I don’t know anything about lions. I’ve seen them at the zoo, even heard them roar. But to be honest, I felt pretty safe since there was a fence and moat between them and me. In fact, they seemed to act like large house cats laying lazily in the sun. I’ve seen a few things on TV ala Marlin Perkin’s Wild Kingdom about how lions stealthy hunt their prey. I’ve watched cats do the same thing to mice. But the stealthy approach in the veldt and Peter’s description of a roaring lion seeking someone to devour seems a bit at odds.
Welcome to our twenty-third and next to the last installment of our Walk Through 1st Peter. If you’re just joining us all the previous articles on available on our website – lambchow.com.
Peter wrote, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, NASB95)
I’m not going to speculate too far about why Peter chose to portray the lion as he did. The important point is that we do have an enemy that is seeking to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10a) Sometimes our enemy is stealthy and uses clever traps. Other times he’s loud, seeking to trip us up through fear and doubt. If we look closely at Peter’s words, he not only warns us about our enemy but how we are to guard ourselves.
How does an excess of alcohol or other drugs affect our thinking? We stop seeing reality as it is. Our inhibitions are lowered, and our desires change. Our reaction time and decision making abilities are impaired. In other words, the alcohol or drugs are determining our actions more than we are. We’ve lost control.
One of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is self-control. Making right choices, at the right time, for the right reasons. That what Peter’s call to “be sober” really means. Avoiding drunkenness and being stoned is one aspect. But our choices and reasons can be impacted by many things such as self-pity, passions, inflamed sense of importance (ego), greed, pride, and fear.
Peter’s call to be sober is one of reliance on God no matter what comes our way. The only way we’re truly self-controled is by giving Jesus control.
We need to be aware of our environment. Watching for both the attacks of the enemy but also sensitive to the move of the Holy Spirit. The enemy would love to blind us through complacency or make us silent through hopelessness and fear. Both dull our vision of what is really happening.
We see this all the time in sports. A strong and favored team is beaten by a weaker team simply because the strong thought they had the game won before they took the field. They went through the motions until the clock ran out and lost the game. Or in reverse. A weaker team sees the strength and ability of the opposition and gives up before the game begins. Complacency and hopelessness determined the outcome not the skill of the team.
To be alert means we must avoid both traps. Life is never so good that the enemy isn’t up to something, nor is life ever so hopeless that God isn’t working.
Peter calls his readers to “resist him.” Sometimes resistance can be passive, like a dam holding back the water. Sometimes resistance is active, like an army holding a position. The word Peter used indicates an active resistance. James used the same word, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NASB95)
Perhaps it is easier to see the difference this way. Passive resistance is like “holding on.” We aren’t so much fighting against something but struggling to stay connected. We’re holding on until the flood is finally over or the storm is passed. Active resistance is “pushing back.” We are moving against the flood – pushing it back and away.
Peter calls us to actively push back against Satan and his plans. How? Peter doesn’t spell that out. Colossians 3 lists several take this off and put this on kinds of statements. Each one is pushing back the darkness in some way. We can push back against temptation with God’s word and not just hold on, hoping that we won’t fail. Worship, prayer, caring for others, giving of our time, energy, and resources all push back against the darkness.
But the better picture, the better example, is Jesus. He connected with folks where they were. Touched the untouchable. Healed hearts and bodies. He laid down his own life for the sake of others, including you and me. That is what kingdom life really looks like. That’s the light that beats back the darkness.
To push back, we need to be anchored, firm in our faith. To be frank, we’re not strong enough, wise enough, good enough, or powerful enough to defeat our enemy. But Jesus is. When we push back on our own, we will probably fail. It’s for that reason that Paul encourages us to “put on the full armor of God.”
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:10–13, NASB95)
What we believe, what we put our faith in matters. We can actively push against all kinds of things, but if we’re not firm in our faith, it’s of little and short-lived value. “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1, NASB95)
Be In Community
We are not alone or meant to be alone in this fight. Peter reminds his readers, “knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” Nothing has happened to you that someone else hasn’t experienced. No temptation has come your way that others haven’t felt. That’s actually one of Satan’s traps, to make us feel alone and that we’re the only one suffering.
Lion’s aren’t stupid. Like all other hunting animals, they go after the weak or work to separate an animal from the herd. Satan does the same thing. He works to separate folks from the protection and care of the community, so they become “easy prey.”
Every metaphor in the Bible used to describe what this life of faith looks like has the idea of community. We’re part of a body. We’re stones built into a temple. We’re family. We’re part of the vine. We each experience Jesus individually but that walk is always in the context of a caring community of prayer.
We referenced John 10:10 earlier. ““The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB95) Or, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10, NLT) Or, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV84) Or, “A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, The Message)
I wanted to give you several looks at the same verse. It’s plain, the thief, Satan, comes to steal, kill and destroy. The life Jesus gives is abundant, rich, satisfying, full, real, and eternal; a better life than we can even dream of. We are called to be sober, be alert, actively resist evil, be firm in our faith, and experience this rich and satisfying life in the context of community.