Sitting at the ballfield, Nannygranne soaked in the din of families cheering on their pee-wee players in their colorful shirts. Dads’ faces reflected the intensity of desire to see their boys and girls succeed. Moms watched, too, but with more interest in the safety and smiles of their offspring. It was fun to watch.
Then she noticed a bigger brother standing off to himself, seemingly distracted from the game. His cloudy expression and slumped posture made her rise and walk to him. She knew him from church and they were friends. Maybe a jawbreaker would loosen his tongue.
“Hey Michael, want a jawbreaker?”
When he nodded acceptance, she dug in her purse, pulling out three wrapped gumballs in varying colors. After brief consideration, he picked the yellow one, popped it into his mouth and returned his gaze to nowhere in particular.
Offering her hand for the wrapper, Nannygranne ventured, “So how’re things going with you?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he mumbled, “OK.”
“So what’s keeping you from being better than just OK? You want to sit with me and have one of my bottles of water?” She smiled at him, nodding toward her lawn chair. “Come on. You know I like hard questions. Maybe you could ask me one and see how I do.”
As she headed to her chair, he followed her, seemingly glad to be in her company.
“Thanks, Nannygranne, for the water,” he began as he settled in the grass beside her.
“So, what’s on your mind? Try me. Make it a good one.” She hoped her light-heartedness would lighten his burden.
He hesitated. “Well… It’s probably a dumb question.”
“No such thing, Michael. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask and never find the answer to. What’s bothering you? I miss your grin today.”
The boy ducked his head, not willing for her to see he was on the verge of tears. “I don’t know. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I keep messing up and saying stupid stuff. I made my mom cry before the ballgame. I bet I’ll be in trouble when I get home.”
“Being human can be really tough sometimes, Michael. God is never shocked at how we mess up. He knew we’d need help and that’s what Jesus and the Holy Spirit are all about.”
“Yeah, but the devil still messes with you, even when God’s watching.” Then he angrily threw the remnant of his candy toward the garbage can. Turning to look at Nannygranne, he finally said, “Why doesn’t God just kill Satan so he’ll leave us alone?”
“Oh, don’t you worry. God is going to do worse than kill him. He’s going to put him where he’ll exist in the state of dying for eternity.” Pulling out her phone, she said, “Let me show you what’s in store for him.”
She turned to Matthew 25:41. “Jesus is talking about people who refuse to love and who hate God’s way. He says, “‘Get away from me. God has already decided that you will be punished. Go into the fire that burns forever—the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels” She turned the phone to face him and placed her finger over the last part of the verse. “What did Jesus say about the devil right there?”
“…the fire that burns forever–the fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.” Michael looked up at her. “So, hell was made for the devil? I thought hell was the devil’s kingdom.”
“Yes, it was made for Satan but Satan is not reigning in hell like some people think. Satan’s not some kind of evil god. In fact he’s scared of God and Jesus. In Matthew 8:29, the demons got thrown into the pigs, remember? And James 2:19 says demons believe and tremble.
“God never wanted anyone to go to hell, but some people don’t want to be with God and that’s the only other place there is to be away from God.”
Nannygranne could tell he still had another question. “What is it, Michael? God has your answer and all we have to do is look in His Book to find it.”
“Well, that verse also said that people are going to be put with the devil. What I don’t understand is that if God’s not going to kill the devil until the end of time and He lets the devil make us sin, why does He get mad at us for it?”
Nannygranne leaned back, saying, “Now that’s a question for sure. Let me think….” She paused thoughtfully, praying for the right verse and right words. “It seems unfair to you for God to allow the devil to make us sin. Am I getting your question right?”
“That’s it. And He gets mad at us for it, too,” Michael added.
“Well, there is one word in your question that’s the problem. It’s the word ‘make.’”
Michael looked puzzled.
“We’re asking why God lets the devil make us sin. The devil doesn’t have that much power, Michael. He just encourages us to think the wrong things and then we decide to do them or not. God encourages us to do the right things. We make the choice.”
“Well, yeah, but why doesn’t God make him leave us alone when we’re trying to do right?”
“Michael, there are several things—important things—God has told us about this. The first one is that He’s stronger than the devil.2 He made him good to start with because God only makes good things. Satan decided he wanted to do his own thing and have his own followers.
“And Satan’s mad, too, because God holds him back.3 You see, Michael, God makes it easier for us to fight Satan when we want Him to. God is a gentleman. He’s strongest and could just make us robots to do what He wants. But He leaves it up to us to choose Him or not. When we do, He beats Satan back and gives us strength.5
“Something else to think about: Sometimes the world seems like we’re locked in a pitch-black dark room. Then, one day we see the sun shining through a crack in the wall. We’d do anything to get out and into that light. So—in a strange way—Satan being so bad makes us want to do anything to get into God’s world where we can be safe.
“God leaves the dark here for now so we will want to choose His light. As long as we live in this world, Michael, we’re learning lessons and discovering more and more about why God made us and everything around us. And some of those lessons will be hard. But the important thing is that we’re learning about Kingdom-living right now. And when God finally gets rid of Satan, living in Heaven will be what we’ve been wishing for all our lives.”
Suddenly she remembered something she thought Michael ought to see. “Michael, here’s a verse you can remember and it will help you all your life. I memorized this when I was younger than you and it’s kept me out of a lot of messes.”
Submit yourselves to God.
Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.
Michael finally smiled. “Thanks for the water and candy, Nannygranne. And thanks for the Bible verse. That’s a good one. Game’s almost over. I need to go give my mom a hug. I’ll be seeing you.”
“Good talk, Michael. Give her a hug from me, too.”
As the boy jogged away, Nannygranne sighed and whispered, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come.”
1 2 Peter 3:9
2 Rev 12:9
3 1 John 1:5
4 2 Cor 11:14, Luke 10:18
5 Eph 6:10-18