Watchful Warfare

1 Peter 5:6-14

March 21, 2015 | Brian Bill

Have you ever heard of the Bean Boozled Jelly Beans? This special gift box contains 10 gross flavors and 10 look-alike tasty treats.  It even comes with a spinner so you can turn it into a game.  For instance, since moldy cheese and caramel corn look identical, you don’t know what you’re eating until you take a bite.  This counterfeit candy is manufactured to be deliberately deceptive.

Deal with the Disgusting

As we wrap up our series called, “Living Hope: Seeking Holiness in a Hostile World,” we’re going to discover some pretty disgusting items we’re called to deal with in 1 Peter 5.  We can’t make a game out of arrogance, anxiety or our adversary.  

  1. Deal with arrogance.  It’s interesting how intense God is about us not being arrogant.  We learned this last week in verse 5: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Look at verse 6: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God…”  Notice that the responsibility is ours – we’re to humble ourselves.  To be humbled is to be made low or literally “to bring to the ground.”  The idea is to do it now because God has no place for the proud.  The more we see God as high and mighty, the more we will see ourselves as humble.  C.S. Lewis offers some good insight: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

When we put ourselves in our rightful place, God lifts us up to a higher position: “…that He may exalt you in due time.”  That time might not be now.  This reminds us of the words of Jesus in Luke 14:11: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  James 4:10 is very similar: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

  1. Deal with anxiety.  God also wants us to give our cares to Him in verse 7: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”  My mind goes to teaching someone how to fish. It takes a long time and a lot of waiting.  It’s hard to catch fish this way but it is a picture of how we’re to cast our cares upon Christ all the time, whenever we become overwhelmed with anxiety.  Notice that we’re to cast “all” our care, not just some of it.

The Greek word translated “care” or “anxieties” comes from a word meaning to divide.  Have you noticed how anxiety divides and distracts our minds so that we can’t focus on anything else?  Someone stated it like this: “Jesus is willing to be fully responsible for the things we are anxious about.”  It’s like the boss that hired a man at $50 an hour to worry for him.  A friend asked, “How will you pay for him?”  He answered, “That’s for him to worry about!”

He’s eager to accept all our anxiety.

God wants us to throw ourselves on Him, with the idea being to “cast all” our care, which means our entire life.  And we can cast our cares on Him because He cares for us.  He’s eager to accept all our anxiety.  In the Old Testament, the word for, “commit” means, “to roll off.”  It’s the idea of being so overwhelmed by the weightiness of worry and so pummeled by problems that we can’t cast them away freely but instead all we can do is roll them to the Lord.  Psalm 37:5: “Commit [roll off] your way to the Lord…”

When you’re going through a tough time, it’s common to ask questions like, “Where is God in all this?” and “Why is this happening to me?”  It’s at this point that we must bow before God’s mighty hand.  Friend, here are two truths to hold on to when you’re hurting.  They’re so important that I want us to say this sentence together: “God is in control and He cares about me.”  That’s worth repeating.  “God is in control and He cares about me.”

While we should certainly cast our burdens upon the Lord all day long, the verb tense here is that it’s a one-time deal.  We are to “once for all, throw our burdens to Jesus.”  Whatever load you’ve been carrying, if you’ve not yet given your life to the Lord, it’s time to cast all you that you have and all that you are to Him.

We must not allow arrogance to settle within us or permit anxiety to paralyze us.  There’s one more thing we must deal with.

  1. Deal with our adversary. We’re called to lean in and listen because we have an evil enemy that is stalking us in verse 8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Peter is calling us to get serious, to be spiritually alert and watchful.  Verse 7 says we’re to be carefree but verse 8 warns us about being careless.  The force behind the command, “Be sober, be vigilant” is to stay awake!  Be ready!  Watch out!  Don’t be a spiritual sluggard!

The word “adversary” refers to an opponent or enemy.  Our enemy is also called “the devil,” which means, “slanderer or false accuser.”  Jesus says that he is “a liar and the father of lies” in John 8:44.  Mark this.  The devil hates you and will go to any lengths to trip you up, to tempt you and even to try and kill you.  In Revelation 12:10 he “accuses the brethren day and night.”  He wants you to be gutted by guilt and swimming in shame because that will keep you from fully realizing the victory that is yours in Christ.  That’s why it’s so important to grow in truth and to make sure you understand your unshakable position in Christ.

Peter paints a very graphic word picture: “…the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”   There are at least four ways the devil is like a roaring lion.

  • Lions are incredibly strong.  Weighing about 600 pounds and standing about four-feet tall, they are 20 times stronger than we are.  We can’t fight Satan in our own strength.  In Jude 9 we read that even Michael the Archangel wouldn’t go up against the Adversary alone.  Instead he said: “The Lord rebuke you!”
  • Lions are insatiably hungry.  Once they kill and eat they’re ready to do it all over again.  Likewise, Satan “walks about,” as he stalks his next victim.  Actually, the word “roar” refers to the howl of a beast in fierce hunger.  And Satan is actively “seeking someone to devour,” meaning he is always looking for an opportunity to pounce on any weakness he sees.  He attacks suddenly when unsuspecting victims are involved in routine activities.  The word, “devour” means to gulp down.  As someone has said, “Some of you are already lying on his dinner plate, and the sound you hear is the licking of his lips.”
  • Lions are intimidatingly scary.  A mature lion’s roar can be heard up to five miles away.  The main purpose of their roar is to frighten.  I’m told that one of the strategies of a pride of lions is for the older lion, who often does not have any teeth left, to roar so that the prey starts running, right into an ambush of younger lions.  Then they put the meal into a blender for the older lion (or something like that).  Friend, listen.  Satan is intimidating and scary…but he doesn’t have any teeth!  Jesus has defeated and de-fanged him at the cross.
  • Lions are intensely territorial.  Another reason they roar is to announce that they are in charge of a certain territory.  Satan likes to think he’s in charge as well and hates it when the kingdom of God advances.  He can’t stand it when someone is saved and taken out of his domain.  That’s why he often attacks new believers and tries to keep Christians from sharing the gospel.  He thinks our community is his territory, but it’s not.  Right?  

 If every evangelical in our community would live on mission, we could cover the whole community with the gospel message. Let’s claim this town for Christ!

In his book called, Stealth Attack, Ray Pritchard develops the concept of asymmetric warfare to describe how our adversary the devil attacks.  Asymmetric refers to something that is out of balance.  In war it involves “the use of unconventional tactics to counter the overwhelming conventional military superiority of an adversary.”

From the American point of view, most of our wars have been examples of symmetric warfare. In World War II the Allied armies were on one side and the German, Italian and Japanese armies were on the other side.  They fought traditional battles for territory across the islands of the Pacific and across North Africa and Europe.

In the 21st century, a new sort of warfare has come to the forefront in which conventional armies face terrorist cells.

It’s helpful to remember that the goal of the lesser power is not to utterly defeat the larger power.  Instead, the lesser power intends to harass the larger power until they just give up.  Time is on the side of the lesser power.  Few of us have the stomach for a war that never seems to end.  If the lesser power can wreak enough havoc to divide and dishearten the greater power, the lesser power can win even though he is badly outnumbered.  

Satan rarely attacks us head-on because we are ready for such assaults.  But he comes at us from unusual angles, playing on our minds, slowing us down, throwing one roadblock after another in our way, causing us to doubt and then to fear and finally to give in to discouragement and despair.

In thinking about spiritual warfare from this perspective, keep two things in mind: 1) Satan’s goal is to discourage you so that you feel like giving up; 2) Satan doesn’t fight fair.  He uses anything and everything that he can to bring us down.  And he’s a lot smarter than you are.  He knows your weak points better than you do.  And he even uses your strengths against you.  

Ray then gives five practical ways to fight against our adversary.

  • Adopt a warfare mentality.  Settle the fact that we are always at war and recognize the devil’s lies when they come your way.  One of the leaders in my previous church used to respond to wrong thinking with a very strong statement: “That is a lie straight from the pit of hell.”  It was always a bit jarring when he would say it but I quickly learned that he was right.
  • Raise the spiritual alert level.  Our country used to follow a color-coded alert level.  We are not safe just because we think we are.
  • Practice forward-leaning defense.  Be in the Word.  Read your “Take 15 in 15.”  Grow in your faith now so when the attacks come you’ll be prepared.  
  • Present a united front.  We are always stronger together than we are alone.
  • Settle in for the long haul.  We are told that our enemies cannot defeat us. But they can discourage so much that we put down our weapons and leave the battlefield. Satan is a defeated foe, yet he is also a roaring lion

That’s really what Peter says in verse 9: “Resist him, steadfast in the faith…”  To “resist” means to “stand firm against” and pictures a face-to-face confrontation.  We shouldn’t underestimate our enemy but we also shouldn’t overestimate him.  I’ve heard that the worst thing you can do when a lion is coming after you is to run.  I don’t have any experience with that but I heard of a tour guide that stood up and yelled forcefully when he saw an animal approaching, “Don’t run.  Stand still.  He won’t know what to do if you stare him down.”  I’m sure that was counter-intuitive because I would have wanted to get out of there.

It’s fascinating to me that we’re told to flee immorality, idolatry and youthful lusts, but we’re never instructed to flee from the devil.  We’re to resist him, not try to run away.

To be “steadfast in the faith” refers to being stable and firm.  This can only come as we grow in our relationship with God.  James 4:7 puts it like this: “Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  We must submit to God before we can stand against the devil.  Revelation 12:11 tells us how to overcome the evil one: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…”

Satan wants you to believe you’re alone.

Check out the last part of verse 9: “…knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  It helps us when we are going through some battles to realize that our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are also getting clobbered for their faith.  This is a good reminder because sometimes we think we’re the only ones going through stuff. Satan wants you to believe you’re alone and just as a lion likes to separate his prey from the herd, he will do all he can to get you to unplug from others.  When you feel all alone, the adversary will attack.

Pursue the Positive

At the point we can start to feel negative and overwhelmed, we’re called to focus on the positive.  This is what Peter does as he wraps up his letter by encouraging us to pursue at least four positive truths.  These truths taste better than arrogance, anxiety or our adversary.  I’ve adapted Alan Carr’s outline for these closing verses.

  1. Enjoy grace.  Look at verse 10: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus…”  No matter what cares are consuming you right now or how the Adversary is attacking you, God’s grace is enough.  Notice that He’s the God of all grace.  2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”   As has been said, “The will of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you.”
  2. Endure grief.  Let’s pick up the last part of verse 10: “…After you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”  Persevering through problems and suffering is one of the themes of Peter’s letter.  Even though it seems like suffering lasts a long time, compared to eternity it’s just a little while.  Notice what God promises to do:
  • Perfect you.  This means to “be equipped, repaired or rendered complete.” It was used of Peter mending his fishing nets in Matthew 4:21.  God loves to put us back together as we persevere through our problems.  As Philippians 1:6 says, God is committed to finish what He started in you.
  • Establish you.  This means to be “set fast or fix.”
  • Strengthen you.  God is committed to make us strong, even after we have failed.  I’m sure Peter was thinking back to the words that Jesus spoke to him in Luke 22:32: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  One of the purposes of Peter’s letter is to strengthen believers.
  • Settle you.  This word means to “confirm or set a foundation.”  This same word was used to describe the guy who built his house on the foundation of the rock so it could withstand storms (Matthew 7:25).  
  1. Exalt glory.  When you have a strong foundation and withstand the storms you give glory to God.  Check out verse 11: “To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.  Amen.”  As we’ve already established in this series, everything is for God’s glory.  When we suffer we must affirm His sovereignty.  And when we’re going through some garbage we want to give Him glory.
  2. Exemplify gathering. Our first value as a church is to gather as God’s people.  This closing section is personal and warm which shows us that we need each other when we’re suffering.  I love how Peter gives props to Silvanus, also known as Silas in verse 12: “By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him…”  He probably delivered the letter to these believers scattered in different communities.  He had ministered with Paul on his second missionary journey and sang hymns with Paul in prison.  Do you have a faithful person like Silas you can call on when you’re suffering?

Peter next summarizes why he wrote his letter.  He wants believers to stand in the face of suffering, holding on to the grace of God no matter what is happening around them: “…I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand.”

He also wants those who have been scattered amid persecution to know that there is another church cheering them on in verse 13: “She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you…”  The word “she” refers to a church and “Babylon” was likely a code name to protect the believers in Rome.

An entire church is rallying around them but so is a young man: “…and so does Mark my son.”  Because of all the time they had spent together, these two guys from different generations had grown very close, with Mark becoming like a son to Peter.  BTW, this is the same guy that had failed and bailed on Paul and Barnabas but was now restored and ready to serve in whatever way he could.  To follow up from last week, it is important for generations to encourage each other.  How have you gotten close to someone from another generation this week?

And then he ends by expressing a tender desire that brothers and sisters in Christ greet each other with affection in verse 14: “Greet one another with a kiss of love…”  It’s common in other cultures to give a warm greeting by giving a kiss on the cheeks.   At the very minimum it’s warm and embracing, isn’t it?  Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t even get up and greet people.  Or at the worst, we look right through some people, treating them as if they’re invisible.  Friends, I love how friendly our church is, but let’s make sure that we’re greeting each other warmly. 

That’s one reason we have a time of greeting during our services.  For some people this may be the only time they come in contact with others.  This is a way to reaffirm that we are part the same team

And so we’re to deal with arrogance, anxiety and with our Adversary.  We’re also to enjoy grace, endure grief, exalt glory and exemplify gathering.

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah

Some of these jellybeans are tasty and some are terrible.  You can’t tell from the outside because they look identical.  But for every delicious one there’s also a destructive one in the box.  The counterfeits are designed to trick you and leave you with a very bad taste in your mouth.  And it’s not a game.  Never forget that Satan is a counterfeit.  2 Corinthians 11:14: “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  Peter says that he is like a roaring lion but he’s nothing like the real roaring lion, the Lord Jesus Christ!

In Revelation 5:5 the Apostle John is given a message: “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”  The Lord Jesus Christ is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the protector of Israel in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Jesus Christ will devour His enemies and Satan and his evil minions tremble before His might.

In Revelation 5:6 the image changes from a lion to a lamb: “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…”  These two images could not be more jarring.  Lambs are weak and lowly and sacrificed for others.  Jesus is both the supreme Lion and the sacrificial Lamb.  And as the Lamb he is standing next to the throne because He is alive and the war has been won.  He is a lamb-like lion and a lion-like lamb.  When He cried out, “It is finished,” it was with a victorious lion-like roar that shook the very foundations of earth.  

I love the lyrics to the song by the Newsboys called, “God’s Not Dead.”

My God’s not dead

He’s surely alive

He’s living on the inside

Roaring like a lion

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, he tells of the adventures of four children in the kingdom of Narnia.  The story is an allegory of Christ and salvation, with Christ represented by the lion Aslan.  When in Narnia, the children meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who describe the mighty lion to Lucy.

“I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea.  Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “…Is he – quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”

Peter ends by writing, “…Peace to all who are in Christ Jesus.”  Peace opens the book and ends it.  But would you notice that peace is only for those who are in Christ Jesus?  Are you in Christ?  If not, don’t settle for any counterfeits.  Cast yourself fully upon Him because He cares for you.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?