65. Resist the Enemy

Meditations in 1 Peter : 65: Resist the Enemy

1 Pet 5:8b Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith

Now we come more fully to the reason Peter says be alert. We have an enemy and it is important that we understand who he is, how he works and his limitations. In some ways he is slightly mysterious, and in others he is obvious and clearly described in Scripture. In fact he is mentioned so many times that we would be foolish to deny his presence. So what can we find out about him?

Scholars note two particular passages of prophetic Scripture which, they say, speak of a figure who must be far more than a mere man and thus, they suggest, Satan is being described in the prophecies.  The first is Isa 14:12-17 which notes:

–          the being referred to in these verses seems to have come from heaven,

–          he was cast down on the earth (see also Rev 12:9),

–          he was overcome by pride and wanted to be greater than God.

The second set of verses is Ezek 28:11-19 which note:

–          this being was created perfect,

–          his task was a guardian over Eden, he was made sinless, but he turned,

–          because of his sin he was expelled from God’s presence,

–          his perfect beauty became the cause of his pride and for this he was expelled.

Thus it is suggested that he is an angelic being whose origin is in heaven. Now let’s note his various designations. In a number of places he is described as “Satan” (see Job 1:6 / Zech 3:1 / 2 Cor 11:14) but Satan simply means “the accuser” (Rev 12:10). He is also referred to as “the tempter” (Mt 4:3), and “the devil ….. a murderer ….. the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), sometimes just “the devil” (e.g. Mt 4:1-11), once as “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14), and at the beginning he was seen as “the serpent” (Gen 3:1).

As “tempter” he seeks to lead people astray, as “the devil” he is the leading demon, as “the serpent” he deceived and was a liar, seeking to kill (a murderer), as a deceiver he comes in disguise as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14) to lead astray. In Rev 12:9 he is referred to as “The great dragon … that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan” and so we see he also comes as a “dragon” or “lion”, (1 Pet 5:8) indicating his intent to create fear. In Eph 2:2  he is referred to as “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” and in Jn 14:30/ Jn 16:11 he is referred to as “the prince of this world”. In 1 Jn 5:19 he is simply called “the evil one”.

It is important, so that we do not get over-awed by him, we need to know:

  • he is merely one of God’s created beings,
  • he can only to go as far as God permits. (See Job 1 & 2),
  • his end is decreed by God (Rev 20:10),
  • he is used by God.

So Peter identifies him first as our enemy. An enemy is one who is against us, possibly out to get us and destroy us. He calls him “the devil” as he would no doubt have heard his Master refer to him as he would have later shared his experience with his disciples, with him in the wilderness (Mt 4:1-11). He describes his activity as being “like a roaring lion”, again one who is dangerous and who seeks prey. Indeed, he goes on, he is “looking for someone to devour”.

So how does Satan ‘devour’ someone? He takes them over and takes them into himself, or rather, gets them to let him into them (see Lk 22:3). It starts in the mind. He seeks to deceive by speaking lies. When the person receives those lies they become vulnerable to temptation and so give way to sin. The more they allow this to happen, the more the enemy holds sway over them, introducing them to the ways of the occult until eventually they are completely under his sway, oppressed or even possessed – they have been devoured!

But that is not inevitable. He cannot force himself on us. “Resist him”, says Peter. We CAN do that. James had the right order: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) when the enemy comes, turn to the Lord. Make sure your life is fully submitted to Him. Call on Him for strength, and rely upon His word (as Jesus did in the desert). Resist him in God’s strength. Declare the truth, praise and worship the Lord and the enemy will flee. In all those ways we’ve just described, we will be “standing firm in the faith.” Hold firm to the word of God and holding fast to our relationship with the Lord, we resist the enemy by faith and he will flee.

Remember, earlier on, we said God uses him? So why is the Lord allowing him to come against you? So that you will learn to resist his lies, so that you will learn to declare the truth, and so that you will learn to be strong in the Lord!  May it be so!

 

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50. Stand Firm

Ephesians Meditations No.50

Eph  6:13,14 Therefore put on the full armour 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

We gave a hint in the previous meditation of where Paul was going with this. It impacts a key understanding for the Christian which radically affects their security. Many people don’t understand the enemy’s limitations – or what goes on in their heads!  We are actually going to deal with the subject of the armour in the next meditation and so, although it is mentioned in the verses above, we want to put it aside for the moment and focus on a different aspect of these verses. It is all about perspective.

You know about perspective don’t you? It’s not a ‘perspective’ that an artist or architect worries about, the depth of the picture; this is more about where you view the thing from. Now many Christians view the Christian life as something that is to be struggled for. They see it as a battle to achieve a place of love, joy, peace etc. etc., a place where they are loved, a place where they feel secure, a place of forgiveness, a place where there is no condemnation. In other words it is a case of having to work for all those things and the battle is to wrestle those things from the enemy. Now that ‘perspective’ is completely wrong!

The truth comes out in one word that Paul uses three times in these verses: ‘stand‘. ‘Stand‘ here means hold onto what IS yours now! I pictured it in the previous meditation as imagining that the Christian life that you have inherited is a plot of land. It is yours and the enemy has no access to it. If you are walking with the Lord with an open heart to Him then the enemy is allowed no access to your life. The worst he can do is scream at you ‘over the fence’. If you get thoughts that are negative, demeaning and which you find pull you down, recognise the source of these – it is him calling over the fence. He’s not there on your plot of land – he’s not allowed in. He can only shout at you from over the fence and you hear his words in your mind. But they are his words, not yours, so don’t put up with them.

The apostle James gave us the answer: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) Give yourself over to God and when the enemy turns up with his lies, turn away from him and turn to the Lord (who IS on your plot of land – because His Holy Spirit lives in you), share it with Him, worship Him, speaks the truth about your life, and then turn back to the enemy and tell him where to go! Then get on in peace and quiet enjoying your inheritance.

The apostle Peter also spoke in these terms: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Pet 5:8,9)  He knew that Satan comes and roars over the fence at us sometimes and tells you how powerful he is or how powerful his minions are. Just remind him of the truth: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) God is so infinitely greater than a single fallen angel (because that is all Satan is) so don’t let the enemy try and tell you anything to the contrary.

Let’s look at what Paul says here: “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” What are we to do? Put on the full or complete armour that God HAS given us, which we’ll consider in the next meditation. When will we particularly need it? “When the day of evil comes” or when a particularly bad day comes. We do have such days. We feel tired or weak, people are nasty or unkind to us, and the enemy leans over the fence and screams at us about what a failure we are. Something goes wrong with the car or with a member of the family and stuff starts to build up. Things go wrong at work or you are involved in an accident driving in to work. All these things contribute to a bad or evil day. At such times the battle for your mind is on, and at such times you need to rely upon ‘the armour’. But when you do, what will be the outcome? You will “be able to stand your ground.” You will remind yourself who you are, a child of God, you will remind yourself that you are loved of God and that His Spirit lives in you, and you will remind yourself that His grace is there for you, and you will tell the enemy where to go, and you will shine in the darkness!

And then? “And after you have done everything, to stand.” This second ‘stand‘ implies ‘keep on standing’, keep on holding your ground. Having withstood the onslaught you hang on to the godly and righteous life that Jesus has given you, refusing to let go of it, refusing to let darkness enter it. Do you remember a verse we’ve spoken of a number of times previously: he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col 1:13).  It’s the same imagery, of land transference. We’ve been taken out of the land where Satan rules, where darkness (evil) prevails and we’ve been transferred to the land where Jesus reigns and (by inference) light (goodness) prevails. So, says Paul a third time, “Stand firm then,” and goes on to launch into descriptions of what the armour is, and we’ll see that in the next meditation. So, today, whatever the enemy says or does, hold on to who you are, and the life you’ve been given. Jesus earned it and it IS yours now – today, this moment! Enjoy it!

Walk of Despair

WALKING WITH GOD. No.40

1 Kings 19:3,4 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD ,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

We have previously commented along these lines, but it bears repeating, that the idea that the Christian life is always smooth and easy is unreal. Christians have to live in this Fallen World and so things go wrong and people are nasty. To see the reason why Elijah was running for his life, we have to see the previous two verses: “Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” This was a very real threat from a very nasty person! There was a contract out on Elijah’s head! But, you might say, wasn’t Elijah this great prophet of the Lord so he could simply stand up to the Queen? Well actually, no, because that is the problem.

The problem is not only the Queen, it is that Elijah has just been through an amazing spiritual battle and would be feeling exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Please realize that this was all in the service of his Lord. Even Jesus took time out to rest after his busy schedule. The reality is that when you are giving out spiritually, it can leave you drained. Yes, the Lord will be your strength and yes, He will restore you, but for that moment you are empty, needing to be refilled, and it is often that at that moment the enemy attacks, when he sees you are vulnerable. The response? You feel weak and fearful and want to run, escape to a quiet place and fall asleep (v.5). Did the Lord chide him for this? No! Instead He sent an angel who provided supernatural provision for Elijah to enable him to get to the place of meeting with God again. This is a very real experience and we need to really take on board the elements of it.

First note that we live in a state of war with Satan and sometimes he seems to come like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and when he comes like that he seeks to create fear in us.

Second, note that he comes to attack like this when we are vulnerable and probably when we have just been giving out a great deal, and even when we have just had a great victory.

Third, the crucial thing here is to be aware of what is going on. When Peter in the verse just referred to warns about Satan coming as a roaring lion, he starts, “ Be alert…..” Very often Christians become casualties simply because they did not realize what was going on and did not take steps to counter it. Emotional responses when you are at this place of attack are fear, doubt, feeling down, worrying and so on. They are all things the enemy seeks to impose upon you. Realise what is happening.

The fourth thing is to get out of the firing line. It was sensible, in the absence of a word from the Lord, to get out of range of the Queen. When you are feeling weak and vulnerable step back from the front line until you can be restored. While you stay there you are simply a target for more blasting from the enemy, and that isn’t necessarily the big obvious things, it can be the subtle temptation that brings your downfall into sin.

The fifth thing is to get with God. Elijah made for Horeb, or Sinai, the known place of encounter with the Lord. Even to get there he needed supernatural help. It may be that you need help from the Lord and that ‘angelic’ help can actually be through others. If you have those who are close to you, ask them to pray and carry on praying for you. (If you don’t find them!) I have a small group of people I confide in who pray for me all the time, but they find it particularly helpful if I share with them what is happening to me. Perhaps we need a retreat – it can be a day or a week. We would like to say that the ‘walk of despair’ should only be temporary, but unless you do some of these things, it can extend. Prov 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” It is the same principle that applies here. If you stand alone you are vulnerable. If you have those who can be made aware of the battle and the subsequent weakness, you are on the way to recovery.

The ‘walk of despair’ is all about resources, or to be more precise, shortage of them. In your daily walk with God, when you are in the midst of the battle, those resources can run low. Listen to the apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” (2 Cor 1:8,9). Did you see that? “pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” Why does the Lord allow that? Listen to Paul again, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (v.10,11). There it is, exactly as we were saying. This happens, share it, get prayer support to get to the Lord and “he will deliver.” Hallelujah!

4. Mishaps of Life

The Anguish of Job – Meditation 4

Job 1:13-19 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

This passage is a bit of a handful and so we’d better check what it says first. Job’s family are having a get-together at the oldest brother’s house while Job is obviously at home. Then things start going wrong:

Crisis no.1: Sabean raiders steal the oxen & donkeys and servants killed.

Crisis no.2: Lightning kills sheep and shepherds.

Crisis no.3: Chaldean raiders steal the camels and kill the camel keepers.

Crisis no.4: A tornado hits the house and kills all Job’s children.

Now two thoughts immediately come to mind. The first one is that this sort of thing is the content of a nightmare. It’s usually only in nightmares that everything goes utterly wrong and you feel totally helpless to do anything about it. The second thought is that when everything goes seriously pear-shaped my wife and I immediately go into suspicion mode and wonder what we’re doing right that it has caused Satan to pay us so much attention. When just one thing happens you take it on the chin and cope. When more than two things blow up under our feet, we become aware that this is more than coincidence. We have a saying that sometimes Satan over-reaches himself, and shows his hand. Most of the time he is subtle, coming like an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), and often he simply tries to hide himself so you won’t realise that you are under attack. There are other times when he comes like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and seeks to scare you with fear. Some times, however, he comes blatantly and destructively as in these instances.

Now you might think that this is an assumption because the passage above doesn’t actually mention Satan. Yes, it is an assumption because, in what has just gone before it, the Lord has given permission: “everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (v.12). Now observe in passing that Satan has been limited in respect of what he has been allowed to do. He can touch “every thing” but not Job himself. So, the natural logic of the flow of the text is that Satan is permitted by God to attack Job’s possessions and so what follows is the outworking of that.

Let’s consider the nature of these four attacks. Two of them are what we might call ‘natural disasters’ (lightning and tornado) and two of them are the acts of men. Thus we see first of all that Satan is granted delegated power (it’s from God) to affect the weather. Of course most of us immediately write off such things when they happen – lightning strikes, floods, hurricanes etc. – we write them off as ‘natural’ disasters with no meaning, purely freaks of nature. Yet behind the story of these catastrophes here, there is purpose. It is not very clear yet, but God has virtually instigated this by prodding Satan and Satan has used the power given to him to destroy, and God never does anything out of spite and He is not capricious and He is, please remember, a God of love who sometimes takes the mishaps of life in a fallen world, to bring about His greater purposes which will be (ultimately) for our blessing.

Two of these attacks involve human raiders. Did Satan have to ‘make’ these men do this? No, it is far more likely that he simply whispered into their minds that here were some easy pickings and their natural sinful inclination did the rest. It is very easy for Satan to lead sinful men into doing more sin; that’s why the apostle John was able to say, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19)

Now this might sound quite depressing if we thought that Satan got his own way and all that life included was disaster. Of course life is very far from that and in fact, life is full of God’s blessings, yet because it is a ‘fallen world’ and men and women reject God, He uses Satan in a variety of ways. For example, to reveal men’s hearts (1 Chron 21:1), to bring judgment on unbelievers (Rev 9:11), to bring discipline to believers (1 Cor 5:5), to maintain humility in our lives (e.g. 2 Cor 12:7), and to develop faith & righteousness in our lives (1 Peter 1:7). These are just some of the ways that the Bible shows that God uses Satan. To describe Satan as a ‘servant of God’ is, I believe, incorrect because that implies willing, friendly co-operation, whereas Satan’s activities are always revealed as hostile to God’s creation.

Something further to be remembered in all of this, is that whatever is going on we know “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.” (Rom 8:28). So whatever is going on, the Lord will be working for the good of His children. We need to remember that, even though we may be Christians, we are still citizens of a particular country and if that is under God’s judgment we will find ourselves having to cope with the things that are part of that overall judgment. Jeremiah is a good example of that, a man who was God’s mouthpiece and an obvious believer, faithful to the Lord, delivered out of exile when Jerusalem fell (what provision by the Lord!) yet taken away by the rebellious exiles and last seen prophesying going over the border into exile in Egypt! Daniel was God’s mouthpiece in the Babylonian court in exile, while Ezekiel was God’s mouthpiece with the common people in exile.

So when mishaps happen, they may be because of our own folly, they may be Satanic attack through which we will learn, and they may be just because we live in a fallen world in a country that God is dealing with. However, in all of these things, the crucial thing for us as Christians today, is to remember that Jesus IS Lord, and that he is seated at his Father’s right hand (1 Pet 3:22) and is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2). As children of God perhaps one of the things we should be constantly asking is, “Lord, what is the bigger picture?”