Something I learned fairly early on in ministry was that when you come down from preaching a sermon at a weekend service you’ve got to be prepared to have conversations about just about anything. And I mean anything.
One conversation in particular started with a woman asking me to pray for her car. It didn’t seem totally unreasonable, so I asked if her car was in need of repairs and her response was this, “No, my car has been demon-possessed. I got into it to drive away after the service and it won’t start. I need you to pray that this demon would be cast out.”
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t totally prepared for that.
Now, there are certainly good theological conversations to be had around the statement that a car has been possessed by a demon. But what I found abundantly clear in that conversation and in many conversations afterwards is that we have a bit of a presupposition about the workings of our enemy.
A Fair Assumption?
We tend to believe that the work of the devil will always result in something “negative” happening to us. And what we define as “negative” is always something that we, personally, didn’t want to happen.
We look at the story of a man like Job in the Old Testament who lost nearly all of his earthly possessions and all of his children in a single day and we conclude that when I lose earthly possessions, or when I get passed over for a promotion, or I get a flat tire on the Coquihalla Highway, that these things could potentially be the work of our enemy. And you’re right, that’s possible. But is it not also possible that these “negative” things could be the working of God’s good grace?
Maybe getting passed over for that promotion saves you from hours of being away from your family on business trips, and in that time you’re now able to deepen your relationship with your kids. A work of the devil or God’s good grace? Maybe that flat tire on the Coquihalla saves you from being involved in a horrible car accident two kilometers up the highway? A work of the devil or God’s good grace?
So even though we perceive something to be “negative”, insomuch as it’s not the outcome that we really desired, it may not necessarily mean that it is a work of our enemy. But on the other hand, maybe, just maybe, some things that actually turn out “in our favor” may actually prove themselves to be the sinister work of our opponent.
A Crafty Opponent
I’ve been reflecting on the conversation that goes on between the Lord and the Devil at the beginning of Job. God says to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”(1:8) Then Satan responds with this, “Does Job fear God for nothing?… But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”(1:9-10)
Satan wanted to cripple this man’s faithful devotion to the Lord and he argued that this would certainly happen if Job lost everything he had. Well, here’s what I’ve been wondering about: would Satan use the same tactic on us?
We live in a culture that esteems fame, wealth, comfort, and appearance, so highly that people will stop at nothing to attain them, so rather than asking the Lord if he could take everything from us I wonder if his conversation with God might go like this: “Does Joshua fear God for nothing?… But now stretch out your hand and give him everything he desires, and he will curse you to your face.”
In one of Pastor Jeff’s recent messages he made the comment that Satan’s tactics seem to change based on the people he’s trying to attack. We hear of far more visible acts of demonic oppression in a continent like Africa then we do in North America. Because we’re naturalistic people here and couldn’t possibly believe in the supernatural, so why give himself up so easily when he could do his work in the shadows.
Well in the same way is it not reasonable to think that the Devil will change his tactics from person to person? Though the test for Job was to lose everything he had, could the test for us not be to finally receive everything we’ve ever wanted?
Our Weak Spot
In the end what makes us vulnerable to failing any such test is that in the hidden places of our heart we actually esteem something as more important than our relationship with the Lord. The Devil will always desire for us to break the first of the ten commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me” and certainly the greatest of all commandments, that we are to “love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength”.
So what I want to urge you to do is first, to prayerfully and vulnerably consider the desires of your heart that may one day stand between you and the Lord. Then with all humility and all the fervency you can muster, put those desires to death. And Secondly, be aware that the Devil’s tactics to find you faithless to the Lord will be surprisingly creative. There may be times when a “positive” outcome serves a nefarious purpose. And the Apostle Peter will counsel us to do the very thing that we heard recently in a sermon from Pastor Ezra: Resist him.
Job proved Himself faithful, though certainly not without struggle along the way. What will be said of us?