Satan is ever present in our lives. Satan, the devil, the evil one, Beelzebub, Lucifer, or whatever you want to call him is at the root of all obstacles to our faith. He never takes a day off. Many times, it feels like he is working overtime on me. Sometimes he comes at us head-on, at times he sneaks into our minds and often he uses other people to do his work. He pleads his case by saying go ahead and sin, after all, it’s fun and makes us feel good. Unbelievers test our faith by insisting if there is a God, why does he let bad things happen to those who believe in him. Even believers create doubts when they maintain that some teachings in the Bible are outdated and do not apply to modern society. Satan’s sole desire is to come between God and us to drag us down to hell with him. The devil knows that being a committed Christian is often a struggle, and he uses those times to do much of his work. That’s why he spends so much time and energy on us. His disciples and those that do not want a relationship with God do not take much of his effort. He already has them headed down the road to hell. Romans 7:21, “So I’ve discovered this truth: Evil is present with me even when I want to do what God’s standards say is good.”
Living a Christian life is sometimes complicated, and God understands that. Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The mind of God and his ways are sometimes mysterious to me. Understanding God’s mind and his ways are not necessary; all that’s needed is faith. We need to put our hearts in his hands and fully trust that he knows best. He always got our backs.
If a Christian life is what God wants for us, then why does he allow the devil to work against us? Testing us is a means of increasing our faith. 1 Peter 1:6-7 “… for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kind of trails. These come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” You may be thinking, “but, He is God and could have chosen an easier way to grow our faith.” The only explanation I can offer you is Isaiah 55, 1 Peter 1, and Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." FAITH!
Ever had doubts whether God really loves you? I’m in so much pain from this disease, my marriage is so unhappy, my children cause so much stress and disappointment, I have such a difficult time at work, bills keep mounting up, these drugs and alcohol are controlling my life. I live in anxiety, depression, and extreme frustration. Some people struggle with the permanence of a commitment to a wife, children, a job, and other relationships in their lives. They see these commitments as an obligation they must deal with every day. The relationship with God carries a heavy burden for them and they grow weary of what they see as the constant pressures of being a Christian. Satan throws obstacles in front of each of us without exception. No one is exempt. The person sitting on the same row as you, in front of you and behind you at church struggles with obstacles. Even the man standing in the pulpit faces his struggles. Satan is after everyone! The devil is at work, causing your doubts.
God never promises a painless, trouble-free life. He does promise in Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you”; “He will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31: 8, The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” FAITH will discourage and defeat Satan temporality. Remember, he will keep coming after you with some obstacle to your faith. Luke 4 records the temptation of Christ. Versed 13 says: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Satan returned in various ways through the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Satan filled people who challenged Christ. One commentator writes: “No matter how badly mauled Satan is, or however strongly he's opposed, he won't admit defeat and insists he can yet find a way to defeat us.”
The following are excerpts from an article written by Matt Nelson on the website Word on Fire.
“Remember: If our faith is weak, it may not be obvious when life is going smoothly, and we aren’t challenged in any way. But when hard times come, a weak faith will be revealed for what it really is: shallow and unable to help us through life’s difficulties. It may be anything: an unexpected illness, the death of a loved one, the loss of our job, or even a friend who turns against us. But when hard times happen, the true nature of our faith will be revealed.
None of us likes to go through hard times (and God isn’t necessarily behind them, even if He does allow them). But God can use them to show us our weaknesses. And when that happens, we need to ask God to help our faith grow. Testing should make us spiritually stronger — and it will as we turn it over to God. The Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials … so that you may be mature and complete” (James 1:2, 4).
Christianity is hard because it aims to soften hearts. One of the tough facts of Christianity is that we must face up to the fact that we are fallen. We are often not what we ought to be. G.K. Chesterton writes: “One of the chief uses of religion is that it makes us remember our coming from darkness, the simple fact that we are created” (from The Boston Sunday Post).
What makes Christianity hard is that it reminds us of our imperfections. We are much too prideful to enjoy such a thing—and this, I fear, is where the skeptic checks out. The skeptic robs himself of the opportunity to encounter the Good News. Chesterton famously remarked: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried” (Chapter 5, What’s Wrong with the World).
A Christian who thinks he can be a saint without suffering in this world is mistaken. This begs the question: “Who would choose such an unhappy life?” In God in the Dock, the former atheist C.S. Lewis responded to this question by remarking: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
It is true that Christianity does not exist to make us happy. But it does exist to make us joyful. Peter Kreeft, who some believe is the “C.S. Lewis of our times,” makes the following distinction: “Joy is more than happiness, just as happiness is more than pleasure. Pleasure is in the body. Happiness is in the mind and feelings. Joy is deep in the heart” (from Joy).
The Gospel is an invitation to life everlasting from the Everlasting Man—and with life everlasting comes joy everlasting. Christ promises us that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Even though I lay a great deal of the blame at the devil’s feet for the obstacles and struggles we face, we must be complicit with him for him to succeed to hinder us in our relationship with God. God allows the devil to throw the obstacles in our way. But God does restrict the devil: 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There isn't any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape”.
Satan is an opportunist and unfortunately a very good one. He knows where we are weakest and when he sees an opportunity, he jumps at the chance. We are in a war for our souls! What do I do about the obstacles and struggles that Satan puts in my way?
Study: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Whatever your struggle, read the Scriptures that will help you get through this episode.
Pray: 1 Thessalonians 5:17 encourages us to pray without ceasing. In the different versions pray without ceasing, pray constantly, pray without stopping, pray continually are used. We obviously cannot pray 24/7, but we can have the attitude of prayer in our hearts and minds. Ask God to prepare you to fight Satan. When Satan throws up an obstacle, ask God for help finding the escape.
Surround yourself with Christians: 1Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Col 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” In times of weakness, we need to be able to lean on one another.
Get a prayer partner: I’m not writing from personal experience, but I’m praying about this. James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." I will confess to you all day long that I’m a sinner, but admitting what my sins are is a real problem. A prayer partner will provide encouragement knowing that someone is offering up a prayer for you when you struggle. I’ve never known anyone who has a prayer partner. If you have one now or have ever had one, please let me know about your experience.
Stop and realize what’s happening! In a previous paragraph, I wrote that for Satan to be effective that we must be complicit. If you have a struggle with alcohol, then do not put yourself in a position where Satan can work against you. That goes for every possible struggle whatever it may be. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “Keep away from every kind of evil.”
As I look at our struggles and obstacles, we have two choices: fight Satan or give in to him. Often people grow weary with struggling against Satan. In his book “On the Anvil”, Max Lucado writes about former New York Supreme Court Judge name Joseph Crater who grew weary and disappeared one night. “Weariness is tough. I don’t mean the physical weariness that comes with mowing the lawn or the mental weariness that follows a hard day of decisions and thinking. No, the weariness that attacked Judge Carter is much worse. It’s the weariness just before you give up. The feeling of honest desperation. It’s the dispirited father, the abandoned child, or the retiree with time on his hands. It’s the stage in life when motivation disappears; the children grow up; a job lost; a wife dies. The result is weariness---deep, lonely, frustrated weariness.
Only one man in history has claimed to have an answer for it. He stands before all the Joseph Carters of the world with the same promise: “Come to me, all you who are weary… and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28.”
Make a choice. One leads to an eternal life with God who loves us and the other leads to eternal life with satan who cares nothing about us.
The elders at Southside would love the opportunity to pray with you and for you. Contact them and I guarantee you will have five men who will pray about your obstacles and struggles. During my health struggles, they have always prayed for me. James 5:16: “When a righteous person prays, that prayer carries great power.”
Matt Nelson thoughts printed by permission.
On the Anvil by Max Lucado – Tyndale House Publishing – 1985 – Used with permission