In the Christian life we can expect many trials. It is not a life of cosiness and comfort in the pleasures of wealth, power and prestige. Those who teach that “you only need faith and everything will be okay” are like the false prophets of old who said “peace, peace” when destruction was coming upon Israel: they deceive with promises of comfortableness, blinding their hearers to the truth.
Scripture says that: “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence” (Matthew 11:12). Those who belong to Christ can expect attack from both within and without the Church. Oftentimes men of deceitful and violent hearts will enter the Church with the purpose to cause disruption and harm to the true, invisible Church. Jesus warned us to beware the false teachers and false prophets, calling them “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. Like wolves they seek to devour the sheep. Others, openly hostile to God and His Church, will seek to ridicule, perform violence – sometimes literally – and cause other hardships to those who confess Christ.
We should not be arrogant in condemning these people, but rather we ought to “love our enemies, and pray for those who spitefully persecute us”. We need to remember that we also were once enemies of God, and, bar the grace of God, we would still be violently opposed to the purposes of God. No, we should not be arrogant in our salvation but rather humble, knowing that we are also sinners, though thanks be to God that we are now reconciled to God in Christ. We must acknowledge that it is not the people who are our real enemies, but rather we should heed the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12
Having acknowledged that it is the devil who is behind the attacks that come upon God’s people, we might become discouraged at such hostility. How do we counter this? It is through knowing the position which the devil has and the position that God holds.
God is Sovereign, He is Almighty, and He is Omnipotent. He is not limited by anything other than His own character, and there is no event, however small, which He does not know of and of which He is not the prime director. Every word of God’s mouth is sure, every word in His inspired Word is infallible. His purposes shall be fulfilled and every promise kept.
It is not so with the devil. The devil is limited. First, he is limited because by his very nature he is a created being. He is not omnipotent, neither is he omnipresent nor omniscient. Second, he has been defeated by Christ. Just as the devil bruised Christ’s heel, so Christ has crushed his head. The devil is a poor old man in his dying days, having been disarmed and defeated at the Cross.
But the most profound aspect in which the devil is limited is shown in the book of Job. I will let my friend Richard Swartz make this point, for he did it so well (you can follow Richard on Google+):
Satan can do nothing without God’s divine permission. Not one thing! “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away.” (Job 1:21) It comes down to the sovereignty of God, each and every day and each and every way. Not a single purpose of God is ever thwarted. (Job 42:2)
In order for the devil to make an attack on a man he must first gain God’s permission. Then the rules of engagement are laid down by God, and finally the outcome is again determined by God. (see Job 1:6-12, Luke 22:31-32.)
As we have our trials and come under attack, whether physically or spiritually, we would do well to remember that the devil is limited whilst God is without limit, and that if we belong to Christ there is nothing that can happen to us that will ultimately harm us.
And to conclude, these are Jesus’ words on fear:
And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! – Luke 12:4-5.