We are in 1st Peter, and so far, Peter has covered a lot of ground in this letter, especially with regard to how we glorify God even in our suffering. Today, we are in 1st Peter chapter 4. And as you turn there, I want to ask Hudson Shirley to come and read verses 7-11 for us. 1st Peter 4:7-11, take it away.
The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Thank you, Hudson. There is a movie that came out in 2011 entitled, “In Time.” Lots of celebrities, and action, and excitement. It didn’t do great in the box office, and the plot gets weird at the end. But it did have a very interesting premise. It’s set at some point in the future when time is currency. Every person has their own time clock, and when the clock hits zero, you die. So, poor people often have a day or a week, and they work each day for another day of time. Rich people have decades, some even centuries.
The story is interesting to me, at least, because it reveals the one thing perhaps that we have very little control over. And that is time. Time moves forward no matter what. We can’t slow it down; we can’t speed it up. And the amount of time we have left in this life is almost impossible to control. Certainly, we can make good decisions and try and live healthy lives, but even so—none of us has ultimate control over the time we have left. At some unknown point in the future, each of us will pass away, or Jesus will come back.
It’s easy to think or act like we control time. But if we’re honest with ourselves, and humble enough to admit it—it’s actually somewhat scary how little control we have. Many of you who have grown children remind me constantly how quickly time flies. You tell me often to cherish every moment while my kids are young. I hope Lauryn and I are taking that advice to heart, and that all of us with children in the home are taking that to heart.
Just like with children or other things we put off until later, the same can be said about living out our faith in Christ. It’s easy to think that we’ll take our faith more seriously down the road. Life will one day be less busy. Or life will one day be less stressful. Then I’ll be more serious about my faith. Peter’s words here should wake us up. Why? Because we don’t know how much time have left. There is no date given in Scripture for Jesus’ return. It’s not like we’re in school and God has said, “You have until Friday, and everything is due.” No, there is no date that we can know. But we do know that all the major acts of God’s plan of redemption up to Christ’s return have occurred. In other words, there is nothing left that has to happen in order for Christ to return. And that’s why Peter states, “The end of all things is at hand.” That’s what he means there.
And if that’s true, it changes everything, right? We must be living our lives in light of the fact that Jesus could return at any moment. Or that our lives could end at any moment. Every day we have is a gift from God. Every moment we have in this life is a gift from God. Let me just say: that is the only healthy and mature view of time there is. Every moment is a gift. So, here’s the main thing this morning. This is it. Write this down, carve it into your heart and mind. This is the main thing from these five verses:
The Main Thing: Our time is limited, so we give every moment to God.
As believers in Jesus Christ, our goal must be to spend every ounce of energy and every moment He gives us for His glory. We see that at the end of verse 11: “To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” He is worthy of every moment we have, and there is no greater joy than giving every moment for His glory.
That is a healthy, mature, realistic view of time. So, what does that look like? Peter gives us some insight. He shows us three signs of a healthy view of time. These are three thermometers if you will. If we have a healthy, biblical understanding, these three things will be true of us.
Three Signs of a Healthy View of Time
1. We are sober and steady.
That might surprise you a bit. Because when we think of limited time, we think of rushing around and getting everything done, right?! You have a school project due tomorrow? You gotta finish it quick! You have a deadline at work? You’re gonna be stressed, perhaps neglect other things in your life for a time. Perhaps just generally, life in the 21st century is marked by chaotic movement and bouncing up and down and constantly trying to jump on the latest trend or scheme to find success. But when Peter writes about limited time, he goes in a completely different direction. Because we only have so much time, we must be sober and steady. Verse 7: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”
What does that mean? Well, certainly it means that we stay physically sober. We’re not involved in drunkenness and debauchery like mentioned back in verse 4. Instead, we’re sober and alert. But it’s also more than that. This is one of three times Peter writes of being sober just in this short letter, and he certainly does not only mean physical sobriety. He’s writing of spiritual sobriety. Instead of being deluded by the world and by sin, we are sober and awake. We’re not flailing about in a drunken stupor. Our eyes are focused on the truth. What truth is that? Our time is limited, and so we must give every moment to God.
You know, we live in a world that is consumed by “The Next Big Thing.” I remember when the value of BitCoin increased something like 1000% overnight. Even some of the staff here at Lamar were like, “Oh, I wish I had invested in BitCoin just a few days ago.” Passive Income I know is a big deal right now especially with Millennials—it seems like everyone is trying to figure out a way to make money with rentals or other possessions that don’t require a lot of work. Many are trying to become influencers. Why? So they can make money by just living their lives. I tried it, and my mom tuned in every time I went live. I’m just kidding; I didn’t actually try to become an influencer.
None of these are necessary bad things. My point is this: we must not be consumed by whatever the next big thing is. Or trying to figure out whatever the next big thing is. Why? Because our main goal in this life remains the same no matter what the next big thing is! And if we’re consumed by the things of this world, we will not be consumed by Christ and His glory! The value of BitCoin may ebb and flow dramatically. The best strategy for passive income might change quickly. But one thing will remain forever: the glory of our King. “To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
And that’s why Peter says, “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” Having a clear and sober mind will equip us for prayer! Edmund Clowney says that prayer is “sober, direct, profoundly thoughtful communication with the Lord.” Let me just say: if you are not sober-minded, fixated upon Christ instead of the world, your prayer life (if you have one) will not be marked by “profoundly thoughtful communication with the Lord.” And more than that, without clear and sober minds, we will not be devoted to prayer to begin with. Nothing will drive you to prayer more than a realistic view of the world and of time.
Being sober and steady is a sign that we have a healthy view of time. That our time is limited, and that it is all to God’s glory. We don’t have time to be thrown around by every trend or new life-hack or social discovery. Nothing wrong with being aware and even involved with these things. But we do not become consumed by them. Why? Because we’re consumed with Christ, and our aim is to give every moment to him. Number 2. The 2nd sign that we have a healthy view of time:
2. We love one another deeply.
This is supposed to be one of the main characteristics of God’s Church. A fervent, deep love for one another. This is something Peter has already emphasized. Back in 1st Peter 1:22, he wrote, “your souls having been purified, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” Do you see the connection here?
We are the recipients of the greatest love ever shown to humanity. Ephesians 3 comes to mind when Paul is writing of trying to understand “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Isn’t that the truth of it?! You and I are on the receiving end of a love that is beyond our capability to understand. And we did nothing to earn it! That’s why we, of all people, must be people of love.
We must love especially those who have also received God’s love. That doesn’t mean we all have to be best friends. That doesn’t mean we won’t personalities that clash at times. But it does mean: if God love the people in this church, then you and I have no excuse not to love the people in this church—faults and all.
And apparently Peter had seen this love with many of these first Christians, which is why he wrote here in chapter 4, “Keep loving one another earnestly.” Then he writes, “for love covers a multitude of sins.” This love we’re to show for one another is a love that stretches. It’s a patient and longsuffering kind of love. This doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for sin, or that we don’t address things when they need to be addressed. But it does mean that we don’t find joy in finding and exposing the sins of others. No, we address them openly and honestly, but then we forgive.
This love is shown in other ways also. Love is not just willingness to forgive, but a willingness to serve. Verse 9: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” I think those last two words are particularly convicting. We show hospitality. When someone has a need, especially in the body of Christ, we need to step up and help! And not just because we know we’re supposed to. But we do so with joy, “without grumbling.”
We love one another by serving one another. By opening up your home. By letting someone use your car. By being accommodating when someone else has a need that is inconvenient for you. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t use discernment and wisdom. If you have a family for example, there may be parameters for your hospitality and what that looks like. But generally speaking, how are you showing hospitality to others in the Body of Christ? That’s a question we have to ask ourselves.
Another question worth asking ourselves is, “How am I using my gifts for the good of God’s people?” Because this is another huge way that we show love for one another. Did you know, and listen closely to this: Did you know that not using your gifts for the good of God’s church is stealing God’s gifts from others? Think about that for a moment.
God has gifted every single one of us in some way, or more than one way, to benefit others in God’s church. Those gifts are not your gifts, those are gifts God has given you to benefit others! That’s why it makes no sense to be jealous of someone else’s gift. Someone who has the gift of teaching; that gift is for your benefit! That’s God’s gift to us! Someone who has a gift of giving (which is listed as a gift in the New Testament), that’s God’s gift to us! Peter tells here that we are to employ our gifts for others.
He says in verse 10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” Just to make sure you heard that correctly: “As each has received a gift…” That means that every believer in Christ has a gift that can be used for the good of the church. Peter puts these gifts into two broad categories here in verse 11: you have speaking gifts and serving gifts. Speaking gifts are likely preaching and teaching, perhaps encouragement and exhortation. And then service gifts would be ministry and helps and hospitality, and the like.
We see several lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, but I don’t think any of them are exhaustive. Even if you put them all together, I don’t think that makes an exhaustive list. Because none of the gifts are in all the lists, and no one list includes all of them. So all of that to say, these gifts are part of “God’s varied grace.” I love that phrase there at the end of verse 10. With these gifts, we are to be “good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
A good steward is someone who manages well. These gifts, that did not originate with us, that do not ultimately belong to us—these gifts that are gifts from God—we’re to employ them well. And in so doing, we are vessels for God’s varied grace to the church. Isn’t that incredible?! Everyone turn to the person next to you and say, “I have a gift for you.” “I may not know what it is yet, but God gave it to me.”
So if this is one of the greatest ways we love one another, how do we find out what our gifts are? That’s a great question. There are spiritual gift inventories or tests you can take that might help you figure out what your spiritual gifts are. But frankly: I would encourage you to avoid those altogether. There’s nothing wrong with taking one of those tests, but the place of discovery for your spiritual gifts is in service to the church! In other words, how do you find out what your gifts are? Start serving! Jump into kids’ ministry. Jump onto a ministry team. Show hospitality to the people around you. If you feel led to try teaching, jump into a small group, and offer to fill in when the leader is out.
I love what Clowney says about this. He writes, “We may rightly ask about the gift we have received, but we will not gain the answer by mere introspection. Gifts are discovered in service.” That’s why one question we ask every person seeking to serve as a deacon or as a pastor is whether or not the church has seen and affirmed the giftings required for that role. In other words, the deacons we’re ordaining tonight, we didn’t ask them to pray about becoming a deacon so that they would then start serving. No! We’ve seen them serve, regularly and consistently. For all believers in Christ, the local church is the place to discover your gifts, and to be encouraged and developed in those gifts.
This is how we love one another deeply. We need the Body of Christ together to be employing their gifts for our good and for God’s glory. This is one of the greatest ways that we love one another earnestly. This is one of the greatest ways we can invest our time. Why? Because every moment belongs to God. Yes? The last sign of a healthy view of time. The last sign that we understand our time is limited, so we must give every moment to Him.
3. We rely upon God for everything.
Did you see, especially with these gifts, how desperately we need God? Verse 11: “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God.” In other words, especially preachers and teachers—we rely upon God to provide what we teach! We don’t rely upon our own creativity or insights. We rely upon God, and the Word He has given us! This is one of the reasons for our commitment to expositional or expository preaching. But even in encouraging one another, the greatest help you can offer another believer is God’s Word.
When it comes to service, Peter writes: “Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” Let me tell you one of the quickest ways to lose your desire to serve others: do it in your own strength. Let me just tell you: your strength will dry up. You will run out of energy and strength and a willingness to serve others. You are only human. The Holy Spirit, however, does not run dry. The Holy Spirit is God, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent—and He lives in you! It doesn’t make any sense for us to rely on our own strength, our own capabilities. We serve with the strength that God supplies, not our own. We teach and encourage and admonish with the very words of God, not our own.
With the limited time that we have, please hear me: do not waste trying to live in your power. Place yourself in the infinitely capable hands of God Almighty. We don’t have time to waste trying to control everything ourselves anyway.
Our time is limited, so we give every moment to God. We are sober and alert, not consumed by the world, but consumed by Christ. We love one another like Christ loved us—meaning we love no matter what we get in return, especially toward other believers. We employ our gifts, whatever they may be, for the good of God’s people. And in all these things, we rely fully and totally upon God for strength and sustenance.
This is what we’re aiming for. In all things, we give every moment to Him. Even in the mundane and monotonous, when you’re serving your spouse or your kids or your grandkids—even in those supposedly “common” things—we give them to the Lord. Spurgeon said it well: “Serve God by doing common actions in a heavenly spirit, and then, if your daily calling only leaves your cracks and crevices of time, fill them up with holy service.”
Why? From verse 11: “So that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen”