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, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (NIV)
The enemies of Christians are not other religions or institutions that persecute or introduce teachings that are contrary to Christ. Some people who believe in other religions are easy to spot. They have traditional garb, jewelry or some other distinguishing marks that tell us that they don’t follow Jesus. When we see them we shouldn’t consider them an enemy, even if they are wearing the uniform of a government that persecutes Christians. If we have that attitude then we will not be able to reach them for Jesus. We will be fearful, disrespectful, or angry when we see them. These emotional reactions will prevent us from telling them about Jesus when we have an opportunity.
How can we keep from having negative thought when we see these people? The key is found in Eph 6:12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (RSV) Our enemy is Satan and all the demonic forces under his control. The people we see that serve him are his victims. They are flesh and blood people who are trapped in his domain. They have been blinded and confused by the lies that he has spread as well a by their own sinful responses. 2 Cor 3:14-17 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NIV) If we view these people as our enemies rather than people that need to be rescued from Satan’s dominion, then we will not have the opportunity to be ambassadors for Christ so that He can open their eyes to the truth. When they come to Christ they will have freedom from Satan’s grasp.
It takes a lot of self-control to be able to keep from hiding our faith in the presence of Satan’s servants. It takes self-control to keep from falling into the traps that Satan has laid in this world. Self-control sounds like something that we have to muster up within ourselves. However, true self-control is not something that we can do on our own. 2 Tim 1:7 for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. (RSV) Self-control is a product of God’s Holy Spirit living in us. Depending on the Holy Spirit is the only way to have success overcoming the temptations in this world, whether they are temptations to do wrong or to avoid doing what God wants us to do.
Resisting the devil requires dependence on the power of the God in our lives. I have had temptations in my life that I thought were beyond my capability to resist. As I struggled with them I learned that my thoughts were correct. I was incapable of resisting them by myself. It was then that I understood these words from Eph 1:19-20 … the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead … (RSV) The same resurrection power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead is in every believer. That power gives us self-control only when we rely on it. If I think I can exert enough self-control to overcome a temptation then I’m deceiving myself. When I have faced temptations and rely on God’s power in me and ask Him for that power, His Holy Spirit has given me the power to overcome the temptation. I have experienced James 4:7 in my life. Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (NASB) I relied on Jesus and His power in me to resist and the temptation disappeared. The circumstances that led to the temptation were still there but the desire or motivation to succumb were gone.
When we resist Satan by either sharing Jesus with others who may be hostile to Christ or just by doing right, we may often face suffering. Peter reminds us that we aren’t alone. We have brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world who are undergoing the same kind of problems that we are. This should be an encouragement to persevere. If they are trusting in the power of Jesus in their lives, then I should also be able to do that.