By Bob Hiller –
I don’t know about you, but I am still buzzing off of that Super Bowl last Sunday, and I’m not even an Eagles fan! Far from it. I guess you can put me in the “Anyone but the Patriots” camp. So, watching the Eagles do the Pats like the Pats have done everyone else in the league for years was quite satisfying indeed. Bu, setting my disdain for the Patriots aside for a (very brief) moment, regardless of who won, that was a great game. It was intense to the finish. Especially because of the Patriots history in such situations. You can never count them out.
No, you can’t sleep on the Patriots. They are relentless. They never back off. Honestly, who among us didn’t see Brady get the ball on his own five with a minute left and think, “Welp, the Patriots will probably pull this one out!”? You cannot count them out until the last whistle blows. And the Eagles knew it. That’s why they won. They never backed down. They didn’t sleep on Brady or the Patriots.
Back to my dislike for the Patriots. There is something we can learn about the devil from the way Tom Brady plays football. Okay, okay, that may be a bit harsh, and I certainly don’t mean to pile on after his loss, but go with me on this (Well, err, maybe I do mean to pile on a little…but I’m pretty sure he’s not reading the Jagged Word this week, so it’s cool…). The devil is a defeated foe. His reign of sin and death has come to an end in the cross of Christ Jesus. And you, dear baptized saint, have been pulled out of his dominion of darkness and transferred in to the kingdom of God’s Son in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14) The holy, precious blood of Jesus has redeemed you and rescued you from Satan’s bondage. He has lost. The victory is Christ’s! You are the spoils of war!
But just like Tom Brady, the devil won’t accept the loss. He keeps fighting. He keeps attacking. He prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. And he won’t sleep tonight (see what I did there)! Which means we as the beloved children of God cannot sleep on the devil. He won’t stop tempting, distracting, or accusing. He’s relentless in getting you to question the Law (Did God really say that is a sin?) so that he might remove repentance from you. He’s even more violent with the Gospel (Did God really say Christ alone saves the likes of a filthy sinner like you? You’re not repentant enough, and you can’t stop your icky habits! Your sins are too much for such a holy God!) so as to drive out faith in Jesus.
You can’t sleep on the devil. You are never in a position where you are not vulnerable to his temptations. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:15). So says Luther when speaking on the Lord’s Prayer, “Moreover, although we have acquired forgiveness and a good conscience and have been wholly absolved, yet such is life that one stands today and falls tomorrow” (Large Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer: The Sixth Petition).
Left to our own devices or efforts, we are devil bait. “If you attempt to help yourself by your own thoughts and resources, you will only make the matter worse and give the devil a wider opening” (LC, Lord’s Prayer: Sixth Petition). Persevering against the devil is not like Nick Foles digging down deep and playing his hardest, relying on his own resources and abilities. No, the only hope we have against the flaming darts of the evil one is found outside of ourselves in the victor himself, Jesus Christ. This is why the Lord gives us the gift of the Lord’s Prayer. “But, prayer can resist him and drive him back” (LC, Lord’s Prayer: Sixth Petition). Here is the church’s battle cry against Satan. God gifts it to us along with the promise to listen and answer in our day of trouble by delivering the Holy Spirit! (Luke 11:9-13) What’s more, He grants us His written and preached Word to silence the doubts conjured up by our wicked foe. He drives us to the Sacraments so that we might remember our Baptism when the devil parades our sins in our face. His accusations fall short when you go the altar. After all, it’s hard for the devil to make you question whether or not the blood was shed for you while you are drinking it down your throat!
What’s truly remarkable is that the devil’s late game drives, his defeated raging, only serves to drive the one who is in Christ (a New Testament phrase for “baptized”) closer to their Shepherd, who, as it turns out, never left nor forsook His dear sheep. Angels nor demons can separate us from Christ’s love, after all. (Rom. 8:38-39) To be sure, we are weak and vulnerable on our own. But praise be to God in Christ Jesus, we are not on our own. Though he’ll keep playing until the clock runs out, Satan will not have a comeback victory against Christ. When he rants and rages against you, flee to Christ, pray, take, and eat. The Lord never sleeps on the devil, so you can rest secure in Christ Jesus.