Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (ESV)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV)
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (NLT)
In her article about emotional eating and stress, Susan Biali Haas describes a time in her life when stress overwhelmed her. As a result, she would continually find herself late at night in the grocery store buying carrot cake. She explains how she wasn’t even aware that her eating habit was linked to the distress in her life. It seemed like she just blindly indulged without recognizing the correlation, and even when she eventually became aware of the link, she continued to try to lull her pain with food. She said, “Cake would temporarily soothe but would never, ever fix. If anything, I’d typically feel worse afterward.”
Have you found yourself here? Have you recognized food to be a source of numbing stress? Or maybe it isn’t food, but fill in the blank on something you overindulge in so that you can escape the reality of life. The reality is that the world is filled with opportunities for overindulgence. Everywhere we look, we can try to leave this world with temporary fixes, but just as Susan said, these temporary “fixes” never ultimately solve anything. Often, these vices dig us deeper into a hole of discontentment, numbness, and disappointment than we ever thought possible. So why do they have such a strong pull on us? Why can we mindlessly find ourselves again distracted by a piece of cake that turns into three or munching on a handful of chips that turn into the whole bag while we binge The Office?
A Real Enemy
At the center of the Biblical narrative is the understanding that we have a very real enemy alive and active among us. Many Christians are familiar with the statement, “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). But many of us struggle to believe that as we enter into our day to day life. It’s much easier as we walk into the real world to see things as they are: a fight amongst coworkers as two people angry at each other, a struggle with oversleeping as just plain laziness, or people struggling to make ends meet as being financially irresponsible. In part, these things may be true, and oftentimes, we don’t need a further explanation, but when we take on the Scriptures as our lens for seeing the world around us, we see that there is an evil force at play keeping people enslaved to unhealthy ways of living. This is why Peter warns us to stay alert! To wake up and recognize the ways in which the enemy is actively trying to ensnare you. Jesus says the Devil is the father of lies (John 8:44), and he is constantly trying to force us to live into lies rather than taking on the abundant life Jesus offers (John 10:10).
The Model of Jesus
So, how do we stay alert? How do we watch out for the enemy? Well, Jesus gave us one of the strongest examples when he faced the devil in the flesh. In Matthew 4, we read about how Jesus was sent out into the wilderness by the Spirit without food for 40 days. The Scriptures point out that he was hungry (no kidding), and many of us see this as a weakness for Jesus, but was it? Of course, physically, Jesus was surely weak, but anyone who has fasted before knows there is soberness, alertness, and clarity from abstaining from food intentionally for spiritual growth. This is especially true as it forces you to draw nearer to God. It is easy to go from meal to meal, not needing much from God, but when you are intentionally fasting, you are in utter need of the Lord. Wouldn’t Jesus draw extremely near to his father after 40 days without food in the wilderness? Wouldn’t this sharpen him to see how the enemy was coming after him? We see when the Devil comes to tempt him, Jesus quotes Scripture back every time. He was alert to the temptation, he was watchful of what the enemy was trying to do, and he responded with the truth of the word.
Self-Control in a Culture of Numbness
Jesus shows us that the enemy isn’t someone we should take lightly. Peter warns us that the enemy is actively seeking someone to devour. This language is consequential, not just advice to live a good life, so we have to take it seriously. We have to think soberly about our lives, the areas we over consume in, and consider how they impact us. Are we becoming more sober-minded due to our habits, or do we look more like the culture using food, drink, entertainment, and other cravings to numb out? Bring these areas before the Lord and ask him to transform them. Self-control is the way forward. Jesus has poured out his Spirit and allowed us to live in self-control. When we detach from our vices through full-on removal or periods of fasting, we can experience freedom and sober-mindedness to the Devil's schemes. Let’s lean in together as we meditate on this week's verse.
Written by Ben Hesch
Whether you have fasted before or not, I challenge you this week, whether for the entirety of the week or for 24 hours, to choose something to intentionally fast from—sweets, food altogether, coffee, media, television, etc. Most likely, the thing you’re thinking you won’t choose is probably the thing you should. Fasting realigns our hearts to a posture of surrender and dependence that leads to an abundant and joy-filled life in Jesus Christ. Isn’t this something we all want?
Fasting aligns our hearts with Jesus, teaches us to surrender, trains us to deny ourselves and follow after Jesus, and reminds us to pray without ceasing.