“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8)
It is easy to read the word “someone” and fail to make the application to ourselves. Satan is seeking to destroy anyone, including me. This book was written to Christians (1:3), for Christians need to be reminded that even though the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19), and many are currently on the path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13), this does not mean the devil is completely preoccupied and satisfied with the lost souls he has already deceived.
“I am a Target”
In the little booklet, Sexual Temptation, How Christian workers can win the battle, the author Randy Alcorn observes, “Some years ago there was considerable scuttlebutt about an international ‘hit list’, a calculated plan for paid assassins to murder strategic world leaders. A terrifying thought, isn’t it? Yet I’m convinced that the enemy, Satan, has maintained such a hit list throughout the millennia. And there’s every reason to believe that Christian workers are at the very top of this list. If you have a ministry of any sort—public or private, teaching, preaching, leading, helping or otherwise—then take heed: you are a targeted man, or a marked woman. The forces of evil have taken out a contract on you. There is a price on your head sufficient to make any bounty hunter salivate. Satan is out to get you. Why? Because he wants to nullify your ministry. Because more than any others, you bear on your shoulders the reputation of Christ” (pp. 6-7). I do believe there are Scriptures to back up the above idea, that is, among all people on the planet, Christians are especially targeted by Satan:
Many passages specifically warn God’s own people that they are targeted, such as 1 Peter 5:8. Others include, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11), “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (6:12); “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God” (Revelation 12:17).
The leaders among God’s people have often been targeted as well, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan as demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). “In the impending events Satan will make a last desperate attempt to break up the circle of Jesus’ disciples and to cast out its members like chaff scattered by the wind. Satan desires that in the shifting process ‘no wheat shall remain’, but that all (like Judas) will be blown away like chaff” (Geldenhuys p. 566). It could be since Peter was such a leader, Satan thought if he could destroy Peter, then the whole group of disciples would become ineffective, and even if Jesus was raised from the dead, there would be no cohesive group of followers to proclaim the message of salvation in Christ. We see the same concentrated effort against the apostle Paul, “There was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Corinthians 12:7). We have been recently studying the book of Nehemiah and have observed that much of the opposition was actually against Nehemiah himself. Satan understands the principle, “Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered” (Matthew 26:31).
“Consider the days between the time that Judah came out of captivity (536 B.C.), and the time the walls of Jerusalem were finally built (444 B.C.). That’s 92 years. For 92 years God’s people walked in and out of Jerusalem by carefully stepping over the rubble. During this time they were a shame and reproach to their enemies and were left unprotected against attack. Building the walls was a 52 day job and it took 92 years to get it done. Why? Because it took 92 years for a person with the leadership qualities of Nehemiah to rise up” (Focus Magazine, “Are You a Leader or a Manager?”, Berry Kercheville).
This does not only apply to Christians who are working hard among God’s people, that is, take out the leader or the initiator anywhere and the work will grind to a halt. It equally applies in families. Sadly we have all seen families in which the mother or father was taken out by Satan and the family crumbled.
The word “devour” here means to “swallow down” (Thayer p. 335), “to gulp down, or swallow, thus utterly destroy” (Woods p. 130), and “implies utter destruction” (P.P. Comm. p. 208). The devil is not just out to hurt us or hinder us slightly, rather his purpose is to destroy us spiritually and eternally. And there are different methods that Satan uses. “Satan would divide and distract our minds from Christ – perhaps with cares; perhaps with riches and pleasures, or in other ways, just so long as it is us from Christ; whatever hinders our doing His will or encourages not doing it is of the devil. His deal is simple: give him a place in you now and he’ll give you a place with him in eternity (Matthew 25:41)” (Plain Talk 12/8/3).
We can be devoured by giving into temptation. Yet I find that often the hard workers among God’s people can also be devoured by becoming discouraged by the sins of others.
Moses was devoured when he became exasperated by the complaining he saw among the Israelites (Numbers 20:3, 8-12).
Elijah was on the verge of being devoured when God’s people failed to respond to the clear demonstration of the power of the true God and the impotency of false gods like Baal (1 Kings 19:4). Here we learn that leaders or diligent Christian workers are often discouraged when nothing happens after a single great success, when God’s people fail to seize and keep the momentum going. “In three short verses the writer had totally changed the flow of the story. Victory seems to be transformed into defeat, the brave prophet into a cowering refugee, and the victory over death and Baal into an opportunity for death to reassert itself through Jezebel’s oath to take Elijah’s life. How will the Lord prove to be God now? This question remains the fundamental issue in the story” (House p. 222). “Elijah can look only on the dark side of things; he falls asleep, not wishing to wake up in the morning” (Vos p. 121).
Paul said that one weight, temptation or hardship that weighed hard on him, just as heavy as any form of physical hardship or persecution, was “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29).
We can also be devoured by becoming too preoccupied with earthly ease or jealous of the success of sinners (Psalm 73).
Protect your Brother or Sister’s Heart:
What can we do to encourage brethren who are working hard among us or in other areas? We can simply remain faithful ourselves, “I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth” (2 John 4); “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” (2 John 5). We need to take note that John said, “I have no greater joy”. I do not believe that he is exaggerating here. For John and other hard working Christians, they can handle just about anything, but what really undermines their confidence, courage, or faithfulness, is when they see Christians depart from the faith. To this day, some of the things that bother, upset, and discourage me the most are the memories of previously faithful Christians who are now unfaithful.
We are being Watched:
We are not only “targets” on Satan’s hit list, we are equally a constant object of the attention of our friends, co-workers and family members. Consider the following passages, “Among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15); “as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Peter 3:2); “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). We might be tempted to think that the world ignores us, but these passages from the God who sees all and knows the inner most thoughts of every person says the opposite. God is saying that the world, far from ignoring us, is almost preoccupied with us. We might be amazed if we knew how often non-Christians or unfaithful Christians think about us. The world is watching to see if our faith will hold, whether it is credible, and if it works in real life. Some are hoping for our failure, for such would make them feel better about themselves. Years ago I learned this lesson when I encountered a man who was known to be an unfaithful Christian. We both knew a mutual acquaintance who was a gospel preacher, and the first question that this unfaithful Christian had about a mutual acquaintance was, “Is he divorced?” Of course the answer was no! Yet this is what the unfaithful man had hoped for all these years – because he was divorced.
An Object of Envy or Ridicule:
God wants us to be lights in the world (Matthew 5:13-16) and draw people to Him. For those who refuse to be drawn, then, we simply become objects of envy to them. Yet if we let the devil devour us – then we become an object of ridicule, not only to ourselves, but to God as well. We must not “give the enemy no occasion for reproach”(1 Timothy 5:14).