You have an enemy. No, it’s not that other political party. It’s not your boss. It’s certainly not your spouse. I’m not even talking about terrorists. I’m talking about an adversary you can’t see.
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He’s hidden, but there, just biding his time until he can take you out. The Apostle Peter reveals his identify:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —1 Peter 5:8
Contrary to Hollywood or popular fiction, Satan isn’t some imp with horns, a pitchfork, and a bifurcated tail. He’s not even the horror flick typecast of a spook who causes heads to spin and doors to slam. That stereotype is just what the devil would have us believe. Why? So that we will laugh him off as fiction, fantasy, or the superstition of simple-minded Bible thumpers.
Let’s clear our heads for a moment. Jesus Christ spoke of Satan as a reality.
You need to know you have an enemy. You also need to know what to do about it.
A Prowling Lion – Your Adversary
Peter compares the devil to a lion who “prowls about.” Literally he “walks around.” (Satan even describes himself doing so in Job 1:1; 2:2.) What does he do while walking on the earth? He is continually seeking someone to devour. The word “devour” doesn’t mean to rip apart. It means to swallow up. It has more the idea of putting someone out of commission.
And what a simile! The devil prowls like a roaring lion.
Take a moment and watch this uncomfortable video of a lion stalking a buffalo calf. The victim never saw it coming.
Apart from Jesus Christ, that video is you and Satan.
Satan wants you ineffective. Period.
Peter’s Own Experience with Satan
Peter knew firsthand what it was like to be devoured. At least twice, the gospels record when Peter failed to do what he’s telling us here to do.
- At Caesarea Philippi, Peter rebuked Jesus that He should never die. In response, Jesus rebuked Peter: “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (Matt. 16:23). Peter’s mind was not sober and thinking clearly; he was not alert to his weakness.
- In the Upper Room, Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus—and included the words: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). Peter’s response was to deny that he would deny.
What is the devil looking for when he prowls? After Jesus resisted Satan’s temptation, the devil left Jesus “until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). The devil waits an opportune time with us as well.
The opportune time is the time we quit thinking soberly and when we’re not alert to our weakness.
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Be of Sober Spirit . . . on the Alert
Peter gives several commands to help us in our battle:
“Be sober of spirit” comes from a phrase he used several times in his writing (1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8). The context defines a “sober spirit” as a mind firmly rooted in the reality of what’s eternal. Why? Because you have an enemy. Satan is not just THE adversary, but Peter calls him YOUR adversary! You should take that personally.
“Be on the alert,” specifically, to your weakness. As Jesus said to Peter, our adversary plays right along with our selfish desires, or “not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Satan plays into your own interests. He disguises himself as an angel of light and pretends to be an ally for your good (2 Cor. 11:14). For example:
- He deceived Eve to eat the fruit (Gen. 3:1-7).
- He incited King David to take another man’s wife and, later, to pridefully count his people (2 Sam. 11; 1 Chron. 21:1).
- He moved Ananias and Sapphira to lie (Acts 5:3).
But in each case it was a deception, at an opportune time, so that the person was swallowed up and put out of commission.
“Resist him,” is Peter’s final command:
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. (v. 9)
One of the best ways the devil can get you ready for devouring is to get you away from other believers to where you’re feeling you’re the only one who struggles with the Christian life. Think of that video with the calf all alone. How did that happen? It never should have. You can’t do the Christian life alone and stay healthy.
Resist the devil by remembering that you are not alone in your struggle for faithfulness. One of the best ways to combat this is to get involved in an accountability group. (The only exception to this command is sexual temptation, where the single command is to FLEE. If you stay, you will likely fail.)
We can’t go toe-to-toe with the adversary. As baby buffaloes, we are no match. We absolutely must rely on something other than ourselves if we are to have victory.
And we can. We must.
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