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II Corinthians 2:11…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Ephesians 6:10-12-Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

One of the schemes of the devil is to introduce doubt into your life.  I think the most strategic way he does that is by trying to get you to

Doubt the Word of God

Think with me about the reality that the Word of God is the foundation for the Christian life.  How do we come to understand the Plan of Salvation?  We read about it in the Word.  How do we uncover the consequences of sin?  We read about them in the Word.  How do we gain insight into how to have a Christian marriage?  We read about it in the Word.  How do we learn about the role of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life?  We read about it in the Word.  How do we learn to overcome life’s tests and trials?  We read about it in the Word.  How do we discern God’s will for our lives?  We read about it in the Word. How do we grow in our faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ?  By reading the Word of God. How is Satan exposed for the thief, liar, destroyer and murderer that he is?  God exposes Him in the Word. 

It only makes sense, then, that Satan would want to try to discredit and distort the Word of God as it is the basis, the foundation for the totality of the Christian life and experience, and it reveals to us that we are more than conquerors and totally exposes our adversary, the Devil, for who he is.  Of course, he doesn’t want us to read it at all, but if we do, he most assuredly wants us to doubt it. Satan does not want you to believe the Word of God.  No way. He wants you to believe that God’s Word is fable or fairy tale.  Satan cannot tell the truth. Don’t doubt the Word of God.  It’s a trap.  Don’t fall for it.

I mentioned last week that when Satan came to Eve to tempt her to disobey God, she gave the temptation a look and then she gave Satan a listen.  She engaged in conversation with him, and his tactic was to twist the Word of God to the point where she would doubt the truth of what God had told her.  Look at Genesis 3:1-5  Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Can you just picture Eve’s thoughts after that conversation?  “Hmm.  That’s weird.  Maybe I didn’t hear what I thought I heard God say…Maybe I’m not remembering things clearly” or “Maybe I walked away thinking something God didn’t actually mean.”  You can just picture the wheels turning and the doubt setting in.

You cannot say you believe God if you doubt His Word.  When Satan attacked Jesus in the Wilderness Temptations that preceded His earthly ministry, telling Him to turn stones into bread so that He could satisfy His hunger because He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus reminded Satan that the Word of God was the foundation for sustenance and spiritual strength and that it could also sustain Him during a time of physical weakness.  He said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4. Jesus was quoting Scripture to the devil and was adamant that the Word of God was the foundation for spiritual life.  Jesus didn’t count on anything physical to sustain Him.  He believed on and counted on the Word of God. 

Are we as convinced?  Do we trust the Word of God enough to sustain us in times of testing and temptation or do we doubt its efficacy and look for a quick source of comfort from the physical world?  Do we look for earthly ways to escape unpleasant circumstances or do we seek the truth of God’s Word to help us overcome?  Do we downplay the consequences of sin that are spelled out in the Word of God so that we can feel better about doing what God says is wrong because we have allowed Satan to whisper to us, “It’s not like that;  God surely wants you to be happy. You’re only young once.  You can live for God later.  One time won’t hurt you.” or whatever else we allow Him to say to us.

Doubting the Word of God, entertaining that it really doesn’t mean what it says, that clear commands of God can mean different things to different people, believing you can suspend the consequences that are stated in it, is a trap of the enemy.  Don’t fall for it.

A second way that I believe Satan seeks to get you entangled in the trap of doubt is to get you to Doubt the Goodness of God.

Satan wants your focus on your pain and all that is “wrong” with your life.  He wants to get you fixed on what you desire but don’t have.  He wants you disrupted in your spirit to the point where you doubt the goodness of God.  When he said to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” he wanted to place doubt in her mind about God’s goodness.  He wanted her to question if that could even be right.  I mean, God had given them so much to enjoy.  God was such a generous giver.  Why would He be a restrictor and put something off limits?  Why would He purposely withhold something from her that Satan said was obviously desirable and beneficial for her to experience?  That wasn’t consistent with His generous and good character.  It didn’t make any sense.  I can almost hear Satan say, “That doesn’t even sound like God.  I don’t think you heard Him correctly.  Why would a good God want to keep you from something that would enhance your life?”  Wouldn’t something like that make Him not good or not as good as you have come to believe He is?”

What are the kinds of things he whispers in our ears today that cause us to doubt God’s goodness?  If God really loved you, why would He allow you to suffer?  If God really loved you, why wouldn’t He have healed you?  If God really loved you why would He keep you from something that could help you feel better?  Why not test the waters? After all, what do you have to lose?  You can always ask for forgiveness.  There is no harm in exploring, right?  What is the worst thing that could happen?  It’s only a piece of fruit, right?” 

Notice that Satan made light of God’s Words to Eve when he said, You will not certainly die.”  I can hear him laughing as he said it, as if it were a joke.  Like, “That’s preposterous!  Everyone knows that isn’t true.  Don’t be naïve, Eve.  Come on, girl.  A piece of fruit will cause death?  I mean, that’s not even logical.  How is that even possible?” 

With Satan, there’s always a twisting, a note of sarcasm, something to appeal to our human sensibilities instead of our spiritual ones.  He tries to wedge his way in by getting us to rely on human reasoning, and one of his main strategies is to use that “if” question.  “If God truly loved me then why is _________?” 

Gideon, a guy God raised up as a leader in the Old Testament, almost went down the road of doubt in Judges 6.  You see, Satan wants us to believe that moments of struggle indicate God has left us alone, that God has abandoned us.  We read in Judges 6 that the Israelites had gone off the rails.  They weren’t just apathetic towards God, but they were doing evil, and there are consequences for doing evil.  Because God had a plan to draw them back, because God desired them back, because God wanted them to have a reason to turn to Him, He allowed them to be given into the hands of the Midianites. The Midianites oppressed them to the point where the Israelites had to hide and live in mountain clefts and caves.  Whenever they planted their crops, the Midianites ruined their crops and killed their livestock. That is a pretty bad state of affairs for sure.  I guess you could say they were quarantined in the clefts and caves which didn’t give them many options to continue to do the evil stuff they had been doing.  Should that have been a wake-up call?  Is there a parallel here?  I’ll move on.

Can you agree with me this morning that no parent is a good parent who won’t discipline their children? Our Heavenly Father is a good parent, a perfect one. God’s heart was breaking for His people.  If He didn’t do something to discipline them, they wouldn’t recover.  Evil is a dead end.  It leads to destruction.  God wasn’t going to stand by and watch His children self-destruct.  That wouldn’t make Him good, now would it? 

Well, the Israelites cried out to God for help.  They weren’t crying out to Him when they were doing evil, but when the consequences came, there they were asking God for help. And in His goodness, because He is patient with His children, because He wanted them to understand why they were suffering and to learn from their mistakes, He told them in verses 7-10.  He explained why the calamity had come upon them. And then in verse 11, the angel of the LORD visited Gideon while he was working, and this is what he said to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

“If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?”  “The Lord has abandoned us.”  These were the actual thoughts of Gideon in that moment.  It sounds like the seeds of doubt to me.  Have you ever felt that way?  Have you felt betrayed or abandoned by God?  Satan wants you to believe God has changed His mind regarding how He feels about you.  Satan wants you to believe God has washed His hands of you.  He wants you to believe God has deserted to you. Not so, my friends.

God promises in Psalm 23:4 to walk with us even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:20 that He is always with us.  Hebrews 13:5 affirms that He will never forsake us.  Romans 8:28 tells us that God is working all things out for our God as we love Him and allow Him to have His ways in our lives.  Listen to me, God is doing things right now that you cannot see and couldn’t understand if He sat you down and tried to explain them to you. Trust Him.  He is only good.  He cannot be anything but good.  

Satan has launched an assault on God’s character to get you to doubt His goodness.  He’s got a mudslinging campaign going on to try to tarnish God’s reputation and to distort your view of God’s heart towards you.  If you think God is causing your pain or allowing unnecessary trials, or if you believe God is holding out on you, restricting you, limiting you and placing you under some kind of burdensome way of life, then you won’t trust His goodness and believe He wants the best for you.  Satan wants you to think that abundant life is a life filled with rules and regulations and restrictions rather than the true freedom it actually is.  I John 5:3 tells us that the commands of God are not burdensome.  He doesn’t give us commands in order to throw His weight around or to make life tough on us.  No, God gives us commands because He loves us and doesn’t want us trapped by the false promises of sin.  He isn’t trying to hold you back from anything good, but Satan wants you to think that is the case.  Satan wants to twist the commands of God to get you to doubt God’s goodness. 

And if Satan can get you to think God has left you in the middle of some bad situation, he can lead you to despair and to be overcome by your circumstances. In the case of Gideon, the Angel of the Lord revealed the goodness of God towards His people by explaining to Gideon that God had been there all along, that God had heard the cries of His people, that God was going to use Gideon to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Midianites.  Gideon could hardly believe what he heard.  He said, “There’s no way I could do such a thing.  I am small and weak,” but the LORD answered him saying, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all of the Midianites, leaving none alive.”  God was going to be with Gideon and God was going to free the Israelites completely.  He was going to destroy their enemy completely.  They weren’t just going to get a little bit of relief or a small reprieve or a few months of breathing room.  They were going to be freed completely.  They would be able to live in safety.  They would be able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives.

Listen to me, it is a good God who will discipline you when you need it.  It is a good God who gives you the opportunity to start over when you have failed.  It is a good God who will take care of your enemy.  It is a good God who will enable you to rebuild what sin has destroyed in your life.  He isn’t going to flake out and walk away when you get into trouble, even if you caused the trouble for yourself.  He will be right there with you. He says in Isaiah 43:1b-2 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

God has not left us, friends.  He knows what we are all going through.  He knows how hard many have had it with this pandemic and the political turmoil that saturates the landscape of life in America.  He knows what a toll it is taking on our economy, our families, our educational system, our social structures and our way of life.  Where is He?  He is with us.  He is in the river with us.  He is in the fire with us.  He is taking us through this difficult time.  And for those who are truly looking to Him for rescue, we are seeing Him more clearly than ever. There is a spiritual awakening going on! There is a holy roar rising up in God’s people. There is a renewed sense of purpose and Kingdom perspective.  We aren’t slowing down because of this virus.  We are ramping up. 

We are soaring on wings like eagles and are seeing things from a new and supernatural perspective.  We have hope like we have never had before.  There is fresh breath filling our lungs.  We are running hard after God because we see that even in the difficulty, He is with us and He is working things out to clear the way for revival. Evil is being exposed on a mass scale to help God’s church wake up.  I understand why the news reports are troubling.  They are troubling because all kinds of evil is on display.  I believe this is all part of God’s plan to expose the enemy, to expose the ways that Satan has been at work in this world for far too long. By bringing things to the surface, God is enabling us to see what we haven’t been privy to before.  We are able to pray more strategically because we are being alerted to the devil’s schemes.  Here’s what I know:  Things are worse than they have ever been in my lifetime, but I am rejoicing that God is making that known.  Does that sound warped?  God is revealing some things that we need to know in order to continue to live as conquerors and Kingdom people.

I believe there is a STIRRING going on as in the days of Zerubbabel, the Governor of Judah.  Haggai 1:14 says that Zerubbabel’s heart was stirred up, Joshua, the Priest’s heart was stirred up, and the whole remnant of the people who truly were committed to God, got stirred up.  Listen, church.  These aren’t days to doubt.  These are days to declare that God is on the move, that His goodness is about to usher in a new season and these are the days to acknowledge that He is accomplishing His good purposes even when it seems like evil might be winning.  Can you believe in faith with me in the goodness of God even during this crazy time in our world?

Do you know that on the cross of Calvary it appeared that evil was winning?  Am I right?  It appeared that as Jesus, an innocent Person, was being executed and that hope was dying with Jesus.  Oh, but when those around the cross saw the execution of a Person, God was actually unfolding the execution of a plan. Those standing at that bloodstained cross had a front row seat to something supernatural that was taking place. It didn’t look supernatural.  It looked horrific.  It looked God-forsaken. How could the death of Jesus be a good thing?  How could Him having to taste death be a good thing?  How could His body being carried and placed in a borrowed tomb and having the tomb sealed with a huge boulder and protected by Roman soldiers be a good thing? It was a good thing because it was God’s doing.  It was a great thing because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and a personal victory for every person who will trust Christ as Savior. 

We need to get our eyes off of what things look like in the natural and trust the goodness of God.  Satan is trying to give you many reasons to doubt God’s goodness and love for you right now, don’t fall for it.  It’s a trap. Don’t allow your circumstances to put God’s goodness on trial.  Just trust Him and cry out to Him.  He is there and is waiting for you to ask Him for His help.

Will you stand with me on the Word of God and the character of God?  God is the truth-teller, and He is always good in every circumstance.  He is making a way for all who place their full confidence in Him.  If you are going to emerge from this political turmoil and pandemic spiritually stronger and free from anxiety and fear, you need to trust God. The opposite of doubt is faith.  It takes faith to walk with God.  It takes faith to see the unseen.  It takes faith to move forward in your understanding of spiritual things.  Satan doesn’t dwell in the realm of faith.  He is at work in the realm of doubt.  If you want to be where God is at work, if you want to experience the place where hope is alive, if you want to soar to the place where God is actively present in power, if you want to have a front row seat to the plan of God, no matter how unusual it may seem, step out of the trap of doubt and into the realm of faith.

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