"The Scriptures tell us that for His sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day--we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us."
- Romans 8:36-37 TLB
I had started making some real progress in overcoming some bad habits that had plagued me for years--and that I knew were keeping me from experiencing God's best plans for my life--when I got hit with a severe attack on my health. As I stood on God's promises for deliverance and healing, I got hit with another debilitating attack. I finally went to the Lord and pressed Him for answers. "What's going on here, Lord? I feel like I'm finally doing what You want me to, and now this happens. I don't get it." That's when He led me to Psalm 44. Here, the psalmist shares his bewilderment with his God. He and his people have been faithful to the Lord, yet they are being attacked, defeated, and disgraced at every turn. By the time he gets to the end of the psalm, it dawns on him that he is suffering precisely BECAUSE he is committed to the Lord. He writes: "Yet for YOUR SAKE we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." (Psalm 44:22 NIV) In other words, the psalmist's suffering was not divine chastisement, but a battle scar as a result of his devotion and commitment to the Lord.
The apostle Paul quotes this same verse in the book of Romans. "The Scriptures tell us that for His sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day--we are like sheep awaiting slaughter; but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us." (Romans 8:36-37 TLB) The Bible doesn't try to deceive us. It tells us plainly that when we make the decision to live for God, we must be prepared to suffer because of that decision. Paul wrote: "For to you has been given the privilege not only of trusting Him but also of suffering for Him. We are in this fight together." (Philippians 1:29-30 TLB) If we don't take Scriptures like these to heart, the next time we face suffering, we'll automatically think that we've done something wrong. But the truth is that, for a believer, suffering can be a sign of loyalty. The apostle Peter wrote: "For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps." (1 Peter 2:21 NLT) Peter knew from personal experience that doing good often led to suffering. And he reminds us that Jesus Himself suffered greatly in many ways because of His obedience, and we are to follow His example.
You and I need to keep in mind that we have the same enemies that Jesus did--Satan and his evil forces. As Scripture says: "We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12 NLT) Much of our suffering will come from the devil's attempts to tempt, accuse, and deceive us, so we must be on guard at all times. As Peter says: "Be careful--watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord; and remember that other Christians all around the world are going through these sufferings too." (1 Peter 5:8-9 TLB) One of the things that comforts me most when I'm hurting is that I am not being singled out to suffer, but my brothers and sisters in Christ everywhere are undergoing their own trials, and they can relate to my struggles.
When we're suffering in some way, we should ask the Lord to show us anything we might have done to open a door to satanic attack. If He doesn't show us anything, it might be wise to consider the fact that we're being attacked because of our faithfulness, not our unfaithfulness. We must remind ourselves that if God allows adversity to touch our lives, then He has a divine purpose for it, and He will cause it to profit us somehow. (Romans 8:28) Believing and acting on these truths will spare us from having to reap the penalty of a wrong response to our trials. If you are hurting today, I invite you to--"Take [with me] your share of the hardships and suffering [which you are called to endure] as a good (first-class) soldier of Christ Jesus"! (2 Timothy 2:3 AMP)
Prayer: Lord, when I am under attack in some way, remind me that what Satan meant for my harm, You will work for my good, as long as I am trusting in You. (Genesis 50:20) Help me to devote myself to prayer and Your Word, so that I can "be firm in faith," as You've called me to be. (1 Peter 5:8 AMP) Thank You for the "overwhelming victory" that is mine through Christ who loves me! (Romans 8:37)
- J. M. Farro