“Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
The lion shattered the still air of the Kenyan Samburu plains. The evening sky displayed its breathtaking color palette, as dusk was beginning to creep up on our safari game drive. My heart pounded incessantly in my chest as I made eye contact with the lion’s ice-cold stark gaze. My family and I crouched down in the open-air tour van as my grandmother pleaded, “We need to run! Let’s go, let’s go!” The lion was barely 50 meters (about 160 feet) away from us, threatening to pounce on the tasty dinner options that we could potentially be to him.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).[i]
“Stand still! Don’t move!” Our tour guide called out to us urgently, speaking from his many years of experience driving up and down the savanna plains. Since he was our driver, we had no option but to obey. None of us felt sufficiently motivated to jump out of the vehicle and attempt to outrun the lion. We could do nothing but stay still in our vehicle and watch. The staring match continued for what seemed like eternity. The lion’s stark gaze was piercingly resolute. Who would make the first move?
A couple of minutes later, the king of the jungle stood up and walked away in a grand anti-climax. I heaved a sigh of relief, grateful though somewhat puzzled. Why did the lion roar and intimidate us threateningly, only just to walk away? Was it just a game to him? Didn’t he know how we were all about to jump out of our skins?
I continued pondering over this event as we drove to our camp. I remembered our previous encounter earlier that afternoon with a lioness who was stalking an unsuspecting waterbuck that totally oblivious of its impending danger. When the waterbuck finally saw the lion, it mustered all its courage and stood firm. The waterbuck, unmoved, locked its eyes with the lioness. The lioness simply walked away leaving the waterbuck alive to see another day.
Our guide taught us an important life lesson. The lion’s roar is designed to intimate its prey and to throw it into a fearful frenzy. As the confused prey begins to run around and scamper for its life, it runs straight into a trap set by other hidden lions waiting for it. If the hunted animal, however, fearlessly stands its ground and resists its ferocious enemy, it will emerge victorious. The lion will walk away.
“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Perhaps that was the image that the inspired writers of God’s Word had as they urged us to be sober and vigilant, to stand firm, and to resist the wiles of the enemy of our souls, who seeks to devour us like a prowling lion. The devil seeks to instill fear, despair, and hopelessness and tempts us to fall into his sinful traps that would cost us our eternity.
Peter, James, and John, being avid students of Jesus, remind us of God’s design for overcoming the evil one in all his wicked schemes. We must stand firm, resist him, and be vigilant. Jesus showed them how to be vigilant as He agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane. He told His disciples, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:38). How were they to be vigilant? “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (verse 41).
Jesus taught His three disciples Peter, James, and John a powerful lesson that night—a lesson they shared with us in their writings. We can overcome the evil one only through faithfully practicing the disciplines involved with being a disciple of Christ: prayer (Matt. 26:41); living by God’s Word (Matt. 4:4); obedience (James 4:7); relying on Christ’s overcoming power in us (1 John 4:4); and standing firm in our faith (1 Peter 5:9). The end result: the lion will flee!
With Jesus, we can always win when we come eye to eye with the lion.
[i] All Scripture quotes have been taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.