How Satan Serves God
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11)
Behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not that Satan is not involved — he is probably always involved in one way or another with destructive purposes (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission.
That is one of the points of Job’s sickness. The text makes it plain that when disease came upon Job, “Satan . . . struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). His wife urged him to curse God. But Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And again the inspired author of the book (just as he did in 1:22) commends Job by saying, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
In other words: This is a right view of God’s sovereignty over Satan. Satan is real and may have a hand in our calamities, but not the final hand, and not the decisive hand.
James makes clear that God had a good purpose in all Job’s afflictions: “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).
So even though Satan was involved, the ultimate purpose was God’s, and it was “compassionate and merciful.”
This is the same lesson we learn from 2 Corinthians 12:7, where Paul says that his thorn in the flesh was a “messenger of Satan” and yet was given for the purpose of his own holiness — to keep him from becoming conceited. “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited!”
Now, humility is not Satan’s purpose in this affliction. Therefore, the purpose is God’s. Which means that here Satan is being used by God to accomplish his good purposes in Paul’s life. In fact, for God’s elect children, Satan cannot destroy us, and God turns all his attacks finally against him and for us.