Satan’s Strategy #9: Saints Suffer

Satan shows us the disappointments and difficulties that godly men face.

Following the Lord Jesus Christ means that you will share (to some measure) in Christ's experience of hardship and difficulty. God's people are not immune to affliction. Some godly men are financially distressed, others are in poor health, and still others suffer persecution. God's Word tells us quite plainly that it is through much tribulation that we must enter the kingdom of Heaven (Acts 14:22).

Thus, it is easy for Satan to show us godly men who suffer. He makes sure that we see the high cost of holiness, knowing that this often discourages Christians. We waver when we see others endure hardship, and this tempts us to reassess our commitment to Christ. Is faithfulness worth pain and difficulty? Satan tempts us to compromise:

"You may still be a Christian, and yet enjoy an easier life, albeit a life slightly less pleasing to God."

Thomas Brooks puts it this way:

"Satan says, 'Who but a madman would spend his days in sorrow, vexation, and affliction, when it may be prevented by walking in the ways that I have set before him?'"

However, Satan prevents us from seeing how difficulty often produces good fruit in believers' lives. The Bible characterizes hardships in the Christian's life as profitable discipline. Initially it leads to sorrow, but eventually it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:10-11). Satan does not show us that a sovereign and loving God is behind all trials in the believer's life. The benefits that come from hardship are seen only with eyes of faith. Satan thus encourages us to discount the truth that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and who are called according to His pur­pose (Romans 8:28).

Do godly men struggle through difficulties? Yes. Are godly men ultimately blessed through those difficulties and made stronger? Yes. Trials promote sanctification. As James writes,

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4; see also Psalm 119:67, 71,75, and Romans 5:3-4).

Satan also prevents us from looking at believers' struggles from an eternal perspective. By encouraging us to leave eternity out of the picture, Satan makes it more difficult to regard the Christian's pain for what it is: Momentary, light affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17). The most severe hardship faced by a believer is still only a temporary hardship, one that lasts for a relatively brief moment of time when weighed in the context of eternity.

Lastly, Satan neglects to show us that the afflictions connected with unbiblical living are far worse than the afflictions connected with biblical living. Hardships may well accompany following the Lord Jesus Christ; however, they are far less devastating than the hardships that accompany despising God's Son and disobeying God's Word.

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Robert Spinney (PhD, Vanderbilt) is professor of History at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches American history and historiography. He is the author of City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago and World War II in Nashville: Transformation of the Homefront, as well as an American history textbook and numerous ministry-related booklets. Dr. Spinney formerly served as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, TN, and at Winchester Baptist Church in Winchester, VA.

Related Links

"Keeping Desire and Temptation in Their Place" by Richard Phillips

"The Labyrinth of Temptation": Calvin on Genesis 22 by Aaron Denlinger

"Lead Us Not Into Temptation" by Mark Johnston

Overcoming Temptation by James Boice ( Audio CD | MP3 Disc | MP3 Download )

PCRT '89: Whatever Happened to Sin ( Audio CD | MP3 Disc | MP3 Download )

Robert Spinney