We know from Scripture that storms and great trials come to all who have truly given everything to Christ: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19). Moreover, as you hunger after the Lord — if you are determined to seek him with your whole heart, setting your mind and soul to obey his Word — you will continually be a target of the devil’s envy.
The most trying of all spiritual battles takes place in the mind of the believer. Many Christians battle thoughts that are oppressive, fearful, unlike Christ. They battle memories of past failures and end up feeling unworthy of fellowship or God’s blessings. There aren’t always answers for all the reasons believers suffer, but one thing is certain. Satan is always behind it.
The devil wants to rob God’s saints of their rest, their intimacy, their hope of paradise with the Lord — in short, all the things he lost when he was cast out of heaven. The moment you made a decision to be totally devoted to Jesus, and God’s concerns became your concerns, you became a target of Satan’s wrath.
Even though your faith might be weak right now, Satan will not let up on you. He is determined not to allow any chance for the Holy Spirit to rekindle that flame in you. For this reason, Paul warns us not to be ignorant of the devil’s wiles: “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). If we ignore the enemy’s tactics, we may allow him to gain a foothold, or advantage, over us.
Paul writes, “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (11:14-15). Paul’s warning here is crystal clear: Satan uses ungodly people as messengers of his wrath and envy. And, according to the apostle, these people have infiltrated the church. Have you ever met such people?
The fact is, we’re all going to be in a fight until we die or Jesus comes back to earth. We may be given seasons of calm, but as long as we’re on earth, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. But we have been given weapons that are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We have been equipped with weapons that Satan cannot withstand: prayer, fasting and faith. Hallelujah!
In Psalm 21, David wrote, in essence: “Lord, you pour out blessings and lovingkindness on me before I can even ask. And you offer more than I could ever conceive of asking.”
David is referring to some awesome work that God performed for him in the spiritual realm. It is something that gave David victory over his enemies, answers to prayer, overcoming power, and unspeakable joy. And God did it all before David could even go to prayer, unburden his heart or present his request. Once David finally did pour out his heart, he discovered that God had already made provision to defeat his enemies. David’s victory was assured before he could even get near the battlefield.
Indeed, when David wrote Psalm 21, he was speaking of a literal battle. This psalm is a companion chapter to Psalm 20, both referring to a battle described in 2 Samuel 10 where Israel’s enemy, the Ammonites, had hired Syrian battalions to wage war against David. David’s military leader Joab and a choice army defeated the Syrians soundly in an overwhelming victory, and the enemy fled in fear.
David rejoiced, thinking, “That’s the end of the Syrians. Our army dealt them a death blow.” He wrote, “I have wounded them, so that they could not rise; they have fallen under my feet” (Psalm 18:38). Yet, the enemy regrouped and began plotting yet another attack (see 2 Samuel 10:15).
Of course, this story is about more than David’s troubles with the Syrians. It is also about followers of Christ today and our battle with Satan. It’s about a battle we thought we had won long ago —at a time when we thought, “I’ve finally won the victory.”
God gives us the story of David and the Syrians to reveal to us a crucial lesson. Every victory we win over the flesh and the devil will be followed by an even greater temptation and attack. Satan simply will not give up in his war against God’s people. Once we defeat him, he will redouble his forces and come right back at us.
David made this statement of faith just before going to war: “You set a crown of pure gold upon [my] head” (Psalm 21:3). The crown David mentions here is a symbol of victory and dominion. David was saying, “I’m going to war riding on God’s promise to me — a crown of victory!”
Receive the Lord’s promise to you today. He tells us, “This work is accomplished only by faith in the finished work of the cross. It has already been accomplished by me so accept it by faith.”
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:9-10).
Right now, the world is in frightening disorder. God warns his faithful ones so that when sudden disaster strikes, they are not swept away with fear. God’s people must know that whatever happens, it is not an accident or a random act. They are to have the peace of Christ in their hearts, knowing that God is still master of the universe. In this way, they will have been warned and they won’t panic when other men’s hearts fail them for fear.
Many Christians might cringe when they read the message Peter delivers, and inside they might wonder, “Why do we have to be reminded of this? There’s so much bad news and stress already.”
Peter went on to say, “Since you know this beforehand, beware [be on your guard] lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:17-18).
Paul also preached: “Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).
Considering these two apostles’ messages, what might we expect the word to be for a society about to be judged in our time? We find that word coming from Paul and it is directed to Christ’s beloved: “My prayer for you is that you pursue intimacy, grow in spiritual understanding, and walk worthy of Christ” (Colossians 1:9-10, paraphrase).
What is required for such a pleasing walk? Paul tells us: “As the chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another, whoever has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you forgive” (see Colossians 3:12-13).
Examining your walk with Christ means looking not so much at what you are doing but rather at what you are becoming. Peter and Paul are both saying, “Don’t fear what is ahead. Keep God’s Word in remembrance at all times, through all things. And meanwhile, let the Holy Spirit make you into a different, more Christlike person.”
Several years ago, I suffered a devastating injury to my back in a car wreck and, as a result, my family and I needed a special kind of care. Because I was completely incapacitated for a time, our household experienced hardships that were new. Normal household duties that seemed minor when I was able to do them now felt overwhelming.
God showed a special favor on our family when he provided a young couple to step in and go the extra mile for us. They even moved into our home for a while to make our lives easier. Grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundering — mundane duties were performed for us during a difficult season in our lives. What a blessing!
One Israelite who obviously knew God’s favor was the amazing young man anointed to be Israel’s king. From a young age David had everything going for him: he was a mighty warrior whom King Saul wanted by his side in battle. And he was charismatic! When Saul’s armies returned in victory, the crowds cheered David more than they did their king. Not only was he handsome, but he was talented, a musician who wrote songs that God’s people still sing today. Everything he touched seemed blessed by God’s favor.
And then things went wrong in David’s life. At one time he found himself hiding in a cave after fleeing from the king, who had turned against him (see 1 Samuel 22:1-10). And later David and his men returned to their hometown of Ziklag after fighting a hard battle. Exhausted and longing to be with their loved ones, they came upon their hometown filled with smoke arising from ashes. Beside themselves with grief, “David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep” (1 Samuel 30:4).
Predictably, even the other men turned on David and blamed him for what had happened to them. While they were talking of stoning David, he made a crucial decision; instead of giving in to discouragement, he kept his faith and began to seek the Lord. “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God” (30:6).
Beloved, character is formed when things in your life take a downturn. In the difficulties you face, don’t lose hope and give up. Take those opportunities to press into Jesus and allow yourself to be strengthened by his power.
In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus quoted the words of Isaiah 61:1, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (NIV).
Jesus stood in the synagogue, opened the Scripture, and essentially said, “The Spirit of God is upon Me for you, and you, and you, and you …” There was no other reason the Spirit was upon him except to alleviate human suffering and for the redemption of fallen humanity. Jesus’ desire was to bring a fallen people into the knowledge of God and, ultimately, back to living with God for all eternity.
I’ve always believed it is impossible to say that “Christ is mine, and I am Christ’s” yet remain self-absorbed. The apostle Paul, writing in 2 Timothy, warned that perilous times will come. “Men will be lovers of self,” he wrote (2 Timothy 3:2, NASB). That self-love would be the underpinning of everything else he was about to write. Loving ourselves and giving ourselves preeminence in life automatically means that our relationships with others are a form of religion that lacks the power of God. Paul ultimately says turn away from self-serving religion. Any faith based on the life of Jesus Christ within us must be lived for the benefit and the sake of other people.
We can know in large measure the heart of God for people. Mark 8:23-26 records the story of Jesus leading the blind man away from the village of Bethsaida in order to restore his sight, which I think represents leading people away from a culture that confines and even tries to hijack the love of God and give credit to humankind for the things that God does. It’s all about me, myself, and I, with no room left for God.
This blind man’s sight was only partially restored at first. It wasn’t until God touched him the second time that he saw clearly. That’s how it often works in our walk with God. He continues to touch our eyes and our hearts as often as needed until we see clearly and love willingly, sincerely, and genuinely.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.