On the surface, it appeared Ali was being thoroughly manhandled, but when all was said and done, everyone learned he had outwitted his opponent. What, you may ask, does this have to do with our walk with Christ? Simply that things in our spiritual battle are not always as they appear either. Many times, it appears Satan is thoroughly overwhelming the Lord’s people. We must not allow the seeming barrage of punches from the opponent to discourage us from fighting the good fight.
Consider the apostle Paul and his apostolic career. In reading 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, we see many occasions where it appeared all was lost for the apostle. Yet, when we come to 2 Timothy 4:5-8, he can coach up his young colleague to endure suffering by declaring, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7). The point is that though Paul was about to go to his death for preaching the gospel, the devil had no advantage over him. On the surface, it appeared Satan was scoring a major victory by eliminating the apostle. However, Paul fired back at the old serpent, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (4:8). His death empowers people to this day.
Paul’s confident assurance, and ours, comes from a similar battle waged between Satan and our Lord. When the forces of evil hung the Prince of Peace on the cross, His disciples were scattered in fear and trepidation. This was certainly the fulfillment of one part of Genesis 3:15 that the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of woman. If the story ended there, we would be the most miserable creatures alive. However, on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead and fulfilled the rest of Genesis 3:15 enabling Him to bruise the head of the serpent, destroying death and the one who held the power of death (Heb. 2:14-15).
As Paul told the persecuted Thessalonians, God will “…repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Th. 1:6-8). In this passage, we find tremendous comfort for those who know God and obey the gospel. On the other hand, there is a powerful warning to those who neither know Him nor obey the gospel. Do you know Him? Have you obeyed the gospel? Remember, things may appear a certain way on the surface, but as the Lord said, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11). Why not bow and confess now rather than in the judgment when there is no place for repentance?