When I was around 12 or 13, I memorized a chunk of 1 Peter 5. One verse has always stayed with me: a continual reminder that we are surrounded by spiritual battles.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8 KJV).
I memorized it in the King James Version, and it’s stuck in my brain that way. The verse has a poetic imagery that brings the warning to life. Our enemy, a spiritual being, is likened to a lion on the prowl. This tangible example makes his spiritual hunt worth thinking about and remembering, and as prey we need to be on the lookout because he is around.
When I am in a season of spiritual complacency, instead of spiritual growth and discipline, it is easy to forget about spiritual battles because I’m left on the sidelines. The enemy isn’t as interested in attacking someone who isn’t fighting or threatening his schemes. That being said, once I have determined to seek (and follow) God’s direction, I become a target. However, the fight I find myself engaged in might not feel like a fight at all…
Imagine you are walking down the street, on your way to make a large cash deposit at the bank. Suddenly a person appears at your side and punches you. You immediately either hit back or brace yourself in defense—you are fully aware that you are in a fight. You will probably be inclined to cry out for help from those around you, and if you are surrounded by the right people, the attack will be over quickly. You will shake yourself off, check you bag for the money, and be even more firmly determined to get your errand over with as soon as possible. The would-be thief was a failure.
Next imagine yourself walking down that same street with the same errand. It’s hot and crowded and someone walking the same direction as you makes a funny remark. You chuckle and find yourself engaged in light-hearted conversation. You find you have much in common with this stranger-turned-friend, and at their recommendation the two of you duck into a pleasant ice cream parlor to cool off. Your errand is at least temporarily postponed, which, as time passes, subsequently leaves you more and more vulnerable to not completing it.
In the first situation, the confrontation is obvious and the mission to get to the bank becomes even more critical. In the second, the distraction is subtle and non-threatening but it delays your purposeful intentions. It is frequently the subtle things that derail our intentions to finish the steps of obedience God has called us to take. While it is still within the realm of possibility to encounter demonic oppression and other overtly spiritual things, I find that most of the time I’m dealing with one of two things: distractions and deceptions.
Have you ever had a moment where you sit down to read the Bible and your child chooses that exact moment to “need” you? Or perhaps you are in the middle of a God-ordained conversation with a friend and your phone starts ringing? Or maybe you are excited to perform an act of kindness but then you start to think your efforts won’t be good enough? I’m not suggesting that every time this happens it is caused by an unseen enemy. However, I know from my own experience that when I am set on a course of obedience, the distractions and deceptions tend to crop up more frequently and intensely.
Distractions can take many forms. Temptations, interruptions, physical needs, technical glitches, etc. Again, these are not necessarily evil situations, but they can serve an evil purpose if we allow them to prevent us from doing what we know we have been called to do. Learn to recognize the things that commonly get you sidetracked and develop a strategy for prioritizing the things God has called you to do. Pray for focus and perseverance. Declare out loud what your priorities are.
Deceptions are the lies that are whispered in our ears that feed into our insecurities. Sometimes we self-sabotage and tell them to ourselves. Remember that time you failed. You aren’t talented enough to pull this off. They will just laugh at you. God doesn’t really tell you to do things. This really won’t accomplish anything, etc. The best way to combat lies is with truth. Darkness must flee in the presence of light, and so must falsehood vanish when confronted with the truth. Arm yourself with verses that remind you of who you are in Christ and who God is. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
The Bible tells us that the Devil schemes and that he lies. He doesn’t always appear to us as that roaring lion of 1 Peter 5:8; if he did then we would be much more inclined to call upon the Lord for help. Our enemy wants to separate us from the Lord and slowly lead us astray. This is a frustrating reality, but one that has a solution. Learning to recognize and acknowledge these distractions and deceptions will allow you to stand firm in your faith against them. Once you shed light onto these things, they lose power over you. You are then able to move forward with what you had set out to do.
What step of obedience has God called you to take right now? Have you taken it? If no, why not? If you are distracted, be determined to persevere until you are able to accomplish it. If you are hearing deceptive thoughts, start speaking truths even louder. Our Enemy is threatened by God’s will and our obedience to it. It seems counter-intuitive, but when discouragement comes on the heels of conviction, it is often a sign that we are moving in the right direction. Resist the Devil by standing firm in your faith.
I am not going to tell you that obedience is easy, but I am going to tell you that it is worthwhile. If you are struggling with following through on what God has told you to do, have hope. Stand firm, persevere, resist, and rest. God has already redeemed your delay and He isn’t surprised by it. Make obedience a priority and marvel at how He can be glorified through your life!
1 Peter 5:8-11 “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. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Ephesians 6:10-17 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
John 8:44b (Jesus speaking about the devil) “He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 1a65f00