1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
On the plains of the Serengeti in Africa there’s no such thing as a wildebeest or gazelle that’s not sober and vigilant. They know they have an adversary that is dedicated every day to bringing them down. And the individuals most likely to be targeted by hungry lions are those that fail to be sufficiently sober and vigilant. They don’t last long.
Sober: not controlled by emotion or fleshly desires and reactions, but guided by God’s Spirit through His word.
Vigilant: always alert and on the lookout for hidden dangers.
Lions are ambush predators. They sneak up on their victims and depend on not being noticed until it’s too late.
We as believers have our own spiritual lion stalking us. The devil is our adversary, an active, aggressive, and utterly malevolent opponent who is always trying to sneak into our lives to do us harm.
What the devil can do against us is circumscribed by God. Just as with Job, there are boundaries the devil can’t cross in his efforts to bring us down. He can’t just kill us, for example. His only truly effective weapon, but one he successfully uses time and time again, is lies and deceit. He works hard every day trying to deceive us into tolerating ungodly and self-destructive attitudes and practices in our lives. That’s the only way he can bring us down.
I think the message of this passage is that when we fail to subject every thought, every word, and every action to the scrutiny of God’s word, we leave an opening for the lion to sneak in and devour us. Ultimately, the only defense against the devil’s deceit is the truth of God. That’s why it’s imperative that believers look at every situation in their lives through the lens of the word of God.
When someone cuts me off in traffic, my reaction needs to be based on the word of God, and not my feelings of exasperation. When my wife gets on my nerves (it happens!), instead of reacting based on my emotions of the moment, I must let my commitment to honor God in everything I do shape my response.
Because the devil is such an accomplished deceiver, one who is well practiced in making wrong look right and right look wrong, we must be very focused – sober and vigilant – to apply godly truth in every circumstance of life. If we just run off the top of our heads, reacting to situations according to our own feelings and thoughts, the devil will snap us up. He’s too good at what he does, so good, the Bible says, that if it were possible, the very elect would be deceived.
I’m not used to thinking of myself as potential prey, but that’s exactly how the devil looks at me. In order to survive and thrive spiritually, and practically as well, I’d better always be aware that the lion, with his powerful weapons of lies and deceit, is stalking me all the time.