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1 Peter 5:8-9--A Roaring Lion

I hope I don’t lose some of my readers right now, but it’s time to divulge something I have not yet mentioned. I am a cat lover! Okay, it’s out on the table now. If you happen to be a dog lover, a guppy lover, a hamster lover, or even if you prefer turtles, please don’t hold loving cats against me. Since my dad grew up having to be the primary caregiver to multiple dogs, he vowed he would never own another dog to have to wash, tick, etc. So once our family started wanting pets, he relinquished the “no pet” rule to allow cats into the family fold.

My love for the domestic felines during my childhood eventually developed into a passion for the larger, wild cats, particularly lions and tigers. Over the years, I’ve had bedrooms, living rooms, apartments and even offices decorated with lion and tiger pictures, paintings, figurines and tapestry hangings of those wonderful, enchanting creatures. Everyone with whom I worked had it easy when it came time to buy me a birthday or Christmas gift. One boss, in particular, gave me a wildcat figurine every gift-giving occasion during the time I worked for him. I had to add extra shelving to my office to display them all. Needless to say, when I saw the previews for the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness,”1 it was a must-see movie for me to watch.

For those who have not seen the movie, let me give you a shortened version. An engineer (Val Kilmer) is hired to help get a railway project in Kenya, Africa back on track. While construction is going on, men start being attacked by a lion. Kilmer becomes their hero when he kills the lion with only one rifle shot. The natives celebrate, and they believe the problem is resolved. A short while later, however, the lion attacks begin again. This time the attacks are more aggressive than before. It is soon discovered that there is not just one lion, but two male lions. This, in itself, is an anomaly because of the unusualness of two male lions traveling or working together. Man-eaters always travel alone. In the case of these two lions, they were killing for more than just food. They were killing for the sake of killing. The Africans’ superstitions led them to refer to the lions as the Ghost and the Darkness.

A number of traps are set, but the lions are too smart. They manage to escape each attempt. The natives become too fearful to work because of the killings, thus construction on the railway comes to a halt. An expert huntsman (Michael Douglas) is contracted to help track and kill the lions so that construction can resume. Douglas proposes that one of the reasons the lions are attracted to the camp is because of the hospital providing medical care to the builders. He suggests that the odors emanating from the hospital due to the illnesses and injuries of the patients are attracting the lions. It is decided to construct another hospital on the opposite side of the camp and relocate the patients to it. Kilmer and Douglas then use the old hospital, with its smells of blood and flesh, as a snare, hoping that the Ghost and the Darkness return. Kilmer and Douglas tie up several live cattle inside the old hospital, in addition to spilling the blood of another around the perimeter to lure lions inside.

The scene becomes intense as Kilmer and Douglas wait inside the hospital. They hear the lions prowling outside, circling the tent. The men’s nerves are on end, waiting for the first lion to penetrate the walls. Their rifles are loaded, and their eyes dart in the direction of every sound they hear outside. Any second now, the viewer expects to see the trap work and the lions killed. But not so! The lions outsmart the hunters. Instead of being tricked into the old hospital with its stench of sickness and death, the lions outmaneuver them and end up at the newly constructed hospital. Patient after patient, including the camp doctor, is attacked and killed. Since the few weapons within the camp are with Kilmer and Douglas at the site of old hospital, the Ghost and the Darkness create havoc and devastation, then get away unscathed.

Since I’m the type of person who tries to make spiritual application out of just about everything I see or hear, 1 Peter 5:8 came alive for me as this scene unfolded.

Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, like a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour...”

The scenes are very graphic and difficult to watch. The lions are depicted as ferocious and almost diabolical. It was easy to relate this visualization to Satan as a roaring lion “seeking whom he may devour...”

The intent of the Ghost and the Darkness was to seek those whom they could devour. It wasn’t “devour” in the sense of eating, but those whom they could attack and dismember. The lions were searching for those whom they could overpower. Wildlife documentaries often show how wild animals target the weak, lame, or sickly animals for their dinner. Wild cats prey on those animals, which lag behind in a herd. Predators instinctively know that those are the animals they will have the best chance of overtaking. Satan also seeks out those whom he recognizes to be spiritually weak and sickly. After all, they are more easily overtaken than the spiritually strong.

In the movie, Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas try to trick the lions by enticing them into the old hospital. Inside, they stand vigilant and ready to fire their weapons. So what happens? The lions avoid them and go in search of the weak. The Bible also tells believers to be vigilant. Those who make use of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, are prepared to fend off the devil and his wiles more effectively than those who are empty handed. Just like the lions stayed clear of Kilmer and Douglas, our being armed with God’s weapon of choice (His Word) will keep us from being easy prey for Satan.

In verse 9 of 1 Peter 5, we’re told to resist the devil steadfast in the faith. The same word “resist” is also used in James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” There are some instances in which God tells us to flee, as in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts...” In 1 Timothy 6 a list of temptations and snares is written out, followed by a command in verse 11 to “flee these things.” I find it interesting that while we are instructed to flee temptations and enticements that could bring us down, we are told to remain steadfast in our faith so that the devil will flee from us.

The importance of resisting the devil in God’s power is beautifully illustrated in David’s speech to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. He said, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (v. 45). We certainly know the outcome of that confrontation. David wouldn’t have had the power on his own to conquer Goliath. Neither do we have power on our own to resist the devil. But when our faith in God and His Word are put into action, the enemy flees. When the Philistines saw their champion dead, they fled as well (v. 51).

Victory surely is sweet, but we must be careful not to rest on past successes. Just because we stand vigilant once, and the devil flees, doesn’t mean that he won’t return. On the contrary, to spite us, he probably stands nearby waiting for the moment we slide, or we let down our guard. In The Ghost and the Darkness, the lions sensed the stronghold in the old hospital and, instead, sought out the weak to devour. Yes, for a while Kilmer and Douglas stood steadfast, with weapons in hand, and the lions fled from them. The day after the hospital attack, the men continue to hunt the lions, and they eventually do succeed in killing one of them. In celebration of their achievement of eliminating one of the lions, they drink heavily that night around the campfire. In their time of triumph over a victory, their celebration makes them vulnerable. Their defenses crumble as they pass out from having too much to drink. When Kilmer regains consciousness after waking from a disturbing nightmare, he senses something amiss in Douglas’ tent. Douglas is not in the tent, and Kilmer notices overturned furniture and blood on the floor. Kilmer and his foreman find Douglas a short distance away from camp. He is dead, having been killed and mauled by the remaining lion. You see, Douglas lost his soberness, and he no longer stood vigilant against the dangers of a prowling lion. He let down his guard and became an easy target. When we don’t stay sober and vigilant, we become an easy target for Satan. When we don’t stay in God’s Word and resist the devil’s wiles, there’s no reason for him to flee. Instead, he will celebrate our weakness and look forward to bringing us down.

Having worked in ministry organizations for many years, I have witnessed the spiritual ups and downs Christians experience on the mountaintops and in the valleys of the Christian journey. After revivals, camps, conferences and retreats, Christians tend to experience what I call “Shangri La” Christianity. They have spiritual highs that result in a heightened sense of closeness to the Lord. It’s a euphoric “feeling” they interpret as being “in” God’s will. This Shangri La experience is usually short lived. Within days, sometimes even hours, that euphoric “feeling” dissipates. Those who were riding a spiritual high, now feel depleted, and they interpret their “feelings” of lowness as being “out” of God’s will. That depresses and frustrates them even more. When they read the Word, they don’t “feel” close to God. When they pray, they “feel” that their prayers are useless. They want desperately for the euphoric feelings to return, because somehow they have equated those “feelings” with what the ideal Christian life is about. To them, it’s the pinnacle of Christianity.

If that were the case, why would Paul have instructed us to “Take unto you the whole armor of God?” (Ephesians 6:13). If the Christian life were a cakewalk, why do we need to put on armor? Why would he also say, “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and “I have fought a good fight...” (2 Timothy 4:7). In 2 Timothy 2:3 Paul says, “Thou, therefore, endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”. Gee, reading those verses one would think that the Christian life was like going into battle. Exactly! It is a battle.

Ephesians 6:12 and 13 says.: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” God knows better than anyone else the battles we will face, and the importance of our being spiritually protected. Just as we wake up every morning and dress in our work clothes and prepare for the day, we should also dress in our spiritual clothes (armor) in preparation of the day ahead. Everyday of our lives we should be preparing for spiritual warfare.

Through the news media, we have opportunity we see our U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on nearly a daily basis. They are always dressed for battle. Their weapons are being carried in their hands. They’re wearing their helmets with additional artillery attached to their uniforms. We see them in the trenches. We watch them run for safety as explosions go off around them. We see them tracking the enemy. They are taught to stand fast, endure hardships. That is the life of a soldier. It is rough. It is difficult. The Lord’s message in His Word is trying to communicate to us that this should be how we approach life. We should approach it as if it were a battle, because it is. Each and everyday we should be dressed and prepared for war before we ever leave the house. Living in the trenches is the reality of the Christian life, not a mountaintop experience. It is serious business. Daily, we go up against an enemy that cannot be seen, and he waits patiently for that one moment, that one time when we let down our defenses.

I don’t enjoy being devoured by Satan, yet he has had me for dinner a time or two On the occasions when that happened, I had no one to blame but myself because I left myself vulnerable. In Ephesians 6:10, we are told to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” There is absolutely no way we have what it takes as human beings to stand up to Satan; but when we stand steadfast in the Lord, and in His power, Satan will lose every time.

Other Verses To Look Up
2 Corinthians 10:3-6
1 Thessalonians 5:8


1Constellation Films presents a Douglas/Reuther Production, A Stephen Hopkins Film, 1997 by Paramount Pictures, written by William Goldman

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