Nearly 50 years ago I heard a sermon by Rolfe Barnard that continues to impact me. He called his sermon "The Man Who Was Known in Hell," referring to Paul the Apostle. Paul was such a threat to Satan's interests that he actually made a reputation for himself in hell.
In Acts 19, the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were trying to cast out demons, saying, "'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out'... (One day) the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding" (Acts 19:13-16, NIV).
In hell they knew about Jesus, and they knew about Paul. I often ask myself: Does the devil know about me?
Most people want to be known on Earth. Too many of us in the ministry value getting known above nearly anything else. We want to get more invitations and have a wider influence so we can do more for God—or so we tell ourselves.
I suggest that the more we are known in hell and the greater a threat we are to Satan, the more God is using us. We should not worry about our reputations or our good names—God will take care of that. Or perhaps I should say: Satan will take care of that because the degree to which we are a threat to Satan and his interests may be the reliable index to how much God is truly using us.
Jonathan Edwards said that when the church is revived, so too is the devil. But Satan isn't too bothered if we attack him directly—like the seven sons of Sceva did. Attacking the devil without a biblical warrant is not only silly, but also dangerous. God never promotes us to the level of our incompetence. Those who have so presumed to attack Satan end up as total losers. Sadly, they were never a threat to him in the first place.
Is Satan conscious of you? Is he having to work overtime to keep you from threatening his interests? I don't want to be unfair, but I ask: How much do you talk to the lost at a personal level and try to win them to Jesus Christ? How far are you prepared to go in your commitment to Him? How willing are you to be led outside your comfort zone? Are you rid of all bitterness and grudges?
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that a further reason for forgiveness is to keep from being outsmarted by Satan. When you have totally forgiven those who have hurt you, you become an instant threat to the devil because he cannot succeed through a person who is free of bitterness. Furthermore, God will not widely use the person who is vindictive.
How regularly do you pray? Every day? "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees," William Cowper wrote.
I sometimes fear that I am no threat to Satan. Terrorists are a threat to the whole world. I want Satan to be as threatened by me as the world is of terrorists!
I suspect our reward at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) will not be administered on the basis of whether we were liked or admired, but whether we were known in hell and served as a constant threat to Satan and his fallen angels.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including his latest release, Controlling the Tongue. Visit his Web site at rtkendallministries.com.