The Devil’s Schemes: Unanswered Prayer
When we are in pain we are most vulnerable to the Devils traps.
The Devil’s Schemes: Unanswered Prayer
We know that Satan is a liar. Jesus called it the father of lies (John 8:44). The devil sets traps for believers to derail them from life and fruit in the Kingdom (1 Peter 5:8). Paul was sent by Jesus to communities outside of Israel to tell people of the resurrection and the Kingdom, of the gift of salvation through faith in Christ. In a letter he wrote to one of the congregations that he planted he told the folks that we need to be aware of the devil’s schemes so that the spiritual forces of evil do not outwit us in our journey of becoming more like Jesus and our ministry of love to people (Ephesians 6:11 & 2 Corinthians 2:11).
Today we are going to consider how the devil tries to outwit us, to take advantage of us when the prayers that we pray don’t get answered the way we want. The mystery of God is salvation through Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:7). The dark mysteries of God are the times of suffering that seem to serve no purpose at all but cause us pain. When we hurt, we a vulnerable We’ll look at some of the devil's attempts to get you to doubt, to shake your faith and tempt you into disobedience or worse renouncing your faith (Matthew 4:2). Then there will be a strategy to help us live in the dark mysteries of God.
2011 was a year in which I prayed and fasted for miracles. Many of you joined me in asking that Grant and Carol to be healed through God’s miraculous intervention. Oh, how I wanted one of those stories where tragedy struck, doctors say there is no hope but in the last minutes, God did the impossible. Well, that didn’t happen. It might be wise to add a yet, but really the instantons healings did not occur.
During 2011 not only did I pray, but over 2,000 believers around the world prayed. The scriptures encourage us:
James 5:14-15 (MSG)
Are you sick? Call the church leaders together to pray and anoint you with oil in the name of the Master. Believing-prayer will heal you, and Jesus will put you on your feet. And if you've sinned, you'll be forgiven—healed inside and out.
The church leaders: general superintendents who care for the entire work of the Church of the Nazarene, district superintendents who care for the pastors on their districts, fellow pastors, evangelists, worship leaders, and just folks like you and me prayed. Grant is still in need of restoration. Carol died.
The scripture encourages us:
John 14:12-14 (NIV)
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
More than two or three gathered on numerous occasions. Our mom’s prayed, grandparents prayed, folks we had never meet prayed. Asking for healing miracles, calling on the name of Jehovah Rapha, “the God who heals.” Praying for intervention in Jesus' name. Grant is still in need of restoration. Carol died.
In December of 2011, I took three weeks off from preaching and teaching and trying to lead our congregation. [I look back now and can tell you that was not a long enough time away]. Especially during that time, I was spiritually assaulted; the flaming arrows of Satan were flying at me.
Your prayers were not answered because of sin in your life.
Your prayers were not answered because you have no faith.
Your prayers were not answered because God doesn’t care.
Your prayers were not answered because there is no God.
You’ve served God pretty much your entire adulthood, and He allows your son to be brain damaged and lets your wife die of cancer, loving and kind of Him isn’t it?
You’ve always strived to be a disciple of Jesus but what good has it done you. When you needed His intervention the most, He didn’t show up.
Has God ever really shown up?
How are you going to account for the fact that the scriptures aren’t true? You prayed, the elders prayed, but nothing but what the doctors said happened.
You put your hope in God’s power, His provision, His protection and look at what happened. Recall all the prayers you prayed for the welfare of your family, what a waste of time and energy.
If there is a God, He could care less about you.
Just do what you want from now on. Be good, be bad, it doesn’t matter. God doesn’t reward or punish anybody because we all make our own way.
Face it dude—you’ve been lied too.
Thoughts like these were my constant companions as I sat in a mental fog of grief. Quit the ministry, run, kill yourself, disappear, your life and ministry are officially over. You will not rise out of these ashes. No need to stick the fork in, this one’s done (Psalm 22).
My heart was so broken. Three things kept me going. The first was the responsibility to take care of Grant. The second was friends who would listen and even dare spend time with me. The third is even though I was angry with God, He gave me the grace to realize there was no other place to go but to Him (Psalm 71:3). I was not in my right mind. Normal was gone. I was facing a strange world without my best friend and partner in life and ministry, I wanted no part of it. I stopped listening to Christian music because it all sounded like lies to me. I embarked on a rethinking of everything I had been taught about Christianity.
If you go on Facebook, locate the page “Pray for Grant” [https://www.facebook.com/groups/192541437430882/ ] the entries display my heart. You’ll read about the journey and my struggle in trying to make sense of all of it.
It would be so cool to stand here this morning and tell you God is so good, He’s worked it all out, it's happily ever after. Oft quoted to me in my pain and misery was Romans 8:28
Romans 8:28 (NIV)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Please don’t ever share this scripture with someone who is in mourning. The question I immediately asked, this mess is on purpose? Its been a while since 2011, I am still waiting to see the good that comes out of a dead wife and a brain-damaged son.
Well, Mike, you know Isaiah 55:8-9:
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God your thoughts must be, because scripture reveals you as a loving heavenly Father, and I sure wouldn’t treat my kids this way. You want to help someone with a broken heart, don’t quote scripture, just listen, just make yourself available, just be present.
How long does a person actually mourn the death of a loved one? How about two or three weeks to get over it and back on track? No, more like forever, you just learn to deal with the pain differently, you create a new normal, but there is always a hole in the heart that nothing can fill. Grant, all the dreams, all the what could have been, all the life to be lived, the world to experience, that’s a fresh mourning every day (Psalm 34:18, Romans 12:15, Galatians 6:2).
Satan’s scheme is to exploit your pain in order to shake your faith so hard that there is no faith left at all. It wants the hope that springs eternal to dry up. It wants you to turn your back on God and renounce your belief, or at least leave you a spiritual cripple, a totally ineffective part of the Kingdom.
Because of bad preaching, worse teaching and the culture we live in we don’t think suffering is the norm for this life (John 16:22, 1 Peter 2:21). Not all the time, so every chance for a celebration, take it. Every chance for a belly laugh, burst out. Every chance for a great meal, eat it with gusto (whoever gusto is). Every chance to get together with loved ones, friends and family, do it. Because mixed in with all the good times, are times of struggle and suffering. Dr. Pratt will tell you—“every relationship ends.” Every relationship but one, the one you have with God through faith in Jesus. When relationships end, there is suffering.
We all go through times of temptation, trial, and tribulations. Those three “T’s” are varying intensities of tough times, all are preludes to suffering. Sometimes we can look back after going through one of those “T’s” and the truth of Hebrews 12:11 is realized in our hearts and minds.
Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Or maybe we come out of those “T’s” stronger and wiser and better equipped for the challenges ahead, better equipped to minister God’s love and comfort to others. We look back and realize the truth of Isaiah 48:10 and 1 Peter 5:10
Isaiah 48:10 (NIV) & 1 Peter 5:10 (MSG)
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” “The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good.”
Yet there are times of suffering that we don’t see an explanation, an understanding, a purpose, or a result. We can make no sense out of why things fell out the way they did. Satan wants us to doubt so that we disobey (Job 1:11). There are in this life the mysteries of God, which we cannot comprehend, and there are also the dark mysteries of God in which not only do we fail to understand but they break your heart, they break you, and you are left with nothing to hold on to, no solid ground to put your feet, except one place. That place is in the very hand of God that the devil has told you betrayed your trust. It is a thin string of faith that gets you there.
The dark mysteries of God. There is no figuring them out. The only place to go is the God who has been silent. This is what I have discovered, only God can carry you through hell. Your task as a disciple of Jesus is to bring your grief to God and ask for empowerment to make it through one more night, one more morning, one more afternoon, one more evening. Tell God how you feel. I certainly threw enough two years old didn’t get what they wanted tantrums. Where I am now is just falling to my knees and whispering “God.”
Here are some suggestions when you find yourself in a dark mystery of God.
Pour out your pain. Write out the doubts you are being assailed with. Write out your complaint about the situation. In scripture, this is called a lament. Here’s an example:
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (MSG)
God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, "Help! Murder! Police!" before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.
Laments are biblical, I believe they are healthy, we need to voice our complaint when we are in a dark mystery of God.
Stop trying to understand.You torture yourself trying to answer why. You obsess over a search for meaning in the events that just might not have any meaning at all.
Psalms 46:10 (NIV)
Be still, and know that I am God;
Dive deeper into the 7 habits of a disciple. Yes, once again you need to hear that Bible reading, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience, and contemplation are the way you draw near to God and find the help you need to carry the burden of pain that has been suddenly and unwantedly thrust upon you.
Psalms 46:1-3 (NIV)
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
If you find yourself in one of the dark mysteries of God, follow these suggestions and you will not fall away from the faith, for you will find that God is faithful, even in the times when our heart was faithless.
It’s a strange message just before thanksgiving. Dec 1 is the 8th anniversary of Carol’s death. Here I am. God is putting my life back together, creating a new normal, blessing me with a new companion and partner my wife Sherri, strengthening me for ministry. Still, I pray for Grant’s restoration. I can’t figure any of it. So I will just keep walking by faith. Be encouraged to walk by faith as you deal with your dark mystery of God.