Editorial: August 2008
If we are to live by faith, if we should live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, we should be aware of Satan's approach. His tactic is to make us doubt the veracity and the power of God's Words. When Satan approached Eve in the Garden of Eden, he asked: "Indeed, has God said…?" (Gen.3:1). These words were cunning, deceitful and deadly. If we are not aware of his methods, he will sow his seeds of doubt subtly, and he will reap rich harvests. We are therefore warned not to be ignorant of Satan's schemes, "lest Satan should take advantage of us" (2 Cor. 2:11). Doubt cannot abide with faith; therefore, he makes every effort to destroy faith. We should not be ignorant of his devices.
Max Lucado said: "Clouds of doubt are created when the warm moist air of our expectations meets the cold air of God's silence. The problem is not as much in God's silence, as it is in your ability to hear." Doubt sees the obstacles; faith sees the way. Doubt sees the darkest night; faith sees the day. Doubt dreads to take a step; faith soars on high. "If a man doubts his way, Satan is always ready to help him to a new set of opinions."
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It would only be logical for Satan to try to convince the believers to abandon their faith. Temptation is Satan testing your allegiance to God. If he could bring disappointment, discouragement, dejection and despair, he could demoralise us. The whisper of temptation becomes convincing. Never underestimate the genius of your enemy. DL Moody said: "If you pray for bread and bring no basket to carry it, you prove the doubting spirit, which may be the only hindrance to the boon you ask."
The devil feels threatened only by those who are intimate with God. Anybody who is friends with God is his dangerous foe. To break down your line of defence, he spearheads his attack with disappointment. He targets your mind. On the heels of disappointment comes a whole armoured division of discouragement. The cure for disappointment is to accept the situation by faith as God's appointment, to rest in His faithfulness and decide to walk in obedience, seeking His guidance.
Discouragement and disappointment are like twins. Discouragement closely follows disappointment, which is the parent of despair. Out of every disappointment, there is treasure. Satan whispers, "All is lost." God says, "Much can be gained." There are no disappointments to those whose wills are buried in the will of God. Satan wants you to be weakened, disheartened, discouraged. Remember, every cloud has a silver lining.
The children of Israel were discouraged when they heard the report of the spies. The land was flowing with milk and honey, as promised by God. But, there were giants in the land! "The people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there" (Num.13:28). They missed occupying the land 40 years earlier because of their unbelief. They were once again discouraged and disappointed. They "lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night" (Num.14:1). They considered their God to be too small to handle human giants.
Joshua knew what happens as a result of discouragement. He was one of the twelve spies. He and Caleb had torn their clothes, asking the people to walk in faith, to believe in God. However, they would not listen. Word of the giants had overpowered their minds. They were discouraged, bringing dejection, despair and demoralisation. The response of the people was to threaten to stone those who pleaded with them.
God told Joshua, "Be strong and courageous" (Josh.1:6, 7, 9, 18). He repeated it four times. The Lord their God was with them and there was no reason for them "to tremble or be dismayed." Joshua and Caleb beseeched the children of Israel to walk in faith, to believe God. Caleb said: "Let us go up at once and take possession for we are well able to overcome it" (Num.13:30).
When you feel tired, emotionally drained, your ability to cope with difficult situations is dangerously low. You should know that this is not the time to make important decisions. In all probability, decisions taken at such times will be wrong.
If dejection remains unchecked, despair will be the result. One loses hope. Thinking and decision making become impossible. You will feel abandoned by God. The enemy will whisper unbelievable things in your mind. The clever fellow that he is, he will make them seem to be your thoughts. You will be confused. Remember, "Confusion is the dust raised by the feet of the devil." It will seem easier to quit. When the Psalmist asked, "Why are you in despair, O my soul?," he was given a solution to the problem. Whatever the devil does, God over-reaches us to serve His own purposes.
When the Psalmist counted his blessings, he was lifted out of his despair. He praised God saying, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing" (Psa. 30:11). The indisputable fact of God's response, that turned his grief to joy, merits unceasing thanksgiving. "Only those who see themselves as utterly destitute can fully appreciate the grace of God." "When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, until it seems you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."
God Himself assures you: "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Heb. 13:5).You may feel abandoned. But faith answers: "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?" (Heb. 13:6). "Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is light shining somewhere." He will never leave any in the lurch. It is therefore possible to face life confidently; openly confess that there is nothing to fear and no one who can harm us.
Demoralisation is a state that renders us untrustworthy in discipline of body and soul. It throws us totally out of balance. So we cannot then walk as God would have us walk. The mind cannot then think clearly. "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim.1:7). So, we refuse to listen to God's Spirit as He calls us. Demoralisation denies the God of all hope because the mind cannot reason, and the emotions are numb. It is when we are out of options that when we are most ready for God's surprises.
The appetites of the world and the flesh are powerful, addictive tools of the devil. He appeals to our love for what satisfies our selfish and sinful desires and uses it to tempt, control, discourage, defeat and destroy us. We crave for power, money, food, alcohol, clothes, sex, even when we are in danger of sacrificing our loved ones, friends and even our relationship with our Saviour, to satisfy our desires. All that you get from him are cheques that bounce - feelings of emptiness, hopelessness and despair. Paul said: "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (Gal.5:16). Paul urges them to let their conduct be controlled by the inward impetus of the Spirit. He also wrote: "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfil its lusts" (Rom.13:14). John said, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world" (1 Jn. 2:15). He emphasises that love for the world is incompatible with love for the Father.
Somehow we think that it is easier to live a lie. Samson was deceived into thinking that he could continue in sin, but still receive help from God. Saul was deceived to think that he was the king and so, could do as he pleased. David believed the lie that he could kill Uriah and keep his relationship with Bathsheba secret.
We try to find our own way of coping with the situation rather than standing before the God of all truth, naked in His sight, and crying for help. He is the One who will freely give us all things. We stand before Him without condemnation, if we are in Christ. Pray to the God of your life (Psa. 42:8). The Psalmist is assured that God will enable him to triumph in the midst of the storms, as he faces his taunting adversaries. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing" (2 Cor.4:7,8). The frailty of the human 'containers' of the Gospel magnifies God's power. The end of man's resources is not the end of God's. Paul demonstrated that human extremity was the best position in which to prove divine power. God provides the armour to withstand temptation, but we must put it on.
Satan is a powerful entity. But, to fulfil his agenda, he needs you. To translate his influence into action, he needs your body. That is why we are asked to yield our bodies as living sacrifices so that we can be living translations of the Word of God.
When our hearts are purest, the devil comes and soils them. If you do not open the door to the devil, he goes away. It is when the devil looks most noble and reasonable that he is the most dangerous. But he has one good quality; he will flee if we resist him. Though cowardly, it is safe for us. "Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jas.4:7).
Religious pride is one of the chief weapons he uses. It is subtle, but capable of destroying many. It twists God's Word. It breeds a feeling of superiority and looks down on those who do not agree with their rules and regulations.
The devil does not tempt unbelievers and sinners who are already his own. He does not waste his ammunitions on those who are dead in trespasses and sins. He entangles youth with beauty, the miser with gold, the ambitious with power, and the learned with false doctrine. "The devil is a bully, but when we stand in the armour of God, he cannot harm us; if we tackle him in our own strength, we are soon done for; but if we stand with the strength and courage of God, he cannot gain one inch of way at all."
Jesus knew that His disciples would face difficult times. So, at every opportunity, He sought to prepare them for the life ahead. "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (Jn.16:33). Jesus gives reassurance to them on the ground of His victory over the world. His concern was: "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Lk.18:8).
Often we hear: "Raise your hand and pray the sinner's prayer; you are born again." We hear a lot about "saving faith," but not about the faith that perseveres. Faith does not just save us and send us back to our old way of life until it is time to enter the pearly gates of heaven. No, it transforms life. It changes our perspectives on life. We become new creatures in Christ. "Old things pass away all things become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). It does not begin with a bang, and then fizzle out. Saving faith perseveres against the devices of the devil.
Since the real formula seems to be very simple, we have worked out many formulae to deal with sin and temptation. We like to do something. That is why we bind, loose, cast down, uproot, destroy and fight, without sticking to the instructions of the One who knows what the battle is all about. If you submit to God and do things His way, walking with Him in righteousness and holiness, you will be blessed by Him.
Faith consists of knowledge, surrender to that knowledge and obedience to walk in the light of that knowledge. "It is not adequate merely to have a spectacular conversion, or a glowing story of deliverance. God calls us to be on our feet and in the fight at the final bell." Faith does not shrink when confronted with difficulties, trials and challenges. It may get perplexed and confused. But, despite everything, it does persevere. Faith is a commitment "till death do us part." We should earnestly contend for the faith, no matter what the cost (Jude 3). Christian life is a gruelling marathon, not a 100-metre race; nor is it a bed of roses.
Satan's work is widespread and destructive. God permits his evil activity for the time being. The unsaved people are under his authority and he rules them through the evil world system, over which he is the head. Satan is in continued conflict with those who are saved. He tempts them and seeks to corrupt and destroy their testimony. But Jesus "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil" (Acts 10:38). Therefore, "Rejoice in the God of your salvation, for He is your strength and He will enable you to walk on high hills" (Hab.3:18, 19).