On Sabbath we concluded our study of Peter’s letter to the Christians who were facing difficult times. His parting words of encouragement contained a warning to be on guard against the devil, who Peter compared to a “roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8). Peter gives his readers and us sound advice on how to tame the lion.
From the text we learn the first lesson: Lion taming begins with being alert. The word means to be “watchful,” “awake,” “to arouse.” It’s also a warning to expect the unexpected. Matt. 24:42 employs the same language: “Therefore keep watch [give strict attention, be cautious and active], because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
The enemy attacks when we least expect it—usually when we’re hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (the H.A.L.T. warning). At these times and all the time, pay attention to your spiritual condition and to what’s going on around you. On this election night we are reminded that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Eternal vigilance is also step one in lion taming.
Secondly, Lion taming requires clear thinking. Peter’s second exhortation is “be of sober mind” or be “self-controlled”—a recurring theme throughout Peter’s letter. The word for Sober is nepho which denotes abstinence from wine or strong drink.
In lion taming it is essential that we be under the control of the Holy Spirit and not under intoxication of any kind. Why? Because: “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). The enemy is running out of time and he’s bringing his greatest deceptions, his greatest distractions, and the greatest temptations against God’s saints. We must have the clearest minds and the firmest grasp on the will and ways of God so we can pray.
The one who is vulnerable to the lion is the one lacking self-control and distracted. We are truly self-controlled only when we are God-controlled. (See 1 Thess. 5:6-8.)
A lion’s best chance of making a kill is when they stumble across a lone prey animal that is caught by surprise. They creep up on the prey and let out a roar that confuses the animal. The prey then cannot “think” or react correctly out of fear and so is trapped and caught by the lion. So who is it that gets devoured? The slowest gazelle. Or the lone Christian who has separated him or herself from others, and who can’t think straight because he/she has lost sight of Jesus.
To the degree we depart from the steps of Jesus and follow our natural instincts towards revenge, rage, and insults, we become fresh meat for the devil to consume. When you see angry, spiteful saints you are witnessing Christians being fed to the lions.
Peter is letting us know that living for Christ is serious business, and it’s those who aren’t serious that are in serious spiritual danger. Wherever a Christian community takes seriously it’s commitment to God (meaning you have the audacity to actually deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ) the devil will be on the prowl. He will roar and threaten. But he can only devour those who deny the cross to save themselves. (See Luke 9:24.) Like Jesus, those on the cross are in God’s hands. Those who come down are in Satan’s.
In addition to being alert and clear-minded, Peter says resist the lion by standing up to him. How do we do that? Peter says “resist him” by being steadfast in the faith (vs. 9).
To “resist” is anthistemi, which means “to stand against” or “withstand.” James says the same thing. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8). Don’t waste time and energy fighting sin. You come against the devil by coming near to God. Submitting to Him in everything is how we come near.
Resist the devil with the Word. The Word is your weapon, your territory, and inheritance. Don’t surrender any more territory to the evil one. Put on the full armor of God and stand your ground (Eph. 6:13).
Lion taming requires taking a stand. A stand for what? Our rights? Our national pride? Our views and opinions? What are we standing firm in? Peter says in verse 12: “This is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”
What is the “this” Peter is talking about? “This” refers to all the exhortations and teachings in the letter—the “blessed” life of being chosen and precious to God, given a living hope, called to holiness, and being a living stone in the temple of God, called to follow Jesus’ example in suffering, submitting ourselves to God, respecting all, keeping our tongues from evil and deceitful speech, seeking peace, not retaliation, and giving our testimony with behavior that matches our message, humbling ourselves, casting our cares on Him because He cares for us—all THIS is the true Grace of God, not the cheap grace that so many are quick to give themselves. To THIS you were called–Stand fast in it!!!
“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. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:10-11). You are called to glory. Therefore, no matter how loudly the lion roars, in Jesus he’s tethered. And because he is, Hope wins!–Pastor Randy