10/21/Th – Sober-minded Service and Suffering

Daniel 2:24-49; 1 Peter 4:7-19; Psalms 119:65-72; Proverbs 25:28

NT: “The end of all things is near; therefore, be alert and sober-minded for prayer. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God. If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God’s words; if anyone serves, let it be from the strength God provides, so that God may be glorified through Jesus Christ in everything. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may also rejoice with great joy when his glory is revealed. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or a meddler. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in having that name. For the time has come for judgment to begin with God’s household, and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:7-17‬ ‭CSB)

Ever since Christ promised to return and then ascended into heaven, believers have hoped and expected His return to be near. No one knows when the Lord will return – but we do know that His return is certain. Until that day, followers of Jesus are called to be about the Master’s work, to be ready and to stay alert. In the processes of staying alert, Peter wrote that we must also remain sober-minded.

Sober-mindedness has to do with staying in your right mind – having self-control over your thoughts, curbing your passions and not allowing your thoughts to get off balance. I have been a part of the church, literally, my entire life – and a born-again believer for about 43 years. One thing that I have seen a lot of is believers becoming “unbalanced” in their preoccupation with end-times prophecies instead of staying ready by remaining engaged in the Master’s work. Sober-minded believers do not go chasing down every new end-times prophecy that comes down the pike, but carry on, steady-on in the commands and commission of our Lord and Savior until He returns. By remaining alert and sober-minded, we will be able to pray kingdom-focused prayers that are effective here on earth to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done, just as it is in heaven.

One of the things that Christ commanded His followers was to serve one another sacrificially, just as He sacrificially served us. He demonstrated that command on the night He was betrayed by washing His disciples’ feet. In our alertness and sober-mindedness, we are to serve one another. We are to maintain constant love for one another. We are to be hospitable to one another without complaining. We are to minister to one another with the gifts and graces given to us by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – and not out of our own strength and wisdom. As we do that, everyone will receive what they need, everyone will be equipped, strengthened and encouraged, and God will be glorified through the work of His Son in our lives.

As we sober-mindedly serve the Lord and one another, we will inevitably experience various levels of trial and persecution, which will cause suffering. We shouldn’t be surprised when trials and persecution come – especially since Jesus told us that they would come. Instead of allowing those trials to cause you to lose your sober-mindedness, Peter told us to rejoice… rejoice that we are counted worthy to fellowship with Christ in suffering for His name… rejoice that those trials are going to refine us even further and glorify God through our lives all the more. As Peter said, “If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” Suffering as a Christian is nothing to be ashamed about, but something to glory in. Speaking of being sober-minded – here is a sobering truth: before the Lord returns, He will allow His household to go under the refinement of His judgement first. Some will pass the test and come out of the fires of refinement purified and full of glory. Many will not. When those fires come, will we be ready?

Psalms: “Lord, you have treated your servant well, just as you promised. Teach me good judgment and discernment, for I rely on your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. You are good, and you do what is good; teach me your statutes. The arrogant have smeared me with lies, but I obey your precepts with all my heart. Their hearts are hard and insensitive, but I delight in your instruction. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn your statutes. Instruction from your lips is better for me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:65-72‬ ‭CSB)

God does not call us to sober-mindedness, and then leave us to our own devices. When we remain committed to the word, will and ways of the Lord, He will teach us, through His word, will and ways, good judgement and discernment. The psalmist wrote about his experience with the fires of affliction and the challenges of facing ridicule. He said that before he was afflicted, his mind was not always stayed on the word of God – but the experience of going through affliction… of being slandered and smeared with lies… caused him to lean in to and trust God’s word. In the end, he was thankful for the affliction, because of what it worked in him and worked out of him. Are we willing to trust the Lord, obey His word, remain sober-minded, and allow suffering to refine us into the image of Christ?

Prayer: Lord, I thank You, that as I keep my faith fully planted on You and follow Your word, will and ways, You will keep me alert and sober-minded. You will lead me away from unbalanced thinking and prevent me from getting caught up in distractions and diversions. Lord, my desire is to be included among the people who come out of Your refining fires purified and full of glory. Help me, through the leading and empowering of Your Holy Spirit, to remain alert and sober-minded, serving You and Your people by grace, and enduring and embracing suffering when it comes. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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