Know Your Enemy — and Your Father
The earth can be a dangerous place. In some places there are animals that will eat people, for example. One such place is Africa. In Tanzania people are still regularly attacked and killed by lions. Some wildlife researchers recently looked into this. They wanted to see if there were patterns in lion attacks on humans. Were there more attacks at certain times than others? They already knew that lions attack mostly at night, but were there times of the month where lions attacked more? The research showed that most lion attacks on humans occur in the first week following a full moon. This was important for two reasons.
First, it demonstrated that the full moon is a reliable indicator of impending danger for people living in close proximity to lions. It partly explains why there are so many superstitions and customs in connection with a full moon. But it also and more importantly teaches people who live near lions to take extra pre-cautions right after a full moon. You don’t let your kids wander outside in the dark after a full moon, for instance. People are getting educated about how lions behave and, knowing their tactics and typical behaviours, they’re better protected. Lives will be saved.
The Bible teaches that Christians have sworn enemies who don’t stop attacking. One of those enemies is the devil. We ought never to forget what 1 Peter 5:8 says about this enemy: he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” He sneaks around and he attempts to frighten us. He wants to kill us. Literally 1 Peter 5:8 says that he wants to drink us up. He wants our blood. He wants us dead. Furthermore, Scripture teaches us that he has tactics and typical behaviours. Just like rural Tanzanians benefit from knowing the behaviour of the lions threatening them, Christians benefit from researching and being aware of Satan’s ways.
Consider the ways in which he tempted our Saviour in Matthew 4. Jesus was hungry after fasting for forty days. Satan had a trick in his bag from way back. Back in the Garden already, he had used food to destroy God’s creature. He thought this might work again. He appealed to the appetite of Jesus and urged him to abuse his divine powers to feed himself. That tactic worked in the Garden, but it failed in the wilderness.
His next temptation involved the use of the Word of God. Here again we find a recycled tactic. Satan had said to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Satan perverted God’s Word and turned it against God’s creature and against God himself. That tactic worked in the Garden, but it failed in the wilderness.
The third temptation involved power and the lies it often involves. Once again, we need to see how Satan isn’t really creative when it comes to his tactics. He told our first parents that if they would listen, they would be like God. In the wilderness, Satan attempts a similar lie with Jesus. He told him he could have power, he could have everything, if only he’d bow the knee and worship Satan. Again, that lie worked in Eden, but in the Judean desert, the Second Adam stood firm. He was aware of the lion’s ways.
This lion is still prowling around today and he still throws the same kinds of temptations at us. He tells the same kinds of lies. He knows all our weak spots. He’s had thousands of years of practice at tempting and turning people against God. We should not underestimate the deceitfulness of this enemy and his vicious intent on getting his bloody paws on us to finish us off.
Being aware of him and his ways is only one part of our survival plan here. We need to cry for help. Satan is a strong enemy. And who are we? We’re weak. With our own resources, we can’t stand even for a moment against Satan or any other enemy. We’re like a little child in a Tanzanian village. Our father has told us to stay inside because it’s just after a full moon. But we wander out anyway. The lions are prowling around and they’re looking for some human tenderloin. A little child is helpless and weak against these lions. But if he calls for the help of his father, his father will come running with a large calibre rifle and fend off the lions and save his child. The child can do nothing but call for help. The powerful father, however, will hear and answer. He’ll act.
So it is with us. Surrounded by enemies bent on our destruction, we need repeatedly to call to our Father God for help. Without him, we’d invariably go down to defeat. But when we humbly pray to him, he’ll hear and he’ll uphold and strengthen us by the power of his Holy Spirit.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to make it our practice regularly to acknowledge our weakness and our need when we pray. It’s in the sixth petition: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” God wants to hear his children humbly admitting that they are but children, weak and powerless of themselves. He wants to hear his children praying and asking for the strength to go on to victory in Christ. We can and should pray frequently in this manner. I assure you, God will hear your prayer and he’ll give you the help you need. Your Father will come to your aid and fend off the lions. The Word of God guarantees and promises us this: “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honour him” (Ps. 91:15).