How Satan Hijacks the Sabbath Sermon
Last month we looked at how Satan seeks to destroy or prevent Sabbath preparation to take place on a Friday, the preparation day. This applies especially to pastors as they prepare their sermons. This month we will look at things that prevent God’s people from hearing the message that He wants them to hear on Sabbath. How does the devil succeed in allowing the Word to fall on hard ground only to be pecked up by the birds? (See Matthew 13:19)
I think we underestimate the intense zeal with which Satan plots to disrupt the message from reaching the people on Sabbath mornings. Ellen White says, “At every meeting, Satan will be on the ground, that with his hellish shadow he may obtrude himself between man and God to intercept every ray of light that might shine on the soul” (Testimonies to the Church, 6:57). We are told that “Satan and his angels are busy creating a paralyzed condition of the senses so that cautions, warnings, and reproofs shall not be heard; or if heard, that they shall not take effect upon the heart and reform the life” (Testimonies to the Church, 5:493). This is serious stuff!
She says that “. . . he [Satan] is in attendance when men assemble for the worship of God. Though hidden from sight, he is working with all diligence to control the minds of the worshipers. Like a skillful general he lays his plans beforehand. As he sees the messenger of God searching the Scriptures, he takes note of the subject to be presented to the people. Then he employs all his cunning and shrewdness so to control circumstances that the message may not reach those whom he is deceiving on that very point. The one who most needs the warning will be urged into some business transaction which requires his presence, or will by some other means be prevented from hearing the words that might prove to him a savor of life unto life (Great Controversy, 518).
Reading the above makes me wonder as to the reasons we often stay away from Sabbath School and worship. If I was tempted to stay away from church or to sleep in, I would be very curious as to what the sermon was all about that Satan tempted me to miss. What did it contain that God wanted for me to hear? Fortunately, we now have technology that allows you to listen to each sermon on our church website. The following are a few tools that Satan uses to paralyze our senses or prevent us from hearing the Word and receiving the full blessing.
1. Poor ventilation
“Neglect of proper ventilation is responsible for much of the drowsiness and dullness that destroy the effect of many a sermon . . .” (Ministry of Healing, 274). I guess if the author wrote today, she would have said that we set our heat too warm, so it makes people drowsy. This is where our building constructors and deacons play an important role.
2. Poor eating habits
“Oh, how many are low in the scale of spirituality because they will not deny their appetite! The brain nerve energy is benumbed and almost paralyzed by overeating. When such go to the house of God upon the Sabbath, they cannot hold their eyes open. The most earnest appeals fail to arouse their leaden, insensible intellects. The truth may be presented with deep feeling, but it does not awaken the moral sensibilities or enlighten the understanding” (Testimonies to the Church, 2:414). Could it be that not eating a good, healthy breakfast could play an important role here?
3. Overwork during the week
“Let none come to the place of worship to take a nap. There should be no sleeping in the house of God. You do not fall asleep when engaged in your temporal business, because you have an interest in your work. Shall we allow the service which involves eternal interests to be placed on a lower level than the temporal affairs of life?” (Testimonies to the Church, 6:361). I think if the author lived today, she would add medication to this statement. Sometimes sleeping in church is due to overwork and an unbalanced lifestyle during the week, but other times it could be the effect of the medication we are taking (and you may add old age as a cause too, with tongue in cheek).
Ellen White also mentions, amongst others, two things you can do that would prepare you to hear the sermon on a Sabbath. They are to 1) pray for yourself and 2) pray for the preacher. Here’s what she says: “As you enter the place of worship, ask the Lord to remove all evil from your heart. Bring to His house only that which He can bless. Kneel before God in His temple, and consecrate to Him His own, which He has purchased with the blood of Christ. Pray for the speaker or the leader of the meeting. Pray that great blessing may come through the one who is to hold forth the word of life. Strive earnestly to lay hold of a blessing for yourself” (Testimonies to the Church, 6:362).
Lastly, remember that Satan’s angels are not the only angels that come to church. When you give your testimony, sing, or pray, there are other very important visitors that also come to listen and help to dispel the influences of evil. We are told, “Let us all bear in mind that in every assembly of the saints below are angels of God, listening to the testimonies, songs, and prayers” (Testimonies to the Church, 6:366).
Next time you come to church, use your imagination to become aware of these “other guests” who are also attending church with us. May your senses be sharpened as you hear the Word of the Lord, and may you leave church with a heart rejoicing to share the blessing you have received.