By Mark Altrogge
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. Satan was behind Jobs’ suffering. The enemy can afflict us physically. He tempts us to sin. But his greatest weapons are his fiery darts – his lies about God that he launches against our faith. We are in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness.
Yet sometimes I hear Christians talk as if Satan were all-powerful. “The devil has really been having a field day in my life lately.” “Satan’s really been kicking me around this week.”
When I first became a Christian I thought demons were everywhere. (I’d definitely watched too many episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits). In my early Christian years I spent lots of time rebuking and binding demons of lust, demons of fear, and demons of unbelief, anger, self-pity, and sickness. Pretty much everything bad in life was caused by a demon. I probably rebuked demons of bad coffee.
Then I found out just how limited Satan’s power really is.
He’s powerful, but not all-powerful. He is the god of this world. Unbelievers are significantly under his power, though they don’t realize it. He has blinded their eyes. But once Jesus opens our eyes to his glory and saves us, we come under his ownership. We’re no longer slaves of Satan. We’re new creations in Christ and share his victory over the enemy that he won on the cross.
When Satan afflicts believers he must get permission to do so, even as he did with Job. God determined the parameters of what Satan could do to Job. Each time Satan requested, God said you may do this and this but not this. He could only do what God allowed.
Lots of people seem to think the devil is the equal and opposite of God, like the dark side of The Force. But Satan is a created being. God is infinite. Satan is less than a speck compared to the infinite One.
If anything, Satan might be compared to Michael the Archangel, another created being. A.W. Tozer said we tend to think of created beings in a hierarchy, for example on the bottom are amoebas, then above them garden slugs and above them fish, then dogs. Above dogs are monkeys, then humans, and slightly above them are angels and then slightly above angels is God. But God is infinitely exalted over his creation. The most glorious Seraphim in heaven is closer to a caterpillar in it’s being than it is to God.
Satan is a tool of God, and when he allows him to afflict a believer it’s for God’s glorious purposes – to make that believer rely on Christ, become like Christ and display the power of Christ in him (see Stephen’s post yesterday).
So remember you have an enemy, but fix your gaze on Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.
The painting at the top of this article shows Satan pouring plagues onto Job. It is by William Blake.