Why the struggle?

In the midst of my tears not too long ago, I engaged God in some conversation (otherwise known as “prayer” to those of us who are Christians). I have been having some trying times the past few weeks and it seems like even the good things I try to do fail.

So why does it seem like my life was easier when I was living in sin?

I have been studying, praying and trying to develop my Christian character. So why does it seem like my prayers are being ignored, especially when I see other people who I know are not trying as hard or are as dedicated living on Easy Street?

First things first. Of course the sinful life is easy. The devil already has us in his grasp-there is no need to reach into his bag of tricks for those who are already under his control. Instead, the minute you take it upon yourself to really grow with Jesus, that wiley, unscrupulous devil will stop at nothing to get you back on his side. The devil, while not omniscient or omnipotent, knows our human weaknesses and limitations well enough to exploit them.

The devil is actually pretty fascinating. A lot of people tend to forget that the devil is an angel. Angels were created by God. The word angel, translated from the Greek word “angelos” or Hebrew “malak”, defines the purpose of angels–as messengers. Angels have more power than men, but not nearly as much as God. God has given them a measure of power. They also have intelligence, emotion, and will–all of those things (or lack therof, in the case of intelligence) had to contribute to the number of fallen angels.

Two classes of angels exist-the holy or elect angels who have remained devoted to God, and the evil or fallen angels that went along with the devil and his desire to be higher than God (interesting goal–to be higher than the one who made you? How does that work?). There were several orders of angels, each with a distinct purpose involving God’s work. The cherubim can be thought of as God’s security guards. In the Bible, the angels who are seen “guarding” anything and making sure that God’s presence remains holy are the cherubim. Then there are the seraphim, who are wholly, unwaveringly dedicated to God. They serve as priests in a sense that their sole purpose is to proclaim the goodness and holiness of our God.

Today some misunderstandings of angels persist. Number one, people do not become angels when they die. Saved people who are absent from the body are present with the Lord. As for the unsaved people, they unfortunately go elsewhere. (As we say in my Tuesday night Moody Bible class, which I LOVE, people have the option of either going to the smoking section or the non-smoking section). Number two, angels can be winged creatures, but they are not all the time. In the Bible angels often are seen in the form of a man. Angels are not female. They were all created at one time, and therefore do not reproduce.

Although there are countless angels, only three are named specifically in the Bible. Michael, a cherubim (security guard, remember?) the archangel, is kind of like the commander-in-chief of the angels who is seen in the Revelation acting as the leader of the army against Satan. The name Michael can be translated to mean “Who is like God”.  Then there is Gabriel, who appears to be the chief messenger. Gabriel means “mighty one of God”. God has embued Gabriel with great powers, and this is reflected in the Scriptures by references to his great strength and speed. Gabriel serves to reveal and interpret God’s message. Gabriel can be classified as a seraphim.

Then we have Lucifer. In Ezekiel 28:14-16, God reveals that Lucifer is a cherub. Lucifer had been created by God to be extremely beautiful and had been given a position of leadership that he held on to even after he fell from heaven. Lucifer had it made–yet his pride enabled him to believe that somehow, inexplicably, he might be able to become “greater than God”. That is a very curious notion to me–to think you can overcome the very one who made you and gave you the intellect, strength, position, and beauty, among other physical and mental capacities. Wow.

Does Lucifer, better known as the name that designates his fallen angel status, Satan, truly think he can beat God? Does the guy remember that he had to basically ask God for permission to afflict Job? If he truly had the power God has, he wouldn’t have to ask anything. Whether or not Satan truly believes he can overcome Jesus, one thing is clear–he is doing his best to take as many humans with him as possible.

God loves the angels he created, of course, but in a sense we are above angels in that we are in Christ. (In other ways we are lower than angels–we do not have their power, for example). How best can Satan get back at God than by take as many of us as possible?

As Christians we need to understand Satan’s purpose and his tactics so we may be able to identify his influence when it moves in our lives. Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy. He uses our personal human weaknesses and limitations to his ultimate advantage. He steals our joy by making us forget the goodness, grace and mercy of God. He uses people to pervert the Word of God. He has a very strong presence in our media. Watch two or three commercials on television and I am sure you will agree–count the number of commercials with a half naked woman in it serving absolutely no purpose at all, or the number of commercials that show people drinking who look like they are just having the time of their life. Look at how our media promotes a culture of selfishness and greed. Oh, if you want to be cool, you have the have the newest IPhone, so much so that people will camp out in front of electronics stores just to be the first to get them. Meanwhile, someone is right around the nearest corner, just waiting to rob them of it. Listen to a couple of the songs that are popular with the younger people and count the references to drugs, drinking or sex, or better yet, get an unedited version of some of those songs and count the cuss words. People Magazine always has pictures of “celebrities” with the best bodies and we have little girls starving themselves instead of enjoying the food God blessed them with to look like one of them. Even on the news, every other story is about a murder or some other antisocial act.

God implemented three institutions–family, government, and the church. Satan has his hand in all three functions. Single parent households are far from being an anomaly. We barely bat an eyelash now when we hear of a father abandoning his responsibilities as a man. And don’t let me get started on our politicians, because the vast majority of them appear to be corrupt and need to be removed from their office. As we have seen in terms of the allegations against Chris Christie, who was at one point one of the few Republican politicians I could actually stomach, most of them are out for SELF and do not care who they harm to get to the top. Satan causes division in the church with false doctrine.

In my personal life I see Satan in numerous ways. I have been getting upset about a number of things, including my transportation situation and living arrangement. Again, I have been praying for a change of attitude, because I know I am supposed to be content with the blessings already bestowed upon me, but I also do not see the harm in wanting a home of my own for my family. When I hear others sharing good news, a little voice in the back of my mind tries to whisper and remind me how my own wants are not being met, despite everything I do (and do not do. I still have not had a sip of alcohol in I do not know how long now, and I can see other changes as well, although I still need a TON of work).

Then I find myself wondering if God is listening to me at all, or has he just moved on to other things. This is definitely a tactic of the devil. OF COURSE God listens to his children. What I have to remind myself is that God moves on his own time, when it is necessary, and according to his most perfect will. I have plans of my own, but God has his plans for me, and guess who is going to win every time??

So, in the midst of my struggle, I still cry, get frustrated, ask why, and how much longer. I talk to him like what he is: My FRIEND. I am being prepared for something. What it is, I do not know, but as long as God is pleased, it is worth whatever struggle comes my way.

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