If you go to a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations, do you ever get that “you’ve got to be kidding” feeling when you walk into the lobby and see about twenty-five people waiting to get seated? Usually the host or hostess will give you a basic idea of about how long it will take to get a table – maybe twenty minutes, maybe forty minutes, maybe sixty minutes – and then you probably realistically have to add another ten minutes — and then you have to make a decision about whether to wait or not, depending on how much you really want to eat at that particular restaurant that particular day. But what if the host said, “We’ll get back to you in due time,” meaning “We’ll get back to you whenever we’re good and ready. Trust me.” That would be kind of baffling and confusing, wouldn’t it? What does “in due time” mean? Two minutes, two days, two weeks? I guess if you do trust the restaurant to really want to serve you and do what’s best for you, you might say, “Okay, I’ll wait,” and then see what happens.
What does our Lord say in our Lesson for today in the opening verse — not about waiting for a table to open up, but waiting for an answer from God about when your life will lighten up, because of some problem you’re experiencing or some difficulty you’re going through? In that opening verse our Lord says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” “In Due Time.” Whether this time right now in your life is a good time or a bad time, let’s see from these words how we can humbly accept God’s response to us about our questions to him at any time: “In Due Time.”
Now the first thing to remember is there will be an answer, and, since it’s answer from God, it will be a good answer. After all, in verse 10 near the end, our Lord gives this promise: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” While we wait for an answer from God, God’s intent is not to make things worse for us as we wait for his due time, even if things from our human way of looking at things do seem to get worse for us. God here promises that he will restore us and make us firm and strong. We pastors have mentioned a number of times in sermons that that word “restore” has the picture of mending those old fishing nets they used to use, so that the fish can’t just slip through – to restore those nets so they can be strong and useful again. That’s what God promises us. He will make us strong and useful in our Christian Life.
But he also promises that in the time of our life before his due time of restoration, there will, sadly, be something – there will be someone – that we really have to be watching out for, because all the time, this someone wants to make things horrible for us. God says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” If you spend time at the Milwaukee County Zoo, you know that you are safe looking at the lion from outside the enclosure, but if you go down into the pit, you don’t stand a chance. The devil is a far fiercer lion than any earthly lion could ever be, because God specifically calls him our “enemy.” The word that that word “enemy” comes from in the Bible is the word “diabolical.” To be diabolical means to do anything you can – to lie, to cheat, to steal – to get your way. The devil’s way is to take people away from the way that leads to God in heaven and the path of serving God while on earth. The diabolical lion lies to us every day, as he tries to get us to think either that God must not love us, if he lets these things keep happening to us, or that God could never love us because of bad things we keep doing against him. It’s hard to wait for God’s answer in due time, when we are also having to deal with temptations to think that God is bad, or with attacks in our hearts that make us think we don’t stand a spiritual chance for God to have one ounce of care for us.
Yet the apostle Peter assures us in these words that we can “cast all our anxiety on him, because he cares for us.” We sang about why we can know that is so in one of the verses of the hymn before our sermon. We sang: Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blessed assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate and hath shed his own blood for my soul. It is well with my soul. Yes, it is well, it is well, with my soul. That regard for our helpless estate is what St. Peter is talking about in verse 10, when he says that “the God of all grace called you to his eternal glory in Christ.” We deserve to have diabolical Satan buffet us all day long. We deserve to have trials torment us all life long. But our God is a God of grace – a God of indescribable, unearned, contrary-to-what-we-deserve love – a God who acted on that love to call us to eternal glory in heaven by pointing us to the suffering of his Son, which led to death, but concluded in the glory of a resurrection to life and a return to the glory of heaven. And because Jesus lives, we shall live also – a life right now that knows it belongs to the one who paid such a price for us – and a life later on after we leave this life and live with Jesus in the glory of heaven, where all we will be able to say over and over and over again is, “It is well – it is well — with my soul.” No wonder God’s people cast all their anxieties on him, because we know how much he cares for us. No wonder we as God’s people can wait for God’s due time and know that his time will always be the best time, because his time is always meant to help us cling all the more to – and fill our hearts all the more with – the grace of God which has called us to eternal glory in Christ Jesus.
And this humbling of ourselves under God’s mighty, but loving, hand, will then help us gain a few different very important perspectives about life – in fact three different perspectives about life — that Peter here talks about and that hopefully we can take home with us. For one thing, no matter how diabolical the lion the devil is, through Christ – not on your own – but through Christ you are stronger than Satan, and you are smarter than Satan. That’s why Peter can say in verse 9, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” That faith is not only your faith in what Jesus has done for you as your Savior, but that faith is also the items of faith you believe – the teachings and doctrines of the Bible. Every time you say the Apostles or Nicene Creed, for example, you are speaking the faith; you are resisting the devil. The lion covers his ears; the lion backs up in retreat; the lion cannot stand before you, when he hears you confess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth… I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God… I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life… And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” “So, scram, Satan! Get out of here, devil! Through Christ and his Word I resist you, because God says in his Word that through Christ I can do so.”
Here’s a second perspective that can be helpful: Peter tells us to resist him as you stand firm in the faith, “because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Sometimes one of the best ways to deal with your own heartaches and problems is to think about – and pray about – the heartaches and problems of others. It is such a relief for our souls, isn’t it, to pray for others, as we do – to help out others, as we do – to be amazed by others, as we are, that they can continue to hold up under things that we are pretty sure would be more than we could bear? The old saying that “there is always somebody else suffering worse than I am” may not be a Bible verse, but it does result from a Christian way of life that looks at life as an opportunity to help others in whatever way we can, since we know that all of us – no matter our age, no matter our situation, no matter how things may look on the outside – all of us are undergoing to one degree or another “the same kind of sufferings.” That is simply the way it will always be until suffering is over.
And that will be in due time. A third and final perspective that our Lord gives us this morning in these words is his promise down in verse 10 again, that the God of all grace will restore us, “after you have suffered a little while.” That little while may be as different as the wait in the restaurant lobby for a table to open up. Some of us may have suffering that will last a few days, a few weeks, a few months. For others of us that little while may be a few years or a few decades, with little seeming relief. But for all us, God’s little while is the best little while, because it truly will be a little while compared to the great big while we will be in heaven. And because that will happen in God’s due time, the time until we get to heaven is the time that he knows we need while now on earth to stay close to Jesus, to show others the joy of Jesus, and to tell others the love of Jesus – that Jesus who in due time — at the exact right time — will lift us up one final time, when he says to us at the entrance to the banquet hall of heaven, “Come on in! It’s time. Your table is ready…” Amen.