Recap 2: Struggles of the Church

The Church Kaleidoscope Meditations:  Recap 2: Struggles of the Church

Rev 1:4  To the seven churches

Perspective: When we read the letters of the various apostles we find them addressing the various things they feel the local church needs to consider and often it is in the context of who we are. One of the things I have not sought to consider in these studies, to keep them relatively short, is the nature of the environment in which each church found itself, the spiritual background of the city or the culture of the area, for although they are important the problems that they throw up tend to be the same sort of problems that the Church across the world faces in one degree or another all the time. I have titled this short series ‘The Church Kaleidoscope’ meditations because it crosses my mind that, as I have commented before, we all have similarities but also differences. However, when it comes down to it, the reality is that the sorts of problems we face as church can ultimately be boiled down to just a few. Rather than go through each church as I did in the previous study, here I will simply try to group together the different sorts of issues that face the church.

Enemy Opposition: This varies from place to place and from nation to nation. If we sought to categorize the ways the enemy wages war against the saints, this would be identified as ‘outright opposition or hostility. In some parts of the world enemy hostility against Christian believers is blatant and intensive and, if reports are true, in China the opposition of the Communist Party (which is greatly outnumbered by the number of Christians in the country) has become more intense at the end of this second decade of the twenty-first century.

In Smyrna, the Jews slandered the church (2:9) and indeed (and we’re not told by who) the opposition against the church is going to intensify so that some believers will be even put in prison for their beliefs (2:10) and there will be a (limited) spate of ongoing persecution. In Pergamum, they had likewise suffered persecution and one believer, Antipas, had been martyred, so intense had been the persecution. In Philadelphia there was also a hint of persecution (3:9,10).

Deception – Wavering Belief: Again, it is often said, the battle that the enemy wages is a battle for the mind. Ever since the Garden of Eden (see Gen 3) deception has been a weapon he employs. Throughout my Christian life (over fifty years now) I can look back and see a number of instances where some new fad or way of thinking and doing has come to the fore that has proved to be a deception which has then passed away. Although those ways of thinking were specific (tending to be) doctrinal issues, there has, especially in the last ten to twenty years I believe, been a general watering down of the Faith in many quarters (not all thankfully). I have commented on it before but the whole area of sexuality has become a battle ground from the enemy, so that the biblical standard that limits sexual activity to ‘one man plus one woman, committed to each other for life’ has been abandoned in many quarters and is under severe pressure in others, and mayhem reigns. In an even more troubling battle-zone attacks upon the Bible have been coming from within the church, by what were once described as liberal thinkers, but has been regularly occurring in recent years, a trend where books are appearing that demean or demote the Bible as our foundation. The foundation for Christian belief and practice has been getting whittled away.

Deception in one form another is always near the surface. In Ephesus, they had to contend with false apostles (2:2) as well as with the false watering-down doctrines of the Nicolaitans that also appeared in Pergamum, linked to that softening deception of Balak (2:14,15), which we summarized as ‘a little conforming to the ways of the world is all right.’  If you have any doubts about this deception in today’s church, ask yourself, “Do I see a church where people are on fire for God, on fire for His word, and on fire with the Holy Spirit, or do I see a people more concerned with the ‘good life’ that affluence and materialism and modern technology  brings in the twenty-first century?”   Thyatira suffered another form of deception (2:20) by having a woman (or was it a whole way of looking?) who, as I noted above in parts of today’s Church, allowed sexual immorality and blurring of the boundaries between righteousness and unrighteousness. These are all belief issues that lead into changing of behaviour issues.

Seduction of heart and mind: The third enemy strategy we see coming out in some of these letters has to be a seduction that uses complacency and indifference to lull the church into a place of deception, not so much of false teaching but more as shear spiritual laziness that produces a lack-luster faith which more and more walk away from. This probably can be seen as simply an absence (and the joy with it) of the life of the Spirit in the life of the Church. Again, if you are not sure of this, ask yourself here, “Do I see in my church the outright activity of the Holy Spirit so that there is a life and vitality in the congregation that produces a regular flow of people being born again, delivered and healed, with a sense of the wonder of the Presence of the Lord in the midst that creates a mixture of awe and rejoicing?” Be honest, can you say you see that in your church? If not, it’s time for prayer!

In Ephesus, this was manifested as having lost their first love (2:4). In Sardis it was seen in the form of comatose religion, where they appeared spiritually dead and needed waking up. In Laodicea it manifested itself as luke-warmness, or what I called half-heartedness. The first of these three were good at activities but it failed to have love for Jesus at the heart of it. The second would have had a good reputation for holders of doctrine but not for life in the Spirit. The third one were just blind to their true state, no doubt like many of us today who think we are ‘fine’ or ‘OK’ without realizing how far short if the biblical picture on Christ’s heart we are.

And So?  These things are not said to depress or make us feel bad about ourselves, but to open our eyes to the truth or reality of how life can so often be in the Church and this is why Christ says these things to these churches back there in history, so that we might see them and through them perhaps see where we too fall short. The goal is not to pull down but to stir hearts to prayer and action and bring change. Jesus wants his Church renewed and revived and where we fall short of what is on his heart, then repentance is the first step. Identifying where we are similar to these churches should then enable us to seek him for his wisdom to put things right, or seek his Spirit to bring fresh life to us so that we may truly become the body of Christ that the New Testament describes, gifted, empowered and sent to do the works of the kingdom (check out Lk 4:18,19 and Mt 11:5 together with Jesus instructions in Jn 14:12 and Mt 28:20). To conclude this penultimate study, can we heed James’ instructions to, “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (Jas 1:22) Amen.

33. The Ways of the Enemy

Meditations in 1 Samuel   33. The ways of the enemy

1 Sam 17:1-3  Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

We might think observing the Philistines is really a non-productive task but actually as one of the main enemies of Israel at this time they reveal to us something of Satan’s strategies against the people of God. We should notice from the outset that they are almost certainly God’s instrument for stirring Israel and driving them back into His arms. The pattern had continued for a long time, that we observed about the book of judges where the Lord used their surrounding enemies to discipline Israel so they would turn to Him afresh. So in one sense there is nothing new here.

From, a modern perspective what we read in the verses above is almost laughable, it is the style of fighting that continued for very many centuries: two armies lined up and faced each other and then at some predetermined or pre-agreed moment, they lunge at each other and all hell breaks loose. Now that’s how it usually was but this time the Philistines have a got a secret weapon who doesn’t remain secret for very long. We need to read the next paragraph in one piece:

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” (1 Sam 17:4-11)

Now just look at this. They have this warrior who makes any TV wrestler look a wimp. He’s over nine feet tall and no doubt as broad as a bus! He’s like an armoured tank with armour completely covering all of him except his face and his weapons are a bronze javelin and a massive spear that would have been good enough to make any whale turn tail and run. And he’s got a man to carry his shield ahead of him which also says, “I will not be touched”, so one way and another he is a seriously formidable warrior.

But it doesn’t stop there: he calls out and challenges Israel to send out their best man (anything less will be hopeless) to come and fight and the outcome of this two-man scrap will determine which army surrenders and which army will be the victors. How economical; one man dies and the war is decided, except the losers will become slaves.

So what can we learn from this?  What can it teach us about the enemy and his strategies?  Well of course our enemy is Satan and he appears to have an army of demons or fallen angels on his side. Scripture appears to tell us that he is an angel and we know that angels are, by and large, stronger than we are. Moreover Scripture tells us that he is described, among other things, as the Prince of the air and the one who rules over this world (1 Jn 5:19) So he comes and leers at us, mostly through one of his agents and demeans us and makes us feel insignificant by comparison. He presents us with people or circumstances who seem to outweigh us ten to one.

A word in passing. We often hear talk of low self-esteem. Who brings that self esteem? Not God! No, it is Satan and so often it comes through the words of people close to use: “You’re useless, you’re no good, you’re a failure, we don’t care about you, you’re on your own, a loser.” All those things are lies fo the enemy designed to demean you and bring you down.

That is his first strategy, to make us feel small and insignificant, especially in comparison to him who appears to look so big and powerful. His second strategy is to create fear in us. Fear weakens, fear makes you want to run away. Linked with this fear so often are feelings of depression or of darkness, fear makes you impotent. So he conveys power and authority, might and fearsomeness and seeks to stir up fear and other weakening and debilitating emotions. Now although it is not spoken of in this situation he also uses temptation. How many in Israel’s army are hearing the temptation, just run away. It’s a temptation I hear myself so often – run away from these things before you, don’t deal with them, go somewhere else. It’s all part of his general strategy to make us powerless and unable to deal with the things of life.

Now let’s confront some of these things we’ve said above. First, that he is all powerful. OK, he maybe more powerful than you and me but note several things that the Scripture tells us about him. First he is just an angel, created by God. Second, the book of Job 1 & 2 show us that he can only operate so far as God specifically allows him. Third, Revelation 12  shows us that he is defeated by the armies of God and is outnumbered 2 to 1. Fourth, the weapons he is allowed to use are restricted. You can only be demon possessed when you specifically invite him in through occult practice. He can only attack you spiritually if you are purposely sinning. He can only attack you in your thinking as far as you let him. James taught us, Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) If we are people who are ‘in Christ’ and we ‘abide in him’ as we turn to our Lord Satan realises he has no hold and flees. ‘In Christ’ we are protected from him, it is the ‘fortress language’ of the Old Testament translated into the New.

We’ll see more of this in the next two studies but before we leave, ponder this for a moment: This giant comes out and challenges Israel. Why doesn’t Saul say to his men, “The best ten of you, get out there and take him down and then we can get on with this battle properly”? The reason is because he has allowed the enemy to dictate the terms. We’ll look at this some more but in the meanwhile, don’t let him do it!

65. Freedom

Meditations in 1 John : 65 : Freedom

1 John  5:18-19    We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

Perhaps one of the reasons that cynical unbelievers reject the Gospel and the teachings of the New Testament is that it is so explicit in its revelation, and it is ‘revelation’ for we could neither know it nor teach it if it had not been revealed by God. The other thing about it, which is often missed, is that it answers the questions of the world and, in fact, without it these questions go unanswered, such questions as what is evil, why is there evil in the world and why do we need laws to protect the poor and weak, why do people do wrong, and why are people self-centred?

These questions respond to a state of affairs in the existence of life on this world that is highly questionable. In personal terms, why is it that I have aspirations to be good yet so often fail to be so? As the apostle Paul wrote, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom 7:15) and “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:18,19) This doing evil that he spoke about is what the Bible calls ‘Sin’, that propensity to be self-centred and godless resulting in wrong living, resulting in individual sins, individual acts of wrong doing and that, we find, we are stuck with and cannot break away from. Why, the earnest seeker might ask, am I like that? Why is life like this?

It is to these questions that the Bible speaks and explains we are all sinners because we were born tainted with this propensity called Sin. It was because of this that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and died on the Cross to pay the punishment for our wrong doing and offer us a new way of life as children of God empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. Paul again described this: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” (Col 1:13,14) explaining that there are two rulers and that the individual lives either under the domination of Satan or in the freedom of the kingdom or rule of God. Those are the ONLY two options.

When we come to Christ we are delivered out of that dominion of darkness and, as John now says, “anyone born of God does not continue to sin.”  i.e. anyone under the rule of God no longer is driven by that old power called Sin, is no longer self-centred and godless, but is Christ and God-centred and is led by God into right living.

But John also picks up this other aspect that was referred to in Paul’s verse as ‘the dominion of darkness’, the domination by Satan, when he says, “the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.”  Satan is still there domineering over unbelievers, and wanting to lead astray the children of God, but Jesus is there, seated at God’s right hand ruling, and he protects and guards the children of God, and his Holy Spirit within us is there countering the lies of the enemy. All we have to do is listen to Him. The enemy can no longer pressurize us into going his way and disobeying God and doing wrong; we have been freed from that and from him.

When John goes on, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one,” he is, like Paul, making a distinction between the children of God and the rest of the world. The children of God, Christians, are under God’s protection and are no longer under the control of Satan and so, as he said earlier, do not have to sin, but the rest of the unbelieving world still are under Satan’s sway and so he is able to make wrong suggestions to them (as he did to Eve – Gen 3) and lead them astray and into wrong living.

This is one of the fundamentals that the world does not like, this claim that it is being led by the nose by an evil force, even though it cannot break free from self-centredness and godlessness and thinking, saying or doing wrong things. Indeed this way of life is so common that the unbeliever doesn’t even think about it. It is so normal to think badly about others, to speak badly about them or to them, and to do things that are utterly self-centred and harmful to others, that that is all they know and expect. They might consider it normal – accompanied by the stress, worries and anxieties that go with that lifestyle –  but that is a long way from God’s design for humanity

Sadly in recent decades in the West, standards in the Christian community have fallen and so often it is difficult for the world to see the distinction that should be there. So we see divorces, we see drunkenness, we see over-eating, we see self-centred materialistic lifestyles, we see angry upsets and divisions, and it is no wonder that the world fails so often to see the distinctive lifestyle of love and goodness that should characterize the Christian community.   It is time for it to change! John reminds us, we are children of God, different (or we should be!) from those who are under the control of the evil one. Check it out: are you?



48. A Greater Source

Meditations in 1 John : 48 : A Greater Source

1 John  4:4   You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

I repeat how I started the previous meditation because it still applies to this verse that we are going to look at in more detail now. There is often a danger in Christian circles, especially among younger Christians for fear to creep in, and especially when the talk is of the enemy or of enemy warfare or of opposition and persecution. It is very easy to get an unbalanced picture which Satan then plays on to create fear within us which them immobilises us.  John started off what we have as chapter 4 with warnings about wrong spirits and antichrists. He’s going to say some more about them in a moment but for this verse he establishes our base or our foundation, the thing which should hold us steady in the face of any wrong thoughts.

There may be all this work of the enemy in people around us in ‘the world’ but we, he continues, “are from God”.  How simple those three words are, but so meaningful. We are what we are because of God. Somehow (perhaps because He looks down from outside time) God looked down from the beginning of time and knew that we would be responders at some point in our lives to the good news of Jesus. Thus at some point, unrecognised by us at the time, the Holy Spirit started His work of convicting us of our need and of the truth of the Gospel. All we did was surrender to His convicting power and cried out for forgiveness and submitted to God. It was at that point God did what we had been unable to do, and we were ‘born again’ by the Spirit of God (See Jn 3). At that point we were also adopted as God’s children and justified – made right in His sight by the work of Jesus on the Cross. We were new beings, we were “from God”, the work of God, His workmanship (Eph 2:10)

Because we “are from God”, by its very nature it means that we have turned our back on the world, the ways of the world and on untruth and in this sense, when it comes to all those ‘antichrists’ those people against Christ, we have already “overcome them”, we have beaten back their lies and deception from our minds and we have stood in the light of Christ’s truth and been transformed – while they remain in the darkness.

Then comes the most marvellous truth of all and this part of the verse at least we should memorise and always remember. We are what we are and we have overcome the world, sin and the enemy, because “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  Whenever you hear talk about Satan or about his works or about the awful things happening in the world, remember this truth – that God, who is infinitely bigger and more powerful, lives in you! If you want a comparison, as poor as it may be, imagine all the oceans of the word – that is God. Now imagine a single drip from a tap – that is Satan. He is simply a created being, a being created by almighty and all-powerful God. He may be a powerful fallen angel as far as we are concerned but as far as God is concerned he is simply another created being and God could wipe him out with a single world. God could look at him and say, “Die!” and that would be the end of him and Satan would be able to do nothing to stop it happening. That is the truth. The Lord allows Satan to exist and do what he does, simply to use him to bring about His will. If you look in our ‘Spiritual Warfare’ section of our ReadBibleAlive Site (see side bar), and Part 1 – The Enemy – His Profile, and then part 5 of that page, “Why God permits Satan”, you will find NINE Biblical reasons why God allows Satan and how God uses Satan for His own purposes.

So, when you read about ‘the world’ being under the dominion of Satan, keep it in perspective. Again think of another analogy. Think of the tiny country ofLuxembourg. Imagine that is Satan’s domain, and so if you lived there it would seem he is all powerful. But then you take a rocket and blast out into the stratosphere and are able to see all the countries of the world – and all the rest are under God’s rule, this is how it is. Satan has been given authority over sinful human beings on this planet, but that is all. He has no sway elsewhere and certainly not in the kingdom of heaven. He is a tiny despot. Yes, he holds sway over those who are given over to sin and godless living, but he has no sway over the children of God. He may appear to shout loudly sometimes but the truth is what we are inhabited by almighty God Himself, we are part of thekingdomofGod, living under His reign, under His protection and receiving His provision. We shine like lights in the darkness and the angels of heaven see this and rejoice – and they know the truth! Hallelujah!

34. Victories

God in the Psalms No.34  – God who gives victories

Psa 21:1 O LORD, the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victories you give!

Victories are all about battles. The battle may be one football team against another, one basketball team against another, one fencer against another but in every case there is a victor and a loser after a battle. Historically, depending where we come from in the world, we can look back to days gone by of great battles in wars.  At the present time we look back to the past hundred years and, seeing two wars that engulfed the globe, hope we will never have such things again.  Yet David still lived in a time when there were those who sought to fight against him to bring him down. In the face of this he turned to the Lord and the Lord gave him victories, and it was in this he now rejoiced.

Many Christians don’t realize this dimension in their lives.  The apostle Paul spoke about this in Ephesians 6 when he started speaking about our ‘armour’.  He said,our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). Yes, this is the truth; we don’t fight a physical battle but a spiritual one. This battle is waged at two levels. First there is the obvious external battle, then there is the internal one.

The external battle is people who, under the enemy’s prompting, come against us. It may be with words, it may be with actions. Whichever it is, it comes as hostility and it’s probably because we are Christians. Hopefully we did nothing to bring it on; we were just targeted by the enemy. It happens. It’s a battle where he seeks to wear us down and bring us down.  But there will also be an inward battle going on whereby the enemy tries to make us give up, tries to get us to respond badly, tries to get us to respond using the same ungodly and unrighteous methods that he uses. If he can do that we are no longer representing Jesus. The battle on the Cross was Satan trying to get Jesus to rail out against humanity, to curse us – be he remained sinless, he had the victory!

So how does God give us victory?  When temptations come, He shows us a way out (1 Cor 10:13). Sometimes he gives us the wisdom to know how to act in the face of it, the knowledge of what to speak (Acts 7:10), but sometimes that wisdom is just simply to flee the thing (Gen 39:12). In any and every situation God’s grace is there for us (2 Cor 9:8). Grace, that thing that Paul wanted for his readers in every letter he wrote, is simply the divine ability in us to overcome, to handle the situation like Jesus, with the goodness of Jesus or the kindness or gentleness or truth or love of Jesus. These are the things we use to overcome because ours is not a physical battle but a spiritual one.

There was something else that Paul wrote in Eph 6 that is pertinent here: put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then (v.13,14). Do you see that? Three times he says stand. You see the truth is that we have been given a position to hold, ground to hold onto. Our role in this battle is to hold on to what we’ve been given. What is that? Sonship!  We are children of God, temples of the Holy Spirit and therefore holy people. Satan will try to get us to forget that and think and act just any unbeliever. The battle is to hold onto that, and you know what? God is working to give us the victory by His Spirit within and by sovereign acts without! Let’s rejoice in that!

50. Stand Firm

Ephesians Meditations No.50

Eph  6:13,14 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place

We gave a hint in the previous meditation of where Paul was going with this. It impacts a key understanding for the Christian which radically affects their security. Many people don’t understand the enemy’s limitations – or what goes on in their heads!  We are actually going to deal with the subject of the armour in the next meditation and so, although it is mentioned in the verses above, we want to put it aside for the moment and focus on a different aspect of these verses. It is all about perspective.

You know about perspective don’t you? It’s not a ‘perspective’ that an artist or architect worries about, the depth of the picture; this is more about where you view the thing from. Now many Christians view the Christian life as something that is to be struggled for. They see it as a battle to achieve a place of love, joy, peace etc. etc., a place where they are loved, a place where they feel secure, a place of forgiveness, a place where there is no condemnation. In other words it is a case of having to work for all those things and the battle is to wrestle those things from the enemy. Now that ‘perspective’ is completely wrong!

The truth comes out in one word that Paul uses three times in these verses: ‘stand‘. ‘Stand‘ here means hold onto what IS yours now! I pictured it in the previous meditation as imagining that the Christian life that you have inherited is a plot of land. It is yours and the enemy has no access to it. If you are walking with the Lord with an open heart to Him then the enemy is allowed no access to your life. The worst he can do is scream at you ‘over the fence’. If you get thoughts that are negative, demeaning and which you find pull you down, recognise the source of these – it is him calling over the fence. He’s not there on your plot of land – he’s not allowed in. He can only shout at you from over the fence and you hear his words in your mind. But they are his words, not yours, so don’t put up with them.

The apostle James gave us the answer: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 4:7) Give yourself over to God and when the enemy turns up with his lies, turn away from him and turn to the Lord (who IS on your plot of land – because His Holy Spirit lives in you), share it with Him, worship Him, speaks the truth about your life, and then turn back to the enemy and tell him where to go! Then get on in peace and quiet enjoying your inheritance.

The apostle Peter also spoke in these terms: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Pet 5:8,9)  He knew that Satan comes and roars over the fence at us sometimes and tells you how powerful he is or how powerful his minions are. Just remind him of the truth: “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4) God is so infinitely greater than a single fallen angel (because that is all Satan is) so don’t let the enemy try and tell you anything to the contrary.

Let’s look at what Paul says here: “Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” What are we to do? Put on the full or complete armour that God HAS given us, which we’ll consider in the next meditation. When will we particularly need it? “When the day of evil comes” or when a particularly bad day comes. We do have such days. We feel tired or weak, people are nasty or unkind to us, and the enemy leans over the fence and screams at us about what a failure we are. Something goes wrong with the car or with a member of the family and stuff starts to build up. Things go wrong at work or you are involved in an accident driving in to work. All these things contribute to a bad or evil day. At such times the battle for your mind is on, and at such times you need to rely upon ‘the armour’. But when you do, what will be the outcome? You will “be able to stand your ground.” You will remind yourself who you are, a child of God, you will remind yourself that you are loved of God and that His Spirit lives in you, and you will remind yourself that His grace is there for you, and you will tell the enemy where to go, and you will shine in the darkness!

And then? “And after you have done everything, to stand.” This second ‘stand‘ implies ‘keep on standing’, keep on holding your ground. Having withstood the onslaught you hang on to the godly and righteous life that Jesus has given you, refusing to let go of it, refusing to let darkness enter it. Do you remember a verse we’ve spoken of a number of times previously: he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Col 1:13).  It’s the same imagery, of land transference. We’ve been taken out of the land where Satan rules, where darkness (evil) prevails and we’ve been transferred to the land where Jesus reigns and (by inference) light (goodness) prevails. So, says Paul a third time, “Stand firm then,” and goes on to launch into descriptions of what the armour is, and we’ll see that in the next meditation. So, today, whatever the enemy says or does, hold on to who you are, and the life you’ve been given. Jesus earned it and it IS yours now – today, this moment! Enjoy it!

Why God Permits Satan

We can benefit from understanding the following reasons why God allows Satan’s activities on earth as found in the Bible:

1. To reveal men’s hearts

  • 1 Chron 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel – he was to reveal David’s underlying sin of pride – in the parallel verses (2 Sam 24:1) it is seen as God who was behind it (to deal with the sin)

2. To bring judgement on unbelievers

  • Rev 9:11 They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon. (both names mean “Destroyer”)

3. To bring discipline to believers

  • 1 Cor 5:5 by putting this sinful believer out of the church’s protection, it enabled Satan to come against him and humble him and bring him to repentance

4. To subjugate unbelievers

  • 1 Jn 5:19b the whole world is under the control of the evil one
  • Satan is allowed to rule where there is unconfessed sin, i.e. over unbelievers

5. To maintain humility in our lives

  • One of the key things God does with his children is to seek to develop character in them. As pride is always lurking, sometimes God allows us to be attacked so that we maintain our reliance upon Him and realise that of ourselves we are nothing.
  • 2 Cor. 12:7 Because Paul received wonderful revelations from God, to keep him from getting puffed up, he was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment him and keep him from getting proud.

6. To develop faith & righteousness in our lives

  • Faith is one of the key elements God wants to develop in our lives, and so often He does this by allowing us to encounter trying circumstances where our faith is both revealed and developed. Similarly, such testing times are to reveal and bring about greater righteousness within us.
  • 1 Peter 1:7 – trials are testings, and testings reveal our faith – such revelation of our faith brings honour in heaven
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9 – Satan seeks to attack us, but we are to learn to resist.
  • 2 Peter 1:4-8 – the testing of our faith develops our lives in many ways

7. To bring about trials whereby we can be rewarded

  • These trials, that involve Satan, make us rely upon God, His word and His Spirit and so the outcome of the battles we fight is that we appreciate Him, His word and His Spirit more and more.
  • James 1:12 God blesses the people who patiently endure testing – testing develops us and God blesses through it
  • 1 John 2:13,14 – it is a battle with Satan which we can win with God’s word, as we battle we rely on that word more and more
  • 1 John 4:1-6 – our battle is also with Satan’s agents; we are to overcome in the mind and we overcome by the Holy Spirit within us, as we overcome we realise the wonder of who it is within us more and more.
  • Rev. 2:17 – our reward, as we overcome Satan’s attacks, will be intimacy with Christ
  • Rev. 2:26-28 – as we obey Jesus and have the victory so he is preparing us to take authority, both in this world and the next.

8. To teach us how to fight

  • As we face such trials we learn how to overcome.
  • Judges 3:2 God did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience.
  • Israel grew in their knowledge of the Lord and how to fight as they opposed the enemy. We do the same in the spiritual sphere.

9. To demonstrate God’s power over the enemy

  • We need reminding who is who in the battle. Jesus IS Lord!
  • Eph 3:10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.
  • As we triumph God is glorified in the heavens.
  • Mk 1:21-27 As Jesus cast out a demon God was glorified.
  • Acts 13:6-12 As Saul triumphs over Elymas God was glorified.


Although Satan was apparently not created for these express purposes, God takes and uses his rebellion for His purposes.

As Joseph once said, (Gen 50:20) “You intended to harm me but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Thus it is that in this fallen world where sin dominates, Satan is allowed access for the sake of God’s overall purposes.

We, therefore, need to maintain a right perspective so that we see:

  • Where the enemy is being allowed activity because of man’s unrighteousness, and therefore the unrighteousness is the thing to be dealt with.
  • Where the enemy should be resisted because he is simply seeking to expand his arena of control, and here we need to look to seek what God is wanting us to learn or develop in resisting the enemy, so we can co-operate with Him.

Walk of Despair


1 Kings 19:3,4 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD ,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

We have previously commented along these lines, but it bears repeating, that the idea that the Christian life is always smooth and easy is unreal. Christians have to live in this Fallen World and so things go wrong and people are nasty. To see the reason why Elijah was running for his life, we have to see the previous two verses: “Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” This was a very real threat from a very nasty person! There was a contract out on Elijah’s head! But, you might say, wasn’t Elijah this great prophet of the Lord so he could simply stand up to the Queen? Well actually, no, because that is the problem.

The problem is not only the Queen, it is that Elijah has just been through an amazing spiritual battle and would be feeling exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Please realize that this was all in the service of his Lord. Even Jesus took time out to rest after his busy schedule. The reality is that when you are giving out spiritually, it can leave you drained. Yes, the Lord will be your strength and yes, He will restore you, but for that moment you are empty, needing to be refilled, and it is often that at that moment the enemy attacks, when he sees you are vulnerable. The response? You feel weak and fearful and want to run, escape to a quiet place and fall asleep (v.5). Did the Lord chide him for this? No! Instead He sent an angel who provided supernatural provision for Elijah to enable him to get to the place of meeting with God again. This is a very real experience and we need to really take on board the elements of it.

First note that we live in a state of war with Satan and sometimes he seems to come like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8) and when he comes like that he seeks to create fear in us.

Second, note that he comes to attack like this when we are vulnerable and probably when we have just been giving out a great deal, and even when we have just had a great victory.

Third, the crucial thing here is to be aware of what is going on. When Peter in the verse just referred to warns about Satan coming as a roaring lion, he starts, “ Be alert…..” Very often Christians become casualties simply because they did not realize what was going on and did not take steps to counter it. Emotional responses when you are at this place of attack are fear, doubt, feeling down, worrying and so on. They are all things the enemy seeks to impose upon you. Realise what is happening.

The fourth thing is to get out of the firing line. It was sensible, in the absence of a word from the Lord, to get out of range of the Queen. When you are feeling weak and vulnerable step back from the front line until you can be restored. While you stay there you are simply a target for more blasting from the enemy, and that isn’t necessarily the big obvious things, it can be the subtle temptation that brings your downfall into sin.

The fifth thing is to get with God. Elijah made for Horeb, or Sinai, the known place of encounter with the Lord. Even to get there he needed supernatural help. It may be that you need help from the Lord and that ‘angelic’ help can actually be through others. If you have those who are close to you, ask them to pray and carry on praying for you. (If you don’t find them!) I have a small group of people I confide in who pray for me all the time, but they find it particularly helpful if I share with them what is happening to me. Perhaps we need a retreat – it can be a day or a week. We would like to say that the ‘walk of despair’ should only be temporary, but unless you do some of these things, it can extend. Prov 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” It is the same principle that applies here. If you stand alone you are vulnerable. If you have those who can be made aware of the battle and the subsequent weakness, you are on the way to recovery.

The ‘walk of despair’ is all about resources, or to be more precise, shortage of them. In your daily walk with God, when you are in the midst of the battle, those resources can run low. Listen to the apostle Paul: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” (2 Cor 1:8,9). Did you see that? “pressure, far beyond our ability to endure” Why does the Lord allow that? Listen to Paul again, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.” (v.10,11). There it is, exactly as we were saying. This happens, share it, get prayer support to get to the Lord and “he will deliver.” Hallelujah!