8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (I Peter 5:8-9).
Not only does God command believers to submit, to be humble and to trust God through suffering circumstances, but also we are be sober-minded and watchful. Both statements are God given commands. Even though God is sovereign in the believer’s circumstances, we are not to be lazy and careless regarding spiritual disciplines.
To be sober-minded (νήφω; nepho) means that with one’s entire being our minds and thoughts are to be restrained and self-controlled. It means to not succumb to irrationality.
To be watchful (γρηγορέω; gregoreo) means that with one’s entire being we are to be alert, and vigilant while also being self-controlled and restrained. In short, to be aware of the enemy. Who is our enemy?
Our adversary (ἀντίδικος; antidikos) accuser and enemy is none other than the devil (διάβολος; diabolos) who is by nature a slanderer and a wicked being. Along with the fallen world (I John 2:15-17), and our flesh or sinful nature (Romans 7:13-20), the devil is the believer’s mortal enemy, not unlike an opposing attorney in a legal dispute.
Much like a roaring lion, the devil and his demons are on the prowl. The word prowl (περιπατέω; peripateo) means to go about with a singular purpose to destroy. Peter emphasizes this truth by then using the phrase “seeking someone to devour.” To seek (ζητέω; zateo) means to actively and continually try to find something.
What is the devil trying to find? The devil and his demons are trying to find someone they can devour. To devour (καταπίνω; katapino) literally means to swallow one’s prey. It means to completely ruin and destroy. Therefore, the destroyer is constantly seeking someone to destroy through temptation, persecution and discouragement. This is the devil’s nature and his mission (Psalm 22:13; 104:21; Ezekiel 22:25).
Along with being sober-minded and watchful, the believer must also resist the devil. To resist (ἀνθίστημι; anthistemi) is a God-given command to actively oppose the devil’s pressure and power to sin against God. We are able to resist by remaining firm (στερεός; stereos) and steadfast in our faith (πίστις; pistis), which is our commitment to, dependence upon, trust in and worship of God alone through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The encouragement Peter gives his readers is that they are not alone in their suffering along with the devil’s constant attacks and accusations before God against them (Job 1:6-12; Revelation 12:10). Believers throughout the world, then and now, are under the same oppression.
Martin Luther once wrote, “When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means! For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
Martin also wrote, from Psalm 46,
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
We must, and we can resist the devil. Let me encourage you today to read Colossians 2:5-17. The Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction regarding being sober-minded and watchful. Get behind me devil. You have no claim over me. I belong to Jesus and forever I shall be.
Soli deo Gloria!