Jump Start # 2215
1 Peter 5:8 “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert, your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
One of the features of our congregation’s website and Facebook page is a quote that is posted every day. We call these, “Quick Quotes.” One of our Quick Quotes this week said, “By yielding to temptation one may lose in a moment what it took him a lifetime to gain.” That fits well with our verse today. The devil is alive and well. He is on the hunt. He’s looking and too often we are not. Temptations can come quickly, in a moment, as the Quick Quote claimed. And, in that one brief moment, it can set back what it took years to build.
Consider one’s reputation. In one angry flare up, hateful words are said, and they are remembered. All the good that one has tried to establish by teaching the love of Christ, the bond that is shared among brethren, can collapse because of one angry moment. Certainly one can apologize. Differences can be mended through grace and forgiveness, but that one moment can sure undo what it took a long time to establish.
Consider one’s character. In a moment of lust, one can close his eyes to the trust others have in him, and destroy years of marriage, faithfulness and confidence that others had in him. That one moment could be all that it takes to end the marriage. That one moment could be all it takes to let others down and drive a deep wedge in his family.
Consider one’s career. In a moment of greed, a man is caught stealing from his company, or even the church. He loses his job. He is escorted off the company grounds. Police are involved. He may be facing jail time. He thought he could cook the books. He thought he could repay the money before anyone found out. He thought no one would notice. His departure down that dark road, has crashed his career. It took years for him to get where he is at and now no one will even look at his resume.
It’s easy to tear down. Just about anyone, given a sledgehammer, can knock a wall down. It takes a long time to build something right. In just a moment, all the good that has been done, can be lost. Unloving words. Quick actions that were not thought out. Unforgiving spirits. Years of sermons are washed away in a flood of tears because members forgot to act like Jesus. It just takes a moment to ruin what it took a long time to establish and build.
This tells us the nature of temptation. It’s instant and at the moment. It’s not thought out, planned nor are consequences considered. Temptation is about self. The man who surrenders to lust isn’t thinking about his marriage and his promises that he made to his wife. The person who belittles others isn’t thinking about turning the cheek nor giving someone a chance to explain himself. Temptation is swift. It’s selfish. It is destructive and it can take the rest of our lives to undue what it caused.
It takes a long time to establish a great career. Once it’s ruined, there simply may not be enough time left in one’s life to overcome that. A lawyer who is debarred. A doctor who loses his license. A teacher who is fired for sexual misconduct with a student. A preacher who is fired for having an affair. The moments of temptation passes quickly, but the damage remains. Some may never recover. Some must move. Some must find other things to do. Some will have that label with them as long as they live.
Those ruined by temptation realize that simply saying you are sorry isn’t enough. It’s not enough to save a marriage. It’s not enough to save a career. It’s not enough to regain trust with others. Hollywood and the world of sports has painted this unrealistic image of high profile people saying horrendous things and after being called on the carpet, they offer a simple apology and all is expected to be fine. It might be in their world, but for most of us, the consequences that follow may take years and years to recover from.
Is it any wonder that Peter pushes two major warnings at the front side of our verse. First, be of sober spirit. We know what sober means. In most context it means not influenced by alcohol. We’d say, “He’s thinking straight.” Or, “He has his head on straight.” Under the influence of alcohol, a person becomes more daring. They do not drive well. Their vision, mind and judgment is impaired. That’s why alcohol and fornication fit so well together. Thinking straight a person wouldn’t toss their reputation, career, or family for a fling with a co-worker. But impair their thinking, toss in the moment of temptation, and everything changes. “I just wasn’t thinking,” becomes the anthem of those who are not sober in spirit. Peter is not talking about alcohol. He’s talking about life. Life isn’t one big joke. Get serious. What are you thinking? Why are you flirting with someone you are married to? Just having a little fun? Be sober. What are you thinking when you are changing prices and stealing from the company? Be sober.
Peter’s other warning is “be on the alert.” Satan’s there. He’s at work before you got there today. He’s already setting up shop for the day. His briefcase is open and he’s looking at various ways he can tempt you today. A little lie here. A little lust there. A little greed. A little gossip. A little dishonesty. He’ll take those temptations and sprinkle some selfishness on top to make it appealing to you. He knows just what flavor you like. And, there before you know it, is temptation. He’ll remind you that you deserve it. He’ll tell you that you are not getting the attention, praise that you ought to have. He’ll stroke that ego. He’ll fill your mind to the point that you can’t see anything but temptation. Then, he will provide an opportunity. Here’s your chance. And, as our Quick Quote says, “in a moment, you lose what it took a life time to gain.” Peter’s words are be on the alert. Keep your eyes open.
This past summer my wife and I went to a foreign city. We were warned about pick pockets. We were told how they use children and how they often work in pairs. My eyes were open. I was watching everyone and was very careful about what I did. We were on the alert. We had no problems. This is what Peter is telling his audience. Keep your eyes open. Satan is out there. We are traveling through lion country. It’s dangerous. Satan will use people. Satan will use your situation. Satan will use TV, movies and even brethren, to trip you and cause you to sin. He’ll use more than one form of temptation. He’ll work late at night as well as early in the morning. As you leave work today, Satan’s already setting up things at home. When you go on a vacation, Satan has already moved into your hotel before you arrive. He’s everywhere. There is no place, even the church building, where Satan doesn’t have a key and cannot get in. He’ll use discouragement if he can’t get you with lust. He’ll confuse you with tough situations if he can’t move you by greed. He’ll try to get you to compromise. He’ll do all that he can to get you to lift your foot off the spiritual accelerator. He’ll throw things at you to get you mad. He’ll try to get you mad at brethren. He’ll try to get you mad at your family. Satan knows what helps us spiritually. He’ll try to put some distance between us and those things.
And, to all of this, Peter says, Be alert. Don’t be a dummy who walks right into the open arms of sin. Don’t be so gullible and blind that you do not see the dangers. He’s out to get you. When he does it won’t be pretty. The lion tears flesh apart. The lion kills. And Satan will kill all that is dear to your heart. He doesn’t care.
What can we do? We can’t kill this lion. We are not told to go lion hunting. Be on the alert. Be sober. James adds, “resist.” Resist the devil and he will flee from you. That’s the solutions. That’s the hope.
It’s time to wake up and realize that the lion has his eyes on you. “By yielding to temptation one may lose in a moment what it took him a lifetime to gain.”