When my spirit was overwhelmed within me (Psalm 142:3)

Limitations and weakness define man. Although man is created in the image of God and is the pinnacle of God’s creation, he is nevertheless a dependent being fraught with limitations and weakness. We need other people, yes, but most of all, we need to know the living God, for He is the one who is able to rescue us when we call.

But why would we need rescue? Aren’t we “the captain of our ship and the master of our fate?” An occasional drive by a cemetery will quickly dispel any such myth. But it is not so much death that intimidates us as it is the day-to-day challenges of life. Is it just me, or do you also sometimes have the sense of overwhelming foes and underwhelming personal resources? The reality is that because our spirit is easily overwhelmed, our spirit is often overwhelmed. Will there ever be enough money? Will this conflict never end? Will I find a job? Will I keep my job? Will my children find their way in life? And so on. And so, my spirit is overwhelmed within me.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me You knew my path.

In the way where I walk, they have hidden a trap for me.

Look to the right and see, for there is no one who regards me,

there is no escape for me, no one cares for my soul.

I cried out to You, O LORD.

I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” – Psalm 142:3-5

Like us, David knew what it was to face overwhelming foes. In this passage from Psalm 142, David’s spirit is overwhelmed within him. He looked to the right and he saw no allies, no escape, and no one who cared. Despair and surrender seemed inevitable. But then David reminded himself of this eternal truth:

You (LORD) knew my path.

God always knows my path because God is the one who has planned my path. He has determined my path. The living God who loves me and who has saved me is the God who has sovereignly ordained my path, and I can trust Him.

But also, while my human vision is limited to a little bit of my path at a time, God sees my whole path from start to finish at one time. With my limited vision of my immediate surroundings, my spirit is overwhelmed within me and I feel fear. But God knows my future path in exact detail and, when I trust Him, my fears retreat.

Finally, David cries out to the LORD and affirms his love for Him and his trust in Him.

I cried out to You, O LORD.

I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”

            When our spirit is overwhelmed within us, we need power. We need a Champion who cannot fail. When my resources are exhausted and my foes are not, like David, I will cry out to the LORD and confess, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living (142:5).” When we cry out to the LORD, we can say with David, “You will deal bountifully with me (142:7).”             SDG                 rmb                 2/18/2021

Satan’s activity and God’s sovereignty – Part 2

“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.” – Isaiah 8:12

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” – Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:6

ARE WE FEARING WHAT THE NATIONS FEAR?

On January 29, I had posted an article about possible feelings of fear in this age of rising confusion and evil.   There is no doubt that our world today supplies us with reasons to fear. A lot of people, myself included, see a marked increase in evil in many spheres and at many levels, and it is unsettling. Things in which we used to trust as rock-solid and unchanging have collapsed and worst-case scenarios are common. Most challenging of all is that the trajectory into the future seems to be for things to get more chaotic and for losses to continue to outpace gains. Yes, the view is troubling and we as believers can be tempted to think that God is no longer in control and that Satan and wickedness have gotten the upper hand.

A BIBLICAL VIEW OF GOD’S CONTROL

Before we consider “the prince of the power of the air (Ephesian 2:2),” Satan, who is “a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44),” we need to make sure that our own thinking is on solid ground. That means that our first task is to establish a correct view of God’s control. What does it mean when we say God is in sovereign control of all things?

There are many voices competing for our attention these days, seeking to influence us to forsake the Bible and its clear truth. If we listen to these worldly voices, we will adopt an unbiblical view of God’s control that sounds much more like our unsaved neighbor than it does a child of the King who calls God his or her Abba, Father. In that case, our view of “God is in control” says that “my life is peaceful and safe, and the world is getting better and better every day, so I know God is in control.” The most serious problem here is that, with this view of “God’s sovereignty,” God is accountable to me and each day He must again prove to me that He is still in control by keeping me safe and comfortable. This is an abominable error!

On the other hand, a biblical view of “God is in control” says this:

  • God has declared in His word that He is in control of all things, and His word is truth (John 17:17)
  • God has demonstrated that He is in control of all things by displaying His control in myriad episodes recorded in the Bible
  • God has demonstrated that He is in control of our lives by ordaining the events of our salvation and by providentially guiding the events of our lives
  • Therefore, since He has proven He is in sovereign control of all things, God has commanded us to trust Him

RECONCILING SATAN’S ACTIVITY WITH GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY

Now we turn to a consideration of Satan and his activity in the world. How can God’s sovereign control be reconciled with Satan being able to increase evil and lawlessness in the world? Doesn’t a rise in Satan’s work of chaos and strife and violence indicate that God is not in complete control?

The short answer is, “No.” God remains in complete control, but as the world moves toward the end of the age, God will manifest His sovereign control by using Satan’s activity to take history in a new direction. At the appropriate time, God will begin to fulfill all the prophecies about the end-times that are written in His Word so that the world will be prepared for the glorious return of the Lord Jesus.

Despite his reputation, the Bible reveals that Satan is merely another character on the Lord’s stage. As Judas was chosen as one of the Twelve because the Lord Jesus needed a betrayer, so Satan has been created because the Lord required someone to do the grand evil acts scripted into His great drama. The Lord needed someone to tempt Adam and Eve, and Satan was ordained as the tempter (Genesis 3:1-6). God needed someone to test Job, so Satan was selected for that part (Job 1, 2). Someone was needed to test the Lord Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), so Satan received that part, as well. So it will be in the future, when Satan is released from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7) to play his role as God’s supporting actor, accomplishing what God created him to accomplish and moving history toward the end of the age. In his role, the devil will accomplish exactly as much destruction and lawlessness and sin as the Lord planned for him to accomplish before the foundation of the world . . . but not even the slightest bit more. Satan will freely choose to do all the evil that the Lord has sovereignly ordained for him to do, and he does not get to adlib. He is an actor on God’s stage, and he enters and exits the stage according to the Director’s precise instructions. He can do no other.

Therefore, we need not be frightened when we see Satan doing those things the Bible declares he must certainly do. The Lord Jesus Himself told us these things would surely take place and He told us these things so that we would not be frightened when they came to pass. (Consider Matthew 24:5-13, 21-28) Instead, when we see the day drawing near (Hebrews 10:25), we can have these responses:

  1. Have strong confidence in God’s Word, for we see what the Bible has clearly predicted coming to pass.
  2. Increasing joy of anticipation, for we will see Jesus soon! (Matthew 24:33)
  3. Resolve to persevere to the end, for now the time is short (Matthew 25:13).
  4. Draw closer to one another, draw together for encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  5. Send roots deeper into Christ so that we can stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-18).

SDG                 rmb                 1/31/2021

Satan’s activity and God’s sovereignty – Part 1

“Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens although the nations are terrified by them.” – Jeremiah 10:2

“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’ to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.” – Isaiah 8:12

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” – Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:6

ARE WE FEARING WHAT THE NATIONS FEAR?

There is no doubt that our world today gives us reasons to fear. A lot of people, myself included, see a marked increase in evil in many spheres and at many levels, and it is unsettling. Things in which we used to trust as rock-solid and unchanging have collapsed and worst-case scenarios are common. Most challenging of all is that the trajectory into the future seems to be for things to get more chaotic and for losses to continue to outpace gains. Yes, the view is troubling.

As we search for security and seek to keep our feet in the raging storm, we can begin to wonder if the Lord is still in control. How can all these “bad” things be happening unless God’s grip has slipped? Godlessness and lawlessness and evil are on the rise. Does this mean Satan is in control? Natural disasters. A global pandemic. Racial tension. Political division. Fear. Distrust. Chaos. “Lord, how can You allow these things on Your watch?” Has Satan broken out and is he now on the loose?

It is in times like these that we open our Bible and dig deep to find out what God has said in His Word. With regard to what we see in our present times, our Bible gives us a foundational truth that never changes:

Our God is always in absolute control of all things.

This is implicit from the general tone and content of the Scriptures. In the Bible, the Lord makes statements about events that will take place decades or centuries in the future, because the Lord will control all things needed to bring those events into existence. See Genesis 15:13-14 about the captivity in Egypt; Isaiah 7:14 about the virgin birth of Immanuel; Micah 5:2 giving the Messiah’s birthplace.

But the Bible also makes explicit statements about the Lord’s sovereign control.

“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” – Psalm 115:3

“. . . having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” – Ephesians 1:11

“But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” – Daniel 4:35

So, if God is in sovereign control of all things, why do we see rampant godlessness in our world? Isn’t it possible that Satan is causing this rise in evil and is creating this open attack on the church and on the maligning of everything good?

Before we answer those questions, we must bury a myth that can easily insinuate itself into a Christian’s thinking, and the myth goes something like this: “If God is really in control, then Satan is powerless to cause evil to increase in my world and God will protect me from major problems in my life and bad stuff won’t happen to me.” (Read Satan’s words to God about Job in the first chapter of “Job” to get a biblical account of such thinking.) When those who have adopted this myth see growing corruption and wickedness and violence and conflict, they can conclude that God is no longer in control, and thus be deeply troubled and confused.

How do we deal with this?

First, we set our feet back on the rock of our foundational truth: Our God is always in absolute control of all things.

            Second, we confess that this idea that “God proves He is in control by keeping me safe” is an unbiblical myth. God IS in control, and we trust Him to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28).

            Third, I must realize that God is not ordaining all the events of history to ensure my personal comfort and happiness. Rather, God is ordaining all events because history is irresistibly moving toward a day of reckoning and final judgment when the Lord Jesus will come from heaven on a white horse to destroy the unrighteous and gather all the righteous to Himself forever (Revelation 19:11-21), and He has chosen me for salvation so that I can perform my small part in the grand drama.

            Fourth, as we carefully read our Bibles, we see that Satan has, in fact, been given a significant role in world events at the end of the age. Therefore, if we have reached that time in history, we should not be surprised to see evidence of his activity in the world.

CAN GOD BE IN CONTROL IF SATAN IS RELEASED AND FREE?

            Even with all that we have said, we are still left with the question, “How can God’s sovereign control be reconciled with Satan being able to increase evil and lawlessness in the world?” We will attempt to answer that question in our next post.

SDG                 rmb                 1/29/2021

Are you a contender? (Ephesians 6:11, 13)

(To get the full effect of this article, it is recommended that you watch Marlon Brando in one of his most famous scenes in the movie “On the Waterfront” where “he coulda been a contender.” You may get nothing more from this article, but you will see a brilliant actor at the pinnacle of his craft.)

He coulda been a contender! I mean, this kid had fists like iron and threw a left hook that would take down the walls of a city. He could fell a tree with that hook! Yes, he coulda been a contender, if only the other guy didn’t punch. Well, that’s not really fair. In addition to being a powerful puncher, he could also take some punishment and still remain standing. And that was a good thing because he just could not keep his guard up. “He coulda been a contender,” if he had only been able to keep his guard up. But he couldn’t do it. And so, before he could launch that lethal left hook, he was usually lying on his back as the referee counted him out.

What’s the point of this story? Nobody can be a victorious disciple if they can’t keep their guard up. That is, you will never be a “contender” if you do not have your defenses up. In Ephesians 6:11, Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (13) Therefore, take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” The disciple who would be a “contender” must know the devil’s schemes and must have his armor on so he can resist the enemy’s attacks. Don’t let the devil put you on your back and have you counted out! Know your weaknesses and make sure they are fiercely defended.

SDG rmb 8/13/2020

Destroying Fortresses (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

SUMMARY: The verses under consideration, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, provide one of the most concise and explicit descriptions of spiritual warfare in the word of God. Specifically we read of the saint’s responsibility and his power to inflict destructive damage on the enemy’s positions with spiritual weapons.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God.” 2 Cor. 10:4-5 (NAS)

BLOG: There are at least six observations that can be made from this brief passage:
1) It is clear that the enemy has fortresses and strongholds that must be destroyed. This is obvious because Paul mentions “the destruction of fortresses.” These are spiritual strongholds that have been constructed by “the prince of the power of the air” to protect his kingdom from the gospel. They must be pulled down and destroyed.
2) Until these fortresses are destroyed, there remain evil speculations and lies raised up against God, there is still spiritual fruit that has not been harvested, and there are men and women still held captive behind the strongholds who need to be set free.
3) God has ordained that His saints are instrumental in the pulling down of these strongholds. It is the saints’ unique responsibility to destroy these fortresses and to pull down these strongholds. The Lord has given that assignment to His church and it is only the saints, the followers of Jesus who have the God-ordained role of destroying fortresses.
4) If the saints do not fulfill this role and do not wield the spiritual weapons of war, these enemy fortresses remain intact. If the saints do not destroy the enemy fortresses, then the enemy’s fortresses are safe. God’s “Plan A” for fortress destruction is the weapons of the saints, and there is no Plan B.
5) Notice that the weapons of our warfare are given by God to the saints for the express purpose of destroying enemy fortresses. Our spiritual weapons are “for the destruction of fortresses.” While these weapons can be wielded for other purposes, this passage clearly states that spiritual weapons are given for the destruction of fortresses.
6) The Lord’s saints are expected to be and are implicitly commanded to be engaged in the work of fortress destruction. “We are destroying speculations . . .” Paul says that “we” are destroying speculations. It is clear from the context and from other Pauline writings that Paul intends for the “we” to include all saints and that Paul expects that every obedient Christian will be involved in the pulling down of enemy strongholds.

APPLICATIONS:
A) Become skillful in the use of your spiritual weapons of prayer and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word;
B) Begin today to actively pull down enemy strongholds.

(RMB 5/13/2015)