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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11

SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #7

With the Lord's blessing, let's continue our study of "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices". The author is Thomas Brooks, an English pastor who lived from 1608 to 1680.

The subject is temptation. He begins with a "device"--a trick of Satan. He goes on to give several "remedies"--or advice on how to overcome it.

So far, we've studied six "devices". They are concealment, false advertising, minimizing, the abuse of the Bible, presumption, and flirting with sin. Tonight, we take up another trick the devil uses. Thomas Brooks puts it thusly:

"Satan draws the soul to sin by pointing to the outward mercies that vain men enjoy, and the outward miseries they are freed from, while they walk in the ways of sin".

In other words, Satan will make sinners look happy. This is an old trick, but one that works quite well in every generation. Long ago, a man wrote of his experience:

"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are the plagues like other men...Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish...Behold, these are the ungodly who are always at ease; they increase in riches".

This is Psalm 73, of course. The author is Asaph. You have to admire his candor; he's in earnest with his soul, struggling to overcome the thought that godliness is loss and sin is gain. Where did that thought come from? From the Lord? Or from "the Father of Lies"?

Asaph's temptation is ours, too. We know sinners who seem trouble free and happy as can be. On a bigger scale, the media hold such people up for us to admire. Thus, it won't be easy overcoming this temptation. But by grace, we can. Here are some "remedies" to help us. I pray God will bless them to your soul--and mine--for Christ's sake.

The first "remedy" is this:

Remember, good things are not as good as they seem to be.

The Puritan writes: "They have a glorious outside, but if you view their insides, you will easily find that they fill the head full of cares and the heart full of fears".

Is he right? He is. Let me offer two, common examples. The first is good looks. Most girls and women would like to be better looking. They see fashion models, movie stars, and so on, and wish they looked more like them. Nothing wrong with this, for physical beauty is a blessing. But the blessing is somewhat mixed. Men are attracted to you, of course, but what are they after? You or the ego-boost being seen with a beautiful woman provides them? Great beauty may also scare off good, but ordinary-looking men. It also increases the likelihood of vanity, pride, and fornication. Finally, what happens when you're not so good looking any more? Then what do you have? The years getting by on your good looks might have been spent developing the character and skills needed for a happy and productive life. Is beauty a good thing? It is. But maybe not as good as it seems.

Another example is money. "The blessing of the LORD makes rich" says the Proverb. Yet money also creates problems, too. Your friends, for instance, do they love you or your money? The poor man knows; the rich man is never sure. The may hurt you and others. The Maserati it buys is also the car that hits the embankment at 140 mph. The idleness it buys may become the "devil's workshop". What about your children? Growing up with money makes it hard to learn work, thrift, foresight, and other virtues. And then money, like good looks, may be lost. Then what will you do? Can you readjust? Is money a good thing? It is. But maybe not as good as it seems.

When Satan tempts you to look at everything the ungodly have, remind him that a care goes with every last one of them. Good things are not as good as they seem to be.

A second "remedy" is

Remember, what the wicked lack is far greater than what they have.

Some sinners "have it all". They live long and healthy lives; they are loved by their families and admired by the world; they have money and good taste; they're handsome and dignified and successful and powerful--you name it.

These are marvelous things to have. But the list is not complete, is it? Do the wicked have the forgiveness of sin? Do they have clear consciences? Do they have the indwelling Holy Spirit? Do they have a hope of heaven? No they don't! Therefore, what the wicked lack is much greater than what they have. In quantity. In quality. In durability.

No sinner can say, "I have an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for me". Therefore, he doesn't "have it all". Remind Satan of that.

The third "remedy" is to

Remember, the more one has, the more responsible he is to use it for God's glory.

"To whom much is given, much will be required". If God has given you a wife and three children, you have plenty to answer for. But what if He'd made you a king, ruling over millions of subjects? Everyone would like the crown, the palaces, and the fame royalty affords, but would you want the responsibility it demands? Yet, you cannot have one without the other!

On a smaller scale, this is what more money, better health, a longer life, a smarter mind, and so on, require. I once heard a pastor whining about how small his church was! And how he wished he could preach to thousands. I thought, but didn't say, "On the Day of Judgment, you'll wish you had fewer souls to account for!"

A man once came to John Newton begging for prayer. His problem was financial. Newton asked what he had lost--his job, his home, and so on. "Oh no, Mr, Newton, he replied, "I have come into a large inheritance". He was afraid this blessing of God would be turned into a curse. For him, I doubt it was; but for many others, it has.

So, when Satan whispers, "Look at his money...", you reply, "Yes, and responsibility that goes along with it".

The fourth "remedy" is

Favors received without thanksgiving provoke God to wrath.

The more you have, the harder it is to be thankful. When you get accustomed to having things, you forget they're not yours by right, but by grace.

Nothing is more displeasing to God than this! The LORD warned Israel of this danger; when they grew rich in the land, they would forget who gave it to them, and bring down terrible judgments (see Deuteronomy 8). The sin of Sodom--everyone knows what it was! Or do they? According to Ezekiel 16:49, it was "pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness". The riches it had were from God, but the people did not thank Him, and God rained fire from heaven to teach them--and us--a lesson in gratitude.

The fifth "remedy" is also the hardest to take. It is

A trouble-free life is a bad life.

When Satan says, "Look at the wicked: they have no problems!" what does it imply? It implies "having no problems" is a good thing. Is that so?

Thomas Brooks doesn't think so. He wrote: "There is no greater misery in this life than to not be in misery; no greater affliction than to not be afflicted. Woe, woe to that soul that God will not spend a rod upon! This is the saddest stroke of all, when God will not strike! When the physician gives up the patient, you say, `Ring the church bell', for the man is dead. So when God gives up a soul to sin, you may truly say, `The soul is lost'. You may ring the church bell, for he is twice dead. Nothing seems more unhappy to me than he to whom no adversity has happened".

These are strong and sobering words. Are they right words, too? The Bible says they are. "Whom the Lord loves, He chastens and scourges every son He receives. Now, if you are without chastisement, of which all are made partakers, then you are bastards and not sons" (Hebrews 12:6-7).

This is true of backsliders like Samson and David. It's also true of men who haven't fallen away from God, men like Job and Paul.

Alexander Solzhenytsyn thanked God for the Soviet work camp, for in it he learned man's end in life is not the comfort of his body, but the development of his soul.

When Satan tells you: "The wicked have no problems", you tell him, "That's because God doesn't love them as much as He loves me".

The last "remedy" is not from Brooks, but I think it ought to be said,

Remember what you have.

Satan will point out what others have--how much the wicked have and how few problems to go with it. This is not true, of course, but even if it were, you could reply, "Yes, they have a lot, but I have more!".

The poorest Christian in the world, the sickest, the oldest, the dullest, with the worst family and in the most dangerous neighborhood has everything because he has the Lord Jesus. This is the final solution to the envy that wicked people may provoke in us. It was Asaph's answer. After cataloguing all they had, he ends the Psalm with these immortal words:

"Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire but You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the LORD God, That I may declare all Your works."

That's the answer: You needn't envy the wicked because it is you--and not they--who have it all. "All things are yours--wrote the Apostle--and you are Christ's".

God give us this perspective; the Lord keep us from Satan's devices. Amen.

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