I recently heard someone say that our enemy is an old toothless lion. That phrase frustrates me.
Wouldn’t our enemy just love for us to think he is old and toothless? Think about it. The image of an “old” lion is one that is weak, slow moving and feeble. The idea of a lion with no teeth suggests he is totally harmless – because you need teeth to do damage. Right?
What a great strategic move by our enemy – to disguise himself as old, frail, weak and harmless.
But this disguise is exposed in 1Peter 5:8: Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
If our enemy is not a threat, then why is he identified as a great enemy that we must watch out for? Why be on alert for something that is harmless? And notice Peter says nothing about being old or toothless. And how could a toothless lion devour you anyway?
Peter also warns us that our enemy is on the prowl just like a lion. Let’s make this clear: he is NOT a lion. But he is acting like one. Our enemy behaves like a lion – stalking us, lurking, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to attack. That’s what prowling is all about, searching for the opportune moment to strike.
And how do lions attack and kill their prey? Interestingly, a real lion doesn’t use his teeth to kill. Lions suffocate their victims. They clamp their jaws around the prey’s throat, pressing the windpipe closed so that it cannot draw breath and suffocates. Occasionally, lions will clamp their jaws around the prey’s mouth and nose instead of the throat and suffocate it in what is often called a ‘kiss of death’. Lions do not kill by ripping the prey to shreds with their teeth.
So it seems that even a toothless lion could still kill.
I can see the enemy operating this way. We’ve all experienced times when we felt like we were suffocating with depression, guilt, shame, fear, worry, anxiety, regret and any other negative emotion that the enemy could press in upon us. We all know the feeling of being so overwhelmed with our circumstances or emotions that the pressure it put on us made us feel as though we could not even breathe. Our enemy knows just how to overwhelm us with negative experiences, emotions and lies for the purpose of suffocating us spiritually in hopes of extinguishing our flame.
We’ve all felt the hair on our neck stand up as we heard our enemy roar. We’ve all felt the pain of an attack. We’ve felt the sting as he pounced. We can all testify, there is no old, toothless lion. So let’s quit saying it.
Why is this a big deal to me? Why does it frustrate me? Because if the enemy can deceive us into believing he isn’t a threat and is harmless, then we’ll live unaware of the fact that he has an agenda to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). If we are living unaware, then we let him operate unchecked and just assume the negative things that happen in our life are “just the way it is” and we won’t push back and retaliate. If we don’t push back, we lose ground and he accomplishes his agenda. I have to know I have a legitimate enemy so I can prepare and retaliate.
But in this – remember: while our enemy is a force to contend with, he is no match for Jesus. On my own, the enemy will defeat me every time. But in Jesus – there is no competition. Like Bill always says: if the devil is an ant, God is greater than the universe.
I don’t want to live my life with the enemy as my focal point. But I don’t want to underestimate him either. And I don’t want him to take advantage of me. I want to exercise the victory Jesus gave me and defeat the works of the enemy in my life. So I must live with my eyes fixed on Jesus – but keep the enemy in my peripherals.
For more on this thought, check out this teaching.