As humans, we don’t often think about what we can’t see, hear, taste, touch or feel in our immediate surroundings. We evaluate what our senses detect, do our own reasoning, and come to our own conclusions. “That’s the way this is.” “That’s the way that is.” “This is what would make things better.” It all makes sense. But then we read something like this:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat.
That is Jesus talking to Simon Peter, as recorded in Luke 22:31 (New Living Translation). Satan… we don’t often take him into consideration. Sure, we know he exists. He’s out there. He’s bad. But how much does he really have to do with our lives on a daily basis? Perhaps more than we think.
Lucky (if you want to call it that) for Simon Peter, he got a heads-up from Jesus that he was about to be the target of some spiritual warfare. Usually, at least in my experience, we don’t get those advance warnings. Neither did Job:
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan the Accuser came with them. "Where have you come from?" the LORD asked Satan.
And Satan answered the LORD, "I have been going back and forth across the earth, watching everything that’s going on."
Then the LORD asked Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth – a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil."
Satan replied to the LORD, "Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason! You have always protected him and his home and his property from harm. You have made him prosperous in everything he does. Look how rich he is! But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!"
"All right, you may test him," the LORD said to Satan. "Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically." So Satan left the LORD’s presence.
– Job 1:6-12 (NLT)
– Job 1:6-12 (NLT)
After that meeting, Job didn’t receive any notice of what was about to happen. He just saw disaster after disaster come upon his household. His oxen and donkeys were stolen. His farmhands were killed. His sheep and his shepherds were consumed by fire. His camels were stolen. His servants were killed. All of his children were killed. And finally his own body was struck with boils from head to toe.
All of those tragedies could easily be written off as natural events. Robberies happen in our world. Murders happen in our world. Storms happen in our world. People get sick in our world. The credit usually goes to “nature” or to a “mean God.” Meanwhile, Satan moves about undetected in the darkness and plots against his next victim.
Now that I think about it, I guess this is a great subject for the day after Halloween. That was unintentional, though, and my purpose in writing is not to delve into a study of spiritual warfare. I just want to remind you, as I was reminded last week, that the world we live in involves more than meets the eye. If we only see the tragic events in our lives and in the world around us as natural circumstances, we can find ourselves responding as Job did:
Cursed be the day of my birth, and cursed be the night when I was conceived. – Job 3:3 (NLT)
Why didn’t I die at birth as I came from the womb? – Job 3:11 (NLT)
What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; instead, only trouble comes. – Job 3:25-26 (NLT)
In one word, Job was hopeless. And this was a good man of God. Remember what God said? “He is the finest man in all the earth – a man of complete integrity. He fears God and will have nothing to do with evil.” Can we expect to fare any better? Well, Job didn’t know some things that we know now. I quoted Luke 22:31 above. Now let’s look at it along with Luke 22:32:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to have all of you, to sift you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up your brothers.
In those words, here’s what we can learn:
- Satan has to ask God’s permission to interact with us. So even if we are under the attack of Satan, we can still rest in confidence that God is in control. As we see in Job 1:12, God – our God who has infinite love for us – sets specific limits on just how far Satan can go with us.
- Jesus prays for us. He pleads in prayer for us. My prayers are often weak, but how comforting it is to know that Jesus is interceding on my behalf.
- Even before we sin, Jesus extends the invitation for us to return to Him in repentance. Jesus knew that Simon Peter was going to fail this particular test, but often failure is a necessary part of the maturing process. That’s why only after Peter’s failure and repentance would he be ready for Jesus’ next purpose for his life.
Maybe those truths will bring you some peace the next time you’re walking through a dark valley in your life. And for additional comfort – the kind we’re really looking for – let’s fast forward to the 42nd and final chapter of Job:
So the LORD blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand teams of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land there were no other women as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers.
Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, good life.
– Job 42:12-17 (NLT)
– Job 42:12-17 (NLT)
Not only does our past and present involve more than meets the eye, but so does our future. Job’s circumstances were redeemed to the point that his life was considered to be a good, long one when all was said and done. I’m sure he would have never imagined that could be possible when he was cursing the day he was born.
No matter how bleak our situation may appear, we must remember that there is always a bright, sunny day ahead, whether in this world or the next. Remember:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
– Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
Satan would like us to think otherwise, but don’t be deceived. We always have a hope.