An old but useful tip taught to me by my youth pastor growing up was anytime you see the word “Therefore” in the Bible, make sure you know what it is “there for.” (This applies to “So” and “Because of this” as well). In other words, when your morning reading starts with a transition word, you might need to look back and see what happened before.
As we start our reading this morning, 1 Peter 1:13 is a great opportunity to practice this. Peter starts by telling us, “So [other translations: Therefore] prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control.” What sort of action? Why is this so important?
Looking back to verses 3-12, we find that Peter was talking about how his readers’ salvation was going to be tested and refined by persecution. That’s the context for what he says next: “Because you are being persecuted and tested,” Peter instructs, “you need to have your mind in the game and to get control of yourself.”
He then warns them against falling back into their old, self-indulgent ways (verses 14-15), and then spends the rest of the chapter urging them to be holy. Peter realized that their greatest temptation during the upcoming persecution would be to retreat back to their old ways and become the people they used to be. After all, the whole point of persecuting a group of people is to achieve that result. To withstand that grinding pressure, Peter knows that they will need to get ready and will need to be mindful of their emotions and desires, so they won’t lead themselves astray.
Peter also recognizes that, to avoid going back, the people need a purpose and direction. And so he spends the rest of the chapter urging them to pursue holiness - in other words, to focus on their walk with Christ. Rather than focusing on their pain, discomfort and loss - or the temptation to make all of it go away by abandoning their faith - Peter tells them to keep their minds on the mission, and continue to make personal progress in their relationship with Christ.
While we are not currently suffering from a mass persecution, we certainly live in a time of crisis: a pandemic rages, protests rock our cities, and public officials both local and national abuse their power and set neighbor against neighbor. In the midst of this, it is tempting to curl up and indulge - to seek comfort in whatever form we can find it. As a result, many of us eat, watch, sleep, drink and smoke our feelings away, week after week in isolation.
Peter encourages us to get back on mission. Even though our lives are disrupted, our Lord has still given us a purpose to pursue. Rather than merely indulge to excess, we can work to broaden our knowledge, serve our community, and improve our relationship with Christ. Just because our normal routine is thrown into chaos, doesn’t mean that we don't have a job to do.
Is your mind prepared for action? Are you exercising self-control? Or have you relapsed into old habits, and let yourself become consumed by your own consumption? What plans do you need to make today to become a better follower of Christ?