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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - The Benefit of Satan

Tony Evans - The Benefit of Satan

Tony Evans - The Benefit of Satan

To enjoy the fragrance of perfume, you've gotta break the cap for that fragrance that is inside to be able to be smelt. To enjoy chewing a peanut, you've gotta break the shell so that the nut can emerge and you can eat it. For a butterfly to take flight, it must break the cocoon so that it can rise to its created level of intentionality. And for Christ to get all out of you and me that he wants, he has to break us of our self-sufficiency. The one thing that God hates more than anything else is self-sufficiency where we feel we can function independently of him. Wherever there is self-sufficiency, God will bring about a breaking, a cracking in the life of a person, a believer, in order to help rid themselves of their feeling of independence.

And one of the chief ways God strips us of our independence and self-sufficiency is through his use of the devil. God uses Satan to break a brother down, to break a sister down. God is so sovereign, he rules so comprehensively and completely that even hell is at its beck and call. The devil, Satan, and demons have to function at his instruction in order to put us in our place. In these verses in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, Paul has just come all out of a high. When you read the first six verses, he talks about an experience that he had that would blow your mind. He got to go to the third heaven. He's the only person, human being, who got to visit heaven, see what was there, and come back to talk about it. He said, "I saw things there that were unlawful to utter". He said, "I can't even, I don't have the words to talk about what I saw when God let me go visit the third heaven".

I don't know all that heaven is going to offer, and I know the Bible only gives us glimpses. After coming off of this high, he says in verse 7, "Because of the surpassing greatness," the unique privilege, "of the revelation, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh". Because God had let me get so high, so high that no other man has ever gotten before, there would be the propensity and the tendency to think more of myself than I ought to. And so God had to put something in my life to remind me that, "Yeah, I gave you a privilege, but don't think wrong about yourself".

I wonder if anybody knows anybody who thinks wrong about themselves. You got a little money now, you got a little job now, you drive a nice car now, you live in a nice home now, people put a title in front of your name now, and they got the wrong idea. So what God has to do is he has to bring things into our lives, and even if that means the devil, to keep you from exalting yourself. He says, "Because of this unique experience, when God has bumped you up, given you opportunities and privileges, given you recognition and significance, he wants to make sure you don't forget where that came from". Or when he plans to bump you up, maybe you haven't arrived there now, but he wants you thinking right before you get there. He allows a thorn. He calls it, "It was given to me a thorn in the flesh".

Now, Paul does not tell us exactly what the thorn is. There are a number of options. In Galatians chapter 4 verse 15, he talks about the need for new eyes. He had a sight, a vision problem. So it could've been a physical illness that was a thorn in the flesh, but he also calls it a messenger of Satan, a thorny person in your life. That's why he could talk in verse 10 about insults. So it can be a circumstance, a situation, it can be a person or a problem, it can be an illness, but the one thing is true about it is that it is nagging you to death, it is driving you nuts, 'cause he says, "It tormented me. It created misery in my life". And then he calls it a messenger of Satan. And he says, "The messenger of Satan was given to me". He calls it a gift.

Has God gifted the devil to anybody in here today? You say, "But what I'm going through is nothing but the devil". Yeah, and God gave him to you. A messenger of Satan, a representative of hell was given to me by God. And he says there was a spiritual purpose to this hellish invasion on my life, to keep me from exalting myself. Because the number one sin in the Bible is pride, thinking more of yourself than you ought to. So what God did is, "Paul, you have a propensity to pride, and so I need to help you. So I have given room for the devil to prick you, stick you, needle you through a problem, a pain, or a circumstance so that you will be dependent on me, to keep you from exalting yourself".

The more you wanna hear from God, the more humble you gotta be before God. If you get so sidity in your view of yourself, God will sic Satan on you. He will sic the devil on you to remind you that you have limitations. You got things that he can let happen to you that your name can't fix, that your money can't fix, that your power can't fix, that your privileges can't fix, he will sic the devil on you if you're his child to humble you, to keep you, force you from exalting yourself. He says, concerning this thorn, this needle, this irritant that's keeping me in prison, 'cause that's what a thorn does. It don't go away. You feel like a hostage to your problem. You feel like, you know, you're behind bars.

"Concerning this thorn, I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me". I prayed about it, I talked to God about it. I wasn't just ignoring it, I made this a spiritual problem, and I didn't just ask, I implored, I'm begging for relief. Anybody begging for relief from something today? You're begging for relief. In other words, this thing has been this deep, this long, and you are imploring, "Do something, God, because it hurts so bad and the needle goes so deep". "He said to me," in verse 9, "My grace is sufficient for you". Did you read that? "My grace is sufficient for you".

Okay, so here it is, when God gives you a thorn for your spiritual benefit, even if the thorn is provided by the devil, even if it's a messenger of Satan, it's for spiritual benefit to keep you from exalting yourself, because once you exalt yourself, now you're the enemy of God, 'cause now you'd think more of yourself, thought more of yourself than you ought to. He says, "I am not going to give you the answer to your prayer right now". "I prayed," Paul says, "That it might leave". God says, "My grace is sufficient. I'm not going to give you the answer to your request, but I'm not gonna ignore it either. My grace is sufficient".

Grace is God doing for you what you cannot do for yourself. Grace is the goodness of God that he displays to you and for you and on you, whether or not he changes the circumstance. The most potent verse on grace is found in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, and this is a verse that you need to remember. Verse 8 of 2 Corinthians 9, "And God is able to make all grace abound to you. So that all ways, having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good work". He says, "Grace is so sufficient that it covers every scenario". That's why it's called sufficient grace. He says, "'My grace,'" my favor, "'Is sufficient for your circumstance,' he said to me".

Let me stop there. "He said to me". When did God say something to you, Paul? "When I prayed". See, a lot of times when we pray, if we pray, we are looking for the answer, and when the answer does not come, the statement is, "God did not answer my prayer". But God does not only answer our prayer when he gives us what we want. He simply said, "I implored that God gives me what I want, which is getting rid of the devil messing with me". He says, "But he said".

See, some of the answers to our prayer is listening to what God says, not just what he does. All Paul got was a word, not a solution. That's why when you come through these doors, you want God to speak to you whether or not he changes the situation right now for you. He said, "He spoke, I heard his voice". And you can go a long way when you hear his voice. Even if the situation hasn't changed, if you can just know he said it, he was talking to me in my Bible study, he was talking to me in the Psalm, he was talking to me in the sermon, I heard him say. Nothing changed but I heard him. "He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient. I have more, Paul, than enough resources for you to handle what I've allowed the devil to put you in.'"

If you're here today and you've got a situation that has not changed, an illness that he has not healed you of, a job situation that he has not reversed, a financial situation that he has not yet met, a relationship resolved that has not occurred, and you have prayed to him, and the situation has stayed or even gotten worse, listen, open your ears and say, "God, here I am. Speak to me". So what do you do when you've prayed and God hasn't answered the prayer, but you're listening? He first of all prays, and then he praises. Look at the middle of verse 9. "Most gladly," come on now. How you gonna be glad when you're sad? "Most gladly therefore, I would rather boast about my weak", no you didn't. "I will most gladly boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me".

Did you hear what he said? "I'm gonna brag on my problem. I'm gonna brag on my problem". He's not bragging on the pain of his problem, he's bragging on the purpose of his problem. God never tells us to be masochistic and just make ourselves miserable to make us feel more spiritual, no, when he found out that God was using the devil to make him better, make him better, a better Christian, a better person, a better follower of Christ, when he found out that God had a good purpose in a bad problem, he said, "Oh, I'm bragging about this. Because I'm bragging on why God is doing it even though I do not prefer what God is doing. He's going to use this situation, he's going to use this problem, he's going to use this difficulty, and I'm gonna come out of this thing. Praise you, God, bless your name. I'm gonna brag about what the devil is doing to me".

Now that's a change 'cause I don't know anybody that brags about a satanic attack. I don't know anybody that praises God that the devil is all over them. But Paul says, "I'm gonna boast about my weakness because of what God's gonna do in it and through it". Then he says in verse 10, he says at the end of verse 9, "That the power of Christ may dwell in me". So you gonna get what? Here's what grace is gonna give you when it coats it, you gonna find you have power you didn't know you had. You've got ability you didn't know you possessed. What he says is if you will pray to hear his voice and if you will praise for his purpose, you'll discover power you didn't know you had, you'll get Holy Ghost assistance for your situation. He says, "That the power of Christ may dwell in you".

See, you can have the power of Christ, but it not be at home in you. Well if you're a Christian, Christ is in your life, but he may not feel welcomed. So the power of Christ may not be expressed, dwelling, making itself at home in you. "Therefore," somebody say, "Therefore," verse 10, "I am well content". "I am well content with weaknesses insults and stresses, persecutions, difficulties for Christ's sake, for when I am weak, then I am strong". Okay, he brings up contentment. The word content means to be at rest on the inside regardless of circumstances on the outside. It has to do with a calming internally. Paul says in Philippians chapter 4 verses 10 to 13, he says, "I've learned to abound and abase".

Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down. He says, "Whether I'm abased or abound, whether I'm up or down, I have learned in whatsoever state I am in to be content". Because contentment is not tied to conditions. You can be content when it's sun shining, you can be content when it's raining, 'cause something is happening internally at rest. The only reason he can do that is because he's boasting about his weaknesses. He's changed his perspective. "When you pray," James 1:5, "If any man needs wisdom," which means how to handle this situation, "Let him ask of God and God will give it to him. Let him ask in faith, believing that God will either give you some solution or give you the grace".

He will give you one of the two. If he doesn't give you the solution, he will give you the sufficiency if you'll listen to his voice. He says, "I'm well content with my weaknesses". I'm going, by the way, how do you know that you have grown? 'Cause he said, "I have to," Paul said, "I have to learn to be content". So this is a lesson you gotta learn. God's gonna help you. I must learn to be content. How do you know when you have reached the point of basic contentment? Here it is, that you are more thankful than you are complaining. That's how you know. How do you learn to be content? You learn to be content through your gratitude. So if you are facing a thorn that God has not removed, you need the flood of grace. Grace cannot be earned, it can only be given. God gives it, but you must access it. Ask God, how does he wanna use what you're going through?

This week I would love for you to read Lamentations chapter 3. That's after Jeremiah, 'cause if the pages stick together, you'll miss it. Lamentations chapter 3, the weeping prophet spends the first 18 verses describing his pain, his hurt, and even his disappointment that God is not doing something. He's hurting in Lamentations chapter 3 verses 1 through 18. But then in verse 19 he switches. "Even though I'm disappointed, even though I'm hurt, even though I'm weary, even though there's all this wrong around me, even though I'm crying, even though that," he says, "You are my hope, you are my deliverer. I'm banking on your faithfulness".

So let me tell you, let me tell you, you need to stop, I need to stop, we need to stop fake prayers, talking smack, repeating the same phrases without even putting your mind or your heart into the discussion. That you have done nothing, you got to be honest with God. You have to be respectful, but you have to be honest. "God, I'm hurting, God, I'm disappointed you haven't responded yet. God, this is what I'm going through. God, this is what I need. God, this is where I am. Yes, this is what's going on in my life. However, I will trust in the God of my salvation. However, I praise you for your purpose. However, I'm gonna glorify you because you're still in charge, even though things are out of control".

I can tell you, if God sent Satan, because you are doing and living your life for Christ's sake, he wants to use the devil to make you a better Christian. And one of the ways you know, as we close, you know, you walk through the airport, you see people sometimes carrying their luggage, but most people don't carry their luggage anymore 'cause now there are wheels on the bottom of each of the bags, okay.

Now you can carry your luggage, but that means you gotta bear your own weight. But now that they put wheels on there, it doesn't change how heavy the load is in the bag, but it changes your ability to handle it 'cause you're rolling it and you're not trying to carry it. If you're here today and you're tired of carrying your own load, if you're here today and you can't handle it 'cause it's too heavy, I know somebody who got some wheels, and he will give you the ability to handle the weight that you're having to carry by the devil that God is using to make you the person and Christian he has created you to be.
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