Monday, March 9, 2009

The fire will not die

I just heard some bad news. Someone walked into a Baptist church, somewhere in the U.S. and shot dead the pastor who was preaching. So I've prayed for those who were bereaved by that murder, but it's impossible not to be downcast about a thing like that - and to feel angry as well. But there is something to remember here. What happened when that man died was not a defeat. It was a painful tragedy, but not a defeat for Christianity.
The evil one, aka 'Satan', wants to hurt Christians, and to destroy Christianity; and when you see it resorting to a thing like that then you know the evil one is getting desperate. (I say 'it' because I will not dignify the evil one with a respectful personal pronoun). Satan's usual tactic is to be guileful, to try and deceive people into ignoring the calls of God. It gives them distractions, or lies to lead them astray. If people are content and complacent, and feel no need to stay in touch with God, then satan is getting things arranged just nicely. That is when they are furthest from God. When a crisis arises, or a period of suffering, that's when the human reaches out for help and comfort from God. So the evil one prefers not to do it that way, it seems. Besides, since Satan is 'the father of lies' then doing things in an underhanded, dishonest way is the preferred modus operandi. It is as if Satan knows just how despicable a thing it is, and its actions are; and feels embarrassed at itself when seen too openly. So if people can be kept foolishly happy with amusements, distractions or indulgences like food, drink, money, ego-boosts, sexual indulgence, then all is smooth and sweatless for the 'prince of darkness'. We can't so easily see the potential evil in keeping people dulled and duped that way. But if something jars their complacency or spoils their party and humans see the need for God then the evil one loses its grip on them. It is better for Satan to act covertly without showing its hand too clearly. Therefore when something violent and terrible happens, we can see the evil of it straight away. And that alerts us to the need for God, to know Him and keep in contact. So to lash out and strike in this obvious way shows the evil one has run out of better ideas. What has happened is the making of a martyr.
Centuries ago, when the Romans were persecuting Christians, they defeated their own object. Some people would see the Christians dying in the Colosseum and realize: those followers of Jesus have got something worth dying for. Many of the spectators could see the power of Christianity - and turned to it themselves. The evil that satan drove the persecuters too backfired on it, and instead of destroying Christianity it enlarged it.
It is unfortunate that hurt and pain are sometimes what it takes to turn humans to God. But it seems that is what happens. After the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001,
reports were that many people looked to God. They were reminded, rather terribly, how fragile life and the things of this world are. Sometimes it can be done another way, happily. The first Billy Graham crusade in Australia was followed by a measurable drop in the crime rate; a decrease in the number of births outside marriage; and (I think) a decrease in the incidence of suicide. So it need not take a cruel shock or pain to evangelize. It can be done by preaching, proclaiming the Word. But you can be sure the evil one saw what God was doing through Billy Graham and was frantic with rage. God did not allow Satan to strike Billy Graham and silence him. I can't know why some of God's people live to old age and others die early. I can't say why this Baptist pastor was not protected from the gunman. I'm not God, and there are many things I can't know. What I do think is, when satan does manage to take someone down violently it is because it cannot do so any other way. The evil one is forced out into the open, seen for what it is and not able to deceive by operating from the shadows. And the souls of the Christians will not perish, they're taken to be with God in the Kingdom. That is the devil's final defeat. What it would most like to have, human souls, it is deprived.
Come again, Lord Jesus.


Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Very wise words indeed. Often after awful events I have heard some say "This has destroyed my faith in God".

As you point out, that is just what the forces of evil want to happen but we cannot allow this to occur.

Just as God has given us freedom of choice so has He given others. If others chose to abuse that freedom and follow Satan then God will be their judge.

Deep thoughts... said...

Amen Amen Amen!!! Me and my band mates were having a conversation the other day about this exact thing; how Satan tries to distract us from doing God's work. John 10:10 talks about how the "theif comes to steal, kill and destroy." In context its talking about pharisees and false shepherds, but in today's context the theif is Satan, false shepherds, and anything that seeks to distract us.

Though it's hard to imagine how, God will show himself to the people of the Maryville, Illinois First Baptist Church. He did so to the people of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO after the immorality by their pastor and then the murder of two of their members two years later. They overcame, only by God's grace and power.

Thanks again Andrew for your insights!

JMMEE said...

Well, written words, Andrew.
May your words serve to be a reminder that we not grow complacent in our walk with our Lord. Too often, our Christian walks are too easy. As you have so aptly written, it is unfortunate that it seems we often need something like what occurred in Maryville to remind us to keep our eyes on God and to cling even tighter to our faith.
Blessings, Andrew

jeleasure said...

I began reading this post. But, I have to go. I'll finish later. So far, the gist I am getting from what I've read is you are discussing evil tactics of Satan.
It is always interesting to see evil pronounce itself in obvious forms. I interpret that as a desparate attempt to frighten Christians.
I'll read and write more later.

the_thinking_frog said...

Greetings Andrew,

One of the challenges facing all of Christianity is our desire to see things from our perspective. Our belief in God should convey that what takes place here in the finite world will be used to bring glory to God in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Joyfully Serving,


jeleasure said...

Hi Andrew,
As promised, I said I would return to do a more thorough reading of your post.

My earlier comment covers what my thoughts are with an additional thought:

....I wonder if it can be so, that Satan does not bother those who have great material wealth.

I have written an article concerning my thoughts on Satan's relationship with God (click here). You may find it interesting.

Marshall Art said...

Ol' Scratch is a sneaky devil, ain't he? It's too bad it usually takes negative events to bring people back to thinking about the Lord. It always reminds me of that little story of the guy dreaming of footprints in the sand. I'm sure you've heard it before, where the man speaks with Christ and notices that there are always two sets of prints on the beach that is his life. One set is his and the other, Christ's. At those times of life that are a struggle, there are only one set of prints and the man assumes the struggles occur when Jesus leaves the man, and Jesus tells the man there are only one set of prints because that's when Jesus carried the man through his struggles.

People tend to tie bad times to God's absence. More than likely is the possibility that God is held close by our regard for Him during the good times. When the good times distract us from Him, that's when we slide into real trouble.

This may not work in this specific manner in all circumstances, but that cry for His help when times are tough suggest we only care about Him then rather than always.

As to the case that prompted this thread, I've still not heard of any motivation for the killer. I wonder why.