by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
Never be afraid of the devil, for in spite of all his talents and intrigues, he is weak before God’s children as the Lord has said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” (Luke 10: 18)
The Lord trod on him on the Cross
He is no longer “the prince of the world” as before. The Lord said of him before the crucifixion, “Now is the judgment of this world: Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31) “The prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:11) Thus, the Lord says, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” (Luke. 10: 19)
The Lord’s promise to us that we would tread over all the power of the enemy is a promise full of power and comfort, which removes away fear from the hearts. The church so appreciates such a divine promise, that it put it at the end of the thanksgiving prayer in order that we may mention it in our prayers every day or even every hour so as not to be afraid of the devils or all the power of the enemy.
Thus, the devil has no authority over us, but we have the authority over him. Even the devils are subject unto us through the name of the Lord. (Luke 10:17) The Lord even made casting out devils foremost of the signs that follow the believers. (Mark 16:17) Of course the gift of casting out devils must be preceded by victory in the diabolic wars. Whoever overcomes the devil’s temptation and enticements and stands steady is feared by the devil and he gets power over him.
There is a fine lecture by St. Anthony on the weakness of the devils... St. Athanasius published this lecture in his book “The Life of St. Anthony” which you can read so that your hearts may be strengthened and not fear the devil. There were many simple monks who did not have any education at all but could destroy the devil in the wilderness; among those is St. Paul the Simple. Martyrs and confessors also could overcome all the temptations, all his power and all his weapons.
The devil dominates only the person who submits to him...
True are the words of the common saying, “it is the slaves who create the masters.” This means that the humility and submission of the slaves make the masters prevail and vaunt. So is the case with those who submit to the devil, but whom the Son makes free, they shall be free indeed. (John 8:36)
The thing which the devil likes most is to find you afraid of him. For in your fear you become weak in front of him and get confused. You think that you will certainly fall into his hands so your spirit is broken and you yield to him unable to resist... This is what he wants of you because fear gives him power over you. However, the Lord Jesus Christ advises us not to fear at all. “It is I; be not afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Do not be afraid then because God’s power, acting within you, is greater than the power of the devil fighting you from without. Be sure that the fear within you is more harmful to you than the devil’s war from without. Those who were afraid of Goliath the giant were weak before him and could not resist him. As for David who was not afraid, he advanced towards him boldly, relying on the Lord’s assistance, so he conquered him.
The story of David and Goliath is suitable to be a symbol of the wars of the devils. Perhaps you inquire about the secret of why David was not afraid and he answers: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
He goes on to say, “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” So, face the diabolic wars with a peaceful heart, and fight the Lord’s wars trusting that you will conquer with His assistance. How severe and dangerous are the words of Revelation about fear: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
Thus, the fearful are put before the non-believers and before the murderers and idolaters! You may ask, “Why?” Perhaps because he who fears the devil and submits to him fails in all these sins; or because he who fears the devil and submits to him will be afraid on the last day because he had not resisted and conquered as the selected believers have done.
I wish that you would read the stories of the saints who did not fear the devils! Read about St. Anthony to whom the devils appeared in the form of lions, tigers and fierce beasts crying in dreadful voices to frighten him that he might leave the wilderness; but he was not afraid and used to answer them calmly. Read about St. Macarius the Great who slept in a tomb putting a skull under his head. When the devils talked to the person to whom the skull belonged in a loud voice, asking him to rise with them, the saint was not afraid, but raised his head a little from the skull and told it, “if you want to go, rise and go with them to hell.”
As for you, do not be afraid, for the devils would not fight you with such fears as they fought the saints with. Hearken
to the apostle comforting you, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
God would not allow the devil to tempt you above what you can endure, but will, with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) So, never be afraid of the devils and their wars whether they fight with fears or sins. The devil may arouse a clamor to frighten people but he cannot do anything to a steady believer.
I compare the clamor of the devil with the story of the fox and the drum. There was a drum hung to a tree blown by the wind causing an awful noise. A fox passed by it and was alarmed by the noise. He was afraid at first, then he was encouraged and attacked it. When he saw it was empty from within, he laughed and despised it. This resembles also a big balloon which appears huge but the prick of a small pin makes it nothing... The devil is like this, clamor with no power. He tries to frighten you but has no power for he doesn’t have the absolute liberty to do what he wants.
There is God, the Almighty who prevents the devil according to His own will. In the story of Job the Just, the devil did not follow his own will but was confined to the scope which God allowed him. (Job 1,2) The devil is not so powerful that you ought to fear him. The mere sign of the cross makes him escape from your face. The devil wants you to imagine him as powerful, but do not believe him. Remember always his repeated defeat before the saints.
Remember those who had the power to cast him out of the people whom he overthrew, and how he cried always in fear before God’s children and escaped. Since you know the weakness of the devil, resist him bravely.