Why Satan Stalks People and How You Can Stay Safe (Pt 2)

Daily Devotion | Day 310

“And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’ So Satan answered the LORD and said, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it’” (Job 1:7, NKJV).

Yesterday, we talked about satan’s stalking endeavors and why he does what he does. We will conclude the message today by looking at how you can stay safe and not become the devil’s prey. To do this, we will briefly examine examples from the lives of Job and Peter. Today’s opening Scripture confirms what we read yesterday from 1 Peter 5:8. Satan, by his own admission, goes to and fro on the earth, and walks back and forth on it. Interestingly, the author of the Book of Job did not tell us why satan roams the earth. But Peter did. Satan’s purpose for roaming the earth is to find someone to devour.

In the Book of Job we learn that satan attacked Job twice (Job 1:6-22; 2:1-10). The enemy had stalked and scouted him. As a result, he knew details about Job’s life (Job 1:8-10). Unfortunately for him, he could not enslave Job as he had other people. Desperate and frustrated, he sought God’s permission to launch an assault on Job in hopes of getting him to abandon his faith in God. But he failed. Job maintained his integrity and emerged victorious. He proved to be a man of faith, faithful to God in happy times and in difficult times. The lesson here is the following:

 You can’t stop satan from roaming around or from looking into your affairs. But you can stop him from defeating you. And you do this through a life of faith (faithfulness). Faith repels the devil. This is what Peter meant when he said, “Resist him [satan]steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9; see also James 4:7 and Ephesians 6:16). John confirms this when he writes, “And this is the victory which has overcome the world – our faith” (1 John 5:4). Victory over the world is tantamount to victory over satan. To overcome the devil, you need to adopt a posture of resistance. This posture is the posture of faith.

The next example is from the life of Peter. This man knows a thing or two about being targeted by satan. Satan knew how close Peter was to Jesus. More importantly, he knew that Jesus had chosen Peter for a position of influence in His Church (Matthew 16:16-19). Finding a vulnerability in Peter, he prompted him to dissuade Jesus from going to Calvary (Matthew 16:21-22). Jesus’ response was timely and revealing: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).

Satan was not done with Peter, yet. He had a more sinister plan in store for him. But for the intervention of Jesus, he would have thoroughly shattered Peter’s faith. Unfortunately for Peter, he had no clue about what was happening behind the scenes. Thankfully, the Lord revealed it to him and cautioned him, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

The lesson here is this:

Prayer destroys the devil’s plans against us. At the same time, it gives us strength to stand and endure. In this instance, it was Jesus’ prayer of intercession which saved Peter. This means your prayer can save someone from satan’s evil schemes. If this is true (and it is), then it is equally true that your prayer can save your own life, too. I pray that one of these days, God would open your eyes to see the positive influence your prayer has on others and on you.

To sum up: Combine faith and prayer to keep satan from messing up your life or the lives of those you love. You have the advantage. Use it, and stay safe.

For further studyEphesians 6:10-20 and Psalm 121:1-8

Prayer Barriers: Unforgiveness

Daily Devotion | Day 294

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26, NKJV).

Yesterday, we dealt with Mark 11:24. Today, we’ll look at the next two verses because what Jesus said in verses 25-26 is related to His preceding teaching on prayer (verses 20-24). God willing, in the next few days (starting today), we will identify what can be called “prayer barriers.” The Bible talks about things that can block our prayer from being answered. Our purpose is to identify these things and learn how to overcome them. Many Christians get frustrated or even give up because they never seem to make a headway when they pray for something. 

 Before we continue, let’s make one thing clear: When our prayer is not answered, it does not always mean that we did something wrong. At times, God will choose not to do what we’re asking for different reasons, for example, to protect us from (greater) danger. A case in point is found in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. This is an exception, but it’s important to keep it in mind. That said, before you assume that your situation is similar to Paul’s situation, first make sure you’ve rule out all other possibilities. What we’re going to study in the next few days is intended to help us do just that. The first prayer barrier on our list is unforgiveness. Take another look at today’s passage.

Jesus says, “whenever you stand prayingif you have anything against anyone, forgive him.” If you forgive, the Father also will forgive you. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you. This is Jesus’ teaching, not mine. You will come across Christians (including pastors, evangelists and theologians) who will try to spin what Jesus said to make it mean something other than what He said. Please be careful. Anyone who tries to diminish (or trivialize) the force of what Jesus said is not helping you. If there’s one person whose words you must take seriously, it is Jesus.

Forgiveness is dear to the heart of Jesus and the Father. If you remain in a state of unforgiveness, you’re not in fellowship with Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit. Some mistakenly assume that because they’re born again (justified, forgiven and sanctified), God’s forgiveness will remain regardless of how they treat others. Nothing could be further from the truth (Please read “For further study” at the end of today’s message). Jesus was not joking or lying when He spoke those words about unforgiveness.

If the Father refuses to forgive those who will not forgive, it means He does not answer their prayer. In other words, unforgiveness blocks prayer from being answered. Fortunately, Jesus has revealed to us what we need to do. He says, when we stand in prayer, if we have anything against anyone, we should forgive the person. This means when you begin to pray, take a moment to examine yourself.

If you know in your heart that you have something against this person or that person, pray for them. Open your heart to God about it. Don’t suppress your feelings about it. God knows about it, so there’s no point pretending you don’t feel anything. If you feel pain or grief, don’t block the feeling. Let it surface while you’re still in God’s presence. If it makes you cry, so be it. God loves it when you’re transparent with Him. While in His presence, tell Him you forgive those who have offended you (I recommend you mention their names, so it feels personal and real). Then, ask the Father to forgive them and bless them.

When you’re done, continue with whatever you want to say in prayer. Satan will give you all the reasons why you shouldn’t (or can’t) forgive. Don’t listen to him. Just do what you know pleases your Father, even if your emotions are pulling you in the opposite direction. If you’re tempted a hundred times to hold something against those you’ve already forgiven, reiterate your forgiveness a hundred times. Love will prevail.

Now that you have identified unforgiveness as a prayer-barrier, eliminate it with the power of love. You can do all things through the Father who strengthens you. Amen.

For further studyMatthew 18:21-35

Conditions of Love and Fellowship

Daily Devotion | Day 277

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given me, for they are yours” (John 17:9, NKJV).

Love is conditional. I know. We don’t like to think of love as conditional. But let’s face it. Love is discriminatory by nature. All love is not the same. If it were, love wouldn’t be real. If anyone tells you he/she loves you unconditionally, perhaps they mean well, but you will do yourself a favor by not taking it literally. Love has conditions. And, it’s not a bad thing.

The love you have for your friends is not the same love you have for your spouse. If it’s the same, there’s a problem. Sacrifices you will make for your spouse will not be the same sacrifices you will make for your boss. The love you will show for your parents is not the same love you will show for your pets (hopefully!). Even among your children, it is possible you love one child more than the others (You may not admit it, for obvious reasons, but it’s there, and you know it).

Love differs in degree and intensity depending on the object of love. Love for God is not on the same level as love for your pastor, for example. Love for God leads to worship, but your love for people should not lead you to worship them. You can’t love your enemies the same way you love your friends. There’s a kind of love that is available only to those with whom you have fellowship. You can love everyone, but you can’t love everyone the same way and to the same degree. For love to be love, it must be conditional.

Jesus is no different. His love is available to all, but He does not love everyone the same way. He loves some people more than others. For example, His love for the Church (His bride) comes ahead of His love for everyone else. In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus is praying to the Father. He says, “I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” Here, He is exercising conditional love. He is not saying He hates the world. He is merely stating that His intercession is for those who believe in Him, including those who will believe in the future (John 17:20).

Of course, in Isaiah 53:12, we’re told that Jesus interceded for transgressors as part of His redemptive sacrifice. Yet, at the right hand of God, He represents and intercedes for His saints – those who belong to Him and love Him (Romans 8:33-39; Hebrews 7:23-25). 

Love is a two-way affair. You can love in the general sense by extending kindness to all, including those who hate you (Matthew 5:43-44). But in the concrete sense, love must be mutual and reciprocal. This is the kind of love God wants from His people. It is also why He reserves special love, attention and blessings for those who love Him.

For example, “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). For those who don’t love God, this blessing doesn’t apply. Listen to Jesus: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).

Even God’s forgiveness is conditional. If it were not, everyone in the world would have a blanket forgiveness leading to automatic universal salvation: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

It takes two to be in love. Jesus loves us; but to benefit from His love, we need to reciprocate.

BlessingMay grace, peace and love be multiplied unto you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyRomans 9:1-26 and Psalm 91:1-16

What to Do When God Seems ‘Asleep’

Daily Devotion | Day 275

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:37-38, NKJV).

The Apostles had had enough. The storm wouldn’t cease. Initially, they probably tried to let out as much water as they could. At first, they didn’t want to bother the Master who was taking a nap. But all their maneuvering proved futile. The storm only grew fierce. Now their boat was filling up with water. They knew what that meant: The end was near.

But wait, there was one more thing. During this whole time the Teacher (Jesus) was asleep. The noise from the storm didn’t seem to disturb His sleep. The Gospel writer added an important detail. Jesus wasn’t just sleeping. He was comfortably resting on a pillow – in the middle of the storm.

When all their efforts failed, the Apostles turned to the sleeping Teacher. They awoke Him and poured their frustration on Him: “Teacher,” they said, “do You not care that we are perishing?” A Friend who sleeps during your period of crisis certainly doesn’t appear to be the caring type.

Up to this time, the Apostles had confidence in their Master. He was there when they needed Him. But today is different. Today, the Master sleeps when they need Him the most. This was the one day they doubted that their beloved Teacher cared: “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

All crisis is not the same. Some are more severe than others. Some problems you can easily manage and ultimately overcome. But there are times when problems come at you with the intensity of the waves of the sea, and you can feel overwhelmed. In these moments, you hope you can use some divine intervention. But all you hear from heaven is silence. It feels like God is asleep.

Then you begin to wonder if He cares. When this feeling persists long enough, in some people it can reach a tipping point where they begin to wonder: Does God even exist? Perhaps you’ve had your own moments where you wondered if God cares or is who He says He is.

Moments when it seems God is ‘asleep,’ remember (and this may shock you): God doesn’t do everything for you; not because He can’t, but because He has already given you the wisdom, the will and the ability to handle the problem. Your prayer shouldn’t be, “Lord, don’t you care? Please, do something.” Rather, you want to pray, “Lord, I know you care. Show me what I am missing here.” And listen attentively, He will illuminate you about how you ought to proceed. You will marvel at how suddenly you begin to see a clear path and an open door before you.

Take the following example:

One day the Israelites were caught between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army. It was overwhelming. They felt it was a mistake to leave Egypt. They also felt JEHOVAH was not who He said He was. Moses was under immense pressure, so he cried to God. Now listen to what God told him, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it.”

Did you catch that? God wanted Moses to stop crying to Him; not because He didn’t want to help, but because He had given Moses the ability he needed to take care of the problem. God didn’t say, “Wait, I’m going to divide the Red Sea for you.” Rather, He told Moses to go ahead and take care of the problem using his rod.

Understand that God has made you His partner. He has shared His power, wisdom and glory with you. When you feel like He is silent or ‘asleep,’ it doesn’t mean He doesn’t care. It means it’s time for you to act by faith in God’s Name.

BlessingMay your light shine and overcome all powers of darkness in your life. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study2 Kings 2:1-14

Building A Record in Heaven

Daily Devotion|Day 270

“And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ So he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God’” (Acts 10:4, NKJV).

Christianity was still in its early days. Up to this point, the preaching of the Gospel had been limited to Judea and Samaria. But God’s plan was to complete the profile of His Church by bringing in the Gentiles. Jesus had already appointed Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:10-15). But Paul’s work had to wait until Peter had first launched the Gospel to the Gentiles according to the Lord’s design (see Acts 15:6-7). After Peter was done, Paul (according to the Lord’s plan) was to primarily focus on ministry to the Gentiles, while the former (Peter) was to focus primarily on ministry to the Jews (see Galatians 2:7-9).

Among the Gentiles, God chose Cornelius and his household as the gateway to Gentile ministry. Cornelius was a centurion in the Roman army. The Bible says that “he was a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). Today’s opening Scripture tells us what happened when an angel appeared to Cornelius. We are interested in what the angel told Cornelius: “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God.”

Cornelius didn’t know Christ. But he knew God existed, and he served Him to the best of his understanding. He feared God and did what was right, praying to Him and giving alms. When the angel appeared, he disclosed to Cornelius that his prayers and good deeds had risen as a memorial before God. In other words, God had taken note of his deeds and committed to remember them. We can go deeper into the text, but let’s pause here and draw out a lesson for our Christian life.

Nothing you do in life goes unnoticed. Your deeds may be hidden from people, but not from God. Remember what Jesus said, “pray to your Father who is in the secret in place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6). Everything you do or say in life matters. It may not matter to you, but it matters to God. Everything you do, you’re creating a record before God. The question is, “What kind of record are you creating?” God remembered Cornelius for his prayers, his alms and his fear of God. What will God remember you for?

Every minute you’re alive, it is your chance to fear God and do good. God will remember you and reward you in good time. Use your time here on earth wisely. Build a good record for yourself.

BlessingMay the Lord let his peace reign in your family. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further studyJob 1:1-20 and Matthew 6:1-24