Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8
“Be sober-minded; be watchful.” If that’s all Peter had said, most of us would agree. We need a sound mind and a watchful eye for any number of reasons. But Peter grounds our thinking and watching in a confusing and frightening reality. We need to think well and keep our eyes open because we have an adversary, a fallen angel who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. Does our life feel like war, like someone is seeking to devour us? Some of us came to Peter looking for a spiritual pick-me-up, but now he ushers us into the war room. We should have known this might happen, for when it comes to spiritual warfare, Peter is an experienced guide, tested and tried. This may not be the message we wanted, but this is the message we need. So when we hear about our adversary, how should we respond?
We shouldn’t remain oblivious. Paul says that “we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11), but sadly, many are. The modern naturalistic worldview makes Peter’s teaching about the devil seem outdated or untenable. The march of technology and science makes the reality of a spiritual realm seem unlikely. But in Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’s fictional tempter explains, “Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves.” Could all these atmospheric challenges play into the demonic strategy of working behind the scenes? Of course. It doesn’t matter how the enemy conceals himself as long as we remain oblivious. How can we win a war when we’re not even aware of it?
When we learn about the devil, we also shouldn’t become obsessed. As the pendulum swings, we can quickly move from ignorance to obsession. We didn’t “see” the devil at all before, and now we see him everywhere, creeping under every rock, hiding around every corner. Once we gave the devil no credit; now we give him too much. We forget that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16), that He who is in us “is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). When this happens, our enemy becomes greater in our imaginations than our Strength and Shield, Jesus Christ. How can we win a war when we don’t realize that our resources are far greater than the enemy’s?
No, when we learn about the devil, we should not remain oblivious or become obsessed. By God’s grace, we should live as those who are informed but not intimated. We should be sober-minded and watchful, aware of the devil’s schemes, but confident in Christ's victory. Because Adam (and all of us) have yielded to temptation, Jesus went into the wilderness—led by the Spirit!—and resisted Satan’s temptation in our place. Like a roaring lion, the devil sought to devour Jesus, but in the desert, in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the cross, and in His resurrection, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah has dealt the devil a deadly blow. As we engage in the fight of faith, do we rest in the victory of Christ?
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure;
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.