During my short stint in seminary, I once found myself arguing with the teaching assistant for a class I was taking. What were we arguing about? Satan.
Why on earth were we arguing about Satan? We were arguing about what Satan’s purpose is and whether or not he has a plan for our lives.
Twice today I found myself reminding two different friends that we have an enemy. I remember a conversation from last week as well. Our enemy doesn’t walk around dressed in red, with horns and a tail as some would depict him. He’d be so easy to spot if he did!
There seemed to be no question in the minds of the early followers of Jesus that Satan exists, as demonstrated by these passages:
“News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” Matthew 4:24
“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him.” Matthew 8:16a
“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.” Matthew 12:22
“A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.’ ” Matthew 15:22
I could go on. Suffice it to say that the word “demon” is used 66 times in the 4 gospels alone. It’s clear to me that the early believers understood there was a real enemy.
Why does it seem so unclear to us?
I was out of town for the weekend, and at the church I visited Sunday, we sang this powerful song, “Lion and the Lamb.” I sang as loud as everyone else when we got to this line:
Our God is a Lion
The Lion of Judah
He’s roaring in power
And fighting our battles!
Do you guys know the song? I bet you’re singing it right now!
I absolutely love that imagery! But I’m not sure it’s 100% accurate.
Something I think many of us struggle to grasp is that Satan came to steal and kill and destroy the abundant life that Jesus came to give (John 10:10). The enemy came to steal your overflowing life – as in the specific plan and purpose for which God created you.
So why did the line from the song bother me?
Most Christians live as if Jesus defeated the devil once and for all at the cross. Therefore, there is nothing else we need to know about Satan or need to be concerned with. If this is the case, why does Paul write to believers about the possibility of being taken advantage of by Satan? Why does he also admonish the church in Ephesus to take a stand against Satan’s schemes? Why does Peter remind us that the enemy is prowling around, seeking someone to devour?
If God is fighting all our battles for us and all we need to do is sit back and watch, why is Paul telling us to put on battle armor?
As I prayed for a friend this week, I felt led to remind her that she has a real enemy, an enemy who lies in wait, looking for a weak moment. You also have the same enemy. We are not to live in fear of him, but simply with an awareness that he exists.
I can’t say I completely understand spiritual warfare, or what power or authority Satan does have today in the post-resurrection life of a believer. I’m still learning. I’ve been reading about this in Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, and Waking the Dead by John Eldredge has an entire chapter on this idea. But I’ll just close with this one line from Eldredge’s book: “You don’t escape spiritual warfare simply because you choose not to believe it exists or because you refuse to fight it.”
Have you been surprised by Satan recently? How so?