Is it God “in the Details,” or is it the Devil? Why it Matters

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

To answer the title question, based on an English idiom, both God and the Devil are in…details.

What follows is why, in my view, it is important to know which one is behind what is being investigated, adhered to, or followed, because discerning this will determine what harvest we reap: bitter, or better.

In a nutshell: details and intent can be discerned as from God, i.e., leading to constructive ends, or to the Devil, i.e., leading to destructive ends.

And in the case of flawed humanity, there can be a mix among the participants, which is why it is good to pay close attention.

Of course, in the search for truth, one hopes to be on the right side, particularly when the investigation involves conflict, and to be human is to encounter myriad conflicts in various contexts…

On Political Details

What prompts this post today is the current environment of political hostility in the United States evidenced in the impeachment inquiry, which is manifesting largely in a word-war comprised of “he said, she said, and/or someone else said that someone else said,” as well as in questionable conclusions many of which are based on emotions, inuendos, and opinions.

Presumptions are also surfacing as paramount in importance, in some cases seemingly as important as direct knowledge and objective facts.

Such subjective elements have their place in certain communication venues, of course, but not in what is supposed to be a proceeding based on an  “objective, fair, and balanced” committee inquiry.

Of course, the situation in question gets a little confusing because what took place these past few days in the House of Representatives, wholly controlled (some would add, contrived) by one political party, Democrat, is not a legal, criminal proceeding (though the  optics, may have led many to believe so), it was merely, again, an inquiry, and where confusion is present the door is left open for spin.

Although it was frustrating to watch the imbalanced proceedings, and one could easily succumb to minutia-fatigue, I believe it was important to pay attention as much as possible not only to study the premise and particulars of the case but also to learn the tactics–all of which comprise the details–because times like this can also be instructive in helping one determine whose or Whose “details” these are so that one may choose wisely how, then, to proceed.

In this process, I have been reminded of several key spiritual perspectives and truisms (from various versions of the Bible):

  • “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered” (Proverbs 11:21). In other words, whatever the optics, however polished the veneer of bi-partisanship, however nice-sounding the words and their spin–there comes a day of individual reckoning.
  • “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines” (Proverbs 18:17). In other words, when cross-examination is unhindered the full picture emerges which may be very different from what was initially suggested.
  • “Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:44-45).
  • “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24).

But Who’s Who?

I am reminded here of a song by Bob Dylan “Gotta Serve Somebodyfrom the time period in which he was exploring Christianity. The lyrics detail some of the choices we have, as summarized in the last bullet point, above.  

In exploring the options, I’d rather search for the “God details,” then, than to rely on the Devil’s.

But how to know the difference? By the outcomes, their “fruit,” so to speak, as illustrated by the third bullet point.

If you think about it, there is both spiritual and historical precedence for how to tell the difference.

Comparing Details 

If, as Scripture notes regarding God:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17),

then His outcomes, truly transparent (wihout shadow) and good, lead to (true) progress.

And–here’s the takeaway (also an encouragement)–If evil were more powerful, though it is brilliant, the world would not have continued progressing for very long.

The Devil, a fearsome enemy, called by various names and characterized in some malevolent manifestation in every culture (and who Christians believe is very real), would have made quick work of creation.

But he didn’t.

The world continues to turn.

The race carries on.

Each generation strives for a little bit better life for their offspring, and hope for all of this to continue doesn’t seem to die.

Furthermore, and to add to God’s outcome and His “details” supporting it, the prophet Jeremiah recorded (29:11):

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

(And ask any believer how God has changed his/her life, made it better, healed, delivered, answered prayers, imparted wisdom…)

On the other side of the conflict is the malignant one who desires the opposite and works through willing comrades to that end. On his nature, St. John quotes Jesus’ description (He addresses His enemies here):

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

The Devil’s outcomes do not lead to progress (though they may be dressed up to promise that), but to regress, i.e., “to return to a previous, usually worse or less developed state” (source). Indeed, his motives are for the ultimate destruction of God’s creation. As put in 1 Peter 5:8:

Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour.

I think it’s safe (er, dangerous) to say that the more the  Devil can “devour” the more satisfied he is.

Getting back to political parties and their machinations, it is helpful to know their goals in order to better discern the veracity–or lack thereof–of their claims.

To comprehend the outcome of any form of totalitarianism, e.g., socialism, to which, in one form or another, most contenders for power in the Democrat party subscribe, one has to but study recent history to discern the tragedies the idology has caused on battlegrounds all over Europe and Asia in mass graves, and in loss of life, liberty and progress, no matter the rosy advertisements up front, the feigned compassion and/or simply misguided concern of those who’ve yet to become familiar with the real history.

Thus it is sobering to know that it is from the Democrat ranks the committee was formed to conduct the impeachment inquiry.

In that ideology, one soon becomes aware that those “details” are really about power and control–and doing whatever it takes, including lying, to achieve same.

Another Scriptural truism comes to mind: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (Galatians 5:9).

It also becomes apparent that few holds are/have been barred in attempts to depose–and dispose of–opposition.

On the other hand, when turning to “God’s details,” as it were, in his goals and outcomes, there is freedom. As put in John 8:36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

This begins as spiritual salvation (by grace through faith in Jesus Christ) and transfers to a desire for true justice for all–believers, potential believers, and non-believers alike–because the fruit of this ideology includes governmental systems based on such freedom–God-given, not man-determined–that in the United States we call “Judeo-Christian” principles and ethics.

Principles and ethics decidedly different that those of totalitarian regimes.

More on God’s Details

Here are a few more reasons we can rely on God’s details, He, Whose ways are “for good and not for evil, to give…a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

Why do the nations conspire[a]
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles. The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… (Psalm 2:1-4)

The Lord works out everything to its proper end— even the wicked for a day of disaster. (Proverbs 16:4)

But how can mere humans contend with and resist, the very powerful  and ever-menacing Father of Lies?

By prayer, wisdom, knowledge, discernment, appropriate civic action, and by recognizing his brilliance, thus the importance of “armoring up”.  As detailed in Ephesians 6:10-18:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

And to the efficacy of the above:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. (Luke 8:17)

Considering how often in recorded history the Devil (et al) has tried to divide, conquer, control, and destroy, God’s way, i.e., to effect good, has proven more powerful than evil and has been working for millenia.

I would offer, then, that both God’s and the Devil’s details are found in the political situation discussed here, as well as in every human endeavor, but choosing–and contending for–God’s details will result in the better harvest not only for now, but for eternity.

Carry on.

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6 Responses to Is it God “in the Details,” or is it the Devil? Why it Matters

  1. Thank you Phyllis for your thought-provoking post. There is a saying: ‘The first casualty of war is the truth’. Honesty and veracity are early victims in the build up to a military or political crisis. The propaganda machine ensures that reasonable debate is drowned in falsehood and hyperbole. ‘What is twisted cannot be straightened, what is not there cannot be counted’ (Ecclesiastes 1.15 JB). Here in Britain the Brexit debate is reaching a climax and the coming election will be the decisive factor, one way or another. There has to come a time when bitter recriminations are silenced, the air is cleared and the nation moves on. Where discord grows into wormwood, it places the cohesion and integrity of a nation in peril. Where evil abounds public discourse becomes incoherent. ‘Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.’ (Isaiah 5.20 JB). ‘Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.’ (James 3.16-18 JB). ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognised as children of God’ (Matthew 5.9 NJB).

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    • pbn says:

      Thank you, Colin, for these Scriptural reminders that are absolutely essential to remember in this age.

      Both Britain and the U.S. seem to be at a tipping point where the intensity and depravity of the evil being waged against honesty and peace, not to mention common sense–and the Judeo-Christian inspired foundations of both our nations–has become so frustrating, such an oppressive weight on the minds and hearts of many people, there is a temptation to give up, tune out, and just try to live life as best we can on the darkening landscape.

      This is what, at this juncture in the (real) war, i.e., good versus evil, concerns me the most.

      I saw vestiges of it in the brave Republicans who (nevertheless) waged a brilliant battle against the lies and verbal and other manipulations of the Democrats, this past week. To that end, believers need to pray for their continued strength of resolve but also pray for their physical, mental, and emotional stamina.

      History will honor them, but in the meantime, the battle wages…

      Of course, this is what our real adversay craves, i.e., to have “worn the people down” to the point they will cry out for peace at any cost (hmmm, that has a familiar ring to it…methinks from somewhere in the depths of the Apocalypse?…).

      Sadly, if enough of us succumb to that very human (and exploitable) temptation, the cost will be us. That is, our freedom.

      As witnessed in other countries at other times, when that happens, what remains of evil (as in a LOT, “it” having fattened through time like the mythical Kraken, feeding like a parasite on its environs) will fully emerge in its last roaring, as it were…

      Thinking of another analogy, although there has been a restraining force, to date, prophetically speaking, a time of loosening will come when evil will swarm in like a thick, dense, hoard of locusts, for the consuming.

      And, it seems, this happens incredibly fast (whereas behind the scenes in the spiritual realm the build up really began at the get-go where Eve, then Adam, succumbed to the first propaganda, even in that pristine, beautiful place).

      Fortunately, God has promised to “shorten those days” lest “no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).

      As much as these ways of evil are known and can be known, it is still hard to live–and to resist–under their weight.

      But there are those who do, even in the darkest of times, by “sowing the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness” thereby displaying the most powerful resistance of all.

      The good news, here, if hard to keep in mind, is that this is something evil never quite understands, thus, is always subject to and by which it will eventually and eternally be overpowered and subdued.

      Indeed, when Jesus, on the cross, submitted to what by all accounts (even the accounts of His own disciples) seemed the ultimate defeat, failure, polar opposite of something God would do (at least the only kind of “god” evil would comprehend and respect), by His obedience to the Father’s ways and means of overcoming evil with good, Jesus gave Satan, I believe, his first and most profound “Oh, s..t moment, ” to use a rather crass but very apt American expression.

      And Satan’s defeat reverberates still in the spirit dimension where perhaps his most powerful hatred is aimed at God’s people who eventually “get it,” and in their quiet, unobtrusive, simple “battegrounds,” often alone or perhaps with only “two or more gathered together,” behind the scenes wage the prayer war that has kept mankind intact, the world spinning, and evil at bay to now. Others of their ranks battle on a more visible stage.

      (And they will continue to do so until “the restrainer is removed” by God–which “time” is known only to God the Father. One thinks, here, of the power of timing in military strategy, the strength of the element of surprise. We can know the “times” in order to be spiritually prepared, but not the day and hour…I love that.)

      Because here, I think is the best, the most “stealth-like” aspect of God’s resistance plan.

      What appears weak (peace, patience, long-suffering, dedication to prayer, holiness, etc.) is, in fact, that “gentle answer” that “breaks bones” by wisdom and patience and “standing firm” on God’s Word, His promises–fueled by the blood of Jesus who bested Satan’s most powerful–and true–prosecutorial case: man’s sin must be atoned for. (Satan, being the shrewdest of lawyers.)

      And it was. Is. On the cross–by God’s own Son Who did it not only for justice’ sake, but for love.

      Evil doesn’t and never will “get” love, especially such profoundly sacrificial love, as in “no greater love…than to lay down (one’s) life for (one’s) friends” (John 15:13).

      And–pause for a sec–to all readers including me: did you get that? Jesus calls us His friends?…even we who put Him on that cross by our sins?

      THAT, when understood, is real power for change.

      Because He also allows us to freely choose His becoming our “sacrificial lamb”.

      Evil, on the other hand, forces, prods, intimidates, lies, cheats and steals, to get its way.

      Whereas Jesus did the work needed for us, then extends His hand to us; awaits our answer…

      Whoa…

      When people finally and fundamentally realize they are indeed free of the (legitimate) guilt of their sin, by our friend, God’s Son, Jesus’ sacrifice, they are then free to look up, look around, and discern truth and falsehood as they become schooled in same by the Word of God, and then to get on with growing and maturing and strengthening–and overcoming both within and without.

      I often think of what has happened since Jesus’ atoning sacrifice as a “mop up campaign,” but one wherein we still have to mind the spiritual minefield left behind, stepping carefully in the spirit of obedience and prayer, as we make our way to complete victory in Christ–as He frees us, minute by hour by day by year by lifetime.

      As opposed to the “hoards of evil” consuming good by a destructive spirit, the Body of Christ on earth, empowered by the Holy Spirit, frees first one, then another–then millions–thereby consuming evil because of the power of the blood of Jesus that secured true freedom. Freedom no man or demon can overcome or, ultimately, deny.

      Indeed, there will come a day when “every knee will bow, every tongue, confess”…it’s Jesus Who is Lord (Philippians 2:10, 11).

      I like God’s “details”.

      As somebody more familiar to you than to us on this side of the pond once said, “Keep calm and carry on.”

      And thank you for prompting this little meditation.

      Cheers,
      Phyllis

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      • Thank you for the additional meditation on this theme. Everything you describe is true. To my mind the preponderance of evil can only lead to a cataclysmic outcome. There has to be a process of judgement so that the chaff is blown away with the wind (Psalm 1.4; Mark 13, etc).

        The theme of purification runs right through Judeo-Christian theology. We see throughout the annals of the Jews, as well as throughout history, the consequences of human waywardness and folly and how evil is always defeated. There comes a time when evil totalitarian regimes sow the seeds of their own destruction. A collapse of social order occurs and gives way to chaos.

        We know that God’s judgement will usher in a period of unprecedented change more terrifying than the human imagination can visualise, which shows the measure of the task at hand, the monstrous evil that must be confronted and destroyed. I believe we are not far from that event unfolding. All the signs are there, the writing is on the wall. It may be years, it may be decades, but it will surely come. And when it is completed, peace will reign on earth. ‘The Lord himself bestows happiness….Righteousness always preceding him and Peace following his footsteps.’ (Psalm 85.12-13).

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      • pbn says:

        RE: ‘The Lord himself bestows happiness….Righteousness always preceding him and Peace following his footsteps.’ (Psalm 85.12-13).

        Lovely.

        And THAT is Who we serve.

        (Keeping eyes on the prize…)

        Cheers.

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      • God always has the last word….literally:

        ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come”. Let everyone who listens answer, “Come”. Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free.

        ‘The one who guarantees these revelations repeats his promise: I shall indeed be with you soon. Amen; come, Lord Jesus.

        ‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you all. Amen.’

        (Revelation 22.17, 20-21; cf. Isaiah 55.1; 1 Corinthians 11.26; Acts 3.20-21; 1 Corinthians 15.23 JB)

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      • pbn says:

        (What he said) 🙂

        Like

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