Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Letters Of A Changed Man: A Study Of 1st And 2nd Peter. Day 16, Resist Satan And Stand Firm In The Faith

The Apostle Peter encourages everyone to resist the wiles of the devil and to stand firm in the faith. We take a look at the importance of staying connected to the body of Christ so we don't make easy pickings for Satan, whom Peter likens to a lion stalking its prey.

"Be alert and of sober mind." (1 Peter 5:8a) Peter has already cautioned us about this before. I don't think he ever forgot the night in the garden when he fell asleep during Jesus' dark hour of anguish. If Peter had obeyed the Lord to "watch and pray", he would not have failed so miserably later in the night. He would have stood firm in his faith in Jesus, admitting he was one of His disciples. Then he would not have had to step outside the high priest's courtyard to weep bitter tears of guilt. (Matthew 26:75, Luke 22:62)

We will do a lot of weeping in this world, but the bitterest weeping we will ever do is when we admit to ourselves that we have failed to remain alert to temptation and have fallen into its trap. We've all wept tears of grief and disappointment, but these are unavoidable in a fallen world. Sorrows are going to come to us even when we are living faithfully in the Lord's will. But it's those tears we cry when we are responsible for our own mess that are bitter. That's when we wish we could go back in time and make a different choice. I've felt that way many times myself. I could have avoided a lot of tears if I had done the right thing in the first place. I think for the rest of Peter's life he wished he had made a different choice on the night before the crucifixion, but he can't change the past, so he keeps reminding himself and us to always be on the alert for anything that might tempt us to do or say anything that would make the world think we aren't disciples of the Lord.

We are to be as alert to danger as a herd of gazelles. We have a predator who hates us and is always on the prowl, waiting to pick off the one who falls behind or who appears the weakest. "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8b) This passage makes me picture a lion crouched in the tall weeds, waiting to see if a member of the herd drops behind. The lion carefully scans each one to determine if any is sick or handicapped. Why should he exert himself more than he has to by trying to take down a gazelle that is strong and fast? All he needs to do is look for one that will be easy to tackle. That's how Satan watches the church---the body of Christ. He looks for the one who has dropped out of church and who isn't receiving the constant encouragement of the other believers. He looks for the one who has stopped reading the Bible regularly. He looks for the one who hardly ever prays anymore. The devil, like a lion in the weeds, isn't going to put more effort into catching his prey than he has to. He's looking for an easy mark, and we make ourselves an easy mark when we don't remain connected to the Lord through prayer and the Scriptures and when we don't remain connected to other believers.

We don't have to walk through life in fear, thinking Satan is hiding behind every bush. Even the gazelles know there isn't a lion hiding at the edges of every meadow. But the gazelles know they have an enemy who might be waiting for an opportunity to pick one of them off, so when crossing each meadow they are alert for signs of danger. They know there is strength in numbers and in remaining close together. They know how important it is to appear healthy and strong so that the lion will pass them by. That's what we have to do too. We have to be so strong and healthy in the faith that Satan won't want to put the effort into taking us down.

Peter made several mistakes on the night before the crucifixion and he wants us to learn from them. The first mistake he made was sleeping instead of remaining alert and in prayer. (Matthew 26:40)That was the moment when Satan picked him out as an easy mark. The second mistake Peter made was not staying close to the Lord, following Him to the high priest's house at a distance. (Mark 14:54) The third mistake he made was in not remaining closely connected with the other disciples that night, the majority of them having fled the garden in fear (Mark 14:50). I think he had such a forceful personality and so many leadership qualities that he could have banded the disciples together so they could go as a group to see what was happening to Jesus, but there is no evidence he tried to do this. Without strength in numbers, he waited alone in the courtyard of the high priest. John, who was known to the high priest, was unable to get Peter admitted to the residence. (John 18:15) If only Peter had had some other disciples with him in the courtyard he might not have become so overwhelmed with fear that he claimed never to have even met Jesus.

We have to be aware at all times that we might be attacked by temptation. The best way to avoid being picked out as an easy mark by Satan is by staying in close relationship with the Lord and in close relationship with other believers. We can't neglect prayer. We can't neglect reading God's holy word. We can't isolate ourselves from the body of believers who can help us be strong and healthy in the faith. Whenever we find ourselves feeling withdrawn and unsociable, we need to immediately go on the alert. Like the gazelles in the meadow, we should start sniffing the air to see if a lion is in the weeds. That's when we have to draw closer to the Lord and to other believers in order to present a strong and united front. Let's make it too much trouble for the devil to bother with us!

No comments:

Post a Comment