This is Part 3 of 7 parts in answering the question, “Are there unseen forces and other reasons God allows suffering?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 4-7 will be posted on succeeding days.
Satan Attacks God’s People Using Any Vessel
Satan will use either believer or unbeliever in mounting his assaults and attacks against man! For example, If Satan moved David, a believer, to sin, is it possible for godly people today to do sinful things, as explained in 1 Chronicles 21:1? If Jesus called Peter, “Satan,” is it possible for people to speak with a wrong motivation or provide half-truths to fit their agenda (cf. Matt. 16:21-23)? If Peter questioned Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” then is it possible for Christians to also lie for their own purposes? If believers fell away from the truth and believed deceiving spirits in Biblical times, can believers today believe what is not true (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1-3)? Did you ever twist the truth before your parents to get out of a jam? And have your children ever twisted the truth in order to escape punishment?
In Job’s case, Satan used three friends who accused him of suffering as a direct consequence of sinful actions. In fact, they merely repeated Satan’s accusations – only in a variety of forms and ways. Larry Waters writes,
While it is true that God’s wisdom, as Zophar said, is unfathomable (11:7–9), this was not the issue in Job’s situation. Satan’s original faulty premise was repeated by Zophar: If Job were good, he would prosper; but since he suffers, he must be evil and will die (vv. 13–20). Zophar accused Job of wickedness (20:6), pride (v. 6), perishing like dung (v. 7), and oppressing the poor (v. 19).2
It doesn’t matter who the person is, whether believer or unbeliever – the devil will influence others through them if they are not filled with the Spirit and dependent on the Lord through faith. Therefore, after the three friends sat with Job for seven days without saying a word, they revealed their hypocrisy when they opened their mouths. Waters astutely remarks concerning their pressure,
The three counselors intensified their pressure on Job to accept the traditional doctrine of retribution/recompense theology, thus inflicting greater mental suffering on Job. Acting unknowingly as agents of Satan’s philosophy, the three friends increased the suffering of an already hurting man. However, even though Job found inconsistencies with the application of the doctrine, he shared the view of the friends that the world is based on a reward-and-punishment scheme. This position only added to his frustration.3
Satan’s plan of intense suffering worked, for Job eventually wore down and lost heart. He himself questioned God. Waters notes,
Soon after his first calamities, Job worshiped God, saying “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). He “did not sin nor did he blame God” (v. 22). But later, under the pressure of his opponents’ accusations and under the weight of his seemingly endless physical and emotional plight, Job said, “For He bruises me with a tempest, and multiplies my wounds without cause” (9:17). In his despair Job accused God of being unfair and unjust (vv. 17–20), since he observed that God punishes good people and rewards bad people (vv. 21–24).4
Is it unbelievable that Satan could possibly use Job’s friends to accuse him? Certainly! We understand that Satan can use an unbeliever to attack believers. He holds the world of unbelievers under his sway (1 John 5:19). He works through some people by means of demon possession to attack others, as in the man from Gadarenes (Mark 5:1-20). He will empower the antichrist in the future to “make war with the saints and overcome them.” (Rev. 13:7) He possessed Judas to betray Jesus, so that the religious leaders would push for His crucifixion (John 13: 27). All these caused tremendous suffering. But could Satan use believers to do his work of suffering on others?
Paul expressed to Timothy that there will be people in the church who will oppose its leadership. He wrote,
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim. 2:24-26 NKJ)
Paul didn’t say that these were unbelievers, who needed to be saved. He stated that they were “taken captive” by Satan! In other words, they were saved, but spiritually taken captive by the enemy! The passive voice of the verb means at some point, Satan took them captive. Satan already has the unbelieving world under his control from birth (Eph. 2:1-3). He does not possess the believer, but he can influence him who is living in sin and has stumbled down the downward spiral (Eph. 4:17-19). The servant of the Lord must be patient and humble when he corrects, because God may not allow the sinful person to repent. He does this by not revealing the light to him so that he is convicted of his sinful opposition and then repents.
There are other examples of believers that Satan used to do his work. There are some believers that Paul turned over to Satan to bring them to repentance so that they would not blaspheme God anymore. This is seen in the young man who was committing incest (1 Cor. 5:1-5) and Hymenaeus and Alexander, who suffered shipwreck (1 Tim. 1:20). King Saul was clearly a believer (1 Sam. 10: 6,7,8,9,10,11,12), but the Spirit of God left him (1 Sam. 16:14), and he went on a mission to kill God’s next anointed king – David (1 Sam. 18:11; 19:1, 11).
Satan also moved among believers to cause suffering on others. He moved David to number the people and 70,000 Israelites died because of David’s decision (1 Chron. 21:1, 14). He moved in Peter to block Jesus from His direction of movement toward the cross (Matt. 16:21-23). He moved through Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Spirit causing the death of both (Acts 5:3). Satan can take advantage of us if we allow him to create division from a lack of forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:11). He is able to transform himself into an angel of light and deceive us (2 Cor. 11:14). He used his messengers to cause individual pain as in the “thorn in the flesh” used against Paul (2 Cor. 12:7). Satan can hinder believers from desiring to see and disciple other believers (1 Thes. 2:18). That not only prevents effective ministry but causes emotional separation and distress similar to the suffering that a parent would feel if he was separated from seeing his child grow and develop.
Satan will use any vessel, believer or unbeliever, to do his work of misery and suffering. He often attacks and accuses to wear a believer down in order to accept false theology.
1Waters, Larry. “Reflections on Suffering From the Book of Job” Bibliotheca Sacra 154 (October – December 197): 442.
2Ibid., p. 443.
3Ibid., p. 445.
4Ibid., p. 443.
Part 4 will be posted tomorrow.