Satan is not God’s opposite. God is sovereign in every way and is in complete control over everything, including Satan. Anything Satan does, God allows. God is eternal; Satan is a created being and will be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity at the appointed time (Revelations 20:10).
So in this article, we are not saying that God and Satan are in a cosmic battle for power. God is already the winner. With that said, God in his sovereignty has ordained that Satan have some control over the earth to tempt people. As 1 John 5:19 states, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
As Christians, it can sometimes be confusing to know when God is causing something or when God is allowing Satan to cause something. Therefore, here are 4 signs a problem in your life is from God and not Satan.
1. God Will Test You, Satan Will Tempt You
One of the easiest ways to know whether or not something is being directly used by God or Satan is to examine whether or not this trial is a test or a temptation. As James 1:13 teaches us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
On the other hand, Satan certainly does tempt people, for in Luke 4:1-2 we see that Satan even tempted Jesus, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.”
God, however, does actively cause tests to occur in the believer’s life. In Genesis 22:1-24 God tested Abraham. In John 6:5-7 Jesus tested Philip. In 1 Peter 1 we are told that God has called us to be born again to a living hope, but during our time on earth we will experience trials, “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).
Therefore, you can decipher if a trial is a test from God or a temptation from Satan by the pull it is having on you. If you are being tempted to indulge in sinful, unbiblical behavior, this is Satan trying to attack you. But if you are being encouraged to remain faithful to God through a test in your life that is resulting in more praise, glory, and honor given to Jesus Christ, this is a test from the Lord.
For more on this, you can read my article 3 Signs God Is Testing You.
2. God Will Convict You, Satan Will Condemn You
Another big difference between the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life compared to the influence of spiritual warfare is the feelings we receive towards our own sins. One of Satan’s favorite attacks is to tempt you into sin and then influence you to feel condemned once you fall to that temptation. He not only wants you to sin, he wants you to feel that God now hates you because of your sin.
God, on the other hand, loves you no matter what you do because his love is based within himself and not in your behavior, for as 1 John 4:8 states, “God is love.” But we must not mistake God’s unconditional love for us with a freedom to unconditionally sin. It is a lie that God will simply ignore our sins because he loves us. God sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins because he loves us and his holiness requires payment for sin. He will not ignore our sin because he loves us. Rather, he will convict us of our sin because he loves us and wants us to receive the grace offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you are a Christian, you will never be condemned for your sin ever again. Romans 8:1 explains, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Condemnation is when you are sentenced to death for your wrongs. But in love God does convict his people, which is when the Holy Spirit points out a sin in your life so that you will be motivated to turn back to God in repentance. As 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 explains:
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
3. God Will Use a Problem to Bring More Order, Satan Will Try to Use a Problem to Bring More Chaos
Nobody likes having a problem in their life. But many times, if we did not have barriers to overcome and doubts to wrestle through, we would not have the motivation to grow as Christians. Through the problems and questions we have in life, God often helps us mature and move into even higher places with him. The disorganized areas of our lives are brought into order when problems become so big we can no longer ignore them.
This is what happened in the Corinthian church. They were having issues in their gathering times because they did not know how to properly use the spiritual gifts God had given them. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, however, God used this situation to cause Paul to write 1 Corinthians 14 which has provided order for thousands of churches over the years. God used the issues the Corinthian church was having to bring more order to his universal church, for in 1 Corinthians 14:33 Paul wrote, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”
When a problem is being used for the purposes of Satan, however, order will decrease and chaos will increase. As James 3:14-16 explains:
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
4. God Will Use Problems to Draw You Closer to Himself, Satan Will Try to Use Problems to Pull You Away from God
As I said at the beginning of this article, God is in control of Satan; whatever Satan does, God allows for a specific purpose of his own. The devil can’t do anything outside of God’s sovereign plan. Therefore, even when we are being attacked by Satan, we must seek to know how God intends to use this for our good and his glory.
One way God always intends to use problems is to draw us closer to himself through these trials. This is how God used Satan for his purpose in the life of Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 it states:
So to keep me 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. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Here’s a related article called 5 Things That Will Happen When Satan Is Sending You a False Sign.