Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8, 9 NIV)
It's easy to get too comfortable sometimes. Things are going well, not too many problems, having fun, enjoying life, why worry?
While there is no reason to worry, there is reason to stay alert. If we aren't careful, prosperity can be the worse thing for our spiritual lives. When we get too snug with life, we get a little lax, we drop our guard – kind of like the gazelle with it's head down in the grass, eating, unaware of it's surroundings, unaware of the danger that lurks close by. Suddenly the trap is set and the gazelle is caught surprised. Unable to get her footing, she succumbs to her attackers.
When Peter wrote this letter that we are referencing, he wrote it during trying times. In each chapter Peter makes references to suffering and trials. Christians were being heavily persecuted to the point of death. Some christians were being forced to renounce their faith or die. And some christians would renounce their faith. Now, while I'm sure the devil loves killing christians, he really loves it when they renounce their faith. In such cases, he 'devours' them. He swallows them up, and relishes in the fact that he's deprived God of one more soul.
Peter here warns them of this. He warns that the the pressure is going to be put on to them and to be ready for it. They were going to be ridiculed, ransacked, jailed, and beaten. These outside forces were all to try to get to the inside. Each of the attacks were more than a physical attack, they were an attempt to pressure them into submission. They were to resist this temptation to give up, they were to face the enemy and stand firm in their faith, knowing that their christian brothers and sisters throughout the world were facing the same kind of circumstances.
Now, these attacks didn't happen to everybody all the time. Some christians would get along fine for a while, I'm sure. They lived under the prosperity of the Roman Empire. But Peter warned that they had better be alert and watching. The time was coming when they were to be tested. Would they be ready for the attack?
Fortunately, we in America don't face this type of physical danger for our faith (yet). We do however, face a danger that is just as real, leaving our soul in just as much danger as those that deny the faith. Satan is still in the 'devouring' business and adjusts his tactics to suit whatever type of atmosphere he is working in. He still lurks about, waiting for opportune times to strike. We must be alert.
Most of us in America are much wealthier than we realize. We don't find ourselves praying, 'give us our daily bread,' because all the food we need is always in the fridge, or at the grocery store. We don't find ourselves seeking God for our sick family members, since a doctor's visit is easily available to anyone at all times. Because of modern conveniences, everybody has plenty of free time to spend on entertainment. Pasted in front of the tv we could hardly call ourselves 'alert' since we don't even notice a physical person that walks right in front of us!
We've got to be careful that the things of this world are not distracting us in such a way that we are caught off guard when the enemy attacks.
When God was forming Gideon's army He first sent home those who were afraid, and then sent away those who lapped with their face the spring, leaving Gideon only 300 men to fight the Midianites (Judges ch 7). Those 300 were the ones who put their hands into the stream and lifted the water to their mouths.
This illustrates how me must live our lives in regards to the sensual things of this world. Not everything sensual is bad, per se, but it is bad when it used in a way that puts us off guard. The Lord sent home those whose faces where buried in the water. Only those who had their head up, able to be aware of their surroundings as they drank, were chosen.
These is what Peter means when he says, “Be sober, be watchful…” Don't be drunk on anything sensual.
You know what I mean when I say this. You know exactly what indulgence intoxicates you, or what escape you turn to cope with the affairs of life. But we should not be intoxicated with the sensual things of this life, but with the Spirit (Eph 5:18). The Spirit is the only thing that we can be intoxicated with and still be perfectly alert; more alert actually!
Anything sensual that we do should be done only if we can retain the state of mind necessary to be ready for the enemy's attack.
Some people might contend with this, saying, “Can we never just put our guard down and relax?” Relax, yes. Put our guard down, no. There is never a reason to be uptight or nervous. The devil is not greater than the one who lives inside of us. A battle with Satan is not what we should fear. We should only fear being caught off-guard and unprepared.
No man living in a habitat known for its lion population would live flippantly. He would be sure to know this beast, being prepared if it should attack. He would know that the lion is fearful of him. He would know that a lion will often give a false charge to see if he would turn and run. Running is the worse thing you can do if a lion charges you. Instead, you should clap and yell at it and wave your hands wildly. If you do this, it will turn away from you.
The same is true witht he devil. The devil is scared of a christian who is full of God's spirit. If we stand up to him, he will flee from us.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7
We can resist him with the spiritual weapons that God has given us, and our spiritual armor.
Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. – Ephesians 6:11
When we know God's word we can stand up to the devil's lies, just like Jesus did. His attacks are always full of falsehood and deceit. Those equiped with scripture can parry those lies and defeat this foe.
But we must not let him catch us off guard. Don't be fooled by the enemies shortcomings. He may have missed a chance to strike in times past, but don't depend on his lack of perfection. He is an organized foe that will seek his next window of opportunity.