There are two mistakes that Christians make with the devil.  One is that they give him too much credit and attention – every single setback in life, hurdle and lack of a good parking spot is thesatan work of a demon or the devil himself.  On the other hand the opposite mistake is to ignore the devil and act as if he does not exist.  In between these two extremes is a happy medium in which the devil is acknowledged as real and active, but not feared or excessively focussed on.

In 25 years as a Christian I have heard that explanation of the need for balance in understanding the role of the enemy in the Christian life several times.  It is found in The Screwtape Letters – the fabulous and skilful book by CS Lewis which is a series of fictional letters from a senior demon to a junior one.  By looking at things from that perspective the author puts a fresh take on the things in the Christian life that cause a Christian to grow and be fruitful.

I have concluded that in the church circles that I move in the right balance is not being found.  I believe that many Christians simply do not give the devil enough attention, and do not understand what he is trying to do.

The bible puts it quite plainly.  When you look through every New Testament reference to the devil this is what he does:

  • he tempts us to sin,
  • he takes the message of God’s word away from people,
  • he is a murderer,
  • he is a liar,
  • he make people sick,
  • he attacks the church in the form of persecution,
  • he attacks our faith,
  • he is sinful,
  • he tricks and deceives God’s people by masquerading as an angel of light,
  • he blocks the spread of the gospel,
  • and lastly but certainly not least, his destiny is to be destroyed.

Those things are what Satan does.  When I look at that list the things on it seem to naturally fall into three groups.  Firstly, Satan is sinful and wants sin to abound.  Secondly, Satan is evil and wants death and suffering to abound.  Thirdly, Satan hates the gospel and wants to stop its spread.  Those are his interests.

In the various churches I have been a part of I think that the third point – that Satan wants to stop the spread of the gospel is possibly understood.  The first point, that Satan is sinful is kind of understood, especially by non-Pentecostal churches, but within Pentecostal churches we really don’t talk about sin a great deal, and therefore it is not possible to properly ascribe to Satan the role that he plays.

But the second point, that Satan is evil and is the source of suffering is not appreciated at all.  I think that this is what is missing from our understanding.  This leads us to ask one of the most common questions that both Christian and non-Christian grapple with – why does God allow suffering?

Let me pose some hypothetical questions (these are not things that have happened to me!) that have easy answers:

  • Why did my loved one die in a car crash?  It was a work of Satan.
  • Why does my aunt have cancer?  Satan.
  • Why did the Boxing Day tsunami kill hundreds of thousands of people?  Satan.
  • Why was I raped?  Satan.
  • Why is there sex trafficking?  Satan.
  • Why do dictators kill innocent people?  Satan.
  • Why did my father abuse me?  Satan.
  • Why did my child commit suicide?  Satan took their life away.
  • Why am I sick?  Satan.
  • Why is there famine in Africa?  Satan.

So hopefully that’s cleared some things up.

Satan is the author of suffering.  He wants to kill people – he is a murderer.  Death is his aim and disease is one of his chief methods.  Satan is in the suffering business, and I don’t think that we properly understand that.  For most of my Christian life I have had it explained that death and disaster are the consequences of a living in a fallen world.  I think that this downplays Satan’s active role in causing death and suffering.  It makes out that if Satan took a holiday the death and suffering would continue.  That is not right.  Peter says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

You might say in response, “Well why doesn’t God end all this suffering now?  He can if he wants to.”  I don’t know the answer to that question.  I can’t know – only God does.  But what the bible makes clear is that one day all suffering will end.  Our destiny, as people in Christ, is this:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.   He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev 21:3-4)

As Paul says, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet”.  Yes and Amen!


5 Comments to “Satan”

  1. Thanks for your kind words David & Sheri – with bonus smily face…nice.

  2. First you say we give too much credit and attention to the devil. Of this statement I agree.
    Next you then turn around and subscribe all ill issued events or life experiences to him.
    Doing the very thing you said that we do toooo much of.

    First what you are not considering here is that Christ has taken the keys of death and hell from satan in his death and resurrection. So the devil is but a shell of what he was prior to Jesus.
    Second the bible says that nature, environment, disease, mechanical and structural failures occur equally on the just and the unjust alike.

    Christians get cancer and die, Sinners get cancer and are cured, how is that possible with your demonic spirit view?
    Couldn’t it be said that the disease is a condition of and by the fall of Adam, not because of some finite devil with an ‘infinite’ reach?

    It seems to me that in dominion and word of faith theologies, that with every increase in God, there is by some necessity a bigger devil.
    If God decides to harvest souls and hundreds of thousands die, both Christian and Non-Christian who are we to attribute blame or responsibility?

    What I am saying is as a Christian, whether we live or die we are his.
    Your devil or satan is but a tool at the Almighty’s disposal.

    Without faith it is impossible to please him, so we live by faith looking back at the cross for our hope of salvation.
    His kindom is not meat or drink, it is not the natural, or he would have provided us utopia.

    So when the stars fall from heaven we will see the light of his dawning or will usurer us into eternity to be with him.

    • Thanks for your comment Dan. In my first paragraph I say that some Christians give Satan too much attention and credit. But this is not the case for most Chritsians, who err on the other side. But of course your church experience would be different to mine, so maybe that’s not the case in your part of the world. However in terms of the idea that suffering occurs just as much to the “righteous and the unrighteous”, to use Jesus words, I would say the devil is equally keen to kill non-Christians as he is to kill Christians. He is a murderer, and not just a murderer of Christians, but of all who are made in the image of God.

  3. A sensible, non-sensational and sound expression of the situation. I thank God for these words, necessary in this world, the realm where the devil rules – for now (Matthew 4:8-9).

  4. Brilliant again! Loving your posts John! 🙂

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