I spent a lot of time inside of charismatic circles at the beginning of my Christian journey. A common theme you will hear if you walk into any charismatic Pentecostal church is spiritual warfare is real. That it’s all around us and Satan is lurking behind every corner, pulling the puppet strings behind every play and disrupting the lives of pretty much everyone you know. If it’s bad, it’s by default Satanic.
In this narrative, Satan is the villain and you and I are the victim. He is the predator and we are the prey. I mean, who could forget this famous passage:
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
And it isn’t just Pentecostal churches that carry this narrative either. You can find this narrative within Reformed churches, Roman Catholic Churches, Baptist Holiness churches and many others. While each church may express their views in different ways, there is a common theme shared across the spectrum; Satan is after believers and non-believers simply for the sake of making their lives miserable.
I’ll admit that I’ve had first hand experience with true evil. I mean the type of evil that you don’t like to talk about. The type of evil that keeps your mouth closed because you know what’s really at stake when you speak about Satan. The kind that makes you shake your head when Pastors blurt out declarations against such a formidable opponent as an exercise of bravado. Trust me. I know evil is around us.
And while it’s true that Satan and evil spirits continually flog the earth’s population, what’s not true, is that it’s all done for the purposes of wreaking havoc. The havoc that I’m referring to should be very familiar to you. It’s the kind that places Satan squarely in the middle of everything and usually without evidence. The devil is why you lost your job or became ill. The devil is the reason why we lose loved ones or experience failed marriages. The devil is why we don’t have the leader of the country we voted for or why the McDonald’s ice cream machine has always been broken. He is also the reason behind racism and why Hollywood decided to reboot the Ninja Turtles into a flaming mess of New York sewage, completely tearing at the delicate fabric of my childhood. Yes, I’m still salty about that reboot.
My point is, “the devil made me do it” has pretty much become the catchphrase for anything that goes wrong in our world. And I think the top reason for that is because the real aim behind Satan’s actions aren’t discussed enough within Christian circles.
What Satan wants
It’s important to know what Satan wants and what he doesn't care about. If we fail to recognize what he’s after then we truly leave ourselves open to being abused by him. But the abuse doesn’t stop there. We also leave ourselves open to abusing ourselves, constantly blaming the invisible boogeyman on everything that goes wrong. We will find ourselves seeking out a villain behind every negative action that occurs within our lives. And sadly, this will cause us to live in constant pessimism while cultivating a view of a God who is small and unable to help us. And our God, is not a small God. Bottom line, everything isn’t the devil's fault. In fact, he - nor evil spirits - can be everywhere at once as they’re not omnipresent. But they also don’t really care about many of the things we think they care about.
To truly understand what Satan is after we simply have to look at what he was willing to go to war over. Our answer, as we’ve reviewed in previous editions, lies in the book of Revelation, specifically chapter 12. This chapter elucidates Satan’s issue which is, he does not desire salvation to be offered to humanity. His chief aim is to keep humanity from being reconciled back to God. In fact, it’s even worse than that. His true desire is to drive a wedge between God and humanity altogether because he neverliked us.
In the garden of Eden, Satan was attempting to separate humanity from God. However, he ultimately failed as God was not willing to let us go; promising us a savior. Later, in the life of Job, Satan desires to sift Job like wheat:
9 Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. - Job 1:9–10 (ESV)
Satan attempts to convince God humanity isn’t worthy of even existing. That Job only fears God because of what He gives him. When Jesus later arrives on the scene guess who shows up in an attempt to stop the promise of reconciliation? Satan. And during Paul’s ministry who is it that desires to curtail his efforts (2 Cor 12:7) to promote the Gospel, constantly harassing him? Satan.
Spiritual warfare isn’t about random acts of havoc and Satan isn’t expending energy on random people to bring about random havoc. Earth is a fallen place and humans sin. This means we will experience the world’s fallenness and the effects of our own sinful desires at a much greater frequency than experiencing the works of Satan. So we should be careful to not equate acts of fallenness with the acts of our enemy, else we’ll find ourselves like a dog chasing its tail.
Satan and the evil spirits that exist are about the business of keeping people in the dark to the gift of salvation. Why? So people will not be brought back into relationship with God as it originally was in Eden. This is the only business Satan is concerned with. If you want to know where Satan is operating, simply look for places where the Gospel is being attacked or prevented. It’s the Gospel that brings people into relationship with God. And this is the only concern Satan and the evil spirits of darkness have.