GOD USES SATAN TO PURIFY HIS CHOSEN ONES
Then there is the interesting experience of the apostle Paul. He was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him. This was not because of any sin he committed. It was to prevent Saul from self-exaltation. “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Another instance in which God chose the scene of the battle.
After Paul had prayed about it three times, God replied that the thorn would not be removed but that Paul would be given the grace to bear it. To which Paul responded, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9–10).
Paul said, in effect, “My enemy, this messenger of Satan who means me harm, actually is doing me good.” Satan never becomes our friend, for he hates us and seeks our destruction, but he can do us good if he is sent by God to purify us. God uses Satan to show us that God’s grace can be sufficient even in the thorns of life.
When Paul was able to accept the thorn in the flesh as a messenger of Satan sent by the Heavenly Father, he was able to see it in an entirely different light. Now he could give thanks for the trial (the thorn). If Satan could act independently of God, such thanks to God would be impossible.
I have noticed in counseling that those Christians who can give thanks to God for their demonic affliction are usually the first to experience the freedom of Christ in their lives. When they begin to see their trials as from the Father of light rather than the father of darkness, they see that there is a larger purpose in it all. Such faith is anathema to the forces of evil.
We should never give thanks to God for sin, or, for that matter, we should never give thanks to God for Satan. But we can give thanks for the way God uses evil to accomplish His purposes. We can give thanks for our own struggles and temptations and say, “Even in this, God is good and His will is being done.”
We are in training. Training takes suffering, discipline, faith, and discernment. Even Christ learned obedience by the things that He suffered.
Lutzer, Erwin W., and R. C. Sproul Jr. 2015. God’s Devil: The Incredible Story of How Satan’s Rebellion Serves God’s Purposes. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
The title of the book, God’s Devil, is a paraphrase of Martin Luther’s teaching on the Devil. It will equip your people to understand and defeat our enemy. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. (Like Netflix for Bible lessons.)