Does Satan attack believers today? Is the battle in which we are engaged an actual battle between spiritual forces on a physical battlefield, or is it metaphorical and abstract?
C. S. Lewis portrays a scene in his fictional book, Perelandra, where he is walking to a friend’s house from the train station. During the walk he describes an increasing feeling of panic and fear descending upon him to the point where the shrubs and the dark windows of buildings seem to be filled with all sorts of evil things. He laughs it off. Later when his friend Ransom is conversing with him he mentions the demonic presence around the house. Lewis says, “Surely the battle against principalities and powers is strictly metaphor.” “We’d like to think so, wouldn’t we?” Ransom replies.
It is evident that believers from every demographic are under direct and real attack by Satan and his forces. These forces are definitely real and most definitely active in the world today. I have shuddered at first-hand accounts of believers regarding these attacks and often have wished for the luxury of demoting them to fiction or delusion. They certainly are neither.
In the book of Job, Satan stands before God and asks for Job’s hedge to be lowered; “Just let me at him.” The Lord of all creation allows Satan access, and from that battle comes some of the greatest instruction for believers who suffer Satan’s attack. From Job we understand that Satan uses the elements: he moves men and women, he uses the weather, and, finally, we read these words, “Satan struck Job.” This is hardly a metaphor.
This attack is very real and individuals who have experienced it would tell you that the presence of evil is undeniable. Some have sustained physical injury, some have been overwhelmed with doubt, fear, despair, and sorrow that they describe as a chasm opening before them getting deeper and deeper from which they can see no way out. This is not a clinically diagnosed disorder, but a focused spiritual attack on the life of a believer.
This subject seems bizarre, but our Bible warns us not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Sometimes we may see these attacks occurring against other believers around us, and we may feel like saying, “Why so glum? Come on, get it together! Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get out of the pit you’re in. You’re a Christian. You have all you need.” In this situation, the believer is missing the very thing they need the most: the prayers of believers. We criticize and speculate, but if prayer cover has ceased then things may be dire indeed, and they may sink even further under the storm.
Remember Satan’s Perspective – He believes that he can ruin Christians’ usefulness for Christ and that a Christian can be lost. He believes that people serve God for what they get out of it (as he clearly stated in Job 1:10, “Have You not put a hedge around him?”). He also believes that every Christian has a price, and if the stakes are high enough, they will succumb (in Job 2:4, “Skin for skin. All a man has he will give for his life”). If he thought anything different, the attack would not make sense as described, and his language to God as recorded in Job would be paradoxical. Remember, Satan attacked Christ Himself, indicating that he thought he could bring the very Son of God to compromise and failure.
Remember Satan’s Purpose – He wishes to bring dishonor upon the name of Christ. He can do this by leading Christians into disobedience, by leading them to dishonor God and one another, by distracting them from the great commission of spreading the gospel, or by causing them to lose their confidence and dependence upon Him. In these matters he has been very effective in our day while we have reduced our prayer to a bedtime ritual, often just as our eyes are drooping in sleep.
Remember Satan’s Problems – First, His defeat has been accomplished. The cross of Calvary established once and for all the defeat of sin’s power and consequence for those who trust in the Christ of the cross. The second is the faith of God’s people in the truth of God, their confidence in His Word, and knowledge of it. When confronted by Satan for 40 days and nights during His life here, Christ refuted Satan with only the words of Scripture. Third, the juggernaut which will withstand any attack Satan can level is the power of prayer and simple dependence upon God. We have no concept of what prayer is and what prayer can do. Many of us just “say our prayers” while a scarce few, who we may not know about until we get to heaven, are conducting the real business of prayer.
Dear believer, spend time alone with God. Spend time with others in prayer. Pray with your spouse (yes, both of you pray). Pray with your date (yes, both of you pray). Pray with your family. Pray together in your homes. If you try this it will be difficult at first, but it will become less difficult and you will be amazed at the results. Don’t be ashamed to pray at lunch; you have no idea where that simple testimony could lead. Don’t pray to be seen, but don’t avoid praying.
Read your Bible. Try to get past checklist reading and learn to read for real. Learn how God worked with His people in Scripture and throughout history. Learn the spirit of God’s people when they were most useful and most effective for Him. Model that spirit in your prayers and in your life. When in trial, read about those who went through the same kind of trial and how they handled it, and how they defeated it.
Trust God. He is faithful. He is the Almighty One. He is directly and lovingly interested in your well-being. He may allow the attack of Satan, but if you will rely on Him alone, He will bring you through the fire as pure gold.
Satan does attack. Perhaps he is attacking you right now. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the attack is not genuine. Don’t underestimate the power of your foe. Don’t fail to lay hold of God and learn His power in this trial.