(featured image by Mark Ralston, Getty Images)
The Las Vegas mass murders leave us reeling; struggling to make sense of such tragedy. Where the Bible may not tell us the why of the tragedies, it is quick to tell us who.
Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world (Ephesians 6:12 NCV).
The Bible names a real and present foe of our faith: the devil. He is not just a symbol for evil, he is the source of evil. He doesn’t live in myths and fables, he is an actual being who stalks our planet. He knows his time is short so he seeks to wreak havoc on every occasion.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He comes “only to steal and kill and destroy” (John. 10:10). You’re enjoying happiness? Satan wants to steal it. You’ve discovered joy? He’ll try to kill it. Love your spouse? Satan would love to destroy your marriage. He is the enemy of your God-given destiny and longs to be the destroyer of your soul.
Don’t dismiss him.
Agree with the witness of Scripture. From the Bible’s earliest to final pages, we are confronted with an arrogant anti-God force of great cunning and power. He is the devil, the serpent, the strong one, the lion, the wicked one, the accuser, the god of this age, the murderer, the prince of this world, the prince of the power of the air, Beelzebub, and Belial. He oversees a conglomeration of spiritual forces: principalities, powers, dominions, thrones, princes, lords, gods, angels, unclean spirits, and wicked spirits.
Satan appears in the Garden at the beginning. He is cast into the fire in the end. He tempted David, bewildered Saul, and waged an attack on Job. He is in the Gospels, the book of Acts, the writings of Paul, Peter, John, James, and Jude. Serious students of Scripture must be serious about Satan.
Jesus was. He squared off against Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He pegged him as the one who snatches the good news from the hearts of the hearers (Matthew 4:15; 13:39). Prior to the crucifixion, Jesus proclaimed: “Now shall the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Jesus saw Satan not as a mythological image, not an invention of allegory. He saw the devil as a superhuman narcissist. When he taught us to pray, Jesus did not say, “Deliver us from nebulous negative emotions.” He said, “Deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).
We play into the devil’s hand when we pretend he does not exist. The devil is a real devil.
But, and this is huge, the devil is a defeated devil. Were Satan to read the Bible (something he is wont to do), he would be utterly discouraged. Reference after reference makes it clear: the devil’s days are numbered.
“Having disarmed the powers and authorities, [Jesus] made a public spectacle of [the forces of evil], triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:13-15). Jesus stripped Satan of certain victory. He and his minions are being held on a short leash until the final judgment. On that day, the Great Day, Jesus will cast Satan into a lake of fire from which the devil will never return (see 2 Peter 1:4; Jude 1:6). Evil will have its day and appear to have the sway, but God will have his say and ultimately win the day.
Be alert to the devil, but don’t be intimidated by him.
Learn to recognize his stench. Since he comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), wherever you see heists, death, and destruction, turn to God in prayer. Since his name means “divider”, wherever you see temptation, rejection, and isolation, you know the culprit. Go immediately to Scripture. Stand on the promises of God regarding Satan.
God’s Spirit, who is in you, is greater than the devil, who is in the world (1 John 4:4 NCV).
God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear (I Corinthians 10:13).
Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
[The devil] is filled with fury because he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12).
Put on God’s full armor … with the belt of truth tied around your waist and the protection of right living on your chest. On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One. (Ephesians 6:11, 14-16 NCV).
The Roman soldiers of Paul’s day knew better than to saunter onto the battlefield wearing nothing but a robe and sandals. They took care to prepare. They took every weapon into the conflict.
So must we! Every day brings conflicts with Satan and his forces. For that reason “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).
What are these weapons? Prayer, worship, and Scripture. When we pray, we engage the power of God against the devil. When we worship, we do what Satan himself did not do: we place God on the throne. When we pick up the sword of Scripture, we do what Jesus did in the wilderness. He responded to Satan by proclaiming truth. And, since Satan has a severe allergy to truth, he left Jesus alone.
He will do the same with you. God’s victory over Satan is certain.
The next time you smell the devil’s stinky breath, remind him of the promise he is loath to hear. “The God who brings peace will soon defeat Satan and give you power over him” (Romans 16:20 NCV).
Satan may be vicious, but he is not victorious.
© Max Lucado, 10/02/2017