Certainly one of the great teachers of the Bible that Christ gave His Church was Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse. He wrote about Satan–the mortal enemy of men’s souls:
if you should go down the street on a sidewalk quiz program, Mr. Average-man might tell you that he is not even sure that there is such a being as [Satan]…one of his characteristic stratagems is to give those who believe that he does exist an entirely wrong concept of what his true nature and character really are. In the Middle Ages, when there were no radios, no magazines, no newspapers, no movies, no telephones, and none of our modern means of passing the time, the people were frequently amused by miracle plays. These were a sort of religious pageant in which religious stories were acted out on the stage. The audience learned to look for one character on the stage who was always dressed in red, wore horns on his head, and a tail dangling out behind him. His hoofs were cloven, and he had a pitchfork in his hand. The onlookers were quite thrilled when they saw this figure sneaking up on the hero or the heroine.
The idea arose that Satan could be called the “old Nick,” or “his satanic majesty,” and that he was a slightly comic character. It is always dangerous to underestimate the enemy. The Bible gives us the true picture of this being: that he really exists, and that he is the enemy of men. We need, religiously, to get over the idea that Satan is a comic character and realize that he is a malignant being of great power who hates [mankind]. He hates us because God has said that He is someday going to replace the rule of Satan by the rule of righteous man, under Christ. We will do our best to submit ourselves to God, and to realize that the death of Jesus Christ [and His Resurrection from the dead] was the means whereby the Lord conquered Satan. We must submit ourselves to the Savior who will enable us to live lives of victory over the enemy (Illustrating Great Themes of Scripture, pp.81,82).
The Testing Of Our Faith
If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’re no doubt experienced the taunting of the Devil–which produces the testing of your faith. You see, whatever Satan tries to do – or even what he may initially accomplish – can only be done if God chooses to allow it. And further, whenever the Devil manages to get something done, the Lord will then use that to turn something Satan intends as harmful into something which actually accomplishes God’s own purpose. Now this I refer to as The Blessing Of Trials.
God’s written Word–the Bible–tells the Christian to Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything – James 1:2-4. And – In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed - 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Well-known Puritan writer John Newton, author of the classic Amazing Grace gives us the benefit of his insight:
Afflictions quicken us to prayer. It is a pity it should be so; experience testifies that a long course of ease and prosperity, without painful changes, has an unhappy tendency to make us cold and formal in our secret worship; but troubles rouse our spirits, and constrain us to call upon the Lord in good earnest, when we feel a need of that help which we only can have from him. (http://www.puritansermons.com/newton/newton2.htm)
The true Christian need not be surprised that the closer you walk to Jesus, the more trials, and attacks of the Devil, you will experience at some points along the way. So many today think that coming to Jesus will bring peace with your fellow man into your life, and the blessings of health, wealth, and prosperity. However, these are lies from Satan himself and thousands are on that broad road to destruction because of these heinous falsehoods. The peace that transcends all understanding that Jesus brings is inside the heart of the Christian. Christian singer-songwriter, Steven Curtis Chapman, captured this well in his song What Kind Of Joy when he wrote – “What kind of joy is this; that counts it a blessing to suffer?” Not that every Christian always suffers, nor are we in constant trials. It’s just that as they may happen the world sees the reality of God through the grace imparted by the Lord to the Christian as He helps us to bear burdens that seem impossible to the unbeliever.
It's important for us to understand that when things find their way into our lives which are unexpected and/or may prove to be difficult to understand or even to make sense of, they often-times come with the loving hand of our Father in Heaven guiding us to where He would have us be. We must be honest and admit that we spend a great deal of time arranging our lives in a way that proves comfortable for us. However, our loving Shepherd knows that this is not always what is best for us. And in commenting on James 1:2 -Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, Christian writer K. Payne is quite right:
Note the word "consider." We have a choice concerning how we will view our trials. Are trials really divine paybacks for sin or a God sent opportunity to grow in spiritual maturity? It is so easy to react to difficult circumstances rather than carefully and thoughtfully respond to them. To react is natural. Responding to that same situation demands discipline. The issue is not what I feel like doing, but rather what should I do. Is God in control or am I alone? Trials offer a Christian the opportunity to make a conscious choice to think naturally or supernaturally.
And one simply cannot express The Blessings Of Trials any better than the inspired Apostle Paul:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.(Philippians 3:7-12)
Beloved...shall we press on together...