Many people make a decision to become a Christian, but before they actually get baptized and join the body of Christ, the devil discourages them so much that they give up. He attempted to discourage Jesus to thwart the plan of salvation, and he is still actively doing the same thing today.
“They could find no rest from the accusings of a troubled conscience. Thus Satan worked to discourage the people, to lower their conception of the character of God, and to bring the faith of Israel into contempt. He hoped to establish the claim put forth when he rebelled in heaven—that the requirements of God were unjust, and could not be obeyed. Even Israel, he declared, did not keep the law.
“While the Jews desired the advent of the Messiah, they had no true conception of His mission. They did not seek redemption from sin, but deliverance from the Romans. They looked for the Messiah to come as a conqueror, to break the oppressor’s power, and exalt Israel to universal dominion. Thus the way was prepared for them to reject the Saviour.” The Desire of Ages, 29, 30.
Satan did well his evil work, and God’s chosen people did reject Him. “Humanity, becoming more degraded through ages of transgression, called for the coming of the Redeemer. Satan had been working to make the gulf deep and impassable between earth and heaven. By his falsehoods he had emboldened men in sin. It was his purpose to wear out the forbearance of God, and to extinguish His love for man, so that He would abandon the world to satanic jurisdiction.” Ibid., 34, 35.
Thank God that His forbearance and patience is greater than any evil intent of the devil. There are people in the world who emulate the character of their master, the devil, and are so wicked that you think they could never be loved. But Jesus loves them, and they can be saved just the same as anyone.
The devil tried to extinguish God’s love for man, making men and women so wicked and creating so much wickedness in the world that God would give up on them. “Satan was unwearied in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. From His earliest years Jesus was guarded by heavenly angels, yet His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. That there should be upon the earth one life free from the defilement of evil was an offense and a perplexity to the prince of darkness. He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour.” Ibid., 71.
“No one upon earth had understood Him, and during His ministry He must still walk alone. Throughout His life His mother and His brothers did not comprehend His mission. Even His disciples did not understand Him. He had dwelt in eternal light, as one with God, but His life on earth must be spent in solitude. …
“Alone He must tread the path; alone He must bear the burden.” Ibid., 111.
Maybe you have been tempted to be discouraged because it seemed like there was nobody in the world who understood you. This was literally true in the life of Jesus. There was nobody. Not His mother, not the people in His family, not His disciples, not John the Baptist; there was literally nobody who understood. If that has been your experience, do not be discouraged thinking you are all alone in the world; you have a Saviour Who knows all about that. He walked through it His whole life.
“Satan excited the evil passions of men, in order to fasten his rule upon them. When God’s written word was given, Satan studied the prophecies of the Saviour’s advent. From generation to generation he worked to blind the people to these prophecies, that they might reject Christ at His coming.” Ibid., 115.
Lucifer was cast out of heaven, and ever since, he has made a determined effort to find revenge by causing others to share his fall. This he does by causing them to undervalue heavenly things and to set their hearts upon things of earth. At the Saviour’s baptism, Satan was among the witnesses. “Satan saw that he must either conquer or be conquered. The issues of the conflict involved too much to be entrusted to his confederate angels. He must personally conduct the warfare. All the energies of apostasy were rallied against the Son of God. Christ was made the mark of every weapon of hell.” Ibid., 116. He was the focal point of all demonic attack. We do not know the number of evil angels that were cooperating to bring about the downfall of Jesus Christ.
“Many look on this conflict between Christ and Satan as having no special bearing on their own life. … But within the domain of every human heart this controversy is repeated. Never does one leave the ranks of evil for the service of God without encountering the assaults of Satan. The enticements which Christ resisted were those that we find so difficult to withstand. They were urged upon Him in as much greater degree as His character is superior to ours. With the terrible weight of the sins of the world upon Him, Christ withstood the test upon appetite, upon the love of the world, and upon that love of display which leads to presumption. These were the temptations that overcame Adam and Eve, and that so readily overcome us.” Ibid., 116, 117.
“The words from heaven, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17), were still sounding in the ears of Satan. But he was determined to make Christ disbelieve this testimony. The word of God was Christ’s assurance of His divine mission. He had come to live as a man among men, and it was the word that declared His connection with heaven. It was Satan’s purpose to cause Him to doubt that word. If Christ’s confidence in God could be shaken, Satan knew that the victory in the whole controversy would be his. He could overcome Jesus. He hoped that under the force of despondency and extreme hunger, Christ would lose faith in His Father, and work a miracle in His own behalf. Had He done this, the plan of salvation would have been broken.” Ibid., 119.
“Of all the lessons to be learned from our Lord’s first great temptation none is more important than that bearing upon the control of the appetites and passions. In all ages, temptations appealing to the physical nature have been most effectual in corrupting and degrading mankind. Through intemperance, Satan works to destroy the mental and moral powers that God gave to man as a priceless endowment.” Ibid., 122. This will develop more fully in the very last days of earth’s history.
“Our only hope of eternal life is through bringing the appetites and passions into subjection to the will of God.
“In our own strength it is impossible for us to deny the clamors of our fallen nature. Through this channel Satan will bring temptation upon us. Christ knew that the enemy would come to every human being, to take advantage of hereditary weakness, and by his false insinuations to ensnare all whose trust is not in God.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 151.
“The period of Christ’s personal ministry among men was the time of greatest activity for the forces of the kingdom of darkness. … Jesus was revealing to men the character of God. He was breaking Satan’s power, and setting his captives free. New life and love and power from heaven were moving upon the hearts of men, and the prince of evil was aroused to contend for the supremacy of his kingdom. Satan summoned all his forces, and at every step contested the work of Christ.
“So it will be in the great final conflict of the controversy between righteousness and sin.” The Desire of Ages, 257. Satan is going to summon all of his forces to attack in any way possible those who choose to follow Christ.
“There were none on earth who could comprehend His divine mission, or know the burden which He bore in behalf of humanity.” Ibid., 326. Nobody on earth understood what He was trying to do, so He was all alone, even in the midst of many people.
When Jesus told the disciples of His crucifixion, it was contrary to what they’d always been taught. It seemed like they could not believe it, and Peter immediately began to argue with Jesus Who gave Peter the most severe rebuke He had ever given to any of His disciples. He said, “You get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23).
Jesus addressed Peter as Satan because it was he who spoke through Peter. “Satan was trying to discourage Jesus, and turn Him from His mission; and Peter, in his blind love, was giving voice to the temptation. The prince of evil was the author of the thought. His instigation was behind that impulsive appeal. In the wilderness, Satan had offered Christ the dominion of the world on condition of forsaking the path of humiliation and sacrifice. Now he was presenting the same temptation to the disciple of Christ.” Ibid., 416. Peter fell for it. He was not willing to see the cross in the Christian religion.
“Satan, the author of sin and all its results, had led men to look upon disease and death as proceeding from God—as punishment arbitrarily inflicted on account of sin. Hence one upon whom some great affliction or calamity had fallen had the additional burden of being regarded as a great sinner.
“Thus the way was prepared for the Jews to reject Jesus. He who ‘hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows’ was looked upon by the Jews as ‘stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted;’ and they hid their faces from Him. Isaiah 53:4, 3.” Ibid., 470. They could not believe that He could be the Messiah if He allowed Himself to be in this kind of situation or condition.
“To the heart of Christ it was a bitter task to press His way against the fears, disappointment, and unbelief of His beloved disciples. It was hard to lead them forward to the anguish and despair that awaited them at Jerusalem. And Satan was at hand to press his temptations upon the Son of man. Why should He now go to Jerusalem, to certain death? All around Him were souls hungering for the bread of life. On every hand were suffering ones waiting for His word of healing. The work to be wrought by the gospel of His grace was but just begun. And He was full of the vigor of manhood’s prime. Why not go forward to the vast fields of the world with the words of His grace, the touch of His healing power? Why not take to Himself the joy of giving light and gladness to those darkened and sorrowing millions? Why leave the harvest gathering to His disciples, so weak in faith, so dull of understanding, so slow to act? Why face death now, and leave the work in its infancy? The foe who in the wilderness had confronted Christ assailed Him now with fierce and subtle temptations. Had Jesus yielded for a moment, had He changed His course in the least particular to save Himself, Satan’s agencies would have triumphed, and the world would have been lost.” Ibid., 486.
It’s almost too huge to comprehend. The salvation of our world rested totally, 100 percent, on one Person. The devil knew that if he could overcome that one Person, he would have the whole world.
You are not alone if the devil tempts you to be discouraged, and it doesn’t even mean you don’t have a correct religious experience, because the same temptations to discouragement and despair were pressed upon Jesus.
“At this time [a few days before the crucifixion] Christ’s work bore the appearance of cruel defeat. … To His disciples the case seemed hopeless.” Ibid., 621. Has it ever seemed hopeless to you to be a Christian?
“In the wilderness of temptation the destiny of the human race had been at stake. Christ was then conqueror. Now the tempter had come for the last fearful struggle. For this he had been preparing during the three years of Christ’s ministry. Everything was at stake with him. If he failed here, his hope of mastery was lost; the kingdoms of the world would finally become Christ’s; he himself would be overthrown and cast out. But if Christ could be overcome, the earth would become Satan’s kingdom, and the human race would be forever in his power.” Ibid., 686, 687.
Ellen White reveals what the devil told Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation [from His Father] would be eternal. He would be identified with Satan’s kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God.
“And what was to be gained by this sacrifice? How hopeless appeared the guilt and ingratitude of men! In its hardest features Satan pressed the situation upon the Redeemer: The people who claim to be above all others in temporal and spiritual advantages have rejected You. They are seeking to destroy You, the foundation, the center and seal of the promises made to them as a peculiar people. One of Your own disciples, who has listened to Your instruction, and has been among the foremost in church activities, will betray You. One of Your most zealous followers will deny You. All will forsake You. Christ’s whole being abhorred the thought. That those whom He had undertaken to save, those whom He loved so much, should unite in the plots of Satan, this pierced His soul. The conflict was terrible. Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God’s wrath against sin was crushing out His life.” Ibid., 687.
“[In the Garden of Gethsemane] Satan and his confederacy of evil, the legions of apostasy, watched intently this great crisis in the work of redemption. The powers of good and evil waited to see what answer would come to Christ’s thrice-repeated prayer. Angels had longed to bring relief to the divine sufferer, but this might not be. No way of escape was found for the Son of God.” Ibid., 693.
“Satan led the cruel mob in its abuse of the Saviour. It was his purpose to provoke Him to retaliation if possible, or to drive Him to perform a miracle to release Himself, and thus break up the plan of salvation. One stain upon His human life, one failure of His humanity to endure the terrible test, and the Lamb of God would have been an imperfect offering, and the redemption of man a failure.” Ibid., 734. Herod even said that he would set Him free if He would work a miracle. If He had done that, we all would be lost.
“The principalities and powers of darkness were assembled around the cross, casting the hellish shadow of unbelief into the hearts of men. When the Lord created these beings to stand before His throne, they were beautiful and glorious. Their loveliness and holiness were in accordance with their exalted station. They were enriched with the wisdom of God, and girded with the panoply of heaven. They were Jehovah’s ministers. But who could recognize in the fallen angels the glorious seraphim that once ministered in the heavenly courts?
“Satanic agencies confederated with evil men in leading the people to believe Christ the chief of sinners, and to make Him the object of detestation. Those who mocked Christ as He hung upon the cross were imbued with the spirit of the first great rebel. He filled them with vile and loathsome speeches. He inspired their taunts. But by all this he gained nothing.” Ibid., 760, 761. No sin was found in Christ, not one fault.
After describing this terrible battle that went on throughout Christ’s whole life, Ellen White describes the scene as He approached His Father in heaven after His ascension. “He approaches the Father, with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; who rejoices over one with singing. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, ‘It is finished,’ He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares: Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, ‘I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.’ John 19:30; 17:24.
“The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. Christ’s toiling, struggling ones on earth are ‘accepted in the Beloved.’ Ephesians 1:6. Before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds, they are declared justified. Where He is, there His church shall be. ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’ Psalm 85:10. The Father’s arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’ Hebrews 1:6.
“With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of life. …
“Love has conquered. The lost is found. …
“The family of heaven and the family of earth are one.” Ibid., 834, 835.
Just as Satan worked to discourage Jesus and cause the world to be lost, he does the same today to discourage individuals so they will give up and then be lost. One way the devil discourages people is with health problems. He knows when your body is sick and weak and your mind is affected. He came to Christ with his most severe temptations when He was weary, hungry, tired and when He hadn’t had anything to drink. No matter how sick or weak you are, you can trust yourself to Jesus Christ. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25.
Another way the devil discourages is through financial problems. With the economic downturn we have in the United States today, people are afraid that they will lose their jobs if they ask for the Sabbath off. They are afraid to take that risk.
There are people who could have become physicians, dentists, lawyers or engineers, but could not qualify for their professions because in their countries they would not be able to keep the Sabbath. Instead they had to choose another area of work. The devil uses these temptations to discourage them. Remember, Jesus was the prince of heaven, and He became poor in this world to save you. If you become poor by following Jesus, you will have an everlasting reward that’s worth more than all the money you could make as a physician, lawyer, engineer or anything else.
Another major temptation is to become discouraged because of the character defects of other Christians, whether they are family members or other Christians in the church. It is always easy to see other people’s faults and call them a bunch of hypocrites.
The church of God around the world is going through a shaking process that is getting more severe. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. (See Hebrews 12:27.) Once the shaking process is over, all hypocrisy will be out of the church. If you fall into the category of hypocrite now, fall at the foot of the cross of Jesus and be converted, and instead of being shaken out, become a sincere Christian and be saved.
When Jesus returns, He is not coming to bring salvation. He brought salvation when He came to the world the first time. The next time He comes, He is coming back to judge the world. Those who belong to Him will be taken out of this world.
Those people who are alive when Jesus comes again, every single one that is taken up from this world, will have been a member of the church. In the book of Revelation, chapters 7 and 14 refer to the sealing. Other chapters are addressed specifically to the churches. In chapters 2 and 3 we are told that only those that belong to the church and overcome will have salvation. Look at Revelation 1:6; it says, “[He] has made us kings and priests to His God and Father.”
The book of Revelation makes it very clear that in the last days all who do not have the seal of God will suffer His judgments. For instance, “They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.” Revelation 9:4.
Revelation 10:11 talks about a time coming when the church will have to prophesy a second time to many nations and languages. We’re living in that time right now. In Revelation 11:1 and 2, it says, “Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, ‘Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.’ ” The holy city here mentioned is the church. Revelation 3 is about the church. The whole book of Revelation talks about the church, and if you want to be ready for Jesus to come, you must be a member.
If the devil fails in discouraging you over the character defects of others, he will start working on your own defects. Every human being, without exception, has character defects they have to struggle with and overcome. The devil tells you that you have done it a thousand and one times now; you are never going to make it so give up! Do not believe his lies.
As long as we are in this world, we will struggle to overcome. Don’t be discouraged by that, because it is just part of the situation. Jesus had to struggle the whole time He was in this world. The devil came at Him over and over, trying to get Him discouraged. He does the same thing with the whole human race. We all inherited a sinful human nature from Adam and Eve, so do not be discouraged.
Ellen White wrote, “The apostle Paul declares, ‘I know that in me [that is, in my flesh,] dwelleth no good thing’ (Romans 7:18). To those who have tried so hard to obtain by faith so-called holy flesh, I would say, You cannot obtain it. Not a soul of you has holy flesh now. No human being on the earth has holy flesh. It is an impossibility.” Selected Messages, Book 2, 32. Can anybody in this world say, “I’m holy”? Not unless they want to be a liar.
Do not let the devil deceive you, because you have to continually struggle. Every Christian has the same experience. It may be over different incidences or character defects but there is no human being that does not have to struggle. That is why we have been given the privilege of prayer. The Lord has promised, “If you ask Me, I will give you all the help that you need.” The Bible says that, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.