“Your enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour …. take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one.” (I Peter 5:8b; Ephesians 6:16)
I like cats – warm cuddly domestic pets with their winsome ways. But, having owned a few (or being owned by them), I am under no illusions as to their basic nature. No matter how charming they may be, they bear within their little bodies the hearts of lions.
Cats are voracious hunters. They are wired for the hunt, and not necessarily because they are hungry. They can take their fill of kibbles and milk from the bowls their human caretakers provide for them, and yet go right outside and scout the neighborhood for living morsels – mice, birds, insects.
They will spend hours a day lying in wait in tall grass, their pointed ears attuned to the least scurrying sound, their keen eyes trained on the slightest movement. Or they will hunch down behind a bush near a bird feeder, patient, unyielding, ready to pounce.
And once one of these natural hunters captures a helpless victim, another part of its nature reveals itself. This sweet, endearing creature is downright cruel. He toys with his prey, batting it back and forth, snagging it with wicked claws, then pretending to let it go, giving an illusion of freedom, only to retrieve it and play again. Female cats even teach their kittens this horrendous behavior, modeling the cruelty for succeeding generations.
It was for good reason that Peter chose the lion as exemplary of Satan. Our enemy, or “adversary,” is likened to a great cat, prowling the neighborhood, seeking a victim. In the oldest book in the Bible, Job, when Satan comes before the throne of God and is asked where he has been, he tells the Deity that he has been “going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it.” He was not getting exercise; he was a predator in quest of his next prey.
Do you ever feel like you are a victim of such a predator? Do you ever feel like you are being mercilessly toyed with, that escape sometimes seems possible, but hope is then cut off? If Scripture is to be believed, we are all potential prey to the wiles of a great hunter, our Old Adversary, the Devil.
And his devices are many. They are called “fiery darts,” and are similar to the clawing nails of a cat. They take many forms: fear, guilt, hopelessness, poverty, addiction, prevailing sin, worry, doubt, illness. Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren,” and one of his fieriest darts is that of guilt and self-doubt.
This is not a comfortable topic to deal with. It is not a happy subject. But we are warned of his devices repeatedly in the Bible. We are not necessarily imagining it when we feel we are at the mercies of a cruel tormentor.
But this story does have a happy ending. In fact, the Bible tells us about our adversary in order to give us our battle plan. Amazingly, that plan is contrary to our natural instincts. Like little mice or trapped birds, our instinct is to flee, to beat ourselves into a frenzy of attempted escape. But that is not the solution, according to Scripture.
We are told, instead, to FACE THE LION! Instead of high tailing it, we are told to “resist” or “stand up against” the Devil, and he will flee from us! (James 4:7). We are told to take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish his fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16), all the clawing schemes he uses to destroy us.
The shield is a frontal protection. The warrior bears the shield before himself, not upon his back. It is useless to him if he is running away from his attacker. We are told to flee situations where we might fall prey to Satan’s wiles (2 Timothy 2:22) but we are never told to flee the Old Griffin himself.
Nor are we to face the lion in our own strength.
The shield we bear is that of faith, dependence on the One who has already won the battle for us.
When Christ rose from the dead, not only did he bring the poor souls out of prison, but he devastated the stronghold (captivity) itself! From His perspective, the war is already over. We have only to claim that in faith, and rise out of our victimhood.
Whatever life has thrown your way, whatever challenge arises, do not back down from it. With the shield of faith before you, turn and face the lion. And celebrate when he flees from you!
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