The county fair came to town again and visions of funnel cake and caramel apples danced in my head. As I walked along the dirt path around the fair grounds with my oldest son, we passed all the familiar sights and smells you would find at every good fair. The dart throw, the ring toss and that giant red pale that no one can seem to throw a rubber ball into. All the classic rides were there: the Ferris wheel, the Gravitron, and my youngest son’s favorite this year, the Ring of Fire. We ate greasy food and hung out with family. It was a good time overall. But near the back of the grounds at one particular and very popular game, I was rudely reminded of the schemes of the Devil.
He taunted, teased, and poked. He sat on his high and lofty booth behind metal bars and laughed a sinister laugh. The incessant smile on Bobo’s face brought no joy to the passer-by. Five dollars for six balls and you can have your shot. Five bucks to throw a baseball thirty feet through the air in hopes you might hit a small red dot and knock that fool off his platform and into the cold water.
Did I fall prey to the scheme? I’m afraid so.
My son tried first and got close, even hitting the rubber flap around the target, but no cigar. Every miss brought more laughter and teasing. What was I going to do - let him talk to my boy like that? So I handed more money to the carny and hurled those balls through the air. Don’t get me wrong. I was having fun, too. And, no, I did not act like a total raging lunatic in front of the crowd. But on the inside, there was a part of me that was raging. A small part of me wanted to leave his presence while the other part couldn’t seem to walk away. For the rest of the evening, the sound of his voice wouldn’t leave my mind.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
How do you like that? There’s someone out there that wants to devour you. He’s like a roaring lion - hungry for blood and full of hate. He is our adversary. But how does he actually devour us?
It’s not in a physical sense first that Peter speaks, but in a spiritual sense. He devours men with his cunning and his deceptiveness. Like that clown in the dunk tank, he appeals to the weakness of the flesh in hopes that you will react in sin, rather than in the Spirit. So the Word tells us to be sober, to have a clear mind going in so that when the taunting comes, we are ready. We have a warning ahead of time to watch for a prowler who’ll take any opportunity to pounce on his prey.
The dunk tank brings in the money by getting guys to react. With every missed throw comes more name-calling, jabs, and accusations that cause the rage-filled participant to spend more money. Why? Because he’s gotten under the skin, and for some reason dunking the guy in water will satisfy. But all he’s going to do is get back up and call you a loser again. In other words, win or lose, you’re down on cash and he’s still a jerk. So how do you win?
By not playing at all.
Satan wins when he gets you and me to take our eyes off Christ and stop walking in the confidence of Christ’s death, resurrection, and power over sin. He cannot destroy the whole Church, so he pulls in the individual Christian who’s forgotten to be watchful and sober. Just like the dunk-tank clown, Satan will get you to fight in the weakness of your flesh. But the Christian life is a spiritual battle that can only be won through the strength of Christ. The minute you step up to the line to fight sin and the devil in your own strength, you’ve already lost, and Satan knows it. As hard as it is to resist the flesh and walk past the devil who’s taunting you, trying to get a reaction, remember what’s at stake. Remember that if you do pick up a “ball” to hurl at the enemy, even if you do hit him once or twice, he will get back up and taunt you still. He knows when you think you’ve won, you’ve really lost because the battle wasn’t yours to begin with.
The victory we already have in Jesus, through the gospel and the truth of the cross, is enough to get us through this life. We only have to rest there, be watchful, and remain in the Spirit. All the Devil needs to know is that you have no intention of fighting in your own strength, but instead to rest in the truth that he is already condemned to an eternity in the Lake of Fire.
I’m not saying that the clown in the dunk tank at the Cumberland County fair was the Devil incarnate. I’m also not saying that you are somehow in sin if you choose to pay the 5 bucks to try your hand at dunking Bobo. All I’m saying is that it all served as a good reminder for me as a Christian. And next time I take my family to the fair, I hope I’ll heed the words of my wife a little better. Before we even got there she said, “Honey, don’t give your money to someone who insults you to get it.”
Sorry baby. I’ll be stronger next time.