I was taught that living by faith meant agreeing that the Bible was the truth, obeying God’s moral laws, faithfully attending church, and learning as much about God as possible. The only way to overcome evil was to be good so I would avoid sin while in this world, and go to heaven after I die.
But when evil would attack my mind and emotions, things like fear, injustice, rejection, depression and anger, the only tools I had to fight back with were being good and going to church. Confronted with sickness and disease, or loved ones being dragged down by addictions or broken relationships, just being good didn’t have any effect other than keeping me out of trouble. There was always the question of whether I should accept these problems as the will of God or as attacks of the devil. I’d pray for help during those times, but rarely did any change happen as I watched helplessly from the sidelines and the consequences of that evil played out in front of me.
So here’s big question number one: Why would a loving God allow so much suffering? Question two: Why wouldn’t a loving God answer the prayers of someone who believed in him? Question three: Isn’t God strong enough to counteract evil?
Going backwards from question three, the God who created the universe is infinitely greater than the devil, who is merely a part of God’s creation. The devil and his demons tremble in fear at the name of Jesus, so God’s capacity to counteract evil isn’t even an issue.
When people ask question two, they’re implying that just because someone agrees that the Bible is the truth (as I had learned as a boy) that they believe. Millions of people in the world label themselves as believers, but not everyone truly believes. When I was younger, praying for a request was on the level of making a wish as I blew out my birthday candles. I didn’t have real faith, I didn’t know God as a real person who would speak to me and guide me. I never prayed with determination or wrestled in faith or rebuked demons with the authority that Jesus has granted us in His word. I had no idea I could do any of that. And so the only answers to my prayers were the ones to bless my meals, and a few sporadic times when I found lost car keys… Jesus meant it when He taught, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” I learned much later, that the reason I hadn’t been receiving answers or overcoming evil, was because of a weak and unstable faith.
Question one’s premise is just plain wrong. God hates evil. He hates seeing His creation suffer the consequences of their choice to reject Him. He hates the perversion and violence that is done every day. And because He is strong, full of love and full of righteous anger against evil, He has provided a way for us to overcome it all and be free. That is through a real and living faith in Jesus—which has nothing to do with just agreeing that the Bible is true. It means living out that faith to such an extreme that you obey every command, and sacrifice every obstacle that blocks you from serving Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. It means believing in what you don’t yet see, and insisting that the devil be crushed under your feet because you know who your redeemer is.
Maybe you have hidden pride that’s keeping you from obeying God’s promptings, whether it’s giving up an unhealthy relationship or quitting a negative habit. He sees the doubts that you nurture in your heart or how you feel offended with what He teaches. You and I have the ability to tie God’s hands through our own stubborn will to do what we want and dwell on what we like. We also have the ability to allow God’s hands to work wonders, to heal us, raise the dead and cast out demons. Living in faith and by faith, is the only way to please God, because then He can finally rescue us and set us right, and we can know Him as our loving Father.
“Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own relatives, and in his own house.” He could not do any miracles there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He was amazed because of their unbelief. (Mark 6:3-6 MEV)