Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16:23
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
What do you think of when you think of a puppeteer? Do you think of someone that is acting behind the scenes directing puppets in whichever way they should go? Or do you think of someone who manipulates the story to be what they want it to be? Sometimes, depending on the theater, you see the puppeteer clearly as he pulls the strings or sometimes the light is dim and all you can see are the puppets. Satan acts as a puppeteer as well. When Satan is visible you are on guard against his plan, but there are times when you don’t see how Satan is moving against you and how he manipulates people and situations – even Christians. Now, before you start huffing and puffing, know that WE ALL will be used by Satan (Believers and unbelievers alike). When most people look at the scripture in Luke, they think about the testing of Peter’s faith, but let me be very clear; Jesus was not only warning Peter about the testing of his faith, He was clearly telling Peter that Satan was about to use him to do his work. And as we see in Matthew, it wasn’t the first time either.
This weekend, someone that is dear to my heart said words that cut me to my spirit, hours before I was to preach my second sermon. They cut me so bad, I cried for almost an hour afterward. Were the words they spoke valid? To them they were (and I acknowledge that), but was the time appropriate? No. Instead it served to momentarily distract me from the purpose…the ministry…the assignment that God had given to me to do. And it hurt not just because of the words, but because of who it came from – my sister in heart and in ministry. Someone who knew I was preparing to preach, someone I had asked to stand in the gap and pray for me all week long. Yet when the time came, I realized it wasn’t my cherished sister who I was speaking with in those moments, but a distraction and puppet of Satan. And before you read any further, I recognize how harsh that sounds. I do. But I also recognize that even one of Jesus’ closest confidants, Peter, did the same thing to Him. I have done the same thing to people I loved. I’ve said things or pushed subjects knowing full well my Spirit has told me to stop, but my flesh prodded me to keep going. Why? Because I was, in that moment, a tool of the flesh for the enemy versus a weapon for the Spirit of God. We are all guilty of it. But what can we do when we are in the midst of those moments?
1. Recognize the situation for what it is: God gives discernment and clarity to recognize the tools of the enemy. In the moment the conversation was taking place, I knew that although it was about me to my friend, it was about the sermon I was preparing and the people it might deliver to the enemy. The devil’s plan was to distract me and it almost worked. I left that conversation not only directed for the day, but I felt defeated and telling God that perhaps I was not the woman that God had called to do His ministry because of my faults and personality.
2. Disengage from the situation: In Matthew, Jesus stopped Peter before he could speak further things against God’s will. By stopping the situation, He disengaged from the situation. I needed the conversation to end before more harm was done, before more injuries were given. Words can cut deeper and leave wounds long after physical scars heal. Yet as I tried to disengage, I realized it wasn’t as easy as that. My friend had valid feelings and valid a point, even if I disagreed, and felt I cut her off. But I also realized I would prefer she think I was being rude or even unjust by shutting down the conversation than for me to turn my words into weapons of mass destruction. You see, I am acutely aware that those like me who can build people up can inflict great wounds to tear them down. And years ago a friend of mine told me to “always use my power for good”. I try. So when you are faced with a person that Satan is using to attack, cut, or distract you…shut the situation down. It’s ok to not engage the person; as a matter of fact it’s healthy to recognize when people (ourselves included) need space and to honor that.
3. Honor the God in that person: Recognize that person, especially friend or family, as a child of God (believer or not). They have faults just as you, so however they may be used in that moment-they are not your enemy. Satan is. So as hard as it is, respond in love and forgiveness.
In the text, we see that this is how Jesus handles Peter. He recognized how Peter was being used, He stopped the situation, and instead of condemning Peter He spoke love and life to Him. My friend loves me and has held my hand both literally and figuratively many times. And was I hurt? Yes. But I recognize that even though her feelings were valid, it wasn’t even about me nor about her. It was about ministry. And Satan seeks to kill ministry however he can. He seeks to destroy relationships by any means necessary and he seeks to steal deliverance, joy, and peace (especially amongst believers and family) at all cost. If you have been a tool of the enemy or feel that someone has been a tool against you, know that by prayer, healing and forgiveness for all parties can happen. Not by your hand, but by the Spirit of the living God, Jesus.