A satanic test of your disciple is a rite of passage for him into kingdom ministry. Not only should you not be surprised by this rigorous test, but you should expect it and prepare your disciple for it. Jesus was tested by Satan prior to his ministry and Peter was sifted by Satan ahead of him being used powerfully on the day of Pentecost.
Jesus passed all his tests, Peter did not, and yet even Peter’s failure was turned into success by the grace of God. Paul tells us that a messenger of Satan had tormented him but his anguish was what allowed Christ’s power to rest on him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
A couple of observations concerning satanic testing:
- The test is conducted in solitude. Your disciple must go through the test alone. Circumstances will be set so that he will be isolated during the test. (Do not try and rescue your disciple from the testing or the isolation. Not only is this not possible, but it is a necessary part of the rite of passage.)
- Your disciple will have a deep emotional response to the test. He will be emotionally and physically drained. “And he (Peter) went outside and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)
- Your responsibility is to frame for your disciple the satanic testing in the context of a rite of passage and then to point him to his kingdom ministry as Jesus did with Peter. (John 21:15-19)
There are some things that are not explainable in the life of your disciple apart from a satanic influence. Not only can you become frustrated or confused with your disciple’s behavior if you do not consider the possibility of Satan’s involvement but imagine the disillusionment of the disciple who has never been taught about Satan’s activity in his life. Peter and Paul both warned the disciples not to be caught off guard by Satan. (1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:10-11)
There comes a time in a disciple’s life when Satan tests him to destroy his faith. For some the test was short but intense, as was Peter’s, for others it was over an extended period of time. Some were young, some older. In all cases, their faith was severely strained. It is a frightening experience for him, his family, his friends, and you (!), wondering if he is going to pull through.
One clue to satanic involvement is contradictory behavior. We have two examples of this paradox from the life of Peter. The first is in Matthew 16 where Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah because the Heavenly Father had revealed it to him, and then a short time later Satan speaks to Jesus through Peter trying to dissuade from his mission. (Matthew 16:15-23)
The second was on the night of Jesus’ crucifixion. Peter passionately declares a loyalty to Jesus to the death, but hours later he publically betrays Jesus. Both times Peter was unaware of Satan’s involvement in his thinking and actions, and in the second case he had even been specifically forewarned how Satan would test him.
A couple of closing thoughts:
- Pray for your disciple’s faith, as Jesus did for Peter. (Luke 22:32)
- Your disciple is probably unaware of Satan’s activity in his life.
- Ask yourself the question: “Could this present behavior and attitude in my disciple be due to satanic influence?”
- Frustration is an indicator of satanic involvement. Your disciple’s frustration with his own behavior, as well as your own frustration with your disciple, is a sign that Satan may be at work.
Mentoring and discipling are not the same things. The terms are not interchangeable. Although disciple making, like mentoring, takes place in this world, it also engages a just as real spiritual dimension. Paul writes:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
You will encounter satanic activity in the life of your disciple. If Jesus allowed Satan “to sift Peter as wheat” (Luke 22:31), what makes me think that Satan will not test my disciple? (When I use the term “Satan”, I am not suggesting that your disciple will encounter Satan himself, as did Peter. What I do mean is an encounter with evil spiritual beings that, along with Satan, make up the “dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) and what Paul calls “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
There are times when your disciple’s attitude and behavior can only be explained by the influence of an outside evil force. I am not suggesting that every sin, every failure, or every attitude is linked to satanic activity, but we do need to be open to the possibility that evil beings may be at work in my disciple.