The Man of Faith and the Devil:

Their First Encounter.

Matthew 4:1-11; Genesis 12:10.

H. C. Anstey.

Christian Friend vol. 19, 1892, p. 174.

"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him." Here we have in few words the opposition which we have to meet. No sooner have you started in the path of faith than you have to meet Satan with all the attractions of sight. You become an object of importance to the enemy, who knows that there is only that scene of faith and this scene of sight for man, and of this latter he is the "prince." I do not think that we can too much insist on this fact with young Christians, nor that older ones would suffer much by reminding one another more often than they do of the same thing. You will have to face the devil if you have started on the path of faith, and the devil, remember, with all the power and attractions of the world at his back.

To illustrate it we will take the two greatest examples of faith contained in the word of God, namely, the Lord Jesus Christ ("God over all, blessed for ever," yet a man of faith walking down here), and Abraham, the "father of the faithful" - the friend of God. In both cases (as I believe in all cases) the world is presented to each in order to destroy the testimony of a man of faith, i.e. of one whose path is opposed to sight, and to all its attractions.

We should remember that Satan's object, if we have fairly started on the path of faith, is to silence us as living witnesses of the sufficiency of God in every exigency of the path, and also (that others may not be delivered) to weaken us. This is his object. He cannot touch the fact that we are the Lord's; he can, however, spoil us as to our testimony and enjoyment of this fact. He does not deny that we are men of faith; he will seek, however, that we shall not walk by faith.

The enemy's object is always to frustrate God's purpose. It is directed against Christ, who is the object of that purpose, and as a part of that purpose (for what is there on earth that is for Christ but Christians?) you have to meet it. When the Lord was on earth He had to meet this enemy armed with all the power and attractions of the world, before He entered on His public ministry; and I think we shall find that we too have to meet him. That is, Christ had first to "bind the strong man" before He could "spoil his goods." We find the same enemy in the history of Abram. Abram is called as a man of faith to take up his abode on new ground - God's witness on the earth. The devil says, "I will spoil all that." A famine arises in Canaan, and Abram goes down to Egypt; he turns to a human resource, and Egypt is only and always a type of this world.

Now let us glance a moment at the results in each case. In the case of our blessed Lord it was a triumph over all that the enemy presented to allure Him out of the path of dependence on God. Thus He was set for God in this world, and it was true of Him onward, "I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved." (Psalm 16.) In Abram's case, as we know, he was overcome. He yielded to the attack of the enemy, but as to both it was the same. The attack was, "Provide for the necessities of the body, i.e. for yourself in this scene, and don't say that you are not of it." And why should we look at all this and the results in each case? It is because we must meet this enemy, as every man of faith has had to meet him, and, yielding to him, our usefulness as God's witnesses is gone. Oh may we seek to impress it upon each other, that it is how we acquit ourselves in this first encounter that will stamp us' Unless there is recovery I shall bear the impress of defeat ever after as I go through this scene. Through grace there was recovery in the case of Abram. (See Genesis 13:1.) But look at the lost time. There was no communion with the Lord - no altar in Egypt - and this is just what Satan wants; for you may say what you will - claim that you are a man of faith, and know and teach that Canaan is the right place - so long as you give up heavenly ground, and are not found occupying it for God yourself.

The Lord hungered, and Abram hungered, and the devil was at hand with all the resources of the world for each, and apparently just at the moment of need. But remember there are two scenes, two regions, and only two, and you even, as to the needs of your body here (1 Cor. 6:19-20), belong to the region of faith, and not to that of sight.

As to this world it is a moral wreck, but natural things remain. Thus it comes before us in John's Gospel and Epistles. The devil has full control of it. He was constituted and accepted as the "prince of this world" on the rejection of Christ. The world then, this moral ruin, Satan presides over, using it all to defeat, if he can, God's purposes for the saints. It is to them he approaches, and as a friend. He offers to bestow upon the saints anything that they will accept here, and he holds it all in his hand. He uses the outward to affect the inward, i.e. the state of the soul.

But let us look behind the offered bait. What is his object? As you receive from the hands of Satan anything here, you lose morally. You lose your ability to be here for God. It is written - and with this may we defeat him - "A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise" (Deut. 16), and he that "will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4).

With a threefold effort Satan pomes. (1 John 2:16.) He comes with "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes," or "the pride of life," and the object he has in thus coming to every saint who enters on the path of faith is to nullify his testimony. But he must be met before you can go through this world, where he reigns, and rob him of his prey. His attractions must be overcome by me first, ere I can be useful in delivering others from the snare. A man of faith must refuse the devil's supplies, or he ceases to walk by faith. He must refuse the world's honours - "I will promote thee to great honour" (see Numbers 22:17) - if he would have the "honour that cometh from God only." (John 5:44.)

It is not difficult to account for the weakness which exists, and the inability to deliver from worldliness which is found in the ministry of some who have the truth, and are real children of God themselves. If I have fallen, and am living in the attractions or honours or supplies of Satan myself, how can I deliver others? How can my walk then be characterized, as so many have been in the past, as the steady, onward, triumphant walk through an adverse scene of a "man of faith"? Never having overcome Satan individually when he comes with all the power of the world, explains why the power and ministry of so many is practically NIL. It is not that they are not Christians. I am not in any doubt of that; but what is manifest is that as to the world - this moral scene of evil - they are not conquerors, and are not clear of it. Hence the Spirit of God does not support their testimony, and there is little result. Many a Christian labourer would not only leave his mark for God in this world, but would also leave it on the Church of God, where now there is nothing of note in his testimony, had he not gone down to Egypt when Satan met him. He responded to the attractions presented, and his usefulness to others on God's behalf was, and is, practically at an end.

But while we can heartily thank God that recovery from this state is possible, before we speak of it, I would dwell a little on another thing.

Very often there is great activity among those who have not overcome the worldly attractions and snares of Satan. They are active in preaching the gospel. They preach, and it might be argued that God blesses their preaching by conversions. But note this - their converts as a class do not overcome the world. They are like their fathers, and the work bears the stamp of the workman. But all this is below the mark. The full Gospel, i.e. "CHRIST, is preached," and the new man does not tolerate this evil moral system called the world. The Son delivers from it (John 8:36), and the evangelist connects souls with HEAVEN. "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel." (Col. 1:5.) This is clear; the gospel does not improve the man to leave him morally in this scene, though he may be an improved citizen, or husband, or father while in it. The gospel starts him to walk through it as only a delivered man can walk through it - to walk a conqueror unmoved by the empty and paltry follies of Satan, which he sees all around him. As to this see 2 Corinthians 2:14. Such was the path of a man of faith down here.

I now turn to the fact that recovery from Egypt is possible. "And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had." (Gen. 13:1.) This was a second great day in the history of Abram. The first was when he went forth from Ur of the Chaldees. He was not made by this second act a man of faith. He was a man of faith before, but Satan was refused and overcome thereby, and Abram was constituted afresh God's witness on the earth. He was again a witness that a man of faith could give up "his country, his kindred, and his father's house," and now more, even all the supplies of Egypt, to walk by faith with God. This is an honour much to be desired for every believer; it was not a little thing. Earthly ties counted nothing - the country counted nothing - no fresh country do his feet yet tread - a pilgrim and stranger on the earth, with God as his all-sufficient and only resource; such was Abram.

It is to such, viz., to those who have given up Egypt, and not to the general company of believers, that God reveals His mind. Lot is a picture of the general company, yet a true believer without doubt. (2 Peter 2:7-8.) Concerning all His purposes with respect to the promised SEED (Isaac, - as a type of Christ) God instructs not Lot but Abram, now. (See ch. 13:14-15, 16.) This is what we want. We want to know more of communion with the Father, as to all His purposes for and concerning the SON. Typically, Abram got it, and then when afterward Lot accepts the world and is captured by it Abram is, as the recovered man, in the place where God can use him to deliver his brother from the toils of the enemy. "And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot." Here is an instance of what we ought to know more about. Sodom was just as much a picture of the world as Egypt. It was the honour of the place, not a famine, that had caught Lot and made him a resident there. What we should covet is, to so let faith control us that we can be used of God to deliver our brethren from such associations, through having overcome the enemy in these very things ourselves. Abram, while yet in Egypt had given up pilgrimage and could not have delivered Lot from this trouble into which he had got by also giving it up, and that he had is proved by his association with the king of Sodom.

But another thing must be said. Lot is rescued, but though again in the place of testimony (and manifestly God had started him afresh) yet he clung to the world still. He is in marked contrast thus to Abraham. Abram learnt by his failure and overcame, Lot did not, and though not involved in the judgment of the world (Sodom), Lot had, so to speak, to be dragged out of it. He was saved" so as by fire." And though a "righteous" man, and (when the truth of the awfulness of the time came) one who went out in testimony to others about it, what was his testimony worth? What effect had it on his own household? "He seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law." Such was the little effect produced by the testimony of a "righteous man" who was not separated from the principles and walk and ways of the world, and we have not far to go to find a testimony which produces a similar effect - a "righteous soul vexed from day to day" - and his testimony ineffectual because unsupported by God's power.

The Lord give to us now to face this matter calmly, and since it is for God, boldly. I may be a Christian, but do I love the world? It is the "young men" i.e., those who have advanced in the divine life and who are no longer babes, that are warned against the world, because Satan is using it against them. The love of the Father is contrasted with the love of the world. Don't say it is impossible for those who are "of God" and real to love it. "Demas hath forsaken me," said Paul, "having loved this present world." Was there no danger of it in those whom John addressed? Was Lot not real and were not John's "young men" real? We are all "unprofitable servants" no doubt, but what hinders its in our testimony today if it is not the world? May the Lord give us, with Him and in prayer for light, to face this grave defect for His name's sake. Amen. H C. A.