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NOVEMBER 6 2016 THE REALITY OF THE DEVIL AND HIS TEMPTATIONS PART THREE

The Reality of the Devil and his Temptations

Part Three

 

For the past two Sundays we have been considering the devil and his temptations. He is real and he is active. We must know that there is a spiritual realm that is unseen and that this realm exercises influence over the affairs of men and this includes your life – your personal life. There are both angels and demons round about. The angels protect us and the demons will seek to deceive us and will make temptation more difficult. They will even introduce temptation in your life.

 

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

(1 Peter 5:8-11 ESV)

 

Last week we learned how to prepare for the devil and the danger he represents. We saw that:

 

  • Because the devil is prowling we must be both sober and sober-minded.
  • Because the devil is prowling we must be watchful. Like those Pony Express riders, we have to be wary of the dangers that are out there. Right now in the midst of the church we have extra safety. When we walk out those doors dangers await. The Pony Express riders took an oath and it was a very good oath. We tweaked it just a little and made it Christian. Take the Pony Express oath (on the church website). It will help you to be watchful.
  • Because the devil is prowling we must resist him. The way we resist him is by knowing Scripture. By being able to quote it as Jesus did.
  • We must be firm in our faith, that is, we must be confident and certain that God’s word is true and we live by it, as did our Lord Jesus.

 

The apostle Peter goes on to say that we should know “that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” The implication is clear: the devil is a cause of suffering.

 

We are going to talk about suffering this morning. Whenever someone talks about suffering, unless they have themselves have suffered more than their listeners, there is a sense of resentment from the audience. “You don’t know what I am going through.” is a thought that enters the mind. It is akin to a Catholic priest giving advice on how to raise children. Despite their good intentions they know not of what they speak. Let me say first off that I have suffered. We all must suffer. The apostle Paul said that, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) On the other hand, although I am familiar with suffering, I have not suffered more than many who are hearing me.

 

I like what C.S. Lewis has said about suffering when others wonder how he deals with it.

 

“You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it. You need not guess, for I will tell you; I am a great coward. But what is that to the purpose? When I think of pain – of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased…If I know of any way of escape I would crawl through the sewers to find it. But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already: they are the same as yours.”[1]

 

It is not a matter of how much someone has suffered nor of how they bear up under it. It is a matter of what God has said about it. This we can know. When God speaks we can trust His words and we can find comfort and hope in them. Thus, let us hear what he has spoken about suffering. We need a good dose of hope.

 

[I] What are the causes of suffering?

 

[A.] From our reading, we see that the devil is one of the causes suffering. We saw that one of the ways that he does this is through disease.

 

Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath day and there was a woman who was bent over and unable to straighten herself. She had been like this for eighteen years! Jesus lays hands on her and heals her. She straightens up immediately and begins to glorify God! But someone with a religious spirit begins to complain and charges Jesus with a violation of God’s law because he healed this woman. That is what religion does. It finds fault in joyful and good things. It desires to place people in bondage when there is freedom. But Jesus says,

 

             “ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

(Luke 13:16 ESV)

 

Jesus attributes this awful physical disability to Satan. Every physical problem has a physical cause whether it is microbial or chemical. But those physical causes can be employed by the devil or a demon for his purposes. We see that, as well, in the life of Job. He had boils over his whole body that caused him great pain. But those boils were caused by Satan.

 

Not every disease or malady is caused by a spirit. But they can be.

 

Another way the devil causes suffering is through persecution. This is probably Peter’s thought here in verse 9. Following the Lord Jesus faithfully will result in persecution. Persecution is a suffering. In the first century persecution was both intense and widespread. In America we have been relatively free from persecution because we have been a nation that was grounded in the Christian faith and our society has had Christian principles throughout its spheres of influence. But that is not only changing, but just about gone. Christians are now being persecuted here for exercising their faith. They are losing their jobs, small business owners are being sued, and local and state governments are being fined.

 

Some of the most difficult sort of persecution can come from our own family members. Jesus warned about this – that one’s enemies would be in one’s own household (Matthew 10:36). The gospel, and faithfulness to it, separates people. The reason why persecution by family is particularly testing is because we desire to be loved by our family. Yet, we are called to love Christ above our family members, so we must bear up under their persecution and bless in return. If our family consists of fellow lovers of Jesus then we are blessed indeed!

 

Yes, the devil can stir others up to persecute you. Yes, he can cause disease. But the greatest cause of suffering is not the devil.

 

[B.] The reason for most of our suffering is our own sin. This is not only one of the clearest teachings of the Bible but it is our own experience, is it not? When I look back on my times of most intense suffering they were all because of my own sin. Our own sins not only cause us much grief, but can ruin our lives.

 

Grant and Sheila were a typical married couple. They were Jewish and went to the synagogue in Boston regularly. They had two children in elementary school who were doing well. Grant was an electrician. He was the least successful in his family, his brothers and sister all being professionals who made more money. But, he was a good provider and there was an opportunity, because of the quality of his work, for him to get a supervisory position at the company for which he worked which would pay better. Sheila worked as the secretary for the CEO of a large data storage company. Her pay was equal to that of Grant’s. She often dealt with several of the other executives at the company. One of them, Bill, had a very funny sense of humor and would often compliment her on her appearance. Grant it seemed had no sense of humor and seldom complimented her. She found herself strangely attracted to Bill and soon an affair developed. The only thing that bothered her about Bill was that he seemed to miss work often. He said it was because of the anti-allergy medicine he had to take which sometimes made it impossible to come to work alert.

 

As the adulterous relationship went on she made a decision. She was going to divorce Grant and marry Bill. The news was devastating to Grant and the children. Grant became depressed and the children began having behavior problems at school. Although Grant did not make much money, his parents did. They hired a powerful divorce attorney who was able to get full custody of the children for their son. That was a blow to Sheila but she consoled herself with the new life that she was going to have with Bill.

 

After a few months of marriage to Bill things began to go wrong. He was fired from his job not because he was on anti-allergy medicine but because he was addicted to cocaine. Now Sheila was working for them both and she had less income than she had with Grant. Bill’s sense of humor left him when he could not find another good job. He did find a job – working behind the counter at an ice cream parlor. He stopped complimenting her and one day she overheard him complimenting one of his fellow employees at the parlor. She could only see her children once per month and she noticed that they were becoming distant from her. Some months they did not want to see their mom. Things with Bill got worse. It dawned on her that she had made a terrible mistake. She is the one who then sank into a deep depression. She had left a good man for a scoundrel. She started to have a hope that maybe she could humble herself and try to get her family back.

 

Grant did not marry right away. He submerged himself into the life of his children and continued to do well at his employ, getting the promotion he had his eye on. After a few months he got over his depression. A year and a half later he met a godly, Christian woman and they were married. Grant found a happiness that he thought he would never regain. When Sheila learned that Grant had remarried her hopes were dashed and she became even more depressed.

 

Lost love is a great suffering. Depression is a great suffering. Sheila’s sin caused her great suffering. It was her own sin that caused her suffering. But this story informs us of another cause of suffering.

 

[C.] Other people’s sin causes us suffering. Grant suffered greatly because of Sheila’s adultery. The children suffered.  Did you know that life is not fair? Not everyone gets affected by other people’s sins in the same measure. Some of that can be avoided by choosing companions and friends who fear God, in other words, good company. But we will still have to suffer because of other people’s sins. In the big picture, it is unavoidable.

 

[D.] There is one more cause of suffering that must be told. Adam’s sin causes suffering. When God created the world it was good. It wasn’t just partly good. It was all good. When Adam fell all of creation fell with him because he was the head of the human race. What we call “natural calamities,” severe weather, earthquakes, floods, and such, became a part of life on earth. Disease, famine, accidental death also, once absent, are now with us and will remain with us until God’s kingdom comes in its fullness.

 

[II] Why does God allow suffering? Even though I have listed four causes of suffering, you will notice that it really comes down to two: sin or the devil. Those are dreadful sources. We also observe that life is not fair. Some people suffer far less than other people. Considering the sources of suffering, the intensity of some suffering, and the disparity of suffering, we are compelled to ask: why does God allow suffering?

 

We often cannot answer why God allows specific instances of suffering (This is one of the great lessons in the book of Job), but we can answer why God allows, even ordains, suffering in general. Said another way, because of sin having entered the world God will use the curse of sin to obtain his eternal purpose.

 

Allow God’s perfect word to reveal the purposes of suffering. I am purposely going to use the stronger term, ordain, rather than just “allow.” Ordain, of course, means to decree or to destine to come to pass. Both terms are correct. But I do not want to leave the impression that suffering is outside of God’s control. If God wanted to he could eliminate all suffering in a microsecond. But this would not serve his purpose. God ordains suffering because of sin and there is a good behind it. We will not always understand it in this life. But we shall.

 

[A.] God ordains suffering in order that we may learn obedience. We are a disobedient people. If we are truly followers of the Lord Jesus Christ then we become more and more obedient as the years pass. We are putting sin to death in our own lives, but we have a lot of killing to do.

 

Even if we did not have a sinful nature we would still need to learn obedience because we have desires that are not sinful in themself but easily lead us away from God’s will. Our Lord Jesus did not have a sinful nature, yet it is written of him:

 

 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. (Hebrews 5:8, NASB)

 

If Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering, how much more do we? One man of God has written this: “It is necessary that our most merciful Father should not only prevent our future weakness, but also correct our past offenses to keep us in the path of obedience. Therefore, in every affliction, we ought immediately to review our past life.”[2]

 

[B.] God ordains suffering to make us humble. Hear the words of David:

 

            As for me, I said in my prosperity,

                        “I shall never be moved.”

            By your favor, O LORD,

                        you made my mountain stand strong;

            you hid your face;

                        I was dismayed.

(Psalm 30:6-7 ESV)

 

Note in verse 6 that when David was prosperous, when everything was fine and dandy, his thought was “I shall never be moved.” He possessed self-confidence. Not often do self-confidence and humility go together.

 

In verse 7 you must know which words deserves the emphasis. It is “your” and “you.” “By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong.”

 

The last half of verse 7 makes the idea clear. “You hid your face; I was dismayed.” Why did God hide his face from David? Because he was angry with him (verse 5). God hiding his face was a suffering. David was crying (also verse 5). David learned humility from suffering. We do, too.

 

[C.] God ordains suffering so that we will be able to help others who are afflicted.

 

            Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

(2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV)

 

Let’s be honest. Most of us are selfish. We are more concerned about ourselves than others. But, when we have experienced an affliction and then have come out of it, we feel an affinity towards those who are similarly afflicted. Our hearts go out to them because we have had the same experience. And we are able to minister to them. Oh! This is the Christian life! To stand side by side with one another, helping those who need help! If it were not for our own suffering only a few of us would be willing to do that.

 

Finally, and the most important purpose, is this:

 

[D.] God ordains suffering in order to strip us. “It is through his stripping that God dispenses Himself to those who love Him and seek after Him. Job lost all that he had, but ultimately he gained God Himself. God stripped everything [away] in order that he could be his all for his full transformation and conformation to the glorious image of God in his Son.”[3]

 

It is not always because of your sin, or other’s sin, nor to gain humility. The book of Job teaches us that sometimes it is to gain God, to be conformed to the image of Christ in a deeper, fuller way. God’s eternal purpose is to dispense Himself into his people, but we have to be stripped of what we are for that to happen.

 

We come now to the most important part of today’s message.

 

[III] How are we to respond to suffering in our own lives? The reason the devil brings suffering into our lives is because he is tempting us to react a certain way. The same temptation presents itself if the reason for our suffering is one of the other causes.

 

Consider the reaction of two people to the same events. Job lived, we think, about the time of Abraham. Many scholars think that Job is the oldest book of the Bible, even more ancient than Genesis. As far as what is recorded in the Bible is concerned, Job suffered more than any other person besides Jesus. He was a wealthy man, but the Bible says this about him:

 

            There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

(Job 1:1 ESV)

 

Although he was righteous and blameless he was attacked by Satan and this is what happened to him:

 

  • His servants were murdered. Because he was a righteous man, it is a surety that he was friends with and was close to his servants.
  • 7,000 sheep were killed at once. All that he had.
  • 3,000 camels were stolen. All that he had.
  • 500 oxen were stolen. All that he had.
  • 500 donkeys were stolen. All that he had.
  • His ten children were killed by Satan via a tornado, or some great wind. All that he had.
  • Loathsome sores appeared on every part of his body, even the soles of his feet.

 

All his livestock, which represented his wealth and his livelihood, also belonged to his wife. It was her wealth and her livelihood, too. The servants were hers, too. And the children, they were her children. What is it to a mother to lose her children? Most experts think that there is a deeper bond between a mother and her children than a father and his children by virtue of the reality that they were inside of her for nine months and she gave them birth, an experience that fathers do not have (and do not want to have!). I love my children beyond measure. Woe to the person who tries to harm one of my children! But, I think that the observation is true. Mothers are closer to their children.

 

You see, Job’s wife suffered the same things that Job suffered, save for the loathsome sores. How did she react?

She tells Job: “Curse God and die!” Do you know what that means? That means she was cursing God! The devil succeeded in Job’s wife. He got her to curse God. That is what he is after. He wants people to join him in rebellion against God. That is the temptation we face when we suffer.

 

How did Job react when he heard the news about all of his children being killed?

 

            Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

(Job 1:20-21 ESV)

 

He worshipped God! He said, “Blessed be the name of the LORD!”

 

Who will you be when suffering comes? Job or his wife? And, it will come. You may be in it now. It may come next month, or next year, or the year after. But, through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God, so it will come.

 

Brothers and sisters, we must cultivate within ourselves the fear of God and the trust of God that Job had. Otherwise, we will end up like his wife.

 

[IV] Finally, and very briefly, what are the results of suffering? Some results are the very reasons (or purposes) of suffering that we spoke of.

 

  • We become more obedient
  • We put on humility
  • We become more sympathetic
  • And we gain God Himself.

 

But Peter adds something else.

 

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

 

I leave you with two things. Our suffering is only for a little while. Suffering is, most often, temporary. Just like Grant, who suffered when his wife left him, but the Lord brought him out of his depression. There are a few who do suffer their whole lives. Usually, though, suffering is temporary. This gives us hope. As David says,

 

 

            For his anger is but for a moment,

                        and his favor is for a lifetime.

            Weeping may tarry for the night,

                        but joy comes with the morning.

(Psalm 30:5 ESV)

The second thing is that God Himself will “restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

 

This is God’s promise!

 

Endure and you will be restored!

Endure and you will be confirmed by God!

Endure now and you will be strengthened in a little while!

Bear up and you will be established!

 

This is God’s promise!

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Lewis, C.S., The Joyful Christian, MacMillan Publishing Co., NY, NY, 212.

[2] Calvin, John, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 54.

[3] Lee, Witness, Life-Study of Job, Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA, 6