If you are experiencing spiritual anxiety because you see people benefiting from what you know to be sin, you may be under Spiritual Attack. To reduce your anxiety, consider these remedies: 1) We cannot judge God’s heart by the benefits a person receives, 2) Nothing provoked God’s wrath as much as those who abuse His mercies, 3) There is no greater curse than to NOT be in affliction, 4) The inward desires of an evil person far outweigh their outward blessings, 5) Outward things are not as they seem, nor as they are esteemed, 6) God has reasons for giving evil people outward mercies, 7) God often plagues and punishes those who others think he spares, and 8) God will call evil people to account for the outward good they enjoyed.
Book Review: When I first learned about Thomas Brooks, the Puritan preacher, I was overwhelmed by his spiritual maturity and the authority of his insights. However, I also realized that because it was written in an old style of English, most of the message would be lost on a post-modern audience …the very people who need to hear his words the most! Therefore, I decided to undertake a massive book review project, reviewing each chapter individually and “translating” the key ideas into a format suitable for a popular audience. All these techniques of Spiritual Warfare are adapted from Thomas Brook’s book “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” first published in 1652, now available through Puritan Paperbacks (see the link below).
Device #8: Showing Only the Outward Benefit of Sin
Satan whispers to you, “Do you see all the benefits those people receive? You judge them as evil, but aren't they really fortunate? They do not sigh, weep, groan, and mourn as you do. If you want to be free from the darkness of adversity, and enjoy the sunshine of prosperity, you need to behave as they do."
Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, along with all the women who were present—a large assembly—and all the people living in Lower and Upper Egypt, said to Jeremiah, "We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings, and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time, we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine.” (Jeremiah 44: 15-18 NIV).
How do we experience this device today?
In the popular TV series “Breaking Bad,” the protagonist is diagnosed with lung cancer and teams with a former student to secure his family’s future by manufacturing and selling crystal meth. The sin is justified for the sake of the outward benefit.
Marilyn Monroe was one of the most popular sex symbols of the 1950s and 1960s. She was emblematic of the emerging sexual revolution. She was idolized by the public and was even immortalized in Elton John’s famous song, “Goodbye Norma Jean.” Yet despite the outward acclaim, she struggled with addiction and mood disorders, eventually dying from an overdose of barbiturates.
Ernesto “Che” Guevera was a major figure in the Cuban Revolution. His stylized persona has become the face of ubiquitous counter-culture movements worldwide. He remains a revered historical figure even though his Marxist policies led, among other things, to the establishment of a forced labor camp in Guanahacabibes.
Remedy 1: We cannot judge God’s heart by the benefits another person receives. Consider that the hand of God may be set against a person, while His heart is set dearly upon that person. No one can know either love or hatred by outward mercies or miseries received because both good and bad come to all people. The sun of prosperity shines equally on the brambles of the wilderness as it does on the fruit trees of the orchard. The snow of adversity falls equally upon the best gardens as it does the garbage dump. Health, wealth, honors, crosses, sicknesses, and losses are cast upon both good and bad people in abundance. Usually, the worst people have the most of these outward benefits, and the best people have the least of them… but the most of heaven.
Remedy 2: Consider that nothing provokes God’s wrath as much as those people who abuse His mercies. Doomed is the person who has received benefits and uses them to justify continued sinful behavior. To argue from mercy to sinful liberty is the Devil’s logic. No one who employs this logic can avert or avoid God’s wrath. The height of wickedness is for a person to justify being very bad because God has been very good to them. A worse spirit than this is not in Hell. Are not the strongest chains of darkness prepared for such a soul? To render good for evil is divine, to render good for good is human, to render evil for evil is brutish, but to render evil for good is devilish. From this evil deliver my soul, oh God!
Remedy 3: Understand that there is no greater curse than to NOT be in affliction. Woe to that soul that God will not spend a rod upon! The saddest stroke of all is when God decides not to strike. When a doctor gives up on a patient, that patient is pronounced dead. When God gives over a soul to sin without control, you may truly say, “This soul is lost.” Freedom from punishment is the portal through which wickedness enters. Outward benefits often prove a snare for our souls. Prosperity has been a stumbling block over which millions have stumbled and fallen, breaking the neck of their souls forever.
Remedy 4: The fourth remedy is to consider that the inward desires of an evil person far outweigh their outward blessings. They have many blessings, yet they still want more than they can enjoy. They have honor and riches, pleasure and friends, they are mighty in power, and their children and grandchildren are established. However, the mercies they enjoy are nothing compared to the mercies they still want. They want the riches that do not perish and the glories that do not fade. Yes, wicked people are the most needy people in the world. They want the two things that would render their blessings sweet; the blessing of God and contentment with their condition. Without these two things, their current "heaven" is just hell on this side of Hell.
Remedy 5: Remember that outward things are not as they seem, nor as they are esteemed. People who have received abundant blessings appear outwardly glorious. But if you could view their insides, you would find their heads to be full of worries and their hearts full of fears. What if a fire should consume my estate? What if the sea swallows my possessions? What if my servants are unfaithful abroad and my children deceitful at home? Ah, the secret fretting, vexing, and gnawings that attend the souls of those whose hands are filled with worldly goods! An emperor said, “You see my purple robes and golden crown, but if you knew the cares under it, you would not even pick it up from the ground to own it." It is not what people enjoy, but the principle from which it comes, that makes people happy. These outward things usually cause much distraction, vexation, and ultimately condemnation, to possess them. If God gives you blessings in His wrath and does not sanctify them in His love, these very blessings will sink you into the depths on the day you are called to account.
Remedy 6: It is important to understand that God has reasons for giving evil people outward mercies. In Psalm 73:17-20, David understood that God places evil people on a slippery path to bring them down into destruction. Likewise, Psalm 92:7 explains that when workers of iniquity flourish, it is so that they shall be destroyed forever. God sets wicked people up for destruction. He raises them up so that he can cast them low. What rational person would crave to be set on high in this life, only to be cast down in the next? Can you reflect on this and pray, “Oh Lord, I humbly crave that you will let me be little in this world, that I may be great in the next. Let me be low, and feed low, and live low, so that I may be with you forever." Lord, make me gracious, rather than great, and inwardly holy rather than outwardly happy. Please don’t set me up for a brief time now, that I may be brought low forever.
Remedy 7: Similarly, God often plagues and punishes those who others think he spares. While we often cannot see it, God most plagues and punishes with spiritual judgments those people he least afflicts with temporal punishments (and the spiritual judgments are the greatest, sorest, and heaviest). Spiritual judgments include; the blindness of the mind, the hardness of the heart, and the seardness of the conscience. It would be better if all the temporal plagues and punishments on earth were heaped upon you, rather than endure the least of the spiritual plagues! If you are given up to spiritual judgments, nothing will move you nor make you better. It does not matter if God smiles or frowns on people in this condition; they are mad for their sins and will not give them up. God is fully set to do justice upon these souls. Neither ministry nor misery, miracle nor mercy, can mollify these hearts. Surely these souls are already in Hell on this side of Hell.
Remedy 8: Finally, remember that God will call evil people to account for the outward good they enjoyed. If people dwelt more upon the account they will have to give rather than the mercies they have enjoyed, the favors they have abused, and the sins they have committed, it would make their hearts tremble, their lips quiver, and rottenness enter their bones. It would make their souls cry out, “Why couldn’t our benefits have been fewer, that our accounts would be easier? Curse the day when prosperity shined strong upon us, and this flattering world smiled upon us, and caused us to forget God!” What does all your glory profit you, that you have so much more torment at death? God keeps an exact account of every penny, and each one will be reckoned at the last, although now they wink and do not understand. The sleeping of vengeance causes sin to overflow. The overflow of sin causes vengeance to awake. Abused mercy will surely turn into fury. God may seem slow, but he is sure. The farther he stretches the bow and draws the arrow, the deeper the wound will be in the day of vengeance. People’s actions have all been printed in Heaven, and they will be read aloud on the day of account, for the whole world to hear, that all may say “Amen” to the righteous sentence that He shall pass on those who abuse and despise His mercies.
Because Thomas Brooks offers so many remedies, and because he lists them so systematically, I built an online spreadsheet for easy referencing. Find all of the Remedies to Satan’s Devices at the Spiritual Warfare Curated Library. Be sure to link to the page as the spreadsheet is constantly being updated!