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 Somebody” from 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.
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).
1 Why do the nations conspire[a]
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles. 4 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.