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18. How Healthy Churches Resist The Devil (1 Peter 5:6-11)

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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. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-11

How do healthy churches resist the devil?

It should be remembered that these congregations throughout the Roman Empire were being persecuted. There was probably division in the church, as the young men were not submitting to the elders (1 Peter 5:5). Peter in the last chapter of the letter essentially encourages them to be healthy. He speaks to the leadership and the congregations. He calls them to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand during their trials.

He ends the letter with a final warning. He calls them to be alert and to resist the devil. This was very important. It should be noted that it is often in the midst of a trial that Satan attacks the hardest. It was while Jesus was at his weakest physically that Satan attacked him in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that Israel was tempted to complain and turn away from God. It was when there was famine in the land that Abraham left the promise land and went to Egypt.

These scattered churches needed to be very aware of Satan and his attacks in the midst of their trials and their persecutions. No doubt, the enemy would seek to bring discord amongst the believers: try to draw many away from the faith and make many give up. It has been said God uses trials to strengthen our faith and Satan uses trials to weaken our faith. We always must be aware of his attacks, but especially during trials.

Another, aspect of a healthy church is their vigilant fight against the devil. C. S. Lewis talked about how there were two extremes in our understanding of the devil. There is the extreme of seeing Satan behind everything. He brings every sickness; he is the cause behind every sin. Satan, often, gets way too much credit in the church.

However, the other extreme, which is far more common, is that most Christians don’t recognize Satan at all. They blame their roommates, they blame the government, they blame their wives, they blame themselves and sometimes blame God, but Satan gets none of the blame. Paul said this:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

It is possible for Christians to see and blame everybody else and not recognize the spiritual war we are in. This would be particularly important for these Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. They needed to realize that Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31) and he is working behind the government and all aspects of society, to come against the plans of God. They needed to be alert for the devil. This would keep them from blaming God or blaming others.

Because of this sober reality, healthy churches and church members need a strong awareness of the enemy. Look at Pauls awareness of the enemy:

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us (emphasis mine).
1 Thessalonians 2:18

He saw Satan hindering the work of ministry, as Paul was trying to visit Thessalonica. Similarly, look at what Paul said to married couples in 1 Corinthians 7:5,

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (emphasis mine).

Paul saw Satan active in seeking to destroy marriages. In fact, Paul was so aware of Satan that he studied his schemes in order to not be tricked by them. He said this, “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor 2:11).

Paul saw an awareness of the devil as very important for a healthy church and thus a healthy Christian life. He calls for these Christians, who are scattered throughout Asia Minor, to be self-controlled and alert because Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

As we go through this lesson, I want you to ask yourself, “Do you have a healthy awareness of the devil? and How do we properly resist the devil, as a congregation? These questions are, especially, important as we go through trials.

Big Question: How do healthy churches resist the devil according to 1 Peter 5:8-9?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Recognizing Him and His Tactics

Be self–controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8

Peter calls for this church to be alert. This means they must recognize the devil and be aware of his works. He begins to explain a little bit more about the devil in the rest of the verse. This text doesn’t give us a full systematic theology on Satan and his works, but if we look closely, there is a lot we can learn from these few verses.

Observation Question: What does 1 Peter 5:8–9 teach us about the devil, so we can recognize him and be more aware of his works?

1. He is an enemy of the church. Peter said, “Your enemy the devil.”

The word your is plural. It means that not only do we have a personal enemy who hates us but one who ultimately wants to oppose the work of God in every church. He will harass, seek to bring division, seek to bring persecution, seek to hinder the preaching of God’s Word. This enemy works against the church of God.

We must be aware that every step that makes us closer to God or enables us to do more for the kingdom of God, will be met with opposition. The Christian must beware that when he became a follower of Christ, he also received an enemy. Jesus said that in the kingdom the devil plants false believers, tares, to choke the harvest (Matt 13:24-30). Satan is working not only from outside the church but inside the church. We must be aware that we have an enemy.

2. He is a dangerous foe.

We see this from the fact that Peter uses the metaphor of a lion in describing Satan. He is dangerous and needs to be taken seriously.

Now sometimes in certain sects of Christianity, they have lost a proper reverence for the enemy. They tend to overemphasize the fact that we have authority in Christ, and therefore, demean the enemy. Ask any person in a sporting event how a very talented team loses against a less talented team. This often happens because people don’t respect their opponent. Listen to what Jude says about this:

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them (emphasis mine).
Jude 1:8–10

In talking about false prophets, he calls them dreamers and describes how they slander celestial beings including the devil. Jude says even the archangel Michael, an angel more powerful than us, respected the devil and called upon God to rebuke him using the authority in the Lord’s name.

Sometimes, people have forgotten that Satan is a foe who knows us better than we know ourselves. He has been studying humans for thousands of years; he understands their tendencies. He also is very powerful and ferocious, as alluded to by the metaphor of a lion.

Though some may not verbally underestimate him, they live lives that do not recognize the danger he poses. They allow their kids total freedom in what they watch, what they wear, where they go. Would you do this if a lion was outside? Satan is more dangerous than any lion.

I do believe there is an authority that comes with our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), but we also must properly evaluate our enemy. He is a dangerous foe and the person who understands this will be self-controlled and alert.

How would you react if there was a lion prowling outside your apartment building? Now, how would you react if he was in your apartment building? You probably would be alert and in full control of your faculties.

3. He is an accuser.

Peter calls him the devil; the name means “accuser” or “slanderer.” This means that one of his primary assaults is accusation.

He accuses us before God. We saw this in the book of Job as Satan accused Job. Satan said to God, “Job only loves you because you bless him.” Satan also accuses God to us. We saw this with Eve. He said to Eve, “God is a liar; he doesn’t want what’s best for you. He is keeping you from being like God.” But he also attacks us. He says to us we cannot be godly, we cannot be holy—he attacks our body image, our failures, and our relationships. He is an accuser.

Listen to what Paul said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1); “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

We must know that in Christ, the enemy’s accusations have lost their power. Have you recognized his accusing thoughts? He accuses to bring discord with other believers. He accuses to bring depression. We must be aware of his accusations.

4. He often uses stealth in order to catch Christians (prowl).

Look at the definition of prowl. It means “to roam through stealthily, as in search of prey or plunder.”1

We have an enemy who is trying to catch people, but he is often sly and stealthy in the process, like any good hunter. He doesn’t show up in a red costume saying “I want to kill you.” He prowls in a stealthy manner to destroy someone who is unaware. Look what Paul said about our enemy:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 11:13—15

Paul said Satan shows himself as an angel of light in order to deceive people and devour them. His ministers show up as apostles of Christ, those sent to preach the Word. Jesus called them wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15); they come with intentions to deceive. Many are devoured by the enemy because they are not aware of his tactics. He comes into the house by stealth through the TV, through the books one reads, through certain relationships. He comes through many ministers of the faith. He is a very cunning enemy.

Are you aware that you have an enemy who is prowling around waiting for an opportunity, a door, to snare you?

5. He often uses the tactic of fear in order to intimidate the believer (roaring lion).

It has often been said that the lion roars to paralyze his prey. In the same way, one of the tactics that Satan uses to hinder the effectiveness of believers is fear. Look at what Paul says to Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (emphasis mine), but a spirit of power, of love and of self–discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Timothy is probably struggling with fear about doing ministry, and Paul alerts him to the fact that, that spirit is not from God.

It will commonly be fear that Satan uses to keep you from doing God’s will as well. Look at the Parable of the Talents.

Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 25:24–25

The man whom God had given one talent to serve, did not because he was afraid. He was afraid to lead a small group, afraid to witness, afraid to go on missions, afraid about the future and this kept him from doing God’s will.

Satan, as a roaring lion, works through fear. He paralyzes his prey with worries and anxieties about the present, the past and the future. He roars to keep people from progressing in the things of God.

Are you under the constant barrage of fears and worries? This is how Satan paralyzes people and keeps them from growing in the faith and doing God’s will. Let us remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.

6. He ultimately wants to destroy the believer (seeking whom he may devour).

Look at what Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (emphasis mine). In this context, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of wanting to kill him. He said they were doing the will of their father, the devil. This is the reality of every believer, especially a believer who is living passionately for God.

The devil will use even, what some would call, harmless sins to ultimately destroy the believer. He is a murderer, and we must be aware of that with every temptation. We often see the male drinking on TV and laughing while surrounded by a bunch of females, but we don’t see the drunk, drowning in his vomit, who has lost job and career. Satan wants to destroy, and if he can’t kill you, he wants to destroy your witness and to shame you in such a way that you will be too scared to allow God to use you. He is a destroyer.

When you really understand this concept, you cease to give Satan any doors. You don’t listen to him through the music or TV shows because you know his ultimate plan. He is a murderer. He wants to devour not only individuals, but families and churches. His pathway is full of destruction.

We must flee from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22) for our enemy desires to devour, not just tempt.

The believer, however, can take confidence that God holds the temperature gauge on every trial that he allows the enemy to bring against us and that he always provides a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

7. He attacks in a widespread manner (your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings).

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet 5:9).

Because Satan is the god of this age and the prince of this world, he has created a system that works against God and those who follow him. We should not be surprised when we are passed over for promotion because of a lifestyle that is righteous. We should not be surprised when we are mocked for our values and belief systems.

In this context, Christians were being burned in the gardens of Nero just to give light to his plants and flowers. We should not be surprised at this, for Satan is at work behind the world system. He works in the hearts of those who are disobedient (Eph 2:2), leading them even into ridiculous atrocities. The enemy’s attacks are widespread.

8. He is a liar (brothers undergoing same kind of sufferings).

Probably an implication of Peter telling this church that the brothers throughout the world were enduring the same suffering is that Satan is a liar.

Believers are often tempted to believe that they are the only one’s going through their situation. They are tempted to think no one else understands them. Satan often isolates the believer from the church or other healthy relationships with this lie. He does this by making them feel like nobody else is going through this or nobody understands. The person struggling with pornography, the woman with an eating disorder, or the man with homosexual thoughts hide in shame, thinking no one else has the same struggles. Satan condemns and shames them in order to isolate and destroy them. We see this truth throughout the Scripture; Jesus calls Satan the father of lies (John 8:44).

Peter assures them that their temptations are common to the brothers. The believer must be aware of this lie often used by the devil. “No one else understands, no one else has been through what I have been through.” This keeps the believer from sharing with others and often keeps them bound in sin. Listen to what Paul said:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 10:13

Are you alert and aware of your enemy the devil?

He opposes everything good you seek to do for God. He seeks to encourage fear in you. He seeks to encourage you to isolate yourself. He feeds you lies. He accuses you; he accuses God; he accuses your friends. Are you alert to the works of the devil? He ultimately wants to destroy every believer. He wants to destroy their testimony and ultimately kill them.

Are you aware of your enemy the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Being Sober and Self-Controlled

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8

Peter says believers must protect themselves from the devil by being self-controlled. What does it mean to be self-controlled?

Interpretation Question: In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter calls believers to be self-controlled in resisting the devil. It can also be translated “sober.” What does it mean to be self-controlled and sober in resisting the devil? Why is this important?

The word that Peter uses for self-controlled here has several meanings. It also can be translated to “be sober.”

1. To be sober means to be free of intoxicants both spiritual and physical. We will look at both separately.

a.) Spiritual Intoxication

A spiritual intoxicant is anything that creates apathy in your spiritual life and draws you away from God. It includes loving the things of this world and pursuing them, it includes addictions to sin that keep you from properly viewing people and the things of God.

We get a good picture of spiritual intoxication in the prodigal son (Luke 15). He leaves his father’s house in order to pursue wasteful living. He pursued the things of this world, the prostitutes and drunkenness. This ultimately led to his poverty. The prodigal son could not properly evaluate the beauty of the father’s love. Finally, Scripture says he came to “his senses” (v. 17). He sobered up and went home.

How many Christians has Satan destroyed because of spiritual drunkenness? They enjoy an ungodly relationship more than obedience to God. They enjoy the pursuit of materialism more than the joy of seeing the nations come to Christ. They are intoxicated and cannot properly steer the wheel of their lives.

Another good example of spiritual intoxication is the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau is the eldest son of Isaac. The inheritance of his father is his. However, one day he comes back from hunting in the field and has caught nothing. Therefore, he is starving. When he enters the house, Jacob has just made a wonderful dinner. Esau was so hungry that he bartered away his father’s inheritance, all the livestock, and wealth that had been stored up for generations, for one meal.

This may seem ridiculous, but it is not ridiculous in comparison to how many Christians live. They often choose to live their short 70 years on this earth enjoying the pleasures of this world, instead of enjoying their father’s love and preparing for their inheritance in heaven. Instead of living for God and storing their wealth in heaven, they store it on this earth, only to leave it behind at death. This is spiritual intoxication with the things of this world. They cannot properly evaluate the father’s love and blessing, in comparison to the fleeting pleasures of sin and the temporary things of this world. They are like Esau, spiritually intoxicated. Look at what John says:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (emphasis mine).
1 John 2:15-17

Satan works hard to deceive Christians and draw them away from the things of God. He seeks to intoxicate them. This is why Paul says: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (emphasis mine), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

We must change our thinking. We must have a sober mind so we will not be tricked by the evil one.

b.) Physical Intoxication

But being sober does not just refer to spiritual intoxication, it also refers to physical intoxication. This is a call to be free of addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc. Scripture consistently calls Christians to live a sober life. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Satan is content to control your life through a physical intoxicant, as long as you are not controlled by God. You can only have one master. You cannot have two or three. You will love one and hate the other (Matt 6:24). The person who is addicted to a drug, essentially gives the worship and dependence that only God is worthy of, to that drug. This is something that Satan is happy about, and will use to draw a person farther and farther away from God and his plans for their lives.

Also, I think the original audience would have read this command a little different than the contemporary audience. Certainly, it referred to being free from drugs. But drugs in that society were an essential part of pagan worship and witchcraft. It should be noted that the word magic or sorcery in the Bible (Rev. 18:23) comes from the word pharmakea, where we get the word pharmacy.

Typically, people who were worshiping other gods or demons would use drugs in order to enhance their worship. Witches, specifically, would use drugs in order to open themselves up to the spirit world or demon spirits. No doubt, this was in Peter’s mind when he called the Christians to be sober. The use of these drugs opened the door for Satan and Peter probably commanded them to be sober in order to protect them from demonic influence.

Does this still happen today? Is it any surprise that in the majority of heinous crimes drugs or alcohol is involved? One statistic said for sexual assaults, 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both had been drinking.2 I have no doubt that the enemy commonly uses people who cannot control themselves because of submission to a drug, in order to rule over them and commit many heinous acts. Ephesians 2:2 describes Satan as “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” It is no doubt easier for Satan to “work in” someone who has relinquished their self-control to some drug.

2. To be sober also means to be disciplined, as it can be translated “self-controlled.”

One of the ways a Christian lives a sober life and protects themselves from the enemy is by being self-controlled. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV),

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (emphasis mine).

He compares the Christian to an athlete and says the Christian must be disciplined in all things. This includes their eating, their drinking, their sleeping, and their media. The Olympic athlete does this for an Olympic crown, but we do it for an imperishable one in heaven. How much more should a Christian be disciplined in all things when we will be rewarded by God, not an Olympic committee?

Listen, many Christians fail in this aspect of Paul’s command just by the time they go to bed at night. They don’t get good sleep, which affects their ability to get up and spend time with God. They are not living self-controlled lives. They live career-controlled lives, socially controlled lives, or media-controlled lives and this opens the door for the enemy to draw them away from God.

Satan has won in many Christians’ lives just because they are not disciplined. He won the battle in church the night before when the student chose to stay out all night hanging with his friends. In church, he is “bobbing and weaving.” He wins in the battle of the mind because the Christian lets any thought come into their mind—discouraging thoughts, depressing thoughts, lustful thoughts. In Hebrew, the word for simple has the connotation of an “open door” (Psalm 19:7). Many Christians just let their mind think anything. There is no self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit. This is the Christian who is not living a sober life, a self-controlled life, and therefore, is losing to the devil.

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

Are you living a self-controlled life? Are you living a sober life?

How do we apply this call to be self-controlled to the church? For many churches, the world is in the church and Satan has drugged it. In 1 Corinthians 5, when the man was having sex with his father’s wife, the church was boasting in their liberality (v. 6). They were a “tolerant” church. Many churches are like that today. They accept sexual immorality and homosexuality. The church is seeking to be accepted by the world and is becoming drugged by its philosophies and worldviews. Many churches are no longer sober but are already drinking the alcohol of this world, and they have opened the door for the evil one in the church.

Many churches have accepted the wisdom of this world, instead of the foolishness of God (1 Cor 1:25). They no longer accept a Biblical creation story; they no longer accept a God who does miracles. They no longer accept the inerrant and holy Word of God. Much of the church has lost its soberness, and therefore, opened the door for Satan.

Are you a sober Christian? Are you a self-controlled Christian? Or are you a Christian that has opened the door for the devil? Christians must resist by living sober and self-controlled lifestyles.

Application Question: What ways do you see a lack of soberness in the church today, which has opened the door for the evil one? What ways is God calling you to be more sober and self-controlled so you can better resist the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Standing Firm in the Faith

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 (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:8–9

Peter says healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith. Resist the devil is a defensive posture. It is what we do when the enemy attacks. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Interpretation Question: According to 1 Peter 5:9, how do we resist the devil by standing firm in the faith? What does it mean to “stand firm in the faith?”

In order to resist the devil, the Christian must put his entire trust in God. That is why Peter says “stand firm in the faith.” The only ground we can stand on when attacked by the devil is our faith—it’s not medicine, it’s not worldly philosophy.

This is one of the reasons biblical counseling is so important because the secular world does not accept the reality of Satan and his demons. Satan is too great of a foe for us to defeat on our own or in our own power.

Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal or secular but mighty in God for casting down strongholds (2 Cor 10:4). It must be done by putting our trust totally in God and his resources. Listen to what Paul said in the context of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (emphasis mine). If we are to resist the devil, it must be through the Lord’s power and resources.

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to stand firm in the faith? How can we stand firm in order to resist the devil?

1. Standing firm in the faith means to resist the devil through Scripture.

When Christ resisted the devil in the wilderness, he used the Word of God. He quotes Scripture with every attack that Satan brings. Look at what Christ said:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 4:8–10

Christ always replies to the devil, “It is written.” If a Christian doesn’t know the Word of God, he will be open to many attacks from the devil. When Satan attacks a person’s body image and that person is tempted to feel discouraged, the believer must have Scripture to reply with. When the believer is attacked with lust or anxieties, he must have Scripture to reply with.

2. Standing firm in the faith means to practice a holy life.

We see this in looking at the armor of God. The majority of the armor of God is simply a holy life. By living a holy life, a Christian puts on the armor of God and protects him or herself against attacks from the enemy. To put on the breastplate of righteousness means to live a righteous life. A righteous life protects you from much of the enemy’s advances. To put on the belt of truth means to believe the truth and not accept any lies. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Eph 6:14)

When a believer instead chooses to rebel against God’s will in areas of sex, unforgiveness, cheating, etc., he opens the door for Satan. The believer must stand firm in the faith by practicing a holy life.

3. Standing firm in the faith means to live in an atmosphere of prayer

Jesus told the disciples to “pray lest they enter into temptation.” Prayer would have protected them from temptation to sin, and therefore, the devil. He called them to pray for an hour and they all failed. Consequently, they all denied him, in his time of need.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).

Similarly, after Paul commands believers to put on the armor of God, he commands them to pray. Prayer is one of the ways we resist the devil. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Also, Jesus taught that praying for protection from the evil one should be a regular part of the believer’s prayer life. Listen to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (emphasis mine). We should pray for this for ourselves, for our families but especially for our church, whom the enemy is always attacking.

Another aspect of prayer probably includes rebuking the devil or commanding him to leave at times when it is clear that he is at work. We see this in many different parts of Scripture. In the book of Zechariah, Satan is accusing the high priest, Joshua, before God, and the Angel of the Lord rebukes Satan. Look at what he says:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire” (emphasis mine)?
Zechariah 3:1–2

We see the Angel of the Lord, whom most scholars believe is a reference to Christ, rebuking Satan by using the name of the Lord. Essentially, God rebukes the devil by using his own name. We also see this with Michael, the archangel, in Jude 1:9. He rebukes Satan by using the Lord’s name. We, similarly, see the Apostles commanding demons to leave in the name of the Lord (Acts 16:18). There may be times where you stand firm in the faith by commanding demonic anxieties, lies of the devil, or other demonic works to cease in Jesus name.

James, like Peter, commands believers to resist the devil. He says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Sometimes, we resist the devil by rebuking him in Christ’s name. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7).

4. Standing firm in the faith means living a life of worship.

We see that David ministered to Saul, who had a tormenting spirit, through worship (1 Sam 16:23). When David, the psalmist of Israel, would play the harp, the demon would flee. Worship is a powerful weapon in resisting the devil. However, the person who lives in complaining and worry often opens the door for the enemy in their lives. It is through worship and thanksgiving that many of Satan’s arrows are extinguished.

We choose to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for our lives” (1 Thess 5:18). When Job gave God thanks in the midst of his trial, he essentially thwarted the attack of the devil, who was trying to make him curse God. Worrying or complaining is not far from cursing God. It says, “God, you are not all wise” or “God, you do not care.”

Are you a thankful, worshipful Christian? Or are you a worrier and a complainer? Complaining brought the judgment of God on Israel while in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:10). Complaining is also contagious, as it tends to open the door for Satan to work in other people’s lives. Paul said, “Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Phil 2:14). Stand firm in your trust for God by worshiping him and giving him thanks.

5. Standing firm in the faith means to live a life of fellowship.

Finally, a believer resists the devil by walking in right relationship with the church. They pray for one another, encourage one another, and pick one another up. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).

The Christian who walks alone is the Christian who will come under great attack. In fact, it is discord, specifically unforgiveness, that seems to open the door for Satan into many believers’ lives. Listen to what Christ said to the disciples about unforgiveness:

Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (emphasis mine).
Matthew 18:32–35

Christ says the person who does not forgive will be handed over to the torturers. Who are the torturers in this passage? It is the devil and his demons. Saul was handed over to a demon that tormented him (1 Sam 16). The Christian living in immorality in 1 Corinthians 5 was handed over to Satan for discipline.

God promises that when we don’t forgive others, we are handed over to the torturers. I believe there are many Christians who are going through trials simply because they have unforgivness in their hearts and are out of fellowship with the church or other Christians. The enemy torments them by bringing sickness; he torments them by bringing discord; he torments them by financial lack. If we are going to resist the devil, we must be walking in fellowship with the church, the body of Christ.

Are you standing firm in the faith?

It is the only way to resist the devil. Many Christians have begun to fall away from their firm stance in the faith. They fall away from reading and studying the Bible; they fall away from a consistent prayer life; they fall away from faithful attendance and fellowship with the church, and therefore, open the door for the enemy to attack them.

We see this all the time. When we have started to slip in practicing our faith: anxieties show up, anger shows up, and discord shows up. When we are not filled with God and living in faith, we find the enemies work everywhere in our lives.

This is particularly important for churches that have turned away from the firm stance in the faith. They do not preach the Word; they do not worship God in spirit and truth; they do not practice righteous living; they do not live in unity. It is in those contexts, you can be sure that you will find disorder and every work of the devil (Jas 3:14–16). The church must stand firm in the faith, or it will fall to the attacks of the evil one.

Application Question: How do you practice a lifestyle of standing firm in the faith in order to resist the devil? What ways does he commonly attack you?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Persevering through Hope in God’s Grace

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:10-11

What is the final way we should resist the devil?

Christians should resist the devil by persevering through hope in Gods grace. We should not bail or quit in the midst of Satan’s attack because the one who is with us, is the God of all grace. He is the God who gives unmerited favor and blessing to those who persevere. Look at how Peter encourages these saints in their suffering. He says, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

There is a measure of grace available to suffering saints. However, this grace only comes to those who persevere. Peter says “after you have suffered a little while.” A lot of Christians bail on the church when Satan attacks. They get mad at God. They get mad at the pastor and members. Many Christians are virtually “church hoppers.” They leave the church every time the enemy comes. Some pastors are like that.

Look at what Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it (emphasis mine).
John 10:11-12

Sadly, many of our leaders won’t stand, won’t persevere when Satan attacks. Like the hireling, the one who is only there for pay, they flee the church. However, the good shepherd stands when the wolf comes. This is how all Christians should respond to Satan’s attacks. These attacks may come through the moral failure of a leader, it may come through a spirit of division, it may come through false teaching or a cult. Either way, we must together resist and persevere.

We should persevere because God gives grace to those who do so. He blesses congregants who persevere together against the roaring lion.

Observation Question: Why should believers persevere through trials that the devil brings and what are the benefits of this perseverance according to 1 Peter 5:10-11?

1. The trial will only last a little while.

Peter says the trial will only last a little while. Trials are temporary. They are probably temporary in time, but they are certainly temporary in comparison to eternity. Soon the King is coming, or we will leave this earth to go to the King shortly. Therefore, we should not lose our confidence. Peter comforts these Christians with the brevity of trials.

2. The trial will develop our character and mature us.

Peter says through the trial we will be restored. The word translated restore can also be translated “mending nets” or “preparing their nets” in Matthew 4:21: “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them.”

In the context, James and John are preparing their nets to cast into the lake to catch fish. They are fixing holes and tears in order to be more effective fisherman. Similarly, God uses trials to mend us and make us more effective. The trial exposes sin or character flaws so he can fix them. The trial is used to strengthen existing virtues in his ministers such as patience, joy and peace. Through the trial, he prepares his ministers. He mends us as a fisherman does his nets, so we can better serve him and others.

Don’t quit in the trial because God’s plan is to mend you through it so you can be more useful in ministry (2 Cor 1:3–6).

3. The trial will make you strong to stand in other trials but also in order to help others.

Peter said that after we had persevered, God would make us strong. Trials are like lifting weights. They build strength so we can persevere through other difficulties in life. God, also, makes people strong through trials so they can, in the future, carry others. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak (emphasis mine) and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom 15:1–2).

The strong are given a ministry of caring for those who are weak. Where weaker Christians in the faith often isolate themselves during trials and become very self–focused, the strong serve others even amidst their own difficulties. This is a grace that God gives; he not only gives strength but makes strength a characteristic of this person.

Has God made you strong?

4. The trial will make you firm.

Young Christians are often up and down in their spiritual life; they go from spiritual high to spiritual low. In fact, Paul describes spiritual infants as those tossed to and fro like a wave by false teaching and other evils.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

But the Christian who has persevered through suffering becomes firm. They start to have a steady consistent walk with the Lord. God makes us firm through our trials if we persevere through them. The mature are no longer tossed to and fro; they have become firm.

5. The trial will make you steadfast.

The word steadfast actually means to “lay a foundation.” When you lay a foundation, you are preparing not only to stand in storms but to build more. Your trial is just the platform in your life for God to build you up more into the image of Christ and a vessel that is useful for him. This trial is a necessary component of that process. A house without a foundation will not stand (Matt 7:24–27).

There are some specific trials that have happened in my life that are foundational for my current ministry. My struggle with depression for a year and half during college and the military was foundational for my current ministry. I minister daily from that reservoir. It was there God gave me a love for his Word; it was there I studied the Word the hardest I have in my life (including seminary). It was there he removed much of the dross (excess) from my life and left him alone. It was there God gave me a heart for others who were hurting and the empathy to really minister to them. My sufferings are the foundations of my ministry.

In our trials, we must persevere individually and as a community because it is in the trial that God mends us and prepare us for further ministry. He makes us strong to bear others up. He makes us steady instead of up and down. He makes us steadfast, laying a foundation for future growth and ministry.

Let us resist the devil by persevering through our trials. God has promised us his abundant grace.

Conclusion

How do healthy churches and church members resist the Devil?

  1. Healthy churches resist the devil by recognizing him and his tactics
  2. Healthy churches resist the devil by being sober and self-controlled
  3. Healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith
  4. Healthy churches resist the devil by persevering through hope in God’s grace

Chapter Notes

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Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


1 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/on+the+prowl

2 Fisher, Bonnie S., Cullen, Franscis T., and Turner, Michael T (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Satanology