Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“It tickles the Devil for God’s people to blame their troubles on him.”
The word of the Lord to me, August 23, 1981.
It is now about six in the afternoon as I write this, August 23, 2009. It was about this time of day, late in the afternoon of August 23, 1981, when I decided to do a study of the Scriptures concerning the attitude of righteous people toward their suffering. My family and I had not long returned from our usual early afternoon prayer meeting, and I had sat down to spend some time researching what David, Moses, Peter, and others said about the difficulties they faced. I wrote down many of their thoughts on suffering and pondered over them.
As the afternoon drew to a peaceful close, I completed my study, put down my pencil, and began to close my Bible. Then Jesus spoke to me, very plainly and very calmly. He said, “It tickles the Devil for God’s people to blame their troubles on him.”
I was astonished at what I instantly understood – its breadth, its depth, its height, its beauty, and its revelation of my heavenly Father’s love that I could hardly take in. I looked down at the several pages of righteous thoughts that I had written down during the previous two hours, and I understood them for the first time. I had felt them before; I had known they were right thoughts. But now, it was as if I could have written them myself. Now, I had fellowship with whoever it was who had thought those thoughts before me. Now, I understood what those righteous men and women had been saying! I was overwhelmed with the power of the truth that Jesus had just spoken to me.
I remember getting up from my study desk and walking in somewhat of a daze out my front door and standing on the porch at the top of the brick steps. I remember staring out at the huge, old, oak tree in the front yard of the house across the street. The word of the Lord had come to me, and suddenly, I was seeing this entire universe in a new way, a holier way, the right way, the way men of God over the millennia had seen this world after God spoke to them!
It had been my habit, picked up from other believers, no doubt, to blame the devil for everything that “went wrong” in life. But now, all I could see was the love of God in everything concerning me. I understood how perfect my heavenly Father was. I knew, I knew it deep in my heart, that every single circumstance in my life had been designed for me by my loving heavenly Father – designed just for me, to perfect my faith and to help make me more like Him. I saw my Father’s love everywhere I looked.
In a way, it was as if all my life previous, I could only speak of our “God”. Now, I thought of God more as “daddy”. I felt Him more than I thought of Him. He was no longer somewhere else, and I had to reach Him. Now, He was everywhere, and I could never be anywhere but surrounded by Him and His love. As David once said, “If I make my bed in hell, you are there.”
I think that the first thing I fully comprehended when the Lord spoke to me that day was exactly why it “tickles” the Devil for us to blame him for our troubles. It pleases Satan for us to blame him for our trials because as long as we are blaming him, we are not looking for our heavenly Father’s purposes for our suffering. And as long as we are not seeking Him to discover His wise purposes in our sufferings, we can never come to know Him.
To have faith in Satan as having power to determine any of the circumstances of our life is to honor him with glory that belongs to no one but God. To teach, as I once did, that “the Devil might get you if you sin” is to say that the Devil is the one who punishes us for sin, not God. To think those kind of foolish thoughts elevates Satan in our hearts to a position of power that is not his. It glorifies him as a god, the god of all the bad stuff in this life, doing war with the God of all the good stuff, and the God of all the good stuff can never quite keep up with all the bad stuff that the Devil does. What foolishness!
Shortly after that wonderful, life-changing experience, I went to work on a book about it (Suffering and the Saints), and I asked some people I knew who were suffering to read the manuscript before its publication. The hope that it brought to those who were going through hard times and the peace that it brought to those who were dying let me know, if nothing else did, that the message Jesus gave me needed to be proclaimed.
As long as God’s people have trials to face, they will need to be reminded – and convinced – that their heavenly Father loves them. Nothing accomplishes that so well as for them to be taught that because God alone is God, “all things are working together” for their good. If Satan were in charge of anything concerning us, Paul could not have written that scripture.