THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part three

PREPARATION FOR THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE

How do we prepare for the battle we don’t know is coming?  How do we know what to expect in the midst of suffering?  What are we to do when suffering hits, and Satan tempts us to give up or be angry?  We have established in this series that God is sovereign and good.  I’ve had the opportunity to preach this to myself recently.  About three weeks ago, my husband had a major heart attack.  Once again, suffering is brought into my life as I’m teaching and writing about the subject. When it happened, it was like the phone call that changes your life in an instant.  My life was changed and everything was put on hold.  This part three had to wait for four weeks to be written, but I’m glad for it.  The whole armor of God is our preparation as we realize we have it and need to rely on the strength it provides.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

  1.  Our strength comes from the Lord’s might!

We are not invincible!  We are not superhuman!  The truth is, we are frail individuals who need direction and strength from our creator.  This is not something we always agree with because, “hey, I got this!”  As I watched my husband struggling with the pain of a heart attack, I felt strong.  This was not my strength, but God’s.  I knew it was bad but I could actually feel the Lord’s presence as I called 911.  The strength of the Lord was with me at this desperate time.  Now, as I look back, I recognize it.  There were times in the days ahead when I had to remind myself of his strength in order to move forward.   We never learn to the point of completion while on this earth.  This was obvious to me in the days ahead.

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:14-15

  • Our stand is in the truth and righteousness of the gospel!

Standing, for a long period of time, can be difficult.  We begin to look for a chair in which we can sit.  We want relief for our legs and feet as they have been in one place too long.  When suffering comes, we are called to stand in the midst of it, even when it’s long and hard. This standing has a firm foundation: the gospel.  As followers of Christ we have the righteousness of Christ to help us to stand when we really want to fall down. When my husband was in the hospital, there was one night in which I spent a few hours in prayer and praise to the Lord.  It was in the middle of the night and I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to stand so I sought the Lord in prayer.  He led me to the Psalms where I spent time reading.  It was just what I needed.  God never leaves us to stand alone.  He gives us his truth and his righteousness to stand on!

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”  Ephesians 16-18a

  • Our hope is in the Word of God and God, Himself.

So many times we think like the world thinks in that we wish and hope for what we want or think is best.  When it doesn’t happen we respond in disappointment, anger, or sadness.  The truth is our hope needs to be in God himself.  To know how much we can be confident in our hope in him, we must seek to find out more about him from his word.  It was so tempting in the hospital to put my hope in the doctors or the nurses or the medicine.  So much is happening so fast with medical issues that our focus can be on those in front of us.  It was easy to forget the bigger picture.  But God reminded me to hope in him alone when there was an emergency procedure taking place on my husband’s heart.  It was a whirlwind of activity in the room but God gave me peace in himself.  I had to acknowledge him, placing all my hope and trust in his care of my husband.  He is the hope in all circumstances on which we can depend. 

As followers of Christ, we have the armor of God.  We have to utilize what we’ve been given.  We have been given all we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) Our problem is we allow our suffering to overshadow what we’ve been given.  The suffering becomes greater than the armor of God. There is a spiritual battle we face each day.  Satan wants to use our suffering to tempt us away from the Lord.  Don’t let him do that!  Remember you have the armor and God!  Satan doesn’t have a hold on you, God does!

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part two

 Suffering is not an encouraging topic, but one we should talk about as followers of Christ. There is much for us to learn as we suffer in this life.  We can learn more about God and ourselves.  When we’re suffering we can be tempted by Satan to turn from God and trust in ourselves.  He uses tactics that appeal to us as he seeks to turn our hearts from our true Lord and Savior.  In today’s blog, we’ll be looking at ways Satan tempts us when we are weak and vulnerable.  We need to be prepared for these tactics and fight against the temptation so that we don’t give into it.

  1.  Satan plants doubts in our minds about God and his word.

“…He said to the woman, Did God actually say!” Genesis 3:1b

Do you hear the doubt that is being planted in this question? Eve gave into this doubt and so do we.  When there is something we are determined to do but it goes against God’s Word, we often try to convince ourselves that God didn’t mean what he said.  We can find reasons for lies, inappropriate words, shameful actions, and broken relationships.  Our reasons will not line up with God’s Word but that doesn’t stop us.  Because we say to ourselves, “that’s not what God actually is saying.”  How do we fight this temptation?  We fight by knowing the truth and then living by it.  Our minds should be filled with the truth of God’s character.  It is this truth that will get us through our temptation.

  •  Satan appeals to our weakness.

“And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’.”  Matthew 4:2-3

Jesus was led to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.  He hadn’t eaten for 40 days and nights.  Therefore, hunger was his weakness.  Satan sought to tempt him where he was physically weak, his hunger.  This is how Satan tempts us too.  He looks for our weaknesses and then tempts us in that weakness.  If we are a people pleaser, he keeps bringing to mind other people and what they think of us.  As Satan does this, we may begin to make up a scenario concerning others that is not true.  We then act on our untruth rather than the truth.  How do we fight this temptation?  We fight by knowing our own weaknesses.  Then we seek to grow stronger in our weaknesses by believing the truth about the circumstance and God.  We must believe that, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10b The strength here is referring to the grace of God which overflows to us in our weakness so that we can follow him.

  • Satan appeals to our desires.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” Genesis 3:6a

It is so easy for us to desire what we see, and Satan knows it.  He tempts us as we see things we want.  We see, we think of, we covet, and then we sin.  This is how Satan uses the desires we have to bring us to sin.  Our desires can become overwhelming to us.  So much so that we will convince ourselves that God really does want us to have that brand new car when, in reality, we can’t afford it.  How do we fight this temptation?  We seek to make our desires line up with God’s desires.  Our desires will line up when we delight in God and who he is and what he has done. 

  • Satan appeals to our pride.

“…and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” Genesis 3:6b

We want to be more.  We want to know more. We want to be the best in all we do.  Our pride pushes us to have the best and be the best.  Satan knows this and used it as he tempted Eve.  He said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 Can you recognize what Satan did here?  He appealed to Eve’s pride in herself.  She could be better; she could be like God, the creator.  Who wouldn’t want to be like God?  We give in to temptation to be like God all the time.  In fact, we take over the throne and want to the be “god” of our life!  We think we know best and begin to follow our own leading rather than God’s.  How do we fight this temptation?  Our lives need to be lived humbly by always remembering that we’re not the one in charge. Humility happens when we quit trying to be something we’re not and accept who God has made us to be. 

When we suffer, we need to be aware of Satan’s tactics so that we can fight against them.  He wants us to doubt that God even cares about us when we suffer.  This is not true.  We need to remember the truth and allow it to set us free from the darts Satan throws at us.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”                          1 Corinthians 10:13

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part one

Suffering is part of the life of everyone who breathes on this earth.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or not; we all suffer.  Our suffering can be in the areas of relationships, health, sin, or the results of a natural disaster.  We can suffer emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The suffering we face can be a primetime for Satan to tempt us.  We must be aware of this by knowing the reasons why this is so.  In this blog series, let’s look at suffering, Satan, preparation for battle, and the knowledge of God. We will begin with the reasons our suffering is a great time for Satan to target us.

  1.  Suffering brings about fragility. 

If you’re like me, you never want to be thought of as fragile.  We consider being fragile a negative trait. Let’s think of being fragile as a result of how we are in the midst of suffering.  We may be physically worn down, mentally not sharp, or emotionally spent!  Suffering causes us to realize that we are not as strong as we thought we were.  We need someone greater than us to help us through our struggles. We need Jesus Christ.  “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9a  This verse reminds us that, in our weakness, God will give us grace and his power takes over.  This is what we need but this is not always where we turn.

In our fragility we are prime targets for temptation.  We are weak and so we listen to intrusive thoughts which tempt us to turn from God.  In this state, during suffering, we may decide that God is responsible for our suffering.  Once that happens we tend to look elsewhere for help in our fragility.  Satan is very aware of our suffering and how we are handling it.  He comes at us with lies about God.  This is a number one device of his.  He has used it from the beginning when he said to Eve, “Did God really say?…” Genesis 3:1  When we are weak, we are more prone to listen to the thought that God is not really who he says he is. We must choose to believe who God is and of our need for him when we are fragile.  We need him when we suffer.

  • Suffering brings a desire to escape.

I’m fairly certain no one likes to suffer.  As the scripture reminds us, we love ourselves naturally.  This causes us to want relief from any suffering we may go through during our lifetime.  We want to escape it.  We want it to be over. This is really a normal human reaction to suffering.  The problem with this thinking is that it can become the goal.  We have to remember our goal needs to please God in whatever we go through or whatever we do.  (2 Corinthians 5:9)  If we make our goal escape or relief, then we are very open to temptations from Satan.

What happens is that we consider things like “if I do this or that”, or “maybe I’ll just give up”, or “life isn’t fair so I’m out of here”.  These thoughts do not chase after the goal of pleasing God.  In fact, these thoughts are more in line with erasing God from the equation.  When we do that then we are in a dangerous position. We are actually more vulnerable to Satan’s attempt to make God less than who he is. 

Suffering is hard! No one likes it!  We have to be prepared to go through suffering with the goal of pleasing God firmly planted in our minds. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel the suffering, but it does mean that, in the midst of it, we trust God.  He is the only one who can get us through whatever challenges we face.  Let’s ask ourselves these questions when we are tempted to give in because we are fragile and want it to end.

  1.  What do I know to be true about God right now? Spend some time thinking about God’s character and take time to write it down.  Apply his character to your situation.
  2. What do I remember about God’s work in my life?  If you’ve lived more than 5 years, you can look back and see how God has worked in your life.  In this remembrance, you’ll find hope.  He is the same God!
  3. How can I please God in the midst of this suffering?  Answering the first two questions is actually part of the answer for this question.  But, you need to go farther and realize what it would look like for you trust God wherever you find yourself. 

 “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”             2 Corinthians 5:9