How Much Power Does Satan Really Have?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that (Job) has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12

Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. Satan was behind Job’s suffering. The enemy can afflict us physically. He tempts us to sin.  But his greatest weapons are his fiery darts – his lies about God that he launches against our faith.  We are in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness.

Yet sometimes I hear Christians talk as if Satan were all-powerful.  “The devil has really been having a field day in my life lately.” “Satan’s really been kicking me around this week.”

When I first became a Christian I thought demons were everywhere. (I’d definitely watched too many episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits).  In my early Christian years I spent lots of time rebuking and binding demons of lust, demons of fear, and demons of unbelief, anger, self- pity, and sickness. Pretty much everything bad in life was caused by a demon.  I probably rebuked demons of bad coffee.

Then I found out just how limited Satan’s power really is.

He’s powerful, but not all-powerful. He is the god of this world. Unbelievers are significantly under his power, though they don’t realize it. He has blinded their eyes. But once Jesus opens our eyes to his glory and saves us, we come under his ownership.  We’re no longer slaves of Satan. We’re new creations in Christ and share his victory over the enemy that he won on the cross.

When Satan afflicts believers he must get permission to do so, even as he did with Job.  God determined the parameters of what Satan could do to Job.  Each time Satan requested, God said you may do this and this but not this. He could only do what God allowed.

Lots of people seem to think the devil is the equal and opposite of God, like the dark side of The Force. But Satan is a created being. God is infinite.  Satan is less than a speck compared to the infinite One.

If anything, Satan might be compared to Michael the Archangel, another created being.  A.W. Tozer said we tend to think of created beings in a hierarchy, for example on the bottom are amoebas, then above them garden slugs and above them fish, then dogs.  Above dogs are monkeys, then humans and slightly above them are angels and then slightly above angels is God. But God is infinitely exalted over his creation.  The most glorious Seraphim in heaven is closer to a caterpillar in it’s being than it is to God.

Satan is a tool of God , and when he allows him to afflict a believer it’s for God’s glorious purposes – to make that believer rely on Christ, become like Christ and display the power of Christ in him (see Stephen’s post yesterday).

So remember you have an enemy, but fix your gaze on Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Embracing The Thorn That Bleeds You Dry

It’s been a rough couple months for me. As some of you may know, I’ve struggled with intense anxiety for a number of years. And just to clarify, phsyical anxiety and sinful worry are two very different things. When we worry, it often manifests itself in a sense of physical anxiety. I often (95% of the time) experience physical anxiety when I’m not worried about a thing. I feel like a large hand is squeezing my chest. I need to breathe deeply. It’s hard to concentrate. Worry is a sin. I’m not worrying about anything when I feel anxious. Something is malfunctioning in my body. Neurons are misfiring, or serotonin is not being properly absorbed by my brain.

Thankfully, God has given men and women wisdom to create various medicines that can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Over the years I’ve taken different medicines that have really helped me. But here’s the thing: sometimes these medicines quit working. It’s like one day the medicine says, “You know what, I’m sick of doing my job! I quit!” Recently one my medications turned in its resignation. So, for the last month or so, I’ve felt like a piece of dirt.

But in the midst of feeling like a large animal is sitting on my chest, and being unable to concentrate, and generally feeling awful, I’ve been particularly reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:

…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

The great Apostle Paul was given a thorn in his flesh. He pleaded with God to remove it. He begged. He cried out. But instead of removing the thorn, God did something better for Paul: he gave him sufficient, powerful, sustaining grace.

God has used this thorn of anxiety to teach me some things. He’s taught me that I’m a weak, frail, fragile, easily broken creature. He’s taught me that I can’t do anything apart from him. I can’t breathe, or preach a sermon, or utter a prayer, or play with my kids apart from the empowerment of God. He’s taught me that if I have any success in ministry, or in being a dad, or in being an author, or in being a husband, it’s because his grace is at work in me. I need to learn and embrace these truths. These are hard, yet sweet truths. The anxiety I am experiencing is a severe mercy.

God may take away my anxiety. I pray that he does. But if he doesn’t, I trust him. I trust that he will give me sufficient grace for each day. I trust that his power will be sufficient for me. I’ll embrace the thorn, because I know the thorn is ultimately held by my Father.

+photo by jenny downing

Now That’s Interesting! Presidential Branding, How To Publish Your Book, Pumpkin Maestros, More…

Another Review of A Year of Biblical Womanhood – Tim Keller’s wife, Kathy, has written a very thorough, helpful, critical review of Rachel Held Evans new book.

Skeletal Rocking Chair – Jen would never let me get this, but I personally think it would fit well with our current home decor.

Branding the Presidents of the United States – This is a really cool blog. The author seeks to create a special “brand” for every past President. Very creative.

How to publish your book — An infographic – As an author I found this to be pretty funny.

The Pumpkin Maestroes – I love the passion and creativity these guys put into their pumpkin carving.

STORYBOARD: The Pumpkin Maestros from Tumblr on Vimeo.

Fantastic Mouth Trumpeting – While I may not agree with the message of the song, this guy is an incredible musician. Watch escpecially for the part where he harmonizes his mouth trumpet with his guitar. Unbelievable!

Strangers In A Strange Land

On July 8, 1974, Chuck Colson went to prison.

Only a couple years before he had been chief counsel on the Nixon White House staff.  He was nearing his 44th birthday when he went to prison for his involvement in Watergate. On January 31, 1975 he was released after serving seven months. “When I arrived in prison, my caseworker told me, ‘Just settle in, accept it. This is where you live now. Don’t think about your home.'”

But Colson refused to settle in and accept it. He lived every day as if prison was not his home.

“I drove myself to work as hard as I could. My entire day was consumed with writing, studying, doing my job in prison laundry, and exercising, and helping other inmates. I seldom allowed myself any recreation. More than anything else, I feared doing nothing.”

The New Testament calls believers strangers, exiles, and sojourners.

I’ve never been exiled, but have done some minor sojourning – traveled to a few other countries.  By the end of my short stays I’d be itching to get back home. Once I went to Mexico for a week and I couldn’t wait to get back to the US  so I could get a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I spent another week in a nation with few good roads and the craziest drivers – there didn’t seem to be any laws, though I’m sure there were – at one point I just had to stop looking (I wasn’t driving).  I was so happy to get back to normal traffic and stoplights and speed limits and nice highways. But what I always miss most when I travel is my wife and  family and  friends and my own little home. There’s something so comforting about coming back to your own home.

Strangers, exiles, sojourners. This world is not our home. This life is not our final destination. We have deep inside us a longing for our true home, heaven, where we will be with Jesus forever. Sojourners don’t plan on staying where they are. Chuck Colson didn’t plan on staying in prison so he refused to settle in.

I believe Randy Alcorn illustrated this by saying if you lived in the South during the Civil War and you could see that  soon the South would be defeated you wouldn’t stockpile as much Confederate currency as you could, for any day it would be worthless.  Any day now, the things we work so hard for and spend so much time maintaining are going to be worthless, like Confederate dollars.

But God is keeping an eternal glorious inheritance in heaven for us. 1 Peter 1:4 says God guards “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”

Ultimately our inheritance is Jesus and the riches in him.  We’ll enjoy this inheritance for ever and ever. The things of this world tarnish, fade, break and rot but God’s inheritance will be as delightful 10,000 years from now as it will be the day we receive it.

May we live for that imperishable and unfading reward!

Carry on exiles! Your sojourn is almost over.