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May 27, 2013

What Is the Adversary’s Role in our sufferings?


When affliction, suffering, or trouble strikes, it is not unusual for those afflicted, or for family members and friends, to suggest that the devil is to blame. We want to affix blame, if not on the devil, then on God or maybe on the one who is suffering. Surely there is a cause, a reason for all this.


We’ve briefly examined events in the lives of Adam and Eve, Job, and the apostle Paul, and we have, in fact, seen that the devil did have his hand in bringing suffering and trouble into their lives. Remember Paul’s comment that his thorn in the flesh was the messenger of Satan to buffet him (see 2 Corinthians 12:7)?


One man, a failed-suicide, expressed the belief that the devil was responsible for his giving in to the urge to do away with himself. He said he felt like a pawn in a chess game going on between God and the devil. He felt he was being manipulated by both sides. This man’s life was spared when a friend came to him before the overdosed medicine could do its deadly work. God, in His mercy, affected that rescue. There is much in Scripture which teaches that God’s sovereign will in the affairs of men and nations will be accomplished. Here are just a few examples:


A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps (Proverbs 16:9).


We . . . being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11).


The devil is an adversary, and his many schemes to disturb the Christian’s peace and bring unhappiness and suffering upon mankind have been with us since the Fall. However, we must recognize the clear teaching of the Bible that God both orders and controls all things. Satan does not always win. We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that, The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.


Satan won a real victory in his temptation of Adam and Eve. They fell into his trap just as many people still do today in so many different ways. Yet, we Christians must recognize that Isaiah 25:8 is also in the Bible when we are confronted with this final blow of the enemy. It is a strong promise that provides sure footing for those who are trusting in God’s sovereignty:


He [the Lord] will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.


Death is an enemy. Suffering and affliction often precede this enemy. This is all a part of the strategic battle plan between Satan and God, but the final victory for the Christian is God’s. His solution to the thorns in the flesh and to death is to usher us into His presence in His own good time. And when that moment comes, the prophet Isaiah wrote, And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation (Isaiah 25:9).


Those Unfathomable “Secret Things”


I do not pretend to understand why God didn’t stamp out the devil in the Garden of Eden nor why in God’s sovereignty some of the choicest saints, it appears, suffer so greatly. I know of a 65-year-old single woman, an “unclaimed blessing;” who worked hard and supported herself all her life. She was never a burden to others. She finally decided to retire and was looking forward to moving into a small new apartment. “It has a balcony so I can raise geraniums and other plants; she told me. Then suddenly, she was struck down with horrible stroke, which left her totally paralyzed on one side from her face down to her feet. Now she suffers alone in a convalescent center, unable to walk, talk well, or care for herself. I do not understand that.


Nor do I understand why the enemy “death” should rob Mary Dorr of the love and presence of her bright and promising young college-age son. His death came shortly after the tragic death of her husband who died while flying his private plane. It was only through the Lord’s intervention that Mary’s other son, who was with his father when he died, was able to bring that plane safely in for a landing. A year or so after this, Mary went through the death experience again when this second son died in his sleep at home.


When we hear about things like this, we often say, “It just doesn’t make sense.” From our vantage point, many of these things do not seem to have any rhyme or reason. But I like what Barbara Johnson told Rexella, “These are heartache situations, but God doesn’t always promise a quick end to heartache situations:” Then she called attention to Deuteronomy 29:29, The secret things belong unto the Lord our God . . . .


Barbara added, “No, we don’t understand these `secret’ situations – why God allows a beautiful 20year-old Christian boy to go off the deep end and get involved in a homosexual lifestyle (or some other problem), bringing such sorrow and heartache to his family and to others. But through it all, I can tell you, God has used it to mold and shape us and to bring a depth of trusting Him into our lives unlike anything we ever experienced before. Through sorrow there can come joy and peace. It comes as you relinquish yourself and the `secret situation’ causing you such heartache into the hands of God, and then God releases you so that you can reach out in loving care to others who need help . . . .


Barbara and others who have known deep suffering are testimonies to God’s grace. I have heard them say they are glad that God has thrown a veil, as it were, across their way so that they haven’t known what the immediate future held. We may not know the future, but we can know the One who holds the future in His hands and simply take life a step at a time. We can walk moment-by-moment with the One who controls our steps as well as our stops.


I’ve heard people say, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask the Lord . . . .” Then they will name the event that has brought such heartache to them or to others. But in the next breath I’ve heard many of those same people admit, “Still, I know that when I get to heaven all that has happened here won’t matter there because all the pain, the sorrow, and the tears will be done.” And how biblical that is. The Bible assures us that God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4).


The apostle Paul talked of the mortal putting on immortality, and then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Paul is saying that God continues daily to give us this victory.


Doing Battle With the “Prince of This World”


Satan, as the prince of this world (see John 12:31; Revelation 12:9), has a certain degree of power which he wields, especially against Christians. After all, why should the devil go after people in the world when he already has them in his sway? The Christians are his enemies.


The apostle Paul writes of the battle of the heavenlies and the work of the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2).


Satan’s camouflaged attacks come in many forms. We are warned that they will come:


Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).


But we are also told:


Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world (1 Peter 5:9).


And we are promised:


But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you (1 Peter 5:10).


In Hebrews 11 we have what is often referred to as “The Roll Call of Faith.” There we have a definition of faith: Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (v. 1). What does faith do? It gives substance to our hope.


These heroes and heroines of the faith demonstrated their faith in spite of suffering, affliction, pain, problems, and not being able to understand the “Whys?” of their particularly difficult circumstances. We are the recipients of the lessons their faithfulness teaches. After naming many of the Old Testament people, almost breathlessly, it seems, the writer says, And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of. . .” Then he names others (see verse 32) and goes on to say:


Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (vv. 33-38).


But the writer doesn’t stop with that catalog of horrors. He goes on to remind us that these all, having obtained a good report through faith went on to their eternal reward. He speaks of them as being so great a cloud of witnesses and urges that we lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and . . . run with patience the race that is set before us (Hebrews, 12:1).


Still the writer is not finished. We are told how we can do this:


Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (vv. 2, 3).


Satan’s planned afflictions are designed specifically to wear us down, to weary us, to exhaust us, to make us lose heart, and to turn against God. All too often we are tempted to murmur, complain, and criticize – and in these ways to give up on the Lord. Oh, how much we need to learn that WE CAN BE OVERCOMERS through the blood of the Lamb (see Revelation 12:11). The wedges Satan attempts to put between us and the Father are real, and they are designed to make us stop loving and trusting God. Satan, you see, is attacking God indirectly through His children. At such times we must shout boldly for any and all to hear, “Thanks be to God who giveth the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ!”


That is the only way to do battle with this enemy of our souls.



FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE

WHY HUMILITY IS SOMETHING GOOD


Is it a paradox that many people seemingly enjoy outward success in terms of money, recognition, and prestige despite a decided lack of true humility? Perhaps, although the blessing of God is not measured by immediate or outward accomplishments. Let us examine this more carefully.


The life of pioneer missionary David Livingstone is beautiful proof of this. When Livingstone was a young man, he informed his brother, Charles that he planned to become a missionary. His brother scoffed, saying that he preferred to stay in England seeking fame and fortune. He wanted recognition from his peers, and that was not possible, he said, for a missionary in Africa.


David went to Africa where he labored untiringly among the people as a doctor and preacher. The Lord gave him the desires of his heart, and many people came to know Jesus Christ through his humble ministry. His brother, who stayed in England, did indeed find fame and recognition, and accumulated a great deal of wealth as well.


When David Livingstone died, his heart was buried in Africa and his body shipped home to England for burial in Westminster Cathedral. Later, his brother was buried next to him. We visited this great edifice several years ago, and my heart was deeply touched as I read the inscriptions on the brothers’ graves. Above David Livingstone’s burial vault was this poem:


DAVID LIVINGSTONE

He needs no epitaph to guard a name

Which men shall prize while worthy work is known;

He lived and died for good-be that his fame:

Let marble crumble; this is Living-stone
.


The inscription above David’s brother’s grave simply states: “Charles, the brother of David Livingstone.”


This illustration, more than any I know, reflects the truth of 1 Peter 5:6-Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.


THE FIRST SHALL BE LAST


No attitude or character quality was more emphasized and exemplified by the Lord Jesus than humility. He told his disciples-whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant (Matthew 20:26-27).


Shortly after He gave that lesson, Jesus met with His disciples in an upper room to eat what we have come to call the Last Supper. In those final hours before He was taken away to be tortured and killed, the Lord took time to teach the disciples one more lesson about the importance of humility.


As they entered the room where they would eat that final meal together, they found that everything had been prepared for them, with one exception-a servant to wash their feet. In those days of dirt roads and sandals, washing feet regularly was an essential custom. Since it was not a pleasant chore, it was normally the duty of the lowest slave when an individual entered a house.


After everything Jesus had taught them about humility, it would seem that one of the disciples should have volunteered to accept the responsibility, or at least arranged for a servant to do it. However, none did. Perhaps they were involved in one of their arguments about which of them was the greatest.


Consequently, Jesus rolled up His sleeves, took the basin of water and a towel, stooped down and began to wash the disciples’ feet. They were so shocked by His actions that they became speechless. Jesus told them-Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you (John 13:13-15).


There is a great and important lesson here for all of us. If Jesus could leave heaven and come to earth to die, and on the night before His crucifixion assume the position of the lowliest of slaves, without reservation we should follow His example of humility.


FALSE HUMILITY


Have you ever met someone who seemed to exhibit a kind of false humility which did not in any way glorify the Lord? It was lowliness put on to impress others. It was not a genuine humility but rather a shallow, external façade that actually sought to put others down.


False humility can take various forms. For example, by refusing to graciously accept a compliment (how embarrassing to the one giving it) and by discrediting one’s own accomplishments, the person actually seeks to draw more praise to himself. This is pride in disguise-not meekness of spirit.


Such hypocritical humility is like the sin of the Pharisees. They put on sackcloth and ashes when they fasted so that everyone would notice how “spiritual” they were. They stood on the street corners to pray just to make certain that no one missed their display of holiness. What they really wanted was the praise of men, and Jesus said that was all the reward they would get for their human efforts.


Humility that calls attention to itself is not humility at all-it is pride. And what makes pride so insidious is that we are most vulnerable to it just when we think we have conquered it. The minute we begin thinking how humble we are, we had better think again. No one who considers himself a paragon of humility knows the first thing about the virtue.


On the other side of the coin, however, neither is a poor self image the same thing as humility. I have known people who did not like themselves very much, but they were so self-centered that they made it difficult for anyone else to like them. The truly humble person can accept himself. He feels good about himself because he is not consumed by the desire to prove himself to others-to convince them that he is something that he is not.


THE ESSENCE OF TRUE HUMILITY


What constitutes true humility? Jesus himself answered this question when He washed the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper. Genuine humility is, you see, a willingness to serve others.


Nobody is more lonely than a “self-service only” individual. In fact, the most dissatisfied persons I know are those who are selfish. Because they are so wrapped up in themselves-their own needs, their own desires, their own preferences, their own problems-they cannot reach out to others for the very fellowship that would dispel their loneliness.


Of all the disciples, Andrew best pictures the meaning of true humility. Andrew had a servant’s heart. He does not seem to have been involved as James and John were in the constant disputes about who was the greatest. Instead, whenever we see Andrew in Scripture, he is bringing someone to the Master.


Andrew began his ministry of soulwinning and discipleship by seeking Peter, his brother. In fact, perhaps the greatest thing Andrew ever did was bring Peter to Jesus. Peter became the leader of the disciples, and after Jesus ascended into heaven, it was Peter who preached the great sermon at Pentecost where so many were converted to faith in Christ.


If you had a brother like Peter, would you have brought him to Jesus? Surely Andrew knew that Peter, with his bold, forceful personality, would inherit the position of leadership among the disciples. He must have realized that he would eventually take a back seat to his brother. Yet Andrew was not concerned with those things. He saw only his brother’s need and knew that Jesus could fill it. In a sense, Andrew did fade into the shadows as Peter came into prominence. But he also continued to bring others to Jesus. One of those he brought was a little boy with a sack lunch-and the Lord used those few loaves and fishes to feed a multitude. Take heart-your seemingly small talent can be used and magnified for God’s glory because He both desires and rewards humble service.


GOD GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE


What does humility have to do with satisfaction which will dispel bewilderment? Humility is a channel through which the Lord can bless us. Pride, on the other hand, isolates us from God. First Peter 5:5 urges-be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.


God’s grace is manifested in a special way to those who are humble. If a person seeks to serve others, he receives multiplied blessings from the Lord. If he seeks only to serve self, however, he closes the door to the possibility of such blessings.


Too many who claim to be working for the Lord see the ministry only as a platform on which to display their own talents and abilities. My husband and I believe that our service constitutes a high and holy privilege, and our prayer has always been that God be glorified in all that we say and do-not only in public, but in our private lives as well.


As a result of this belief, we have always felt strongly that we should not push open doors to try to expand our ministry. Everywhere we have gone and in every situation where we have ministered, we have endeavored to wait until God himself opened the portals of increased opportunity. In fact, sometimes we have been so cautious that He has had to push us through them! Still, the peace of mind and soul we have experienced in knowing that God has brought each new phase of our outreach to pass far outweighs any sense of human accomplishment. It also confirms in our hearts the fact that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalm 127:1).


Through our years of ministry together, I have also appreciated and learned from Jack’s meek and tender spirit. When we conducted our local city-wide meetings, we were inevitably the last ones to leave the auditorium following a service. My husband always had time to answer one more question or sign an additional Bible, no matter how late the hour. As I stood with him, often ministering with him, my heart smiled within me to know that this one who had the power to deliver such authoritative and convicting messages from God’s Word also had the ability to understand the deepest burdens and personally minister to the hearts he touched. Today, our office doors are open to students, pastors, and young evangelists who seek to share the wisdom, counsel, and direction the Lord has given us in conducting our international ministry.


I shall never forget our very first visit to Tennessee Temple Schools in Chattanooga. Jack and I were tremendously excited (and a bit nervous) about ministering in a college environment, not to mention being in the presence of such a respected man as Dr. Lee Roberson, the president. I had never met him and was eager to make his acquaintance.


We arrived in the city several hours ahead of time and drove to the auditorium in order to unload and set up our equipment. We were met by several students and staff members, including a distinguished looking, gray-haired gentleman who helped us carry the heavy pieces to the platform.


Much time was spent placing everything into position, making the proper electrical connections, and testing for operation and sound level. At last our task was completed. I turned to the gray-haired gentleman and thanked him for his assistance. “And when shall we be able to meet Dr. Roberson?” I asked.


The man smiled softly and gently took hold of my hand. “I am Dr. Roberson,” he replied.


That evening, as Dr. Lee Roberson stepped to the podium to welcome the students and guests and introduce us to them, he appeared ever so much taller, broad-shouldered, and distinguished. Silently, I bowed my head and prayed a prayer of rejoicing, thanking God for allowing me the privilege of meeting a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.


There is a great deal of true satisfaction in service to others. The servant of God is actually a kind of funnel through which God pours out His love to a needy world. The person who is involved in humble service is vibrant and alive. He can sense the love of God flowing through him, and he is constantly getting a firsthand experience of the wonderful ways God works.


In addition, the truly humble person has all his relationships in proper perspective. He does not think more highly of himself than he ought to think (see Romans 12:3). He does not look down on others, use them for his own benefit, or ignore their needs. Most importantly, he is in right relationship to God.


GOD HATES PRIDE


Many of us are familiar with the children’s story about the frog who wanted to fly. As he sat on his lily pad watching for insects day after day, he often spied the birds of the forest gracefully winging their way through the air. Their freedom and ability to travel quickly from one place to another began to disturb him, and he soon became completely dissatisfied with being a frog-he wanted to fly!


One day the frog went to his friend, the robin. “Mr. Robin, will you teach me to fly?” he asked.


“I’m sorry, but that’s impossible,” said the robin. “You’re a frog. Frogs were not created to fly. Frogs were made to hop.”


Next the frog approached the cardinal. “Mr. Cardinal, please teach me to fly,” he pleaded. To his dismay, the reply was the same.


Then the frog conceived a brilliant idea. He hopped to the robin and to the cardinal. “Robin, Cardinal!,” he shouted enthusiastically. “I have the answer! If you two will pick up a stick and hold it tightly in your beaks, I will grab the stick with my mouth and travel with you as you fly.”


Although somewhat skeptical, the frog’s feathered friends agreed to give his idea a try. They found a sturdy stick, grasped it tightly in their beaks, and the frog clamped his mouth in the middle. Then off they flew-up, up, higher and higher, swiftly skirting the trees of the forest, out across the meadow, and back once more.


The frog was jubilant. He was flying!


One by one, the other animals appeared at the forest’s edge, gazing in disbelief at the sight before them. As the triumphant trio made another sweep past the growing crowd of spectators, the deer exclaimed, “How clever! Who ever conceived such a perfectly ingenious idea?”


The frog, swelling with pride, shouted, “I did! It was all my idea!”


As he spoke, he lost his grip on the stick and hurtled through the air to the ground. Splat! Alas, the frog’s dream and delight proved to be his demise. His life was snuffed out in a moment of time. The sin of pride had claimed another victim-just as it will claim you and me if we do not deal honestly and firmly with it, refusing to allow it any opportunity to rise up.


Remember, God says, Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).


Why is pride so deadly? For one thing, pride was the sin that led to Satan’s fall. Caught up with his own beauty and wisdom, willfully forgetting the fact that it was God who made him that way, Lucifer began to see himself as something to be worshipped above God. When he said, I will be like the most High (Isaiah 14:14), he lost everything that was his.


Later, Satan succeeded in getting Eve to sin with the same promise with which he had deceived himself-ye shall be as gods (Genesis 3:5). And when Adam and Eve sinned, they, too, lost everything God had given to them. Most devastating of all, they were sent forth from His presence. Ever since that day, the human race has been plagued by the sin of pride and the consequent loss of blessing that comes with it. Like the frog, humanity desperately seeks satisfaction but at the same time stubbornly refuses to renounce the pride that makes dissatisfaction inevitable.


Some would have us believe that pride is a virtue. In recent years, a number of best-selling books have appeared, telling us how to assert ourselves, how to get what we want, how to increase our self-esteem, and how to intimidate others. Humility is viewed by many as a weakness. The “me first” syndrome has spread throughout society like a plague.


In such an atmosphere, it is little wonder that so many are dissatisfied, for it is in giving, not receiving that we are blessed. It is in serving, not being served, that brings fulfillment. And it is in humility, not pride, that we open ourselves to receive the grace of God.


God hates this sin of pride (see Proverbs 8:13). Pride is a denial of God’s right to glory. It is a challenge to His sovereignty. It is a deification of self over God, and it leads to contempt for others for whom Christ died. It is as morally perverse and debasing as any sin known to man, for it can lead to many other kinds of sin. And inevitably, the prideful will experience the frustration of feeling baffled, bewildered, and befuddled.


How damaging and hurtful pride is! It increases the desire for satisfaction and at the same time pushes the possibility of personal fulfillment further and further away. May God give us the grace to be truly humble.



CHANGED LIVES-one at a time

Dear Jack and Rexella Van Impe,


I am sure you will receive many thank you notes this week. I just wanted you to know I receive lots of email but your messages I search for. I read them in their entirety and have not taken any time to tell you how much they encourage me – this letter especially because Jack addressed the “death” of a loved one and how we are at a loss about how to deal with it. I had a child go to heaven about 5 years ago and was lost for a long time. However, I am back now much stronger and I know the devil cringes every morning when I get out of bed. I know my child is in my future!!!


I also wanted to tell you Thank you Rexella – your posts are so precious as they are pure and sweet to my eyes and heart.


In His Service,

S. H.


 

Dear Drs. Jack and Rexella Van Impe,


I just wanted you to know that I feel the utmost admiration and respect for your Ministry and all that you do.


Though I was familiar with your Ministry as a child, growing up in a Christian household, I did not watch regularly for many years. However, I would now like to confess that I am a born-again Christian and I believe that, only seen from this viewpoint does the world make any sense — we are truly living in the End Times. In my opinion the biggest obstacle to people hearing the Word of God in our time is the relativism of postmodern society. With no objective truth, everything becomes just “choose what you want to believe”. I have come to realize that such a worldview is completely false and in defiance of God.


I could go on, but I just want you to know that you have one more faithful viewer (a newly admitted attorney), who is currently in China. Thanks to your podcast, I can keep updated on the Truth!


Thank you for all you have done, and for touching our hearts and lives. You will be in my prayers.


Very truly yours,

N.



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