Every Christian has to decide how he best can serve God. On this point he will most likely receive plenty of advice from friends, family and the world in general. One particular source of “advice” will surely be the enemy of his soul – Satan. Satan is not asleep or incompetent as some may imagine. His attacks are continuous, persistent and philosophical. For the Believer, these attacks consist mainly of arguments aimed at softening the demands of the Gospel resulting in an ineffectual or counterfeit Christian life.
Satan’s normal mode of attack is not to give us an illness or cause us to have a car accident. Often, these are simply the consequences of living in a fallen world. Instead, Satan insidiously tries to influence our worldview. In other words, he pressures us to adopt a way of thinking about life that will ultimately hinder God’s kingdom and advance his. The arguments he uses in favor of a less devoted life are subtle. They have a ring of truth to them and appeal to the pleasures and passions of humanity. They are presented to the Christian regularly and insistently. The Bible says the accuser of the brethren is at work day and night.1 In order to defeat the lies of the enemy we must examine these arguments and expose them for the forgery they are.
It is true that God loves every Christian as he is and seeks to work with him at his own level of maturity. Therefore, we should be careful about judging others or putting too heavy a burden on them. God’s work, however, will not get done by the passive or selfish. God’s kingdom is about a new people who live for the welfare and blessing of all. The passive and selfish partake in a value system that is alien to Christianity. It is unlikely that God’s objectives can be furthered by these kind of individuals.
Additionally, it is right to say that God desires the Christian to prosper and find blessing in his life. The devoted life, however, will often lead to difficulty and lack. But nowhere do we find Jesus equating material wealth, ease and personal fulfillment with the mission of His kingdom. Jesus said Himself that He came not to be served but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.2 God is not interested in promoting the individualistic ambitions of people, but in creating a community of love and kindness.3
Still, God is a big God and He has individuals who serve Him in a variety of circumstances and lifestyles that are equally valid and important to His kingdom. A life totally laid down for God may seem to some like a narrow and barren existence. Nevertheless, goals of great value universally require enormous effort and great sacrifice. The most common money scam works by appealing to people who want to believe that a lot of money can be made with little or no labor. In the same way, it is easy to find professing Christians who want to believe that the rewards of the Gospel can be obtained without self-denial.
But what does it matter, some may ask, when everyone who loves God will make it to heaven anyway? If I pursue many comforts in this life and end up in heaven, and you live a life of self-denial and end up in heaven, does it not make more sense for you to instead enjoy as many amenities as possible in life since we are both going to make it to heaven regardless? The problem with this argument, however, is that it reveals a dark motive. A true Christian serves God and makes sacrifices because he actually loves the kingdom of God and it is no cost to him to do whatever is necessary to see it prosper. False Christians serve God “as the sick man takes his medicine, because they desire its effects, and they know they must have it or perish. It is a task that they never would do for its own sake.”4 Someone who measures duty and sacrifice for God in this manner must evaluate of which kingdom he really is.5
Undoubtedly, one can think of individuals who do much good with their lives while still pursuing what appears to be the American dream. Is this not proof that devotion is really not necessary? The fact remains that it is quite easy to give out of our abundance. When the cost to self is minimal, people freely give. But as Jesus taught us, it is the one who gives out of her lack who is really the person who bestows the valuable gift.6
It is not during times of peace that our strength is tested. During daily life your muscles may seem to perform quite adequately. It is during an emergency or when you face a difficult challenge that you will discover if you have the strength needed to rise to the occasion. It is only the devoted who, in a time of tribulation, will make the hard choices necessary to further God’s kingdom and stand up for righteousness. A modern example is the ten Boom family, who hid Jews in their home during World War II knowing that it would threaten their comfortable lifestyle and possibly cost them their lives, which it did. As God said to Jeremiah, “If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?”7
It is arrogant and foolish to presume we know how God will judge others. If we use other people as our standard of devotion, we will most likely be in for the shock of our lives. Man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart.9 Only He knows what is truly happening in the minds of people. And His opinion is all that matters.10
Satan seeks to domesticate us. Like taming an animal, he desires to weaken our will and dampen our passion. He tells us that the stories of saints are good quiet time reading, but impractical to actually live out. He convinces us that the narrow way isn’t as narrow as we thought. The conditions for a relationship with God, he tells us, will require less of us not more, and his persistent suggestions do not lead us toward something more spiritual. His efforts to castrate us, if successful, will subdue our zeal and prevent us from ever reproducing.
Scriptures say that without vision the people perish and that if one’s eye is evil his whole body will be full of darkness.11 If our focus is primarily on our own blessing and welfare, not only are we chasing after a wrong and unworthy goal, eventually the results of our pursuit will be our own demise. Happiness cannot be found by aiming at it. It is only found by doing something that is truly meaningful or valuable. Our own happiness alone is not important enough to make us happy, but the happiness of others and the establishment of the kingdom of God is, and Satan knows that.
1. Revelation 12:10
2. Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45
3. Matthew 5-7; Mark 1:15; Luke 4:18-21
4. True and False Conversion, Charles Finney
5. 2 Corinthians 13:5
6. Mark 12:41-44
7. Jeremiah 12:5
8. Numbers 13:32 KJV
9. 1 Samuel 16:7
10. Hebrews 10:30-31
11. Proverbs 29:18; Matthew 6:23