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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #8
Seeking God's blessing, let's continue our study of "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices". The author is Thomas Brook, a Puritan who died in 1680. His aim is to expose the work of Satan, and to help us overcome his evil ways.
Thus far, we've looked at seven "devices"; tonight we take up another. What is it? To quote Brooks,
"Satan draws the soul to sin by presenting the crosses, the losses, reproaches, sorrows, and sufferings that daily attend those who walk in the ways of holiness".
In other words, the devil who makes the ways of ungodliness look so happy can also make the Christian life look unhappy.
Like every plausible lie, there is some truth in this. The believer's life is not trouble-free; there are special problems attached to following Jesus Christ. Our Lord compared it to "taking up a cross"--and that's no fun! Paul said we are chosen to "suffer for His sake". And not just "special believers" (like himself), but "all who live godly in Christ Jesus". One reason "the narrow way" is so rarely taken is because it's so much harder to travel that "the broad way that leads to destruction". And so, let's give the devil his due. There are "crosses, losses, reproaches, sorrows, and sufferings in the ways of holiness".
How do we answer Satan's "device"? The author has a few "remedies", which I have re-worded a bit, and added one or two of my own. I pray they will bless your soul and mine.
"The sufferings of this life are short and superficial".
These words run counter to my experience; and to yours too. Time slows down when you're in pain. And pain seems much more intense than pleasure. The sufferings of this life are real and seem to go on and on. "Why put up with them?--Satan wants to know--"Why not drop Christ and be rid of them?"
Here's why: Life is more than the seventy years you live on earth. Unlike dogs and cats, we have "eternity in our hearts". In light of this, Paul speaks of his own life--so full of pain and loss--as "A light affliction [that lasts] for a moment" (II Corinthians 4:17).
Have you ever had a shooting pain in your chest? What do you do about it? Panic? Call the paramedics? Draw up a will? Of course not. You say "ouch" and it's over. Is the pain real? It is. Does it hurt? It does. But you don't worry because it the pain is short and superficial.
So are the "crosses, losses, reproaches, and sorrows" of this life. They're real; they're painful. But they don't last forever. When Satan tells you to quit the Lord and be rid of them, remind him of this: "The world (with all its tears and agonies) is passing away, but he who does the will of God abides forever".
The devil's favorite disorder is myopia or near-sightedness. "Think only of today" he urges us. But God says otherwise:
"O that they were wise; that they understood this: That they might consider their latter end".
If we would think long-term, Satan's power would be largely broken.
A second "remedy" is this:
"The sufferings of this life are the result of God's dearest love".
Revelation 3:19: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten". Hebrews 12:6: "Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives".
Satan will say otherwise; he'll use the problems of life to prove God doesn't care or doesn't love or can't do anything for you. But his is the argument of a spoiled brat! "You hate me because you don't let me eat candy for breakfast!" Or, "You don't care for me--you make me go to school!" Every parent knows the opposite is true. Giving a child everything he wants--and nothing he doesn't want--is to doom the poor kid. If we trust our wisdom over the children's, why can't we trust God's wisdom over our own?
It is not easy to think this way. But think this way, we must, if we're to see through "Satan's devices".
Let me illustrate: A brother once called me with a lost list of woes. His wife, his children, his job, his church, his neighbors--everything! After hearing him out, I was at a loss of what to say. And so, I said this: "Wow! God must really love you!" That didn't solve his problems, of course, but it gave him a new way to think about them. God's Word--not I--gave him a patience to carry on and a hope of seeing his problems through.
The next time Satan tells you how rotten your life is, remind him, "That's because God loves me". He hasn't "afflicted willingly, but for my good".
The third "remedy" is
"The sufferings of life do us good".
The love of God designs our suffering; His power makes it good for us. We learn things on the sickbed we cannot learn elsewhere. We find things in the poorhouse nobody in the palace ever looked for.
Gaspar Olevianus was a German Divine of the 16th Century. During a long illness, he said:
"In this disease I have learned how great God is, and what the evil of sin is; I never knew to purpose what God was before, nor what sin meant till now".
His books didn't teach him these things; neither did his learned colleagues; nor the musings of healthy and prosperous years. It was suffering that taught him the things he most needed to know: How great God is and how terrible is sin.
Was he alone? He wasn't. David wrote, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes...Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I have kept Your word".
Was Samson ever mightier than when he was shorn of his great power and resorted to prayer? When did Job learn that the great "pity" of God? "In the end". What made Paul, the brilliant Rabbi into the humble preacher of Christ? "A thorn in the flesh".
In this life, chastening produces "the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby". But what of the life to come? Do they, in any way, contribute to its joy? Yes they do. How? I can't say. But some verses say they do. We must believe even when we can't understand. For example:
"This light affliction which is for a moment is working in us an eternal weight of glory" (II Corinthians 4:17).
"If we suffer [with Him], we shall also reign" (II Timothy 2:12).
"That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable to His death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).
Under the blessing of God, pain makes us better off in this life--and the next. Tell Satan that the next time he tells you how hurtful it is to follow Christ.
A fourth "remedy" is to
Remember that the wicked suffer too, and that their suffering is much greater than ours".
Pain is universal. "He that is born of woman is few of days and full of trouble". Everyone gets sick; everyone grows old; everyone dies. But not everyone "suffers as a Christian".
Unbelievers have special problems of their own. Satan doesn't mention these, of course. He doesn't say, "You have a cross to bear, but my people have bad consciences, heavy guilt, a fear of death, and no hope beyond the grave".
But whether he says them or not, these things are true. Do we have a cross to bear? Yes we do, but it's not a cross of guilt or shame or damnation. "There is no peace--says my God--for the wicked". The peace they have is delusion, which only makes their ruin more certain.
How terrible the words are--lost, perishing, blind, hopeless, dead, condemned. Yet every one is applied to the wicked. The prophet's cry is not pleasant to hear
"The harvest is past,
The summer is ended;
And we are not saved".
The next time Satan makes your life seem so bad, ask him, "Compared to what?" To the lost? God help us to think clearly.
Finally, if you're to overcome Satan's evil ways, just
"Remember your pains do not compare to your pleasures in this life or the next".
The believer's life is a happy one now! And, unlike the wicked, his happiness does not depend on circumstances or the release of chemicals in the brain. No, our joy stems from seeing God "in the face of Jesus Christ". How blessed we are to have Him! And with Him, "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places".
If your life is without aim, let me give you one: Live in such a way as to prove that knowing Christ makes you the happiest person in the world! If you should do that, you would live a very good life, indeed. And a happy one, too.
Don't you hate those phony Christians who paint on a smile in the morning and wear it all day long? They're just too upbeat to be real! Is anything worse than this? Only one thing: the believer who doesn't rejoice in the Lord Jesus; the Christian who does Satan's work by making God's life so awful. God save us!
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