Brothers and Sisters,
I begin tonight with a story. It’s a story that came to mind today while I ran on the trail behind our church property which leads down into Henry Cowell State Park. I recalled an incident while running on the same trail last year when I came upon a small furry creature making its way across the path. It was, I believe, a mole, though a mole curiously out of place on a relatively exposed trail. I stopped while the little animal finished its course, if for no other reason than to prevent it being eaten by any lurking bird of prey. Fast-forward maybe a week later, and I’m running back toward church along the same trail. Suddenly, out of the sky (or some overhead tree branch) an object falls right in front of me, narrowly missing my head in fact. I looked down to find the front portion of a half-eaten mole lying on the trail at my feet. Perhaps that strikes you as a bit sad. Truth-be-told, I found it rather amusing. I imagined the mafia-like raptor whose meal I spoiled the week previous leaving me a none-to-subtle message: “Here’s to you, you do-gooder…I got him in the end all the same! Signed…Hawk.”
While I recalled this dubiously amusing episode, my thoughts also went to a much less amusing – in fact a deadly serious – portion of Scripture. In 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV), Peter writes a solemn warning to believers: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” It’s no mole-eating hawk we face, but rather a true spiritual adversary – the devil – who’s better described like a deadly, opportunistic, and cruel lion.
Now, why would it be apropos for us to specifically hear Peter’s warning tonight and take heed. Well, consider this. In the last two weeks or more, we have all shifted much of our life to the virtual “world.” It’s not that we weren’t there in days prior, but now we’re all much more present in cyberspace than in the past. So are our kids, or grandkids. As we’ve made this shift, have we remembered that cyberspace is not neutral space? Do we recall that Satan has special tactics and special temptations which face us through a series of encoded ones and zeros? Are we alert to the devil prowling via the internet? Some of his tactics are well-known, though still deadly – pornography for one, or the social media “comparison game” for another. But there are others; others like a constant stream of non-neutral, unedifying news primed to discourage; or even otherwise accurate news, but news in such quantity that we can’t possibly process it all accurately and well (we’re not God after all); or even just the ever-present temptation to waste time on nothing of substance (e.g. Should Christians ever “binge watch” anything, if by “binge” we mean a gluttonous unthinking consumption of so-called entertainment?). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite. I’m also not talking down the wise use of something like Amazon Prime video (not Netflix…you should ditch Netflix…click here to read why). But, in the middle of it all, do we remember there’s a lion who prowls?
As we learn to live wisely under “shelter-in-place,” let’s keep what Peter writes next in mind with reference to our lion-like adversary, Satan (1 Peter 5:9-11): “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Amen indeed…sleep well.