Shepherding in the Midst of Suffering (1 Peter 5:1-4)

2016-Week 32Throughout the book of 1 Peter, we have observed what it looks like for Christians to suffer for their faith. We have seen we should follow the example of Christ (2:18-25). We have been told when we respond biblically to suffering for righteousness’ sake, we will bless and be blessed. We have been called to suffer so that we may share in Christ’s sufferings and to suffer according to the will of God. Yet, if we limit ourselves to this understanding, we have an insufficient view. Why? Because in our suffering as Christians, we ultimately do not suffer alone. Just as the Christian life is not a lone ranger life, our suffering is not a walk by ourselves. God has given us the church, the gathering of His people, to build one another up and to be a witness collectively, especially during times of suffering. This understanding and application of the church in times of suffering must begin with the leadership. Therefore, the Apostle Peter begins there. Peter directs his exhortation to these men God has called to lead, teach, and oversee the church. He says these fellow elders are “a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (5:1). These elders know the sufferings Christ went through and now, as a result, they can partake of the glory Christ has by suffering for the faith. But, in the midst of suffering, what are these elders to do? These pastors are to live out their calling and they are to “shepherd the clock of God that is among you” (5:2). In the midst of suffering, God commands church leaders to shepherd. Shepherd do not merely preach. They most certainly do that, feeding the sheep of God’s fold. The role of a shepherd, however, includes feeding as well as watching and caring. The shepherd is the one who feeds the people God’s Word and who oversees their souls, watching over them and caring enough to confront when there is sin and to comfort when there are hardships. This is what God has called to those who are in leadership of His church to be. He has also directed in His Word how these men are to go about their shepherding. They are to shepherd God’s flock humbly and honestly. They do not do this under obligation, but willingly. They do not serve in this manner for dishonest and shameful gain, but eagerly in response to the work of God in their life. They do not dominate over their congregation, acting as a dictator and a sole power. Rather, the shepherds of God’s church are to be examples to the flock, their congregations. In the midst of suffering, pastors in their leadership are to exude humility and honesty. They live in this way because they realize they are not the ultimate authority. The one who is is the One who is coming again. That is why Peter continues, “And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (5:4). Elders and pastors are but stewards in watching over their congregations. There is but one chief Shepherd and that is Jesus Christ. If human church leadership is faithful to the task they have been given and to the people they have been entrusted with, then they will receive their reward when the chief Shepherd returns to gather all His people. Until then, may church leaders, particularly elders, be faithful to shepherd God’s people in their congregations humbly and honestly and may church members keep their church leaders in prayer over this responsibility of shepherding in the midst of suffering.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why is it important to remember as Christians we live, and suffer, as the body of Christ and not merely as individuals?
  • For elders in the church, how can you be more intentional in leading and serving humbly and honestly? For church members, how can you be praying for your pastor as he shepherds the people God has entrusted him with to oversee?
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