November 12, 1996
Katy cried in fear every time she heard a noise at her window. Matt couldn’t sleep at night because there was a monster in his closet. Sharon dreamed about wild animals and woke up sobbing. In every case, mommy or daddy came to the rescue and hugged away the fears.
Imaginary creatures frighten children but they are imaginary. We have some power over our imaginations. I recall dreams that took a terrible turn but even in my sleep, I changed the storyline and made a happy ending. The threat in my mind was controllable—in my mind.
Real-life monsters are not so easily manipulated. A few years ago, a monstrous black bear visited our campsite and charged our tent several times. Once a German Shepherd lunged unprovoked at my throat. These four-legged monsters did not hurt me but they had a definite ability to do so.
However, my most serious battles are with a formidable monster that I have never seen, one called Satan or the devil. Many suppose that this too is an imaginary creature yet Christians know he is real. Scripture presents him as a real person and Jesus describes him a “liar and the father of lies.” I have wrestled with his lies. I know he is real.
However, one of his most convincing suggestions is that he does not exist. For those who will not buy that, he uses other falsehoods about his identity. For instance, some think this expert at deceit is God’s counterpart. To them, God is extreme good, but Satan is extreme evil.
While that is an accurate description, Satan is not God’s opposite. God is all-powerful but Satan is limited. God is omnipresent, but the devil cannot be everywhere at once. God knows everything, but Satan is in the dark about many things. The devil is only a created being—one that is in rebellion against God.
In that regard, he is like people. We rebel too, but there are differences. For instance, Satan is not as free to do what he wants to do; he must first get permission from God. The story of Job confirms this limitation. When the devil wanted to damage Job, he approached God with this challenge: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? ...But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
For reasons not explained, God replied, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” With that, Satan was allowed to attack Job.
Satan also attacked Jesus during His temptation in the wilderness yet this too was in the plan of God: Matthew 4:1 says, “Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil.”
God had His reasons to allow His Son this test, otherwise Satan would not be able to stay in the sinless presence of Christ. His holiness would simply drive away one who is so evil. For that matter, while Christians are not sinless like Jesus, we are also told that when we yield to God (implying that we keep our lives pure and holy), we can “resist Satan and he will flee from us.”
The Bible’s teaching about Satan applies in many situations. If our world caves in, like Job’s did, we can rest in God’s sovereignty. We may not understand why trials happen to us (God did not tell Job), but we know that nothing falls outside of God’s purposes. He loves us. We can trust Him to be with us, to help us and to see us through the very worst situations. He even promises to “work all things together for our good,” a promise my experience stoutly defends.
We can also trust God when temptations are strong, when Satan whispers, “this is too much for you.” Rather than giving in to his lies, we can firmly declare, “My God is able to deliver me.” With that, we are resisting lies with truth, and truth makes this monster turn around and run.