“Don’t give the devil so much credit.”
I do not remember the exact details that prompted my friend to say such a thing, but I do recall being a young believer at the time. I was struggling with something that was not going my way. Ever been there? I carelessly blamed my difficulty on the schemes of the devil, which prompted my friend’s gentle correction: “Don’t give the devil so much credit.”
Are All Trials From the Enemy?
It is so easy—even tempting—to assume every trial we face is rooted in the enemy’s schemes. He is delighted, of course, for this focuses our attention onto ourselves and our problems, and away from God. This then provides fertile ground for the enemy to plant seeds of doubt in our minds as to God’s goodness, power, or love.
What if we are giving the devil too much credit? Is every struggle we encounter really from the enemy?
I wrestled with these questions, so I did some research. I discovered that in the New Testament, the Greek word translated temptation is peirasmos. It is the same word translated as testing. Even more curious, the word stems from the Greek word peira, which means “an experiment.” Isn’t that comforting?
The word itself is neutral; the interpretation depends on the context. If Satan is attempting to entice a person to sin, it is translated as temptation. However, if God is orchestrating events in order to strengthen a person’s faith, build their character, or serve some other godly purpose, then it is translated as testing.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you …” (1 Peter 4:12 ESV)
God’s Good Purposes
No one wants to suffer trials, but Scripture clearly teaches that there are times when God allows them for His good purposes.
“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, …” (Gen. 50:20 ESV)
While we may not understand why God does everything that He does, He has, in His grace, revealed to us who He is. He is loving, holy, patient, all-knowing, good, and so much more. These are the truths we must cling to whenever we suffer and are tempted to doubt our heavenly Father’s wisdom, goodness, or love.
When we face trials, may we resolve to trust in God’s revelation of Himself, and if we must suffer, to trust God will even empower us to rejoice (even “to boast”) in our suffering. (In Romans 5:1-5, the word translated “rejoice” literally means “to boast.”)
God of Everything
JANUARY 20, 2020
“ … Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’” 1 Kings 20:28b (ESV)
Years ago, I was preparing for a meeting at work. This meeting was different from the ones I had attended in the past when I could just grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable in my seat.
This time, I was leading it.
As a new supervisor, I was especially nervous. Unfortunately, I wasn’t announcing any big raises or longer breaks at this particular meeting. Instead, there were some specific policy changes that needed to be addressed with my team.
I remember praying and asking God to guide me as I formulated a plan. I asked Him to give me the words to say. I also interceded for my team that God would prepare their hearts to receive the changes.
The morning came, and so did the butterflies in my stomach. I whispered another prayer as I walked into the room. With my notes in my shaking hands and a voice to match, I started the meeting. Eventually, the nerves subsided, and the conversation flowed. Thankfully, when it was all said and done, it went better than I could have ever expected.
Later, I told someone how well the meeting turned out. When I mentioned I had prayed for it, this person replied, “I don’t think God really cares about this kind of stuff. He’s got bigger stuff to deal with.”
I just smiled, but my heart knew differently.
In 1 Kings 20, an opposing army was getting ready to fight Israel. Their strategy was simple … “And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, ‘Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they’” (1 Kings 20:23, ESV).
The Syrians had put God in a box and were convinced He would be around for the battles on the hills, but not on the plains.
They were wrong.
“And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Because the Syrians have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,’ therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord”’” (1 Kings 20:28).
Throughout Scripture, we see God was wherever His people needed Him to be.
- When Adam and Eve were hiding in the garden, feeling the shame of their sin, God came to walk with them.
- It may have started with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace, but before long, there was someone else there who appeared to be the “son of the gods” according to the pagan king (Daniel 3:25, ESV).
- The woman at the well was trying to avoid the stares of the community but encountered the Savior instead.
And that hasn’t changed.
“Where could I go from your Spirit? Where could I run and hide from your face? If I go up to heaven, you’re there! If I go down to the realm of the dead, you’re there too! If I fly with wings into the shining dawn, you’re there! If I fly into the radiant sunset, you’re there waiting! Wherever I go, your hand will guide me; your strength will empower me. It’s impossible to disappear from you or to ask the darkness to hide me, for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.” Psalm 139:7-11 (TPT)
No battle is too big. Diagnosis. Marital struggles. Infertility. Prodigal child. Job loss.
No battle is too small. Allergies. Disagreements. Babies who won’t sleep through the night. Work meetings.
He is a God of the hills, the plains and everything in between.
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore associate not with him who talks too freely. – Proverbs 20:19 AMPC
Many attempts have been made to understand why people are so attracted to rumors and gossip. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, one sociologist concluded that rumors multiply “when the demand for news is greater than is the supply provided through institutional channels.”
Rumors begin to circulate when events don’t seem to follow what normally might be expected. They often are inspired “during states of boredom” as rumors “capitalize on minor events, magnifying them into occasions for exciting collective action.”
Rumors are shared most rapidly “among friends, associates, and peers.” Studies have shown that people often can be motivated to start rumors to improve their own positions and that the person who first spreads a rumor can earn perceived prestige.
These may be common patterns in the world, but the Bible warns against these tendencies. Proverbs warns us not to associate “with him who talks too freely” because they aren’t trustworthy; they lack discernment and discretion. We also are warned, “a talebearer reveals secrets.”
Still, many Christians cannot control their words. Because of the rumor mill, many churches, families, businesses, and friendships have been damaged, some beyond repair. The Bible reminds us that our words are a serious matter. Ask God to help prevent you from being a talebearer. Ask Him for discernment and discipline to help you control your words. Don’t start, spread, or even listen to rumors!
Streams in the Desert – January 20
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
Sorrow is better than laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:3).
When sorrow comes under the power of Divine grace, it works out a manifold ministry in our lives. Sorrow reveals unknown depths in the soul, and unknown capabilities of experience and service. Gay, trifling people are always shallow, and never suspect the little meannesses in their nature. Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests. If we had never fallen, or were in a glorified state, then the strong torrents of Divine joy would be the normal force to open up all our souls’ capacities; but in a fallen world, sorrow, with despair taken out of it, is the chosen power to reveal ourselves to ourselves. Hence it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.
Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions. It is sorrow that opens up within us the capacities of the heavenly life, and it is sorrow that makes us willing to launch our capacities on a boundless sea of service for God and our fellows.
We may suppose a class of indolent people living at the base of a great mountain range, who had never ventured to explore the valleys and canyons back in the mountains; and some day, when a great thunderstorm goes careening through the mountains, it turns the hidden glens into echoing trumpets, and reveals the inner recesses of the valley, like the convolutions of a monster shell, and then the dwellers at the foot of the hills are astonished at the labyrinths and unexplored recesses of a region so near by, and yet so little known. So it is with many souls who indolently live on the outer edge of their own natures until great thunderstorms of sorrow reveal hidden depths within that were never hitherto suspected.
God never uses anybody to a large degree, until after He breaks that one all to pieces. Joseph had more sorrow than all the other sons of Jacob, and it led him out into a ministry of bread for all nations. For this reason, the Holy Spirit said of him, “Joseph is a fruitful bough…by a well, whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22). It takes sorrow to widen the soul.
–The Heavenly Life
The dark brown mould’s upturned
By the sharp-pointed plow;
And I’ve a lesson learned.
My life is but a field,
Stretched out beneath God’s sky,
Some harvest rich to yield.
Where grows the golden grain?
Where faith? Where sympathy?
In a furrow cut by pain.
–Maltbie D. Babcock
Every person and every nation must take lessons in God’s school of adversity. “We can say, ‘Blessed is night, for it reveals to us the stars.’ In the same way we can say, ‘Blessed is sorrow, for it reveals God’s comfort.’ The floods washed away home and mill, all the poor man had in the world. But as he stood on the scene of his loss, after the water had subsided, broken-hearted and discouraged, he saw something shining in the bank which the waters had washed bare. ‘It looks like gold,’ he said. It was gold. The flood which bad beggared him made him rich. So it is ofttimes in life.”
–Henry Clay Trumbull