We’ve been talking about the Enemy for a week now, and I wanted to end the study with some perspective. There are two extremes when it comes to spiritual warfare, and I hope to find the proper “middle ground.” One extreme, the background I grew up in, tends to discount Satanic activity altogether, in practice if not in theology. Oh, people give lip-service to the fact that there's a personal Devil, but they never give any thought to him in their daily lives. I hope that as you’ve read the last few days, I’ve made it clear that I believe in a spirit who's working behind the scenes to influence the world and the church away from God, and who can get involved in people’s lives in a personal way.
The other extreme, which I want to address today, is found in a lot of the “spiritual warfare” movement. They tend to see every bad thing in their lives as direct result of Satan. If their car breaks down, it’s because of Satan. If they fall off a ladder, it’s because of you-know-who. And especially if they fall into sin, it’s the responsibility of the Evil One.
Now I believe that our Enemy exists, and that he’s active, but we need some perspective on this. I remember several years ago, when I was listening to a brother’s testimony. He was recounting how Satan came into his room at night trying to entice him into a lifestyle of sin. I recall thinking to myself, “Really? Satan? The Prince of Darkness himself took time out of his busy schedule to come into your room and tempt you? You were that important?”
Please remember, he’s not omnipresent like our Father. He can only be in one place at a time, and he only has so many demons at his command. If he pays attention to you, that means he has to take time away from his plan to bring down the next Billy Graham. Quite frankly, I don’t think I’m that high on Satan’s “task list.”
So how does he relate to us on a daily basis? The best way I can explain is the example of a drug lord. Imagine a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood. Drug addicts and pushers are constantly roaming the streets. Bars on the windows of homes and convenience stores testify to the blight of crime all over, and everyone's affected. Now, do you expect to see the local drug lord on the street pushing his product in your face: “Hey, want to buy some drugs? Hey, want to buy some drugs?” Of course not! As the saying goes, he's got "people" for that. You’re rarely--if ever--going to see the drug kingpin himself. You see the effects of his product everywhere, and you see his representatives everywhere, but you have to really be high up in the anti-drug crusade in order to get the attention of the guy in the penthouse suite who calls the shots.
What I’m calling for is some balance. The Bible doesn’t actually spend a lot of time on the specifics of how to encounter Satan in "power encounters." What it does talk a lot about is how to deal with sin in my own life. How do I treat my spouse? What type of employee should I be? How should I raise my kids? What type of church member should I be? Read today’s passage again. Is Satan ever mentioned? Nope! Instead, James reminds us that it’s our own “sinful desires” which can drag us away and entice us away from our First Love. Most of the time, that’s our immediate problem.
When someone recounts a "power encounter" they had with the Enemy, do I dismiss it out of hand? No. I believe it happens. But I also firmly believe that the primary enemy I'm going to be facing day after day after day is the opponent I see in the mirror every morning. It's my sinful nature which is my most immediate problem, and the only real power Satan has over me is through that conduit.
So have I been personally tempted by Satan? Probably not, but what difference does it really make? My Lord called him "the Father of lies," so every lie in the world directly or indirectly comes from him. I have enough problems with my own sinful nature. Whether it’s directly from the Enemy or just my own sinful desires talking, I need to shut out every voice except the voice of my Shepherd.
Lord Jesus, yours is the only voice I want to listen to. You’ve already defeated the Enemy, and I share in that victory. I just need to live like it. Please help me in this.