This article was originally published here, on July 14, 2009.
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5: 8).
Do you believe this verse? Is it possible that there is an actual devil? And that he prowls around seeking someone to devour? Really? I mean, do you really believe that there are actual forces of darkness that are seeking to destroy mankind in general, and God's people in particular? Before you answer, let's look at Peter's analogy.
Peter tells us that the devil is like a lion on the hunt. I have watched numerous nature documentaries on predators. When lions hunt, they often attack the weaker animal, and they go about their attack by separating their target from the herd. Once cut off from the protection of the the herd, the animal becomes essentially helpless.
Watching these documentaries can be very helpful. The camera crew watches the herds to see how they react to the approaching danger. Often, the older battle-wise leaders in the herd, graze a little, watch a little. Their ears twitch, this way and that, in order to pick up any hint of danger's approach. Younger, inexperienced members of the herd, play and explore with little observation. Most of the time when cameras capture the lions bursting out of the tall grass into open, the observant older animals have already began to sprint away. Younger animals seem to be notified of danger, not by a sound, but by the mad rush of the herd away from their position. And many times, it is too late; the lions prevail.
I doubt Peter ever saw a documentary on lions, but he had probably witnessed a lion attack. Obviously, Peter was aware of the cunning tactics that lions use. Most likely, his audience was familiar with these tactics as well. This familiarity is precisely why he uses the image he does. Peter explains that Satan "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." The lion's roar is meant to throw the victim into panic, to scatter its wits, to terrorize and disorient. Likewise, Satan seeks to make a lot of noise. He likes to hit us from all sides. He wants us to feel like destruction is inevitable. He needs us to believe that he will prevail.
Now back to the initial question: do you believe 1 Peter 5:8? Is the devil (and his demons) really out there trying to destroy us? Let me answer the second question: yes, there is a real devil (with demons) who is seeking to devour whomever he can. But, do you believe that?
The only way to know if you truly believe that the devil is out there waiting to pounce is by the way you live. Are you sober-minded and watchful? Are you like the older animals in the herd who graze a little and watch a little? Or are you busy playing and exploring? Are your ears ever vigilant, straining for the first sounds of warning? If our life isn't marked by sober-mindedness and watchfulness, then it doesn't matter what we say we believe. If someone says, "Yes, I believe 1 Peter 5:8," but fails to be watchful and sober-minded, then they too will be devoured.
We have forgotten our Master's instruction, "Pray then like this . . . And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:9, 13). We have also forgotten his warning, "Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). I believe, in part, that Peter calls us to sober-mindedness and watchfulness, because he would spare us the shame of failing our Lord. A shame he knew too well, and probably never totally overcame. The lion is out there, keep up your guard and be ready to call to your protector, that Great Shepherd of our soul, Lord Jesus.