September 4 I Sunday
1 Corinthians 14:21-40
“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” —1 Peter 5:8-9
What could Satan do? Peter tells us, “The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul also says, “[Satan] has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26). While there are a whole range of things that Satan does, we can sum up his ultimate purpose as anything that destroys our dependence and trust in God.
Despite Satan’s abominable mission, we could find comfort in the fact that he is not a free agent allowed to do whatever he wants. God sets the limitations and Satan can only operate within those boundaries. In other words, Satan needs permission in order to attack.
In Jesus’s temptation account, for example, Matthew tells us, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). When we ask who was in charge of this operation, we find that it was the Spirit who exposed Jesus to Satan’s temptation. From the devil’s point of view, when the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness it was a temptation. But from God’s point of view, it was a testing. As a result of those testings, Luke writes, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14). Jesus was tested as a man—though He was never less than God—He lived as a real man and was tested in the wilderness. Jesus returned victoriously from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, where He then began to perform miracles and do other work because He resisted the devil’s temptation.
Satan can only touch us with the permission of God, which may sound encouraging, while at the same time discouraging, because God does give permission. Nonetheless, God has a purpose for our testings to accomplish something—just as He did with Jesus. It is one thing to be led by the Spirit, but to know the power of the Spirit, God will test and stretch us until we have been refined, where His power and glory may be displayed in us.
Even when Satan attacks us, God uses this testing to mould and shape us in a much richer way. James reassures us when we face testings, “because [we] know that the testing of [our] faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that [we] may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). God has a purpose for everything we go through. May we stand firm in times of testing, knowing that God is using it to refine and empower us in Him.
Prayer: Lord God, thank You for the assurance that my testing is a way for You to mold me into Your likeness. By Your Spirit and power, help me to emerge successfully from these testings. Amen!