One of the biggest attributes of my spiritual growth over the years has been the balance between the practical and the spiritual. This means understanding that while God plays His part, we also have a part to play—and these are actions nobody can take responsibility for but us. On the other end of the spectrum, this also means understanding that we have an enemy on the prowl, but he is not all-powerful and we are responsible for how we respond.
There have been many cases where I’ve seen two extremes: those who blame everything on the devil without taking any responsibility, and those who go through life bombarded by trials and temptations with complete oblivion to our adversary and nothing to combat him with. Maybe you’ve wondered How do I know if it’s spiritual warfare or if it’s my own consequences? Sometimes I think we overcomplicate this idea and our faith in general, while God is a very straightforward and practical God. Here are some things we must understand as we navigate the possible confusion between spiritual warfare and our own consequences.
The Devil is not omnipresent.
There is only one omnipresent being who is all-seeing, all-knowing and self-existing: the one and only true living God. For some reason, many have given Satan the same characteristics of God, which we know have never been attributed to him in the Bible. Satan himself is not in all places at all times. In fact, Job Chapter 1 shows him traveling “to and fro” from one point of the earth to another and still reporting to God about his whereabouts. He is a created being (Ezekiel 28:15). That’s not to say he doesn’t have the ability to send out assignments or schemes through other evil spirits. However, what we do know is:
- He is a spiritual force of evil ruling through the darkness of this world (Ephesians 6:12).
- He is not all-powerful and does not have complete control over us (James 4:7).
- He’s not working alone. There are other demons working with and under him (Matthew 25:21; Ephesians 6:12).
(Note: The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis gives an interesting depiction of how the enemy likely works.)
What does all of this mean for us as believers? It means that we have an enemy with limitations. While he is powerful, he is not all-powerful. He is not in every car breakdown or relationship breakup. He cannot read your mind. However, he is able to test us to the extent that God allows (Job 1:12)—and God will not allow any temptation to take over us that is more than we can endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). He also has thousands of years of experience with human nature and how we’re likely to react to the events of life, and therefore knows how to influence our hearts and minds. Notice I said influence, not control. We always have it within our authority in Christ to choose how to respond, rebuke or flee from the enemy’s lies.
Sin has its own consequences.
It’s so easy to blame temptation on the devil until the Bible turns the mirror onto our own hearts. James 1:14 states that “temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” In a culture that says we should follow our heart, we as believers understand that sin has tainted the heart. The heart deceives us because it is often led by the flesh and not by the truth.
A good quote to live by would be “You can choose the sin, but you can’t choose the consequence.” Many of us have learned this the hard way. We open the door to our own consequences. It has little to do with the devil and more to do with the natural unraveling of life once we go down sin’s path. The flesh by nature leads to death, and the spirit by nature leads to life (Romans 8:6). Just as what comes up must go down by the law of gravity, this law of following spirit versus flesh is a natural law that’s in motion in this world.
Whether you’ve acted irresponsibility, continued to entertain a relationship that’s drawn you away from God or made a decision that was out of line with your faith, it has served its own consequences. The good news is that no matter how far we’ve gone, God is overflowing with grace and always able to redeem us, restore us and put us back on a firm foundation.
We should be continuous students of our own circumstances.
So was it the devil or was it me? In many cases it could very well be a combination of both. The truth is that, as believers, we will always be at war against our adversary and at war against our own flesh. We’re always called to be on guard. That means staying connected to Christ and surrounded by a body of believers who will help keep you in step with this path. It also means keeping your mind fortified with the truth of God’s Word, because the only weapon the enemy truly has is lies and he’s only hoping you’ll believe them. At the end of the day, we should always be reflecting on the choices we’ve made and the roles we’ve played, and continue to seek God in the midst.
Hey, I have great news for you: In Christ, whether you’ve fallen from your own mistakes or a scheme of the devil, you can always get back up. You can always learn from the situation and what to do if you encounter it again. All hope is never lost because we serve a Reedemer. Not only that, but while we find ourselves at war, we can have peace because we fight from a place of victory. Christ has overcome this world and His spirit dwells within us, giving us the power to overcome our advesary and this world.
So keep going, stand firm and continue to strive to walk in step with the truth.