I've been smelling "lion's breath" recently. How about you? Have you ever gotten so close that you gagged at its odious smell?
"Where have I been?" you ask.
Lion country safari?
Kenya? Sudan? South Africa?
Or did our children get a pet lion?
No—none of these.
So where have I been that I drew close enough to learn that lions have halitosis? Well, let's just say that I've been in "lion country."
Pastor, author and lecturer, A. W. Tozer made numerous visits there—in fact, he may have lived in lion country. After a particularly difficult time in his ministry, Tozer noted the following:
But I will tell you something—it is a delightful thing when you know that you are close enough to the adversary that you can hear him roar! Too many Christians never get into "lion country" at all!
After pondering Tozer's observation for a bit, I concluded we not only should, but absolutely must take delight as we charge off into lion country. I've learned spiritual conflict means we're about to do something worthwhile—something that will last for eternity.
The spiritual safari
What about you? Have you taken a "spiritual safari" into lion country? Do you know where it is?
"Lion country" is territory controlled by the devil. It is the daily domain of the ruler of this world. The Apostle John comments on the whereabouts of lion country, "We know that we are of God and the whole world is in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).
Because God has given Satan permission to rule on earth, a struggle for power and dominion has resulted. Yet many Christians are unaware that enemy territory even exists. Peter warns, "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Lions in Africa prey on weak, unsuspecting animals, and those struggling behind the protection of the herd. Likewise, the devil "prowls about seeking" to deceive (devour) those with weak convictions and naive beliefs. Christians who refuse to submit to the accountability of other believers in the local church find themselves isolated and defenseless—delicious prey for the crafty deceptor.
How does a lion devour its prey? One bite at a time. I wonder at times if twentieth century Christians have been mesmerized by prosperity and busy schedules while the enemy has already chewed off three quarters of their leg!
However, instead of being prey, Christians must be aggressive soldiers recapturing the land for Christ. The goal of our battle is to confine the enemy to limited spheres of influence—just as the lions of Africa are limited to the confines of game preserves. When Christ returns, He will lock up the enemy forever (Revelation 20).
Learning to invade
So why all the fuss about "lion country?"
Far too many Christians are being fooled by the enemy. They have been deceived into thinking that "run of the mill" Christianity is all there is. Dabbling in spiritual things, they play church. Jesus Christ may be a part of their lives, but He isn't their life.
I know, I've been there—for more than 14 years I was the prey of the enemy. I thought I knew what was best for me. I ran the show—God was only there as an emergency Savior—just when I was in a crisis and needed Him.
But there's more to Christianity than that. Armed with the greatest truth the world has ever heard, the Gospel, we fearfully retreat to our "spiritual bunkers" and wait for an unsaved world to come to us. Instead of invading, we disengage and play it safe.
Successful invaders are risk takers—they are men and women of faith and action. The victory will go to those who are willing to move their faith eighteen inches from their head to their heart. Victory belongs to the one who starts the race and, with God's grace, finishes it.
Many Christians, however, seem to prefer comfort to conflict. Peace and quiet become the norm.
I once read a book about Winston Churchill. He believed the battlefield is the place where great issues are resolved. And I believe that the great issues of our day will never be decided sipping lemonade in a hammock, but rather through well equipped Christians invading lion country. Just as Churchill refused to negotiate until the adversary had capitulated, neither can we afford to give into temptation or compromise.
Yes, lion country is a dangerous challenge to be taken seriously. The evil one hates God and is a serious enemy of our soul. We must arm ourselves for battle (Ephesians 6:10-20).
You can tell if you're in lion country. Heard any roaring lions lately? Get on with it—the greatest thrill in your life will come in knowing you're encroaching on the enemy's territory.
Five tips for lion hunters
In closing, I'd like to give you five tips from the Scripture for "lion country":
- Stand firm—we have God's assurance that we won't lose the war. You have absolutely nothing of which to be afraid (Ephesians 6).
- Let God's Word be your guide through lion country. And don't wait until you get lost in lion country to start studying the Scriptures—now is the time to prepare to do battle (Ephesians 6).
- Pray always and give thanks frequently. Praise is one of the most powerful weapons a Christian has in spiritual battle—have you truly praised God for your battle (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)?
- Know that no temptation is to be taken lightly—sin is deadly. Flee immorality. Tell the truth. Speak kindly one to another (2 Timothy 2).
- Walk by faith, not by feelings and not by what you can see. God's Word and His promises are either 100 percent true or they are not true at all. Since His Word is true, your faith is the difference. Grab hold of His Word and step out (2 Corinthians 5:7).
C. T. Studd, the great missionary to China, understood the challenge well. He wrote, "Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gate of hell."
That's pretty radical stuff isn't it? But do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be Christ-like? If you want to be like Christ, then why are you wondering why you have been hearing the footsteps of lions recently?
The battle has been tough recently, but I wouldn't trade lion country for the safety of compromise, peace, and comfort at any price.
What about you?
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.