Be self-controlled and alert. 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 your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
1 Peter 5:8-9
Here is a verse often misunderstood and misapplied by today’s believers. This is not primarily about temptation – that would be pictured by Satan appearing as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) or as a crouching lion ready to ambush his prey (1 Tim. 6:9). Here instead is a roaring lion that intimidates and destroys. Since other believers, “brothers,” were undergoing this as well it is clear he was referring to persecution, a major theme of the letter. This is not about how to resist temptation but how to avoid and withstand persecution.
Every Christian who seeks to live a godly life experiences persecution in some form (2 Tim. 3:12). This calls for clear-headedness and discipline, soberness and vigilance. If through discretion persecution might be avoided without compromising our principles, then we are wise if we do so. There will not be a time that we can let our guard down, for if Satan does not tempt us, or we are not drawn away by our lusts, then there will be the chance that we will be damaged and perhaps devoured on any pretense, any lapse of judgment, or indiscretion, though it might appear to be otherwise harmless. We must also banish fear from our hearts, for that is just another temptation, but still remain careful, discreet, and wise.
In the face of threats and intimidations, when we can no longer avoid the anger of this roaring lion, we are called to respond with bold resistance, “standing firm in the faith.” A pastor in the mountains of Mindanao, Philippines, started an outreach in a nearby village. For weeks every Sunday afternoon he went to help them start a church, until his actions were noted by communist guerillas in the area. They told him he was unwelcomed there and must not return or they would take his life. He boldly explained to the communists that the believers were his people and as their pastor he could not leave them. When he returned the next week they executed him, and his martyr’s blood was spilled on the ground, but his soul is now with God awaiting the resurrection.
What intimidations are you facing today because you are a believer in Christ? Pray for wisdom and discretion, but pray also for boldness and courage. Remember, it was Saul the Pharisee whose heart was touched by the Spirit of Christ through observing the courage of Stephen in his martyrdom. We never know how and when our courage for Christ will bear fruit in someone’s life.
Lord, help us to be wise and alert, aware that our enemy would destroy us if he could. Let us not, however, live our lives in fear but in confidence in You. Give us the courage and strength to stand for You. Amen.