t worthy to touch it.”
That young woman wanted the chance to play the piano that Beethoven had played, but what she got was a valuable lesson in humility. What is humility? Humility is a fitting response to greatness. That applies not only to how people respond to the likes of a Beethoven, but also to how all of us should respond to God.
Now let’s turn our attention again to 1 Peter 5:6 and the phrase, “under the mighty hand of God.” Let’s note two points about the word “under.”
(1) It draws attention to who we are. We are the creatures and the servants of the sovereign creator. Regardless of how sovereign men may feel or how much power they may wield, they do not control their own destiny because all are under the sovereign rule of God. In Isaiah 2:22, the Prophet has an interesting and sobering portrait of man’s puniness in contrast to God’s greatness which demonstrates how foolish it is for us to put our trust in man which includes our own devices by which we seek to find meaning and happiness in life. Note what the Prophet says:
Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?
(2) “Under the mighty hand of God” also stresses who God is. He is the sovereign one, the one who rules over all the universe which certainly includes our personal world.
Psalm 103:19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.
Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Isaiah 66:1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.”
So where are we? On earth, under God’s heaven, living on His footstool and under His authority.
In the phrase, “the mighty hand of God,” “mighty” is the Greek word, krataios. Krataios refers to strength which is abundantly effective in relation to an end to be gained or dominion to be exercised. Further, in the Old Testament, God’s hand symbolized His discipline (Ex. 3:19; 6:1; Ps. 32:4) and His deliverance (Deut. 9:26; Ezek. 20:34). These two words reiterate the two points mentioned above:
(1) They remind us of our impotence and insufficiency to handle life on our own (Jer. 10:23).
I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps. (NASB)
(2) They remind us of God’s omnipotence and all sufficiency for whatever life may bring. God’s hand is mighty, powerful, and thus able to lead and direct our lives and meet our needs.
This then is a command to submit and allow God to be God and do what He deems necessary regardless of how things may appear to us or how difficult. All things are not good, but because God’s hand is mighty and because He is faithful and full of wisdom, He is able to work things together for good, the good of conforming us into the character of Christ.
In the phrase, “that He may exalt you at the proper time,” we see the purpose Peter has in mind. The word “exalt” means “to lift up, make high.” I am not sure of all that Peter had in mind, but certainly it includes lifting us up from the various places of suffering and persecution, pain and heart ache we may face in this life. Sometimes that lifting up may occur in this life as we experience God’s encouragement, deliverance, or success in our work or ministry—but sometimes not until in the life to come.
No matter how long God delays, we are never to attempt to take matters into our own hands and seek to lift ourselves up by our own human strategies of self-protection. We are to allow God’s humbling process to have its transforming effect in making us like His Son.
The lifting up process is first of all a humbling process; the way up is always the way down; the way of death, dying to self-control, is the way of life, the way of becoming a humble servant who gives his life for others as the Savior did for us (1 Pet. 2:19-25).
“In the proper time” or in “due time” brings out the element of God’s timetable. O, how we need to learn to wait on the Lord. In the pride of leaning on our own strategies, we too often run ahead. We want what we think we need right now, and in our impatience we turn to our own schemes to get it.
But just how can I manage to do this when everything seems to be going wrong, when Murphy’s law seems to be the rule rather than the exception? The recipe, remember, is found in the next verse.
“casting all your anxiety on him”
“Casting.” Note carefully that the text does not command, “cast all your anxiety …” This clause is not another command nor the main verb of these two verses which go together to make up one sentence. True, it has the flavor of an imperative (a command), but in the Greek text, it is not an imperative. Grammatically, this is a verbal participle of means which tells us how we are to handle the command of verse 6. “Casting” is dependent on the preceding clause and tells us how to “be humbled.” We could translate it “by casting all your care on Him.”
“Casting” is the Greek verb epiripto. It was used of casting garments on a beast of burden. I am reminded of Psalm 68:19 which says: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation.”
The point is, we are to move from the sphere of trusting in our own resources and trusting in our strategies for life to resting in God and His resources.
“Anxiety.” This is the Greek merimna, “care, anxiety, worry.” It is used in both a good sense of “godly concerns,” and in a bad sense of “worry, anxiety.”
“All your anxiety.” “All” is the Greek adjective pas. When this adjective is in the singular and is used with a singular noun with the article as it is here, it means “the whole” of something. Rather than simply “all your anxiety,” the translation, “the whole of your anxiety,” drives home the point of the Greek text more forcefully.
But how can we truly do that? What’s the motivation and secret here? This is seen in the final clause of this sentence.
“because he cares for you”
The verb, “cares,” is in the present continuous tense which here undoubtedly looks at a general truth about God. It reminds us that God always and constantly cares about us. It serves to remind us of the unchanging faithfulness and love of God. Life changes and seems terribly fickle, but God’s care is steadfast and unfailing, indeed, it is new every morning (Lam. 3:21-23).
The Greek text is a little more emphatic than the English translation. Literally, the Greek says, “for to Him, it is a care concerning you.” This not only says that He cares for us as His children, but that the whole of our care, which He wants us to cast on Him, is very much His personal concern.
The idea is this: “Anxiety is a self-contradiction to true humility. Unbelief is, in a sense, an exalting of self against God in that one is depending upon self and failing to trust God. Why worry therefore, if we are His concern. He is more concerned about our welfare than we could possibly be.”1 Furthermore, He is infinitely more capable of caring for us than we are for ourselves.
In Matthew 6:25-34, the Lord Jesus used basically the same argument to counter anxiety and wrong priorities because of our proneness to anxiety and self-trust. There He reminds us that if God so looks after the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, how much more will He not care for us as our heavenly Father. The issue then is to put first things first, to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, to rest in His loving care, and to not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow is in God’s hands.
As we cast the whole of our care on the Lord, the need is not only to know that God cares for each of us, but to know that in His care, He is seeking to conform us into the image and character of the Savior (James 1:2-4). For that to occur, it is necessary (1 Pet. 1:6) for Him to humble us in order to move us from the place of self-trust or trust in our own resources into greater and greater levels of faith because God’s plan is that “the just shall live by faith.”
While the Bible reveals a number of reasons for suffering and the trials of life, still, in almost all of them God is seeking to show us areas where we need to trust Him more; areas where we are in reality living by faith in our circumstances and in our own schemes for handling life.
It just may be, if we are going through some deep waters right now, that God is seeking to reveal areas where we have been leaning on our own resources or trying to run our own life. It may be that we are trying to find our primary satisfaction in something other than the Lord. The fact is real satisfaction apart from the Lord as the source of that satisfaction is a mirage or at best, a vapor that is experienced one moment, and gone the next.
God’s counsel concerning our cares is that He cares. "If He spared not His own Son, how will He not with Him also freely give us all things" (Rom. 8:32). We are therefore to cast the whole of our care on Him—not just some areas while we seek to run the others ourselves. The fundamental issue is the need for us to humble ourselves, or to allow ourselves to be humbled and thus also transformed, changed by His sovereign work into the character of His Son. God seeks to move us into greater and greater levels of dependence on Him and out of self-dependent living wherein we seek our joy and happiness or our security, significance, and satisfaction from the details of life rather than from Him. Note the three key elements of the following Psalm—commit (to cast), trust (a walk by faith), and spiritual transformation. We are quick to claim verse 5 and too quick to respond to verse 6.
Psalm 37:5-6 Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. 6 And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, And your judgment as the noonday. (NASB)