He Does Have Teeth

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV

I have become sensitive over time to “coffee cup verses” and “christianese phrases,” as in they can get my blood boiling and my typing fingers ready to rant.

What do I mean? Coffee cup verses are verses or phrases put on coffee cups or greeting cards that sound comfy-cozy but are taken out of context. Example: picture Bambi in a sunny meadow, nibbling grass with a clear bubbly stream in the foreground. The verse in pretty calligraphy on the bottom says, “As the deer panteth for the water so my soul longeth after Thee. . .” Psalm 42:1

Actual context: David is so desperate to hear from God when he feels battered and beaten and rejected on all sides that his picture is Bambi lying on his side, gasping for breath, about to die of thirst. There is no water anywhere. No pretty meadows. He longs for water, but is about to lose hope of rescue.

Example of “christianese phrase” – Satan is a toothless lion; he makes a lot of noise, but he is nothing to fear if you have Jesus.

Actual context: ask Job if it was a toothless adversary who killed his family and destroyed his possessions. Ask the mothers of the babies Herod ordered slaughtered because of his jealousy. Ask John the Baptist if it was a toothless blowhard who incited a woman to order his death because she didn’t like what he said. Ask Peter, who wrote the opening passage to believers who were scattered throughout the region because of persecution.

This was not Peter’s first encounter with this adversary.

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:31-32

It is important to remember that, in this instance, Peter did not think he was vulnerable to attack. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death” (v. 33) but in just hours all Peter’s bravado and “strength” was gone in a fearful mess.

I understand how the “toothless lion” phrase became popular. Satan is an adversary, but he is NOT more powerful than God. He cannot subvert God’s plan. He must have God’s permission to touch a believer (both Job and Peter are illustrations). And the toothless lion phrase sounds fine when life is going well.

But when life is hard, when things fall apart, when you are desperate to hear from God and you just don’t know when or if relief will come–

that is no toothless kitty cat. That is a roaring lion, circling, eyeing his prey, calculating when to attack and devour.

Resist him. Stand firm in your faith. Remember that you are not the only one with hardship. This life, this present circumstance is not the end. The God of all grace has called you to eternal glory in Christ! And Christ himself (can’t get more personal and hands on than that) will

restore–complete, repair, to make suitable, such as one should be,deficient in no part

confirm–to turn resolutely in a certain direction; to fix, establish, set, strengthen

strengthen–to make one more able to do something. . .is used to speak of the strength Christ gives those who have endured suffering. Whereas “confirm” is making one more resolved in his belief in the truth, “strengthen” is making him more capable, more able to endure trials

And the final or ultimate power, rule and control (dominion) belongs to God forever. Not the roaring lion, or any of his agents. Not my circumstances or failing health.

God alone.

(Definitions from Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionaries)

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