Want people to feel really uncomfortable; drop the words Satan or Devil around. Maybe it’s too much Halloween or sports teams or movies with vomit that looks like pea soup, but very few people want to talk about this evil aspect of our lives. He is truly “the one who must not be named.”
I Thessalonians 2:18
For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. [NIV 2011]
Don’t get me wrong. I’m equally uncomfortable with the idea of a Devil. How powerful is this evil? Can this evil interpret my thoughts and actions? Can this evil slay me, trick me, seduce me? Apparently that is all true.
Ultimately, I know that I am also protected by the Presence of the Holy Spirit. In the same way that I am sure my relationship with God and Christ is through the presence of the Holy Spirit within, then doesn’t it make sense that the opposite force, in spirit, is also present?
But Mr. Mayhem (like the new Allstate commercial anti-spokesman) is still busy: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Ephesians 6:12]
All is not well with our world. Most of the evil that is perpetuated upon us is human to human: violence, torture, starvation, poison, destruction, or isolation, just to name a few. These have power in our lives. And they are fueled by Satan.
There are a lot of different ways to “do battle” against the Enemy. Some choose direct attack, railing and invoking and commanding that evil leave. Some destroy other humans in the name of destroying evil. Some clump all kinds of vessels together and assume all are tainted by the Dark One. Some are like ghost hunters or McCarthyites in their search.
In this brief reference to Satan, Paul identifies their circumstances as “blocked” and does not say that they participated in a huge effort to unblock. Instead, they worked within the confines of the circumstances and put emphasis on what God was doing and could do and would do.
God is still sovereign.