Thursday, May 31, 2018

Humbling ourselves before God

Peter wasn't the only one to deal with this topic.....Paul focused in (like a laser!) on it too!
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8, ESV)
Our Savior went to the cross because He counted our needs more important than His rightful place. Jesus deserves honor, glory, dominion, and power. He is the eternal, all-wise, all-perfect, and sinless One. But He put all of that aside. For us.
Just one word from Him would have brought 10,000 angels, armed to the teeth and full of fight, to His relief. He was silent, when one quiet word would have instantly transported Him back to glory, and sent us to well-deserved punishment.
When we fellowship with Him, He teaches us the freedom and joy of considering others' needs more pressing than our own. Frequent thoughts of His grace on the cross is our path to humility.

We are given some pretty daunting instructions "clothe" ourselves with humility, to "have the mind of Christ," and even to humble ourselves "under the mighty hand of God."
What are some steps we can take, to accomplish these things?

I guess the first step is to recognize our pride, and admit it! Our Savior would not have warned so often about pride if it were not a common problem for us humans! We all have it. Some admit it, and some don't. (Grin) Pride is the desire to be recognized when we serve others. Pride rises into anger when people don't ask our opinion, or ignore us when we volunteer it. Pride pushes us to "get what is fair." Pride can fuel our goals, instead of the desire to give glory to God. Pride makes us care less about being good, and more about being better than someone else. Like the Psalmist says in Psalm 10:4, when there is pride in our heart, no room is left for our God.
We need to first recognize it and admit we have a problem.....

The second step is to ask God for humility.
But wait a minute! We were made in the image of the king; we are daughters of the Most High! Don't we "deserve" honor?
Well, how will we get it? We have a choice..... we can grab for it, clutch at it, scrape and claw past other people, seek with all our might to obtain that for which we were created...... makes sense, right? We were made for this so we go for it!
Uh, no. Can we stop a minute and look at Jesus' example? He chose a different path. He released glory to grasp humility.....what happened?
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,    to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

It seems way too grand to imagine a similar fate for us -- as sinners (even though we were created in His image) we don't deserve such honor. Jesus reached out and took hold of what He didn't deserve -- humiliation -- and the Father gave Him what is rightfully His -- honor, glory, praise, the Name above every name.
In faith, when we reach out and take hold of what we do deserve (humiliation) the Father gives us gifts in exchange: He gives us honor, privilege, and rewards. How can this be? It sounds too good to be true! But the scriptures tell us it is indeed the truth: grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
For this is what the high and exalted One says—    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:“I live in a high and holy place,    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly    and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)

We are indeed made for glory, but not for taking it. Instead, for reflecting back the glory of Christ Jesus. This is our delight, our joy. Not so much being made glorious, as given the delight of reflecting His glory. We are never so much alive than when we allow our thoughts to be far from what brings us exaltation..... when we are truly humble, there will be no pretense. We will wait when others speak, instead of feeling that we must interrupt and correct someone. When others are waiting on something, we will graciously allow them to go first. When someone needs something, we will supply that need. Peter, and Paul, too, are telling us that thinking more highly of others than self is the path to humility.

Are there humbling circumstances in our lives? How do we handle these times?
It is humbling to be maligned or falsely accused. It is humbling to lose our financial footing. It feels belittling to not have a job, or have trouble paying the mortgage. Other situations may arise that take our footsteps into more humble territory. We can either fight and scratch or we can place the situation into God's hands.  Peter tells us to humble ourselves "under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt" us in due time. Sometimes God's hands lift us up; but there are times when He holds us down. Sometimes He lets us be the head end of the cow costume, and other times He says we are the tail end!
Working humility in our souls may be more valuable for us in the long term. More valuable to our souls than getting that job, getting pats on the back for a job well done, or for being appreciated. Pride is our biggest problem, and God wants us to be free from Satan's clutches.
That pat on the back will come.
That job (or a better one) will happen.
We will be appreciated for the gifts God has given us.

In His timing.
God gives us grace. He will work with us to produce humility, to emulate our example, our Savior.
The end result?
What a promise!
For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
Lord, give me grace to accept your working in my life!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sometimes difficult - humility

There's so much here for us.....let's jump right back in to our verses!

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud    but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:5-6)
Peter had grown up in the synagogue; he'd read the nearly one hundred admonitions and warnings about pride in the scriptures. He quoted one of them right in our passage for the week: those words come from Proverbs 3:34. And he had read this one:
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,    but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
And this one, too:
Pride brings a person low,    but the lowly in spirit gain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)
But more than simply reading, Peter had heard Jesus teach. Remember in Matthew 23, when Jesus condemned the Pharisees? What did He chastise them for? Because they did their good works for one reason -- to be seen by others! They craved honor; they loved to be revered and called "teacher" and other nice titles.... but Jesus said, in that paradox we read, that the greatest shall serve. And that whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Yes, Peter read about humility and pride. And he heard Jesus teach on it. But then, Peter SAW it modeled for him. He saw Jesus enter Jerusalem -- not riding in honor and pomp, but on the back of a donkey, the lowliest of positions. And as my grandma used to say, "to top it all off," Peter watched as His Lord dressed Himself as a servant on that final night, and knelt to wash Peter and the other disciples' feet.

That same night, Peter experienced humility himself. You see, it's one thing to read about how we should act. It's another to listen to a great teacher, and be inspired about how we should act. It's even more memorable to see someone set an example for us. But to have it truly "hit home," we must experience it.....
Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:33-35)

Ah, but we know what happened then: within just a few hours, he is confronted by a teenage girl. "Hey, aren't you one of the ones that were with Him?"  Once, twice, and then the third time with cursing, "NO!"
And the rooster crowed.
And Jesus turned and looked at Peter.
Oh, the depth of despair in his soul.....but God did not leave Peter there. He gave him a chance to come back into fellowship.

God helps the humble. Peter wants us to know that.
Humility is so valuable -- so important to squelch pride -- how can we avoid it's counterfeits? Let me explain....
Satan fell, principally because of pride. Remember?
You said in your heart,    “I will ascend to the heavens;I will raise my throne    above the stars of God;I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;    I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)

We can expect then, for Satan to make use of this sin to tempt us, and for God to oppose it. But you know as well as I, that things aren't always so direct and obvious, and easy to discern! For instance, someone may pretend humility, and poor-mouth their own efforts at a task, in order to receive accolades and credit.... they may claim they've not done a good job, when in actuality they have. True humility doesn't mean that we just means that we refuse to be puffed up if someone compliments us!

I've enjoyed the writings of C.S.Lewis for many years, and I think this passage from the Screwtape Letters is very appropriate here. This is a "senior demon" giving advice and training to a new "tempter:"
“You must conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness, but as a low opinion of his own talents and character. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be…. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe is, in some cases, manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible…. The Enemy [God] wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another…. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things…. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; he really loves the hairless bipeds he has created and always gives back to them with his right hand what he has taken away with his left.”

I think that many believers feel that their Christianity requires not just humility or self-denial, but a constant self-loathing and self-abasement. They allow themselves to be tortured by their thoughts....I'm so evil; I'm totally worthless and wicked. I'm too sinful for God to love me. I'm beyond hope. I'm bad.

Hmmmm. Maybe the problem here is that the subject of each sentence is 'I." The thoughts of the truly humble are not on self, but on God! I've heard it said that the path to humility is not so much in thinking less of ourselves, but in thinking of ourselves less. Good point.

Humility is not an end in's desired, and we will find it as we seek God and seek to exalt Him. We will see ourselves in the correct light, as we work to honor God with our words, our actions, and our thoughts. And true humility will, in the end, result in our being exalted by God.

More on this tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Verses that inspire us

One of the attributes of God that we can rely upon is His faithfulness. The Bible translates this "steadfast" and "faithful" in different verses.

The dictionary says that "steadfast" means fixed, unwavering, firmly established. And that "faithful" means true to one's word, reliable to be trusted and believed.

What awesome descriptions of our Father God!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,    for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;    great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

In the Old Testament and the New, we find many verses that bolster our faith in our steadfast Savior....need some encouragement? We can use our commentaries or our concordance, and look up the many ways our God is faithful!!

Has a passage inspired you lately? Leave a comment to encourage others, too!

Monday, May 28, 2018

A difficult concept - humility

This week's study is one that we all need to listen to....don't let it go in one ear and out the other! (Grin)
Aren't we humans something? We can get all puffed up with pride about the silliest things.....we can get proud about how attractive we look -- without giving a thought to the Creator Who made us....we can get puffed up with pride about how many people like us and want to be around us, be our friends -- without taking the time to be the best friend we can be.....we can get all prideful about our belongings and our toys -- and not breathe the first "thank you" to the Lord Who has blessed us with all of our possessions.... the list goes on.

Yes, Satan loves the fact that we fall into the sin of pride so easily! And he probably got really bent out of shape when Peter wrote our focus passage for this week. And if you believe C. S. Lewis' tale in "The Screwtape Letters," he gets bent out of shape every time a believer reads this passage and is determined to do better!

Let's dive in!
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,“God opposes the proud    but shows favor to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. (I Peter 5:5-6)
Our being so prideful about things that we had nothing to do with is similar to a paradox.....and there are paradoxes in the Bible. The dictionary says a paradox is: a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory but in reality expresses a possible truth.
Here is an example, and it's one that Jesus said:
The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11-12)
Ummm, doesn't that sound like it's contradicting the first part, by the second part? That's a paradox. Doesn't seem to follow common sense. Doesn't sound logical. Not by our human standards. But by God's standards, it makes perfect sense.
The world thinks that statement is unbelievable. There are many people in this world who may perform humble acts without humbling themselves..... the politician who bends down to kiss a baby, or who makes a great show of helping the elderly person cross the street, has a motive of appearing humble. He wants to win the election -- that's how he will be exalted.
Most of the popular books on the "bestsellers" list today have to do with the world's view: how to exalt yourself; how to win friends and be successful; how to make your mark and be powerful in the corporate world; how to win, win, win. But isn't that just the opposite of what Jesus is telling us?

So, if acts of humility aren't always true, and the world is whispering in our ear about winning and being popular, what can we do about pride? Pride is probably the biggest motivator of activities in the world today! John identified it as one of the three major motivators of us humans:
For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (I John 2:16-17)
"He (or she, my addition here) who humbles himself will be exalted"..... For us as Christians, that can't just be a phrase that passes in one ear and out the other. It needs to be something that we consider carefully; it needs to be something that we try to live by. If we will humble ourselves, and trust God to exalt us in the way HE chooses, then it truly will happen. He has stated this clearly in His Word. His whole plan for men and women is to save us and bring us into eternity for exaltation and for His glory..... it's His job to do the exalting -- it's our job to do the humbling!

So, how do we do this? How do we deal with our pride? Stay tuned, and we will study this, this week!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Lead from the front, not from behind, conclusion

So far, Peter has told us that we need to be examples of willingness to serve, joyful work, and avoiding the pitfalls of greed and ulterior motives.
His last warning for us is this: avoid the sin of pride.
Here it is in verses 3 and 4:
not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Pride is such a problem. It's the failure to realize deep in our hearts that without Christ, we can do nothing. A prideful heart starts to feel like we can be self-reliant. And then we start to feel like we are indispensable. And then we start to act up and exalt ourselves and seek the praise of others.
The Lord Almighty has a day in store    for all the proud and lofty,
for all that is exalted    (and they will be humbled), (Isaiah 2:12)
Ouch! And if that weren't enough....
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,    but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)
Paul warned us about this same issue:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
Here is the "biggest" problem to remember about pride....
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;    in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)
As believers, we cannot allow anything to crowd God out of our thoughts. We can't afford to have no room for Him. He must be within us each day.
That will enable us to lead with a servant's heart -- to lead by example.
Jesus taught us this, too, in Luke:
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. (Luke 22:25-26)
Peter is telling us that when the fiery trials come, we should not try to run from them. We shouldn't wiggle and try to escape. We need to look around at those who depend upon us; help those who look to us for their example. Walk through that trial, leading from the front, for there are peeps who are looking at how we will respond to these ordeals.
These are pretty daunting responsibilities, no? A bit overwhelming? I don't know about you, but I could use some encouragement.
Never fear!
Peter gives us some words of hope in verse 4:
And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Now, there are some words to hang on to! What an awesome promise! Let's look back in Luke to see what Jesus said to His followers on this very same subject....
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14)
In other words, there are a lot of things that we will do in this life that may be thankless. We won't get pats on the back; we won't get kudos; if we need a lot of strokes we are going to be sorely disappointed!
But if we truly believe that we will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous, then we will have both the motivation and the strength to do what He calls us to do.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16-17)
There will be times when we feel tired and discouraged. We may feel like the trials are just too hard, the refiner's fire is too hot. But that will be because we have taken our eyes off of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is much work to do. There is a great battle to be fought, and we need to be out front, leading the way. Because there is a great reward beyond our imaginings.

Let's be joyful as we serve!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Lead from the front, not from behind, continued

Let's refresh our memory of our verses.....
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (I Peter 5:1-4)
One thing that jumped out at me in that first verse was when I saw that Peter called himself a "fellow elder." I don't think he is claiming an exalted title here. I don't believe that he wanted glory, to be treated deferentially, like the grand poohbah in the scheme of things. (Grin)  He could have called himself an apostle, but he didn't.
I think he is expressing his willingness to assume responsibility and to suffer in the refiner's fire, along with the other elders or leaders of the church. In verse one, he talks about being a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and I believe he means more than hey, I was there! I believe he means he is bearing witness with his words and his life....he is alongside the other believers and the elders in the struggle.
In other words, he is practicing what he preached -- that elders should lead by example, and not lord it over the flock.

We mentioned that each of us can be considered an elder -- even if we are not the leader of a church congregation, we are a co-leader in the home, perhaps the leader of a church small group, and the person that our kids (and perhaps some unbelievers) are watching, to see our example.  Peter warns the elders against three kinds of failures: against laziness, against greed, and against pride.

Let's look in a little more detail!
Here is the first part of verse 2:
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be;
There are two reasons why a believer could be "unwilling" to watch over could be that a person has a desire for comfort, and for leisure. It's easy to drift into a ho-hum or distracted pattern of life that will leave us unproductive for the kingdom of God.
We know from His Word what God desires from us; we need to avoid being sluggish and unconcerned.  We need to be willing.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3: 23-24)
The other reason why we may be unwilling to do God's work is that we are fearful. We have the power of the Almighty God to draw upon!
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.    Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?    No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. (Isaiah 44:8)
Peter also warns against greed. Look at the second part of verse 2:
not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;
Perhaps we don't look at our faith and our opportunities to serve as ways to make "godliness a means of gain" as we see some people do. But are we eager to serve? Do we look at our relationships with others as ways to gain some notoriety? Do we always look for an angle? We may not be thinking of making money, but are we pursuing our own goals of popularity, getting credit for work done, or for pats on the back all around?
Instead, let's do our work with "eagerness." In other words, love what you do! My grandma was fond of quoting what Paul said to the Ephesians, when he quoted Jesus in Acts 20: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Let's do our work with joy. With no ulterior motives.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16a)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Prayer requests

Did ya know that our prayers are offerings to the Lord?

Check out this verse in Acts:
Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. (Acts 10:4)
Most Roman soldiers had nothing but contempt for the people that they conquered. But we see an amazing contrast in Cornelius.... he was not only devoid of prejudice, but he had adopted the God of the Jews, rejecting the polytheism of the majority of the Romans. He abandoned all of the gods of Rome and worshiped Jehovah.

The angel paid him a huge compliment. Commentaries note that the word used means that Cornelius prayed "always" or "continually." Those prayers had come up as an offering to God.

For us as believers, praying should come as naturally as breathing. But I'm guessing that many of us are just like me.....I don't think I would compare favorably with Cornelius! Some of us only pray during worship services. Some of us ask a blessing at meals, and it stops there. Some of us might actually start and end the day with prayer. But how many of us "pray without ceasing"?

Pray all day? Is that what that means? How am I going to do anything else?
Calm down, OK? (Grin)
Pray without ceasing does not mean that we are on our knees from when we wake to when we fall into bed. It means that a sense of depending on God is with us in all that we do. I think it means that we pray repeatedly and natural as breathing, right?
And, I think it means that we don't give up on prayer. We should never, ever come to a point where we cease to pray at all. God is a God of hope -- don't ever think there is no use in praying! Go on praying.  Don't cease. Don't give up.

Our lives are busy. I know just how hectic it can be. But being a child of God, we know that our priorities are different from other folks. (Grin) We need to put our relationship with God at the top of the list.

Prayer is worship, and our Father is worthy of our praise and our thanksgiving.

Let's be like Cornelius!

Please feel free to leave a comment with a prayer request or a praise!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Lead from the front, not from behind

Here is our focus passage for this week:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. (I Peter 5:1-4)
Possibly when you read those words, you shrug your shoulders and think, "Well, that is not really relevant to me....I'm not an elder or pastor of a church."

While it may be true that we are not pastors, elders, or "bishops", I'm here to tell you that these verses are still very relevant to us! Peter and Paul both had instructions for those that they called the elders of the church..... and their advice sounds remarkably similar to some words that apply directly to us.
Here is one verse:
...... your leaders ..... keep watch over you as those who must give an account.....  (Hebrews 13:17)
And here is another:
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)
Now look at these that speak directly to women:
She speaks with wisdom,    and faithful instruction is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)
Teach the older women to be quiet and respectful in everything they do. They must not go around speaking evil of others and must not be heavy drinkers, but they should be teachers of goodness. These older women must train the younger women to live quietly, to love their husbands and their children, and to be sensible and clean minded, spending their time in their own homes, being kind and obedient to their husbands so that the Christian faith can’t be spoken against by those who know them. (Titus 2:3-5)
The words of the 31st chapter of Proverbs are familiar to us, and we can hear the earnest words of Paul here, as he encourages elders (both male and female) to work, and not take the work lightly. Not to be casual or cavalier about it, but to treat it as a God-given responsibility.  The end result will be a people, a group of believers, who in their hearts have a vision of our glorious, wise, and all powerful God, who savor the opportunities to worship, and who encourage each other to spread the gospel in all the world.
Tall order, huh?
In other translations (the NIV is above), Peter starts off, "Therefore, I exhort the elders among you." What is the "therefore" there for? (Grin)

Our ole friend Peter (don'tcha feel kinda like you know him, now?) has been warning the Christians who have been scattered about that they need to withstand opposition and persecution. In the previous chapter, he has even called it a "fiery ordeal." Remember the verse (4:17) that said the fiery trial would come first on the church..... then on sinners. For believers, opposition is for purification and for refining.
Let's look at two Old Testament texts that might have been lurking in Peter's mind as he wrote this letter....

Back in the book of Ezekiel, God's people committed abominations and God saw that it was time to judge His own city:
Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim,where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the old men who were in front of the temple. (Ezekiel 9:3-6)
This is hard for us to understand in our day. Where is our compassionate Friend? Where is the merciful One that pardons us? We must remind ourselves that He is also a Holy God, and the people were wholly without regret or repentance....
Another passage that Peter may have been thinking of is this one:
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LordAlmighty.But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,  (Malachi 3:1-3)

"The sons of Levi" are, of course, the priests. Now, we know that all believers are now priests..... but I don't think we can read this and fail to see that the refining fire will purify the leaders first. So, we can see why Peter would say, "therefore," I exhort the's because the fiery ordeal will begin first with elders and leaders.

What's that you say?
You don't think you are a leader?
Au contraire!!! Pardon my French. (Grin)
Each and every one of us is a leader to someone..... a mature Christian is someone who is a model, an example; they influence others in positive ways according to biblical standards. Modeling Christian virtues is crucial. We have been called to be examples to those around us, whether they are believers or unbelievers.
Jesus told us:
The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. (Luke 6:40)
Jesus was telling us that one's true godliness, or God-likeness, is revealed in our actions, and that those actions influence others for good or for evil.
Students, children, and those we don't even know are watching us, will emulate their teachers, parents, and those they look up to. And that may be us.

It's a bit intimidating to be thinking of ourselves as "elders" or leaders, no? Those verses seem to indicate that there is a fearsome responsibility involved. And that if the elders, or mature believers, will lead the church into strength and glory, they will also lead the church into the refiner's fire of God's purifying judgement.
We won't stand outside the church giving suggestions for how to cope with the fire.
We won't stand praying as others go in.
We will lead other believers into "the fiery ordeal."

So, if we are going to lead by example, I'm kinda hoping that Peter has some words of instruction and advice for us, don't you?
Join me next time...... he does have some words to help!