When The Devil Overplays His Hand
When The Devil Overplays His Hand
While reflecting on Chronic-Joy’s free printable “Build An Ebenezer,” it dawned on me that there are many hardships and challenges in my life by which the devil certainly meant to do me harm. In the trial, it often feels like he has the upper hand. We struggle to see what good could come out of suffering, but as the years pass by, we gain a new perspective that what Satan has intended for harm has instead been flipped on its head and turned into good. Some of our worst moments turn out to be our greatest Ebenezers (memorial stones to God’s help, cf. 1 Sam. 7:12)!
Joseph didn’t mention Satan when he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20, NIV). However, it is not hard to imagine Satan working for Joseph and his family’s destruction every step of the way. Joseph kept his attention not on what Satan was attempting but on what God was doing, even if he couldn’t understand it until it unfolded.
Recently, I saw another example in my church. A young man’s desperate confession of using drugs to fill the void in his heart sparked a revival in our youth group that has carried over into the whole church. Satan overplayed his hand once again! He does that a lot, most notably when his involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus became the greatest Ebenezer ever risen to God’s love and faithfulness, a bloody Roman cross. Another Ebenezer, a rolled away stone in front of an empty tomb, forever proved the devil cannot win!
He’s already lost the war, but he will make sport out of you if he can. Peter warns that “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Peter adds, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the whole world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet. 5:8-9, NIV).
Contextually, Peter is talking about persecution. However, his general assumption is that suffering is common to all. Though all suffer, chronic illness is its own special type of suffering that Satan can use to discourage us even to the point of hopelessness. That’s what it means to be “devoured” by our enemy. We can render him a toothless lion in our lives by recalling these three truths or raising these three Ebenezers:
- Remember the Lamb has already triumphed.
I made this point above, but I will emphasize it again. Satan cannot defeat any who already stand with the victorious Lamb. When John was weeping in his heavenly vision because he believed no one was able to open the scroll of God’s redemptive plan, he was told by one of the elders, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed…” (Rev. 5:5, NIV). The matter has been decided. We stand with the Lamb! Jesus and his people have won, but a very serious battle continues until our Victor returns.
- Remember the battle is not only a physical one.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he reminds God’s people, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12, NIV). I know Paul is saying that our struggle is not ultimately against other humans, but I believe it follows that our struggle is not merely a physical one, including against our own flesh as well. We often rightly feel that our body is at war with itself. I do not diminish that physical struggle at all. However, I also recognize that we are in a spiritual conflict with greater stakes than how I feel today or any other day. I need to “put on the full armor of God” and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” to fight off Satan’s attacks (cf. Eph. 6:12-20).
- 3. Remember the result of Satan overplaying his hand.
Our victory over Satan is assured by virtue of our resurrected bodies when Jesus returns. Yet, even as it relates to our current existence, Satan’s designs for us backfire if we simply hold on to God’s love poured into us through the Holy Spirit. So confident of this truth is Paul that he tells us that we can even “glory in our sufferings!” Not for suffering’s sake, but because of what suffering produces, “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:4, NIV). When Satan’s painful arrows are proven unequal to the task of spoiling our faith, our hope only grows stronger as we discover that he cannot win!
What Ebenezers are you raising in defiance of Satan’s intentions and in testimony to God’s faithful love?
Encouraging articles and podcast episodes in your inbox, once per week.