Anyone who thinks that the devil causes all bad things to happen should go to the back of the class. By that, I mean part one of the series!
(This post is a continuation of the seventh part of my series).
HOW DOES SATAN OPPOSE US AND CAUSE SUFFERING?
From the start I want to stress again that I don’t believe all or even most suffering is inflicted by demons, but that some is. All the other causes I’ve written about before are applicable, and they’re mostly related to human nature and the Curse.
Satan not only hates God, he also hates those made in the image of God-humans-because we are made in the image of God. There are several ways in which the enemy of our souls can cause suffering:
THE DEVIL’S WORK 1: SIN
The Bible says that the world we live in-the world of men divorced by intention from the knowledge of God; the societies and cultures we live in; the plethora of religions and philosophies; the ways of life which ignore our Creator-are influence, governed and directed by Satan. In fact Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” (John 14:30). Paul called him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Consequently not only are we vulnerable to temptation directly from Satan and his servants just as Adam and Eve were, but the entire ungodly world system we live in-shaped and directed by “the prince of this world”-presents all kinds of ways for us to turn away from God.
We tend to think that the ways of the world are more attractive and more “fun” than the ways of God. The reality is otherwise, because ungodly motives and actions always end in trouble and loss for ourselves and for others. As one example, children lose stability, love, happiness and faith in mankind when a father leaves home for another woman.
It’s more common for us to be led into sin by our own attraction to the ways of this world than by the direct work of malevolent angels (James 1:14). The “devil made me do it” theology among some Christians is nothing more than an excuse for their own failures. The devil cannot make the believer who is walking in faith do anything: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In contrast the devil and his angels can lead unbelievers into all kinds of things, because apart from the Spirit of God they have no will or power to resist, and no motivation to do what’s right:
“The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
THE DEVIL’S WORK 2/ DECEPTION
“…the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Of course, temptation as in point 1 is deception. The kind of deception I’m speaking of in point 2 is that passed on in the philosophies of men, and of fallen angels who are in rebellion against God. These include false religions and false gods, which lead millions away from our Creator; immoral and ungodly lifestyles which cause broken families, disease, rejected children, abortion and loneliness; false belief systems such as evolution and the idea that we’re all here because of random processes, chance, natural selection and multiplied millions of fortuitous mutations which have never been observed. Such philosophies have fueled all kinds of dark political systems such as Communism-responsible in the 20th century for well over a hundred million deaths around the world. See my series on communism, called War, Religion and Atheism.
THE DEVIL’S WORK 3/ PERSECUTION
Christians around the world face persecution because of their faith in and association with Jesus Christ. This persecution comes from the hatred of men for the faith, but ultimately from the devil and his angels who are in constant opposition to God and all his people. Persecution in recent years in the Middle East against the Church has been of such an intensity and of such unspeakable horror that it cannot have had anything but a spiritual origin. Media people in the West largely ignored what has essentially been attempted genocide against a Church which has existed in some of these ancient nations since the beginning.
THE DEVIL’S WORK 4/ OTHER PEOPLE
This point is related to the above discussion on “Deception”, but really needs to be noted separately.
Demons are unseen, but they are able and willing to extend their wishes into the physical world through people, either verbally, or through their actions or their teachings. People who are open to lies and falsehood; people who are not governed or guided by the truth of God; people in the right position of influence and power are good candidates to fulfill demonic wills. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that Adolph Hitler and his accomplices were not prompted to unleash war on the whole of Europe, slaughtering indiscriminately and without remorse, attempting to wipe out an entire nation of people-God’s chosen. On a much smaller scale, one person can be led into an illicit relationship by another persons help, perhaps (not always) by demonic prompting.
War, poverty, disease, ignorance, and so many other maladies can be the result of the sinful actions of man, sometimes caused by spiritual entities.
We could look at several examples from the Bible. One of the better known ones is where Jesus reproved Satan who was speaking though Peter, who was suggesting that he avoid going to Jerusalem and so the cross:
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns (Matthew 16:23 NIV).
THE DEVIL’S WORK 5/ THE CURSE
This particular subject is perhaps my own idea. It may or may not be correct, so please question what I’m saying, and give me any thoughts if you wish.
It’s my personal conviction that the devil and his fallen angels help to administer the Curse, which I discussed in an earlier part of my series. Again, I’m not talking about any “Yin-Yang” type of belief here as discussed in the Dao De Jing. What I mean is that God employs-nay conscripts-the devil and his fallen followers in the out-working of the Curse. How does this play out in life, you may wonder? My answer is that while God has subjected all of nature to frustration (ROMANS 8) through the Curse, the frustration works in our lives and in our bodies in many ways other than ageing, sickness and death. Our intentions, our dreams, our efforts are frequently frustrated and come to nothing. Surely a loving God would not want us to be frustrated, you may think. Well, he did arrange for us to live fairly short lives, to age and to die, didn’t he? I can only think that his motivation is to prevent us from living in long-term opposition to his ways, and to use the specter of mortality to sober us up quickly, and I think that’s Scriptural.
I believe that one out-working of this frustration in our lives is in what we call in the US “Murphy’s Law”, or in the UK “Sod’s Law”. It has many other synonyms. Search for my post on the subject, published a few years ago, soon to be re-written and improved.
CAN SATAN CAUSE PHYSICAL SUFFERING?
We’ve considered Hitler’s war on mankind, but can the devil and his demons directly cause hurt?
We’ve seen that demons can lead people to physically hurt other people in many ways. In Peter’s warning of the “roaring lion”, mentioned earlier, he said that as a result of the devil’s efforts “the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”. This suffering was clearly tangible: a physical, material suffering.
However, it’s possible for physical suffering to be directly imposed on us by our unseen enemy. You only have to look at what happened to poor Job as a result of Satan’s attention. He lost most of his family and his home and he lost his own health not only as a result of Satan’s prompting of people around Job, but also directly from the will of Satan, in conjunction with God’s approval (Job 1:12-19).
Most tellingly, it was Satan who directly inflicted physical suffering on Job:
So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7).
Paul suffered physically as a result of the work of a demon, though under God’s direction. He was sent a “messenger” of Satan to torment him and to keep him humble. Notice that this was a problem in his flesh (verse 7).
Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read of the woman who was crippled- bent over- for eighteen years of her life, until Jesus healed her. Jesus said that this physical harm was inflicted by Satan (Luke 13:11-16).
In Revelation 2:10 we read how Christ warned some believers that the devil was going to put them into prison and they would be persecuted to death. This is about as physical as suffering can be! It seems clear from scripture that while trouble can be inflicted by Satan directly-if he has permission-he can also influence people to do the job for him. Refer to Nazi Germany as a prime example.
VICTORY IS OURS
The most important point in this entire subject is that God is supreme, and he loves us. We have problems in life now, but ultimately believers are on the winning side, and we cannot possibly lose. Don’t forget that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Our bodies are temporal: our souls are eternal. Jesus Christ is the shepherd of our souls. Paul said:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit…For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans chapter 8, verses 1, 8, 35, 37, 39).