Any military commander worth his salad will tell you the key to battle is to neutralize threats. Whether by outright attack, supply line disruption, or distracting threats so they turn their attention elsewhere, systematically taking out each threatening unit wins the war.
Last time I checked, we Christians were at war. Do we realize how ardently the Devil and his minions hate us? To them, we are the enemy as much as they are ours. Just as we have been given weapons of war to wage battle against the chthonic, so the legions of hell marshal their power against us. And their tactic is the classic one: neutralize threats.
Here’s the worst thing that anyone can say about you or me as Christians: “You’re no threat to the Devil.”
Sadly, I believe that large swaths of the American Church are just that. The Enemy distracts us with consumerism, entertainment, fads (even church-related ones), and an all-consuming loathing for anything that even remotely borders on boring. We know the entire storyline behind Lost, can name every contestant on the last American Idol, can’t wait to plop down a small fortune on the next iteration of Xbox or Playstation, spend more on movie theater tickets or DVDs than we drop in the offering plate, and generally run willy-nilly after umpteen thousand things that neutralize our threat on the grand cosmic battlefield. Without even breaking a sulfurous sweat, the dark principalities and powers have rendered millions of American Christians fat, lazy, double-minded, and utterly worthless for battle.
But not everyone.
In writing this, I realize that some of the most encouraging words we can give to a fellow believer may be difficult to receive. They may be true in the utmost and a genuine balm to the soul, but that doesn’t make them any less hard.
This post is an encouragement to those who are still a threat, but it’s a realistic encouragement, words of hope that may sound like words of despair at first, but only to those who lack perseverance.
Some of us still threaten hell. Here’s an easy check to tell if we do: We’re being opposed by the Enemy at every turn.
If our lives are peaches and cream most of the time, if we’re poster children for the American Dream, then we’re not a threat. The demonic doesn’t take us seriously, because if it did we’d be feeling and seeing the attacks.
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
—2 Corinthians 11:23-28
When you’re a threat to the devils, they know your name. They knew Paul’s. He later regales us in 2nd Corinthians 11 with a staggering list of ways in which those evil forces dealt with his threat to their hellish mission.
Now who here volunteers to share the trials of Paul?
It’s a hard word of encouragement, isn’t it?
I can tell you that the closer you are to the heart of the Lord in the work you’re doing for the Kingdom, the more brutal the battle. Things will go wrong that you never expected because the Enemy wants nothing more than to neutralize your threat.
In the grand cosmic battle, evil attempts to take out the Christians it knows by name by attacking what is dearest to them: their families. The Enemy loves to go after children and spouses. It’s the hellfire way to napalm the biggest threats.
With children, the Enemy hurts physically or emotionally. Debilitating sickness or injury in a child will often be all it takes to remove a Christian parent who is a genuine threat. Death of a child, too. As a child gets older, rebellion works just as well. Nothing breaks a parent more than to watch a child go down in flames.
With spouses, the Enemy’s first line of attack is dissension. Turning a spouse against the person who is a threat wounds deeply, often because the spouse has been the only source of consistent support outside of the Lord. The height of wounding would be discovering a spouse’s affair. Fray that most precious bond and many threats to hell will wilt. The Enemy will also resort to physically or mentally wounding a spouse if the marriage is a strong one that would not ordinarily succumb to dissension.
Lastly, the Enemy will assault the threat directly. I believe this is often the last resort because indirect threats can be more effective. The most common lines of attack come against the threat’s livelihood, reputation, and/or physical and emotional health. The Enemy may also try to kill the most powerful Christians simply to curtail that threat’s continued assaults.
We see these attacks playing out in the life of Job. This righteous man buried his children, witnessed his livelihood stolen, had his wife turn against him (“Curse God and die!”), and suffered gruesome physical torment. The unmarried Paul, lacking any indirect chinks in his armor, instead weathered relentless assaults against his person and reputation.
If you are not in obvious sin and are being attacked on every side, the devils know your name. Many of the attacks I outlined above may be your daily bread. You are well acquainted with grief.
Don’t even consider giving up. Instead, I tell you, rejoice! For the devils know your name! That means more than you can imagine in a world where most people receive little more than a “Who are you?” brush-off from the forces of hell.
You see, the Devil has a list. Akin to the FBI’s, it’s filled with the names of his Most Wanted. And it’s no coincidence that the names on the Devil’s list are also found in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
16 thoughts on “When the Devils Know Your Name”
Rejoice, indeed! I did a post a month ago called “The Blessing of Suffering.” This is how it started:
What if I told you that there’s a Christian path that makes all the following blessings available to Christians? Would you be interested? Here’s the list:
· Fellowship with Christ
Anybody interested? Would you like to pray for these blessings? Then pray and ask God to grant you the blessing of suffering.
I wrote on suffering recently and came to conclusions that seem the negation of what you wrote above:
Lessons from Suffering
I must be the single most dense person on the planet, but the lessons I’ve learned from suffering are easily learned once and never seem to be all that deep.
I’m speaking honestly when I say that I have not derived much wisdom from suffering. Too much of suffering is random and nonsensical. The only wisdom that can come from it is that it usually makes no sense.
I don’t believe that suffering has made me a better Christian. On the contrary, in many ways I think it has detracted from my spiritual life. I am not stronger for it anymore than a person with scab that gets repeatedly torn off heals better. After a while, the sum total of suffering seems to rob people of strength, and being weary all the time can’t be said to improve anyone’s spiritual health.
I’m not sure how suffering increases obedience. Looking back on life, I’m not sure if those times of obedience to certain leadings I attributed to God were in fact so. I sure suffered for them. That suffering only made me less likely to follow a similar course, not more.
I do believe that suffering may follow obedience and most definitely may prove to be a confirmation. I wouldn’t have written this post if I didn’t believe that. What we do with that, though, is difficult to advise. I know I don’t have the answers and God doesn’t tip His hand too often.
Definitely not sure about establishment. Establishment where? And how? If anything, repeated suffering tears at one’s moorings. I think it is one reason why the apostles continued to encourage people to stand firm. They had to; people were feeling increasing disconnection from the foundation the more suffering they endured. If we’re talking about establishment in a mansion in glory, then I agree with you. But I can’t see it down here.
I feel less perfect than ever after suffering.
Fellowship with Christ is a tricky one. Even as Christ cried out, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” in the midst of His suffering, so I think it feels that way for most people who suffer. God feels distant, not near. In many ways the fellowship of His sufferings is the same kind of camaraderie that is found when veterans gather and share war stories. They’ve all been to war, and while as a group they suffer, each still suffers his own pain alone. It’s a knowing kind of fellowship, a wink that says that yes, you’ve been there, too.
Again, I may be nothing more than a brute beast with an incapacity to learn simple lessons. But Christ came to alleviate suffering. Our perfected lives in glory will be free of suffering. Suffering is an abnormal state. Sometimes it can help make wiser decisions in the future, and sometimes it just is and has nothing to teach us because its basis is in sin and not in the world God intended for us from the beginning.
Wow. Very well said.
How tempting it is to try to tiptoe through life in attempt to avoid attracting demonic attention to ourselves and family but still hoping our love of God will secure our name in His book. The church is full of these people, me included most days.
Flipping channels last night looking for that new Green channel to see what it was about, I found GTV, which I guess stands for God TV. Todd Bentley was on there. Talk about prime example of distract and confuse tactics of the enemy.
Blessings on your journey, Dan.
I can find a million examples of believers in Scripture pleading God to deliver them from suffering, but I’ve never read a single case where the person in question specifically asked for suffering. akaGAGA’s suggestion therefore sounds quite unbiblical.
You want to suffer, simply live your life according to God’s commandments and you will soon be awash in it. The Bible indicates that these experiences are the inevitable consequences of “living godly in Christ Jesus” so there’s certainly no need to go around asking for it. To me that sounds suspiciously Catholic in tone.
I feel less perfect than ever after suffering.
Maybe that’s the whole idea.
Yeah, Lincoln, maybe it is.
Without reproducing the entire post, which can be found here
I’ll answer a couple specifics.
Lincoln: There’s not even a hint of Catholic in my background. In fact, my view of suffering is a relatively new understanding †“ after God added physical suffering to spiritual and emotional. And Philippians 3:8-10 sounds like a prayer to me:
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
“the lessons I’ve learned from suffering are easily learned once and never seem to be all that deep
In retrospect, which I think is the only way we can objectively view suffering, I’ve learned a couple things. One is to never trust my feelings or any other natural response to circumstances, but to take literally everything back to the Word in prayer before I come to any conclusions. To this independently-minded, fleshly person, that was a hard lesson that had to be repeated multiple times before I “got it. Before I reached that place, the following verse seemed more trite than true, because I’d heard it so many times.
(Isaiah 55:8-9) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
This might also answer your comment that “Too much of suffering is random and nonsensical. Nothing from God is nonsensical or random.
Another major lesson I learned is that suffering as a Christian IS a blessing
(Philippians 1:29) For to you it has been granted [to show favor, to give freely, to bestow] for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
and it’s why we’ve been called:
(1 Peter 2:20-21) For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,
Before I really understood this, I spent immense amounts of energy trying to avoid or escape or change circumstances that God had designed for my benefit, and/or the benefit of others. It colored my entire outlook. Real acceptance of suffering, in contrast to my typical American “can-do attitude, frees my energies to be directed to God’s purposes, and not my own. More importantly, it’s much easier to stay in the will of God.
This might not work perfectly, but picture telling your son that he has to have his tonsils removed. You carefully explain hospital procedures and anesthesia. You tell him the doctor will use a sharp knife and he’ll be sore and won’t be able to eat his favorite foods for a while. This will all seem scary to him, and he won’t understand why you want him to suffer. So the issue becomes: does he trust you? The more he trusts you, the less he will fight you.
I hope this clarifies some of my thinking. For the rest, I’ll just share some of my references.
Wisdom and Knowledge: Ecclesiastes 1:18 Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
Obedience: Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.
Glorification: Romans 8:16-18 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Perfection, Confirmation, Strength, Establishment: 1 Peter 5:8-10 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
A few clarifications:
I believe that suffering because we live in a sinful world and suffering on account of the Gospel are not necessarily the same thing. The OT definitely portrays suffering in a negative light. Christ also came to alleviate suffering because of sin. Therefore, when I read about suffering in the NT, especially as it is portrayed in a somewhat positive light, I read it as suffering for the Gospel. I believe that suffering for the Gospel embodies all the qualities you mention and is a mark of one’s progress in the faith.
When I say what I said previously about suffering, I’m talking about suffering because of sin.
While the two may be hard to discern at at times (because the Enemy is going to attack growing Christians through the means of a fallen world), I believe that they ARE distinct. We need to make that distinction then. Like I said in the post I linked previously, if you are being attacked with a tire iron, there is a big difference if it is because the person you are witnessing to hates Christ or because you screamed at your car mechanic for the lousy way he balanced your tires and he decided to take it out on you.
@akaGAGA: The reason I mentioned Catholic was because your comment reminded me of the practice of self flagellation, Catholics who purposely hurt themselves to mimic the suffering of Christ.
There’s no instance where men of God specifically asked for suffering, though there are some where they ask for grace so they can endure the trials these periods of suffering bring.
There are many reasons why we experience afflictions. Some may be borne out of sin, some to purify and test how authentic our faith really is, and some to serve a larger purpose that may involve a multitude of souls.
One of the most curious, and overlooked, passages in the Bible:
I see this act of God “leaving” Hezekiah to be akin to a father letting go of the seat of his son as the son attempt to learn how to ride a bike. He’s “not there,” but he is.
We don’t hear too much about that idea. In fact, I may write on it.
Oooo. Dan I believe God directed me to this story about Hezekiah a few weeks back when you were posting about ‘ahem’ cough Lakeland. 😉
I have been meditating on the life of Hezekiah & in particular the verse where God leaves him for a time to see what is in his heart…. remind us of anyone.. .Job… I used it a little in a message about repentance & seeking God’s heart & will for our lives…I’m still developing it….
This is a great post & one we here are all too familiar with at the moment.
A friend gave me the novel ‘Veritas’ (about the spiritual battle) for some light reading yesterday, well, it’s no amazing theological work, but it got me attention & I’ve been praying harder ever since.
I’m not going to beat a dead horse, but I’m curious. You’ ve said
“Christ came to alleviate suffering”
Can you point me at the scripture this is based on?
Jesus begins his public ministry by reading about His mission to alleviate suffering:
Countless healings, countless exorcisms, countless people freed from sin, countless lives changed from sorrowful to joyful…if that’s not the alleviation from suffering, I don’t know what is. Christ’s entire public ministry was the alleviation of suffering. Consider also this passage:
The Devil brings suffering. Christ destroys the Enemy’s work, again alleviating suffering.
You just integrated two major topics in one – the devil and suffering..
For more than twenty years, I ve been battered by these..vile things; and it is one long way of learning.
It takes a long time before you realize, that actually something else is inside you, and telling and showing you things – a wide range of thoughts, varying from negative joy till outspoken vile and terribly shameful thougts – mainly directed to Him.
After that, when you realize that you can t get it out yourself, you go into the cirkus of asking different kinds of ‘believers ‘ with different kinds of ‘methods ‘.
..but once you realize, that ‘It ‘ can ‘see ‘ already if such a believer truely knows Him – or just ‘believes in his OWN faith – and like a razorblade opens any armor of that believer in front of you,
you start to withdraw in yourself –
or better, in yourself, towards Him.
– years later,
by His Grace,
He can come to you PERSONALLY,
– and just speak one word, to ‘it’,
not shouting ( like all the éxorcists ‘ think they have to,
but with such intrensic authority, that is immesureable,
– and ‘it ‘ obeys, before He ended the words
– not one ‘it ‘; several,
and different ‘categories ‘.
I tell this, because your topic above is true. The devil won t attack an empty vessel.
– but I feel, what you describe, are the attacks to those who seriously search to be like He wishes so much, we’d be.
– with other words: what you describe, is the shadow of the devil, and the means he uses, trying to obstruct His’people from coming to the point of their ‘regenerated, Spiritfilled life..
– once REACHED, he will undoubtely be no shadow no more, but, because of the new eyesight, be as real as He will be
if you ask me, but He is bigger anyway – yes, ofcourse, but still the devil is in my eyes hundred times more big than ME –
and the only thing, I m worried about, are cracks in my armor
..because the slightest will be enough
Even He supersedes in power with a faktor 1000
-I m sorry.
Now comes in the suffering;
the real reason of suffering is, appereantly, and as I understood it, to free the soul from my ‘Me ‘.
What I d like to call ‘me ‘ is just a mixup of situation, personal record of mistakes or joys, some charactersides I inherited, and the result of a good lunch this afternoon.
– with other words: I have no clue, who I am.
I think I know, but I don’t.
..He knows, though.
just I don’t.
with suffering, with the blocking of the capabilities of the ‘me ‘, it is His goal to get the soul ALONE with Him.
..He does not hate the soul, but hates the self-sufficient and proud ‘Me ‘.
and the ‘me ‘will NEVER surrender.
..only after long, hard periods of suffering – it doesn’t matter WHAT kind of suffering;
but be sure that He knows the exact kind and time for it, to can weaken your soul from your ‘me ‘
once, – and it is the most hardest part ever to learn – the soul cannot, with help of the ‘me ‘ , defend herself no longer,
and realizes, it HAS no own power
to virtually nothing,
– but to believe, that He HAS –
slowly, He will give back your.. ‘faculties ‘ to your soul,
and every faculty will be His’,
and even on His time He choose which faculty He uses:
and ‘you ‘ only have to repeat what He just told your soul
I feel strongly,
that only when He speaks to your soul,
you can speak those words to others;
and there will be fruit –
because ‘my ‘ words only reach another’s mind,
but His’ another’s heart
– sorry it was a large piece