Passage – 1 Peter 5:8-9
As I sit to write this week’s Pastor’s Pep Talk, I’m reminded that we should be in week two of Wimbledon. I, like many of you I suspect, suddenly find time from nowhere to be able to sit and watch hours of tennis. But sadly not this year. All the great tennis players prepare for matches not only by honing their own skills relentlessly, but also by studying their opponent, looking for their strengths and weaknesses. It would be a sign of arrogance and stupidity to ignore your opponent no matter how confident you were of your own skills. What is true in the world of sport, is also true spiritually. We may be walking securely in Christ, but we do need to know that we have an opponent. The Apostle Peter introduces us to him toward the end of his first letter.
Helpfully Peter tells us why he’s writing the letter in 5:12- “With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.” The Christians Peter addresses are scattered throughout the region, which is modern-day Turkey (1:1), and are facing persecution for their faith in Christ (1:6). That’s why they need encouragement and a reminder of God’s grace. We may not face persecution but we are suffering due to the pandemic and we need to hear this word of encouragement.
What must we be like?
“Be self-controlled and alert”. Peter has already told his readers twice of the need for self-control (1:13, 4:7). This is a freedom from mental confusion or passion. In difficult circumstances our thinking can easily go haywire and our passions run away with us. People can begin to believe all sorts of crazy things in difficult times, and Christians are not immune to such irrationality. Likewise, we’re to be alert. This is the sort of attitude expected of a soldier on watch as opposed to mental and spiritual lethargy. Interestingly the basis for self-control on the part of the believer, rather than irrational panic or fear, is the certain reality of Christ’s return (1:13, 4:7 & 5:6). This is a key thread running through the whole letter. This should give us confidence in the face of persecution and suffering and assure us that God’s plan is right on track.
Why must we be like this?
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The Christian has an enemy, it is the Devil (Greek) or Satan (Hebrew) which means adversary or opponent. When the Lord asks Satan “Where have you come from?” at the beginning of the Book of Job, Satan replies, “From roaming through the earth and going to and fro in it.” (Job 1:7). By that Satan doesn’t mean he’s like a student on a gap year, but he is on the lookout for “someone to devour.” He is described as like a roaring lion, an aggressive beast that is eager to tear its prey to pieces (Psalm 22:13). Images of little children dressed up in red tights, black capes and horns for Halloween, may draw a few laughs and some candy, but it is as far from spiritual reality as you could get. Make no mistake, the devil is out to annihilate the Christian. Just like in the nature documentary, the lion picks off the weak or stray animal, Satan targets believers who are struggling in the faith and perhaps cut off from the church. Given the pandemic, and our inability to meet together as the church (which is in itself a great source of encouragement and protection) we should be even more alive than ever to Satan’s attacks.
What must we do?
“Resist him, standing firm in the faith”. We find similar exhortations elsewhere in the New Testament. James writes “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (4:7) Paul tells the Ephesians to “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (6:11) We mustn’t give Satan an inch but instead keep trusting God in the face of the enemy’s attacks. But one of Satan’s key strategies will of course be lies, because he is the Father of lies (John 8:44). Does this Lockdown lie from Satan ring any bells? No-one has visited/called/texted me from church; no-one cares about me; my non-Christian neighbours are more loving than Christians; why do I bother with church; that’s it I’m done with them. Your brothers and sisters in Christ may well have disappointed you perhaps even failed you, but it’s what Satan does with that disappointment/failure that can be so devastating and divisive if we are not alert to Him and His strategies.
What do we need to keep remembering?
“Because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” One of the lies of Satan is to get the Christian to think that they are the only person who is going through what they are and this can easily lead to self-pity and despair. That is why Peter reminds these persecuted Christians that other believers are facing similar spiritual battles. There is great comfort derived from the knowledge that we are not alone in a battle. That is why in our conversations with each other it is so important that we are transparent about our struggles as we will discover that others face similar battles. A great way to keep reminding yourself of this truth is to read letters and updates from Missionaries & Mission organisations.
Points to Ponder
-Are there some lockdown lies from Satan that you’ve begun to believe? How have they affected your attitude to other Christians/Church? How does God’s Word expose these lies and what does it look like to resist the devil and stand firm in your faith?
“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, form and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:10-11)