Living Now with Eternity in Mind #14: Living the Christian Life is a Battle

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. To him be dominion forever. Amen.

Through Silvanus, a faithful brother (as I consider him), I have written to you briefly in order to encourage you and to testify that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, as does Mark, my son. Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

1 Peter 5:6—14

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” And that’s certainly true of the Christian life. Following Jesus can also be a battle. It is in fact a spiritual battle. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “spiritual warfare.” In other words, there are spiritual forces that are seeking either to keep people from finding faith in Christ or to keep believers in Christ from being effective. So, Peter concludes his letter by encouraging his readers to stand firm even with everything they’re facing. He reminds them both of what they’re up against and about how they can face it.

Peter tells the believers in Asia Minor: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him. And already we’re into something that we don’t always think about or consider.

The idea of the devil (diabolos) “refers to the embodiment of evil, a transcendent figure set in opposition to God, God’s purposes, and God’s people.” In the Bible he is called a liar and a murderer. He seeks to undermine God’s purposes in the world—and therefore in our lives.

Of course, the problem here is that when it comes to the devil our imaginations have been shaped not by Scripture but by popular culture. We have this image of a horned human-like creature with a pitchfork. This makes the idea of the devil—or Satan—seem like a silly one. And we as believers look silly as a result.

C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, writes: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” Or as he says elsewhere: “You can give the Devil too much or too little attention.

Our Scriptures are not shy or hesitant in reminding us that in living the Christian life, we are dealing with not only with our own sinfulness and with external temptations but also a spiritual enemy—one unseen and often unnoticed and ignored.

Peter’s words here are very similar to some familiar words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood.

Living the Christian life is a battle with a spiritual enemy. It’s a spiritual battle. The first thing is simply to be aware that this is the case. Like Peter says, Be alert and of sober mind.

This doesn’t mean looking for demons around every corner. It means paying attention to your life, your temptations, to what draws you closer to God and what pulls you away from God—it means being aware that you do have an enemy who seeks to weaken and even destroy your trust in Christ.

Our enemy doesn’t only seek to lead us or tempt us to do wrong things—he wants to keep us from doing right and good things that help us grow in our faith.This is why we have to be intentional about our Christian life—about being on the offensive.

Have you ever thought of the Christian life as a spiritual battle? Why or why not?What tends to draw you away from God? What temptations do you normally face?Are you arming yourself by spending time in prayer, reading Scripture, in doing things which encourage you to trust in and to follow Christ?

Now, all throughout our passage from 1 Peter we see Peter using “family” language. He refers to the family of believers throughout the world. He refers to Silas as a faithful brother. He mentions my son Mark, who isn’t a biological son but a son in the faith. You get a real sense that Peter and those he was writing saw the church—the body of believers—as a spiritual family. It’s very relational, close, intimate language. This is not the kind of language you would use of people who only know about one another or are only acquainted with one another. This is significant because Peter’s readers were having such a difficult time and he’s telling them that they are not alone. Believers everywhere, he says, are facing similar circumstances. And you know what? That’s true of us too. Lots of churches are in the same boat we are. Lots of other Christians are in the same boat you are. You’re not alone.

So: Living the Christian life is a battle, but we’re not alone in the fight.

Often our default way of reading Scripture is individualistically. Our default way of seeing our lives as believers is individualistically. We don’t welcome anyone else into our prayer life, into our attempts to read, understand, and apply Scripture to our lives, into our relationship with God. This is all private stuff. Here’s the problem: this way of living the Christian life—to put it simply—makes us easy targets for our enemy.

If we want to resist our enemy, we can’t do this alone. Actually, I might go further and say, we’re not called to do this alone. But we have so privatized our faith at times that we see it almost as a sign of spiritual weakness to need other Christians!

Peter encourages his readers to keep standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. They weren’t alone. And neither are we. Neither are you.

Have you ever felt alone in your struggles as a Christian? Is there at least one person you can be open with about your struggles?How does knowing other believers face similar struggles encourage you?Is admitting our struggles a sign of weakness or strength? What are some ways we can find strength in community?

Notice Peter doesn’t tell us to fight the enemy, much less defeat the enemy, but to Resist him. We’re told to stand firm and to stand fast. In other words, don’t lose faith, don’t give up. Given the circumstances they were facing, these were words they needed to hear.

We need to look at what Peter tells us about God. He calls him the God of all grace. He tells them to Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. We need to ask God to make this reality—this truth—real to us. More and more real to us.

As this becomes more and more real to us, it will become easier to put ourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. And this tells us something else vitally important. God’s hand is mighty. Remember, it’s God who can restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. In other words, he has the power to do so. So, trust in him. Call out to him. Lean on him. Fall into his powerful arms of grace. You will find yourself firmly and kindly embraced. Whatever temptation or spiritual battle you face, you have a loving all-powerful God—a heavenly Father—on your side. Which brings us to our most important point.

Remember, this is all about living now with eternity in mind. Peter says to us that the God of all grace has called you to his eternal glory in Christ. Look at what he has in mind for you. Isn’t that awesome? Doesn’t that encourage you? Isn’t this a source of strength and peace even if we find ourselves facing struggles?

I’ll put it this way: Living the Christian life is a battle that has already been won in Christ.

In other words, if you are in Christ, you already have victory. Not because of anything you have done, but because of what Christ has done. This is the grace he’s been talking about. This is what it means to stand firm in the true grace of God. It means to throw yourself wholly and completely on God’s mercy. Or as Peter himself puts it: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

What difference does our view of God make as we face spiritual battles? How does knowing our enemy has already been defeated in Christ help us? Do your spiritual struggles lead you to or away from Christ?

1 Peter has been all about living the Christian faith in a situation that was extremely difficult—in a culture and place that believes very differently and often puts believers in a very difficult position. The main themes have been suffering and hope. We will experience trials in this life. Jesus said so. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

This tells us that the Christian faith is honest about life and what we face. We might not always understand why we face the struggles we do but we do know one thing: Christ understands our suffering, has defeated our enemies, and will one day make our hope a reality.

The gospel tells us that we have a God and Savior who underwent suffering—whose life on this earth was the ultimate spiritual battle—and won a victory so you and I could also know victory. His victory is our victory. When you trust in Jesus—that he won this victory for us—it means that no battle, no amount of suffering, no struggle, and no enemy has any real power over you. Living the Christian life is a battle but when your hope is in Jesus Christ you never have to fear defeat. Ultimately, Peter seeks to point us to Christ. Indeed, at the center of this letter, and at the center of our faith, is the person of Jesus. Let me ask you: are you pursuing Jesus? Are you letting him into your life? Is he the center of your life?

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