Did Satan make me lose my car keys? Did Satan make me sin? Does the Devil run the lottery?
If you spend enough time around church people you will inevitably hear a Christian offer some sort of complaint about being under spiritual warfare or the devil working against them. My initial reaction to hearing this is usually two fold. One, spiritual warfare is very real, there are powers of evil at work in the world and we need to be aware of them. Two, we give the Devil way too much credit. Sometimes I wonder if we simply blame the Devil for the realities of being sinful creatures living in a broken world.
I hear people talk about the power of the Devil when they put themselves into difficult situations and have to deal with the fallout of those choices. Poor planning on our parts does not constitute spiritual warfare. Bad decisions on our part do not equal the Devil taking power over our lives. Aging, natural disasters, the normal grind of life, these are the result of a broken world not yet fully redeemed. Satan doesn’t really get credit for these either. Sometimes we give the Devil way too much credit.
On the other hand we live pretty ignorant of spiritual warfare. We fail to recognize the powers at work around us. We fail to recognize the spiritual forces shaping institutions, governments, and companies. (For a good read on this check out Walter Wink’s The Powers that Be) We fail to recognize the true power of prayer to affect the spiritual realm. We fail to recognize the threat that spirits of discouragement, lies, and discord can be to unity in the church.
It is a strange thing to at once need to be more aware of the spiritual realm and also stop giving the Devil so much credit. The flip side of this is that we do the same thing with God. We give credit for every little thing that goes well in our life, at least that goes well from our perspective. We give God credit for a good parking space, or for dodging a potential self created catastrophe, or for some windfall in our life. We blame God for the absence of the same. We treat God like Santa Claus without really understanding the power he has made available to us as his children.
In the end, ignorance of the spiritual realm, the power of God, the power of prayer, the power of evil in this world, and our role in all of it directly effects our work here on earth. In our ignorance we are quick to misdiagnose the maladies of this broken world and slow to recognize the true battle around us.