All the time, we hear about specific afflictions the Church is suffering in second- and third-world countries: persecution. We hear about many countries where Christianity is illegal, and for those who dare to practice it anyway, the consequence is imprisonment, torture, or death. We as the Church in North America do not know these struggles through experience, but we pray for the persecuted church, that they will be strengthened; that they will not turn away from Christ or be tempted; that Satan will not win in his efforts to impose countless hardships, destroying the Church.
This is all well and good. We should pray for our suffering Christian brothers and sisters:
Remember those in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
– Hebrews 13:3 (ESV)
But have you ever considered yourself not safe from persecution? Probably not. Why would you? It is almost impossible for us to be tortured because we declare Jesus Christ to be our Lord, since we live in democratic countries which have laws enforcing freedom of religion.
But that does not make us safe from our common enemy, Satan.
In not-so-far-off countries, Satan has found the perfect thing to make war against the Church with: persecution. In North America, he cannot implement this tool easily; but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t try to destroy us at all. So what does he do?
Just look around you. Everywhere you see things advertised: the latest iPhone, tablet, or Xbox game. The newest clothes, vehicles, makeup. Addictions such as drugs, alcohol, pornography — it’s all available to anyone who wants it. The industry of North America literally feeds off of our human selfishness and addictions. Not that buying things (in moderation) is bad, but it is a tool Satan uses against us.
Jesus himself said,
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
– Mark 10:25 (ESV)
Now, I’m not saying (and neither was Jesus, if you look up this verse and read the next few with it) that rich people have no chance of getting to heaven. I’m simply saying that selfishness is a big issue for Christians (and anyone). Satan is aware of this and uses it against us at any chance he gets.
Satan finds each of our weakest points then appeals to our sinful human nature to trap us in sin. Although we may have all of our physical needs met exceedingly, we may face some of the greatest temptations because we have so much.
Physical blessings can really be a curse because it opens up the door to greed and selfishness.
Selfishness is a major sin that a lot of people overlook because it isn’t really visible in the sense of, “Oh, he swore. He sinned” or “Oh, he stole. He sinned.” It’s more of a sin that causes other sins (example: selfishness caused him to steal, since he wanted that thing so badly). Selfishness can drive us to commit other sins.
But this problem isn’t only in the world; it’s also in Christians. And it’s mainly Christians that Satan targets.
2 Timothy 3:2 – 5 (ESV) says this:
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure, rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
What does Paul mean by “denying its power”? The power of God is evident in our changed lives as Christians. We are set apart by and for God, and when walking with Him, we will be different than the world. The power of God is the power to change us and make us holy through Jesus Christ, who was sacrificed and took our sins away. The appearance of godliness is in going to church, for example; but if you don’t live like a Christian in every aspect of your life (not just Sunday morning), you’re denying the power of God because your life does not give testimony to it.
Essentially, Satan uses ourselves against us. He appeals to our naturally-selfish nature, easily convincing us to live for ourselves. And I’ve quickly learned that it’s always a struggle to deny one’s self. It is not easy. It requires constant prayer and it is impossible without the power of God. We cannot change ourselves and trying to do so only results in failure — something Satan wants us to feel. This is also becoming more and more clear to me. If Satan can convince us that we will never be able to live the perfect Christian life, then he’s won because we will give up and turn away from God.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
– 1 Peter 5:8 – 9 (ESV)
We know that Satan is always looking for our weaknesses and trying to turn us away from God, but what do we do about it? We are told on several different occasions to stand firm in our faith. When Jesus was tempted in the desert by the devil, He fought with Scripture.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (…) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
– James 4:7 – 8, 10 (ESV)
God promises that if we flee to Him, Satan will leave us. Without God, we’d be toast.
There will always be times when we fail. I do every day. But God forgives and welcomes us back with open arms — if we seek Him.
Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.
– Psalm 144:1 – 2 (ESV)
God is our shield; in Him is the strength that the devil will never overcome.