A thought for a challenging day
1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV
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.
‘Red zone’ staff in the Covid areas at over 1,000 acute hospitals around the UK are well aware of people being ‘devoured’. On present statistics, most will have the experience of losing patients every day or even, every shift.
The suffering through illness, and for some, an untimely end of life, is hard for us to hear about. It sits a lot heavier for those with friends and relatives affected, or on the front line caring for them under difficult circumstances in care homes or hospitals.
But the ‘roaring lion’ is a not a picture of devouring (real though that is) but is more picture of fear and intimidation. It’s what happens in our thought life – that’s where “your enemy the devil” gets to all of us. If we let him.
The devil and his army of ‘dark angels’ is no myth or metaphor but a real threat and a real attacker. Jesus had His close encounter in the desert at the start of His ministry.
Jesus later told Pharisee antagonists that far from belonging to God, they were under the sway of the devil. The teaching of the letters to the Early Church is forthright about recognising the devil’s schemes and avoiding the trap of the devil, and the need for believers to actively resist. Following the well-known parable of the sower and soils, Jesus explains the three common strategies of the devil to attack the seed, or faith-producing word of God, as the devil “takes away the word from the hearts” of those on the unreceptive, uncultivated ‘path’, causes faith to wither through testing of those on ‘rocky ground’, and chokes the word with worries and pleasures in those inhabiting the ‘thorny ground’. The battleground is in our mind – our thoughts and perceptions. Whose thoughts are we choosing to hold on to?
How we view setbacks — the perspective we adopt — has a huge effect on how we respond to them. Ask Andy Murray how he responds to a missed shot or losing a set.
Christians have a two or three not-exactly-secret weapons.
- We face an enemy who makes a lot of noise but is defeated. More to thj point, this enemy knows that WE KNOW this. Our identification and relationship with the One who has been the sacrifice on the Cross, now resurrected, living and reigning, gives us a confidence in how we pray.
- We know how the story ends, and through that relationship with the Lord, how our own story ends — or rather, doesn’t end but continues in eternal life and fellowship.
- We know God. And if we know Him, we hardly need reminding that He is good, and His plans and purposes, if not always easy to understand, will work out for good. We are saved and also being saved, because He loves us.
So what do we say to the noisy ‘lion’ now? Be quiet, take off your lion outfit and go and play elsewhere! Meanwhile, having dealt with the intimidation, we have work to do, in praying down the peace and healing presence of God on those who are crying out to Him.