I’ve been thinking about that old lion lately.
The one that prowls and scans the crowds, his insatiable hunger salivating, dripping as he looks for the perfect prey.
The perfectly easy-to-pick-off prey.
In these thousands of years, the lions in Africa have not changed their hunting habits. Nor have the big cats of India or North America. No evolution in their hunting style has been required – because picking off easy prey works for them.
Recently, one of my younger kids asked me about demonic possession – not a topic we discuss too much around here. “Mom?” she asked, “Do people get demon possessed anymore? It seemed to happen a lot when Jesus was here. Does it still happen?”
She didn’t realize that she was asking a question that could be the thesis of a dissertation, that whole books have been written on the subject. And, I tend to be a long-answer-mom. I’m the parent who launches a diatribe in response to simple questions. I’m learning that’s not the always the best course. I decided, in response to this query, to keep things simple, but honest.
I prayed a little prayer, asking for the best answer. This is what I gave her:
“The enemy, Satan, is like water. Water always seeks the path of least resistance. The easiest way down. Water can roll and thunder, move a mountain’s worth of dirt, but the big rocks, the solid, high boulders, it cannot move in a single rush.
Satan looks for the easiest route and he has limited resources. He has a certain number of demons – no more, no less. and they are limited in that they are not all-knowledgable or all powerful. And, population has grown tremendously over the past few thousand years. They are losing, not winning, the battles and the war. Whenever a team is losing, they have to re-strategize, look for easier, more efficient ways to try to win.
Satan will always look for the easiest win, the easiest take-down because he’s more aware than we are of his limitations, and of his real opponent: God.
Yes, there is still demon-possession, but when distraction, oppression, physical ailments and apathy (not caring) can get the job done, then why commit a few demons to one person? Satan will choose the easy course.
Our defense is to be rock-solid. To know and be known by God, to be in community with other rock-solid believers in Jesus Christ. To know that our strength to resist Satan’s God-given power is in seeking God’s strength every, single day.”
And I’ve been watching, friends, since that conversation with my daughter, who the enemy is taking down. It makes me angry. Like little David fighting Goliath, I know that it is God’s anger in me. When I pray for those I love, I get red-cheeked and mad about the enemy flooding his lies like putrid water over their precious souls.
Peter, Jesus’ friend, disciple and denier, knew firsthand the weakness of pride and self-sufficiency that results in utter failure (Matthew 26). On the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, Peter asserts with all his ruffled feathers, “Everyone else may desert you, Lord, but not I – not ever!”
Jesus knew. Jesus knew that Peter was going to be a mudslide, a disaster, a washed up heap of pride.
Thank God for Peter and his messed-up pride. Because in his failure and redemption, in his story and because of it he can say with authority (in 1 Peter 5:5-11) what losing a battle with Satan looks like and how to win the war with Christ.
“…Be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefor under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in die time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”
Peter gives the battle plan for resisting the devil and all his used-up, not-at-all-fresh schemes. Satan is a poseur, an impostor well-practiced but not at all able to really change his strategy. Remember, the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We need not be taken off-guard by Satan. But, we do need to stay fiercely connected to Jesus Christ, our only strong defense against this enemy, this prowling beast who seeks to devour.
1. Submit to one another.
Honesty in community. This is the connective force that Christians have been given because of the sacrificial and redemptive work of Jesus Christ. He is our grace glue, the force that makes us a fibrous, resilient community. Stop faking it and be honest with the people God’s given you, be transparent. This is the only wise course. Christianity is not a solo act.
2. Submit to the authority of God.
After we practice submitting to one-another, submitting to God’s sovereignty should be easy. But, we are prideful people, always thinking that we know better than God.
There is tremendous freedom in admitting our need for God — and really, who doesn’t need an all-powerful creator, sustainer, savior and friend on their side? I know I do.
3. Allow God to fight your battles, knowing he cares about you.
This is where the enemy muddles us. He isolates us through old hurts, lies, little deceits that mislead us, and leave us alone, vulnerable, away from the community he’s given us.
Denying yourself God’s love, cutting yourself off from his true and continual flow of concern and care for you (often shown best through the aforementioned community) will leave you vulnerable to the enemy, vulnerable to the destructive nature of your own pride.
This is dangerous territory, this going it alone, this finding friends who tell us what we think we want to hear instead of allowing the practice of humility in community to strengthen and protect us.
4. Open your eyes!
Be alert! Your background, your activities, your job, your goals – none of these guarantees that you’ll stay the straight and narrow.
Look at Peter: disciple, member of the inner circle, even. Total failure. His pride and self-sufficiency blinded him and he ended up wasting opportunities to testify of his knowledge of Christ and seeing God’s ability to protect him. He watered the earth with bitter tears.
Pride, independence, self-sufficiency -these will nail you every. single. time. There is forgiveness, always. You can always turn to community and Christ. But the scripture makes it clear: learn your lesson! Get humble! It works. Humility brings healing, opens your eyes to see the spiritual truths in your here and now.
5. Don’t play the pride game.
We resist the enemy best when we are standing firm in the faith. How do we stand firm in the faith? Repeat #1-5.
6. Repeat #1-5!
I am praying for you, my readers. I will pray for your protection from the enemy. Will you cooperate with God’s plan for victory? What areas of your life weaken you, isolate you, make you easy pickings for that old lion, that old silver tongued serpent? How can I pray for you so that you stay in community, stay in God’s care and win with Christ?