Estimated reading time: 5 minutes:-)
Here’s the lesson I’ve been working on for my youth group! It’s a little longer than the usual blog, but I think you’ll like it. It’s written for students, so just keep that in mind:-) Enjoy!
At the beginning of 2020, I chose the word “Rooted” to epitomize my year. I had to pick a word that would stick with me all year as an assignment for my AP Lang class, and at the time, I didn’t think my word would mean much for 2020. Little did I know, that word would prove extremely significant as the year would go on.
As students, you probably can relate to the frustrations I faced during the year. All the things I previously ‘rooted’ myself in were ripped up from the ground, tossed into a fire, and burned to ashes. My soccer season was cancelled the day of my first game. School was cancelled, church was cancelled, youth group was cancelled, summer camp looked different. I was still dealing with a break up and I lost my job for several months. Even the release date for my first book was pushed back several months because of Covid. As everyone else in this room can probably say, my life flipped completely upside down.
But Jesus was the only thing in my life that never changed. And he remained rooted beside me through it all. So during the year, I learned to root myself in Christ, rather than all the fun, exciting things this world has to offer.
But what does it mean to root yourself in Christ?
I believe 1 Peter 5 has the answer.
Before I read the passage, I want to frame the words in your head with a short summary before I begin. I boiled the passage down to: The devil has power, so in this “in the meantime,” in this time between crowns, root yourselves in Christ. That might sound weird now, but you’ll understand in a moment.
Here’s a shorter version to keep in mind as you listen: “While the devil is prevailing, His roots are unfailing.”
[Here is where I would read 1 Peter 5, so go ahead and read it yourself! It’s pretty short and full to the brim of good stuff!]
In the meantime. Recently, I’ve felt like I’ve been “in the meantime” for a long time. I want to be an author, but I’m a few months out from being official. I want to graduate, and I’m only a semester away, but I’m terrified to. I want to get married, but I have no idea to who and when. I want to move out, but I have no idea how.
We’re all in this meantime. Really, our entire lives are “in the meantime,” because we are patiently waiting for heaven with Christ. This life we are living is overwhelmingly insignificant when compared to eternity, and yet is overwhelmingly significant because it is in this life that we determine which eternity we choose.
Another way to look at this “in the meantime” is to look at crowns. 1 Peter often talks about the suffering we face as Christians, mostly because it was addressed to scattered believers. The suffering we face daily in this life is like a crown of thorns. Jesus led by example in demonstrating his sufferings and submission to God through that suffering, which reminds me of McKaylah’s mom’s lesson. He bore the crown of thorns and died on the cross for our sins. And just as we are called to pick up our own cross and follow him, we are called to suffer like him as well, wearing our own crowns of thorns and submitting to that suffering.
But in heaven there awaits a far greater crown for us, the crown of glory. Recall 1 Peter 5:4 ~ “And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.”
So as we wait for our crowns to switch, as we eagerly await the crown of glory and the end of this “in the meantime,” we must root ourselves in Christ. Which means many things, but I’d like to focus on just one quality: humility.
The opposite of humility is pride, and I don’t think we realize how significantly pride grips us on a daily basis. Pride isn’t just thinking you’re the best. It isn’t just thinking you’re the main character, the center of the universe. It is also fishing for compliments because you feel like you deserve them. It is also the feeling of entitlement you have when you walk into a room. From it stems judgement of others and selfish ambition. From it stems segregation and self deprecation. From it stems perfectionism, as hard as it is to admit, being a perfectionist myself.
It was pride that caused Adam and Eve to sin, and it was pride that caused the devil to fall. Pride is discussed as one of the most significant sins in the Bible, and the devil often uses pride as a tool against us.
And just as pride infiltrates our lives far more than we realize, the devil is far more active than we realize. Peter did not insert verse 8 in this chapter without reason. He warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil described here is not a passive voice in your head. It is an active ruler of this world who will do everything in his power to separate you from God.
Satan rules this “in the meantime.” This earth is his domain. So not only is this “in the meantime” full of suffering, but it is ruled by Satan himself.
Which makes humility that much more difficult.
Truthfully, I wish I could give you a guide to humility, a list of instructions on how to perfect it. But humility is a daily practice that literally never ends. As soon as you think you’ve gotten good at humility, you’ve just become prideful, and the cycle begins again.
My theology teacher told me one time to view myself as the least person in the room every time I walk inside the door. This mindset helps me to stop judging and instead to lift others up. But I still forget too often. I still struggle to remind myself of my true identity–not as the coolest high schooler, the oldest student, the seasoned veteran, the smartest of the bunch, but as a humble child of God dependent on God’s grace alone.
Part of humility is recognizing your dependency. We are encouraged in our society to become “independent, functioning adults.” we are told to move on and do great things. But the older I get the more I realize how incapable of being independent I am. We were created to be dependent on God for grace, mercy, love, intimacy, protection–everything.
In verses 6 and 7 of the passage, Peter reminds us, “Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” Casting our anxieties on Him is that dependency part. We can’t carry the burdens of this life alone, so we must recognize our shortcomings, humbling ourselves before God, and lay our burdens at his feet.
On earth we will be challenged. We will suffer as we trek through this “in the meantime.” We will face temptations and trials as we wait for our crowns to change from thorns to glory. But rooted in Christ, we will prevail, because Jesus prevails with us. And in order to be rooted deep in his love and mercy, we must remain humble before our king. While the devil is prevailing, His roots are unfailing.
I want to leave you with some hope regarding the beginning of 2021, since I began with some pretty depressing stuff about 2020. Yes, we lost a lot in 2020. Yes, many of us were stripped from everything we previously rooted ourselves in. But personally, as I look ahead at 2021, I no longer see the hope of graduation and the hope of a new soccer season. I look ahead and, as strange as it sounds, I see God’s faithfulness regardless of the circumstances. If the country shut down a second time, it would be extremely difficult for us all. And saying it now is much easier than believing it in the midst of trails, but I’m confident that God would remain faithful through it, just as he did the first time. I still hope for an easier future, but rooted in Christ, I know he is good whether the future is easy or not.
While the devil is prevailing, His roots are unfailing. So root yourselves in Christ as you head into 2021, and humble yourselves before the God who prevails regardless of the circumstances.