“A Prowling Enemy… A Restoring Ally” – 1 Peter 5:6-11
1. Introductory Illustration
We interrupt the regularly scheduled sermon to bring you this illustration of the imagination…
Come with me into my imagination for a minute – it will be an invisible journey, but not fictional. Let me paint a picture of what I’m imagining: think of critters, bad critters, critters of different sizes and shapes; they’re out there everywhere, all ugly and gross looking, they’re prowling around, you can tell they are hungry, they are sneaking around, waiting for just the right opportunity to get into my life, into your life, and when they find an opening… just a little opening, a little opportunity, a little lapse in judgment… in they come! Maybe a big one, the main one comes in first, but a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, ride his coat-tails and they’re in, too. And when they’re in, they’re insidious, and they immediately begin to do what they do best – declare war! They attack you at your weakest link, they deceive, they divide and conquer, they destroy, they kill.
You know what I’m trying to describe here don’t you??
If you were thinking on a grand and cosmic scale, like some critters in fiction novels – things like ogres, and gremlins, and dragons – well, you weren’t on the same page as me, and maybe I didn’t describe it well enough. I was thinking on a microscopic scale. I was thinking about germs – they’re invisible, but they’re real. They are truly bad critters, bugs, they come in different sizes/shapes, they’re out there, prowling around, hungry looking, waiting for the right opportunity to get into your body, your life. There are 4 types that I’m imagining: bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. You find them all over the place: on door handles, flying through the air on somebody’s sneeze, in food products, in chemicals, or just skulking around in standing water. However they get in, they declare war on your body, attacking at the weakest link – your sinus, your ears, your breathing. And when they do, you’re in for a battle. That’s what happens when you get sick.
2. Expanding the analogy… the prowling enemy
I want to be faithful to our Bible reading from 1 Peter 5, so I will expand our analogy from the microscopic and physical to the cosmic and spiritual.
Peter tells us that our spiritual enemy – the bug/critter called the devil (and his horde of demonic critters) – prowls around and roars and looks for someone to devour. He sneaks around, waiting for just the right opportunity to get into my life, your life, and when he finds an opening… just a little opening, a little opportunity, a weak link, a little lapse in judgment… in they come… all of them… en masse!
What little opening are you thinking of? What little lapse in judgment are you remembering? Maybe for you young people it’s Apex Legends, that popular video game. Not only does it feature a lot of killing, but it focuses on greed, fame and glory. It is morally bankrupt, and it can consume hour after hour after hour of your time, your life… and actually you have no life outside of your video game.
Maybe you working adults opened things a crack when you told that little lie… a lie that you thought would just keep things simple, but one that snowballed from a molehill into a mountain and involved and hurt way more people than you ever imagined.
Maybe your weakest link is that bottle of liquor or being consumed by how to make even more money or the little hot button that ignites your anger or your jealousy. Maybe the devil’s deception is to distract you from listening just enough so that you misunderstand, or get the details wrong and that leads to a disagreement, a fight, hurt feelings, and unresolved conflict, and a strained relationship.
The devil is insidious in the ways that he seeks to get into your head, under your skin, and infiltrate your heart. He’ll deceive, he’ll push, he’ll pull, he’ll twist, he’ll skew things… all for the purpose of declaring war, and devouring you. If you have any spiritual sense about you, you know what I’m talking about. Why, the devil even had the audacity to prowl around Jesus, the very Son of God in human flesh! He was looking to deceive, to deter Jesus from His mission, and to devour Him in his traps. There were the wilderness testings – turning stones into bread, a thrill-jump from the temple heights, and the apparently easy way to have this world’s kingdoms. (By the way… for all of those temptations, Martin Luther wrote: “One little word subdues him.”) There was the temptation through Peter: “Jesus, you don’t need to suffer and die; we won’t let you suffer and die.” There was the great temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane to abandon the Father’s will, and then the final temptation to come down from the cross – spoken even by one of the men crucified with Jesus.
3. A restoring Ally
a. For our bodies
In a war, there are two sides. I’ve talked about the enemy. Now it’s time to talk about our ally.
Come back on my journey into the imagination. There aren’t just the bad critters. Fortunately, God created our bodies with a built-in self-defense system: White blood cells (picture an army of Mr. Cleans) search out germs and get rid of them. Some white cells eat germs (for lunch). Others make antibodies (soldiers) to fight germs and keep them from advancing.
There are things you can do to prevent / resist bugs / critters from getting in: you can eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise and rest, wash your hands, avoid other sick people, take vitamins. There are things you can do to fight bugs when you get them: go see your doctor (he’s an ally), take prescribed medicine (it’s an ally). God is also our ally when it comes to physical health. Pray for God to extend His restoring, healing hand into your body, your life.
b. For our spirits
But again, we want to make the connection to Peter’s words and the image of a spiritual war. There isn’t only the reality of a prowling enemy. There is also the comforting reality of a powerful and restoring ally.
In the high priestly prayer of John 17, we heard Jesus pray for us, for US: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name.” and a few verses later, more specifically: “Protect them from the evil one.” (That would be the evil one who prowls and roars – the one that Peter wrote about in our Epistle reading.)
When Jesus faced His own attacks from the evil one – in the wilderness, by the mouth of Peter, in Gethsemane, and at Calvary – He stood firm and strong and defeated the big bad guy and all his critters with him. His sacrifice of Himself on the cross looked like a losing of the war, but on Easter Sunday (and we’re still in that season) He turned what looked like defeat into triumph as He stood outside of the tomb which tried in vain to hold Him. The victory belongs to our big guy, our big, good guy, our big good ally. Jesus’ triumph reminds us that although the devil may take us down, he will not, he can not ever take us down for the count.
Peter calls God “the God of all grace.” Use your imagination again… the God of all grace… picture a burly Mr. Clean that says “no evil critter is going to get past me with the intent of destroying my child!” Or picture a billowing cumulous cloud that quickly expands to fill virtually the entire sky. That’s the picture of God’s grace… filling our entire lives with His goodness and love – saying “I want you to be clean, and whole, and healthy… HOLY!!”
I was recently thinking about this in connection to our Covid-19 reality. That nasty little virus has adversely affected virtually every person on the planet. Oh, sure, lots of us haven’t contracted the virus and gotten sick. But our lives have been changed, our employment has been affected, our freedoms have been limited. Now, there’s a vaccine, and it’s meant to effectively battle and defeat those Covid virus creatures. Some trust the science and the medicine and have gotten their shot in the arm, while others refuse to receive the benefit of any one of the vaccines.
In a similar way, sin adversely affects every person on the planet. We have ALL gotten sick with the virus of sin. Our sin affects the lives of those around us, and their sin affects our lives. An antidote, a remedy, a vaccine arrived 2,000 years ago. Jesus came to effectively battle and defeat the effect of our nasty sin virus. Yet some refuse to receive the benefits of His presence, they refuse to trust in Jesus’ power to deal with that sin virus. The truth is – through Jesus God forgives us, through Jesus God restores us, and through Jesus God makes us strong, firm and steadfast. He says, “Cast your sins, your anxieties, your cares, your worries and burdens and fears on Me. I care for you!”
c. For our lives… where the rubber meets the road
So I told you some things you can do to resist the germs. What about things to do to resist the big bad spiritual germ?? That’s what Peter says… Resist him.
You can do that with a healthy diet of God’s Word, and prayer, and the body and blood (cells) of Jesus to eat the devil’s germs in our lives and to defend us against others.
You can resist the devil by resisting / avoiding places, people, things, that are especially tempting for you. If it’s alcohol, pray God for strength never to go into the liquor store. If it’s pornography, have the courage to hit delete as soon as one of those e-mails or pop-ups shows up on your computer. If it’s greed, maybe it’s time to close the business section of the newspaper and search out charity or church or mission opportunities to support instead.
Peter also says stand firm in the faith. Find spiritual strength in the worship and the fellowship of God’s people.
I have hardly, hardly been sick in the last ten years as your pastor, and I’m thankful for that. But a couple of years before we came here, I was oddly sick for about 5 days, with no energy, and no appetite. After 4 days, I went to see my doctor and he was baffled by what was afflicting me. As he left the examination room, he gave me no diagnosis, no prescription, no prognosis. Ultimately, a day or two later God restored my health.
But you know, each of us is one day going to hear our doctor say something like, “I have bad news… you’re not going to live forever.” YES, YOU ARE!!! Because our ally – the God of all grace – has sent His Son Jesus to be the vaccine against the virus of sin and to defeat that nasty bug/critter Satan. Because He cares for you, He is calling you to His eternal glory in Christ. And that’s not just my imagination!! It’s God’s promise!! Amen.