There is an old saying that goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." The idea being that we need clear objectives, as well as strategies to achieve those objectives if we want to accomplish something in life. These same principles work for positive as well as destructive purposes. I mention this because in his quest to destroy our souls, Satan uses very specific strategies that have worked for him since the beginning of time. I'd like to describe these and provide some counter strategies that we, as believers in Christ, can use to defeat the evil one and his schemes. Let us begin, therefore, with a Bible passage that addresses this very issue:
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
- I Peter 5:8-10
I am sure that many are familiar with this warning and believe it to be true, but do we know the tactics and strategies that Satan actually uses to destroy us? If we did, we would be victimized less often, avoid his traps more successfully, and grow stronger spiritually instead of constantly using our energy to repair our lives as a result of his successful attacks against us.
With this in mind I'd like to review three strategies most used by Satan to destroy our peace, cause us grief, and separate us from God.
Strategy #1 - Lies
Jesus called Satan the "father of lies" because he was a liar and used lies to deceive and attack people from the beginning of time (John 8:44).
The dialogue between Satan and Eve reveals the kinds of lies that he has used from then until now:
1. "Good Is Bad and Bad Is Good"
This lie is contained in the question Satan posed Eve concerning the forbidden fruit.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?"
- Genesis 3:1
Note that he questions the evil of the act. He places doubt in her mind by suggesting that she may have simply misunderstood the command and that it was not actually a sin. He also implies that consuming the forbidden fruit is possible, even normal. We see this today as Satan re-labels what were once sins into acceptable things:
- Corporate greed = downsizing
- Fornication = cohabitation
- Sexual abomination = gay pride
- Murder = reproductive rights
- Idolatry = consumerism
- Disbelief = Humanism or any other "ism" that tries to explain life without reference to God.
Satan is a great manipulator of words and uses all forms of media more effectively to devour us with his lies than we do in the preaching the gospel.
2. "Sin Has No Consequences"
This is exactly the lie that he seduced Eve with in connection with God's instructions concerning the forbidden fruit. He said, "You surely will not die" (Genesis 3:4). God had previously warned both Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed Him, they would die. "...If you eat of its fruit you will surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
This lie is always framed in the same way. He tells us in that there will be no consequences for our choices. However, we know from every one of our experiences in the physical world that this is a lie.
- Every action has a reaction.
- Every choice we make sets things into motion that will affect us in one way or another.
If this is so, why would we ever think that moral and spiritual choices would have no impact on us? Peter answers this question in II Peter:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
- II Peter 3:3-10
Peter reminds us that just because the consequences of our sins, bad choices, and disobedience are not always immediate, they are nevertheless sure! The certainty of God's judgement is not based on time, it is based on God's promise in His word. And what God promises (good or bad) He delivers! If He punishes the mighty angels and puts Satan into the fire forever, He will also execute His judgement on us as well.
Another common lie that Satan uses is…
3. "God Is Against You"
This is what convinced Eve. Satan persuaded her that God did not want her to enjoy the pleasures and rewards of the forbidden fruit.
For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
- Genesis 3:5
There are many variations of this lie. For example: Your way/decision/choice is better than His way/decision/choice; You can do things that go against God's teaching or commands, but end up with the same results; You can use aggression, manipulation, and deception, but accomplish peace.
Satan wants you to believe that God does not have your best interests at heart when He commands you to obey Him, deny yourself certain things, or trust Him. Satan wants you to believe that indulging yourself and removing God's restraints in fulfilling your personal desires are the best way to achieve happiness and satisfaction. Of course, Eve believed this lie and look what happened to her.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
- Genesis 3:6-7
Strategy #2 - Isolation
Most animals who hunt other animals use this tactic. They pick out the weakest victim, separate it from the safety of its herd or flock, and attack. A good example of this strategy executed successfully on a supposedly strong person is seen in the story of David and Bathsheba.
Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, "I am pregnant."
- II Samuel 11:1-5
Notice that David was a powerful, successful, and popular king. However, he remained alone in the palace without his advisors or much to do, giving his military leader (Joab) the responsibility to manage a campaign against the Ammonites. Note that the person he sent to bring her to him isn't even mentioned (no name equals no influence) and does not warn the king of the potential danger he is placing himself in. David sent everyone away and left himself isolated, a perfect target for Satan.
I don't know what lie Satan used to convince the isolated king, probably that his actions had no consequences because he was king, or no one would find out. However, God knew, and after David had Bathsheba's husband killed and took the young widow as his wife to cover his adultery, he was severely punished by the Lord.
Isolation comes in different forms and is caused by various factors:
- We become isolated because of our work or a move.
- We become isolated because we have cut ourselves off from others due to disagreements or misunderstandings.
- We are alone because of fatigue, overwork, commitment to too many things, or committed to the wrong things or people.
- We can also become isolated because of depression, loneliness, illness, hurt feelings, and unresolved issues.
I'm not saying that isolation itself is a sin. I am alerting us to the fact that we are more vulnerable to sinfulness when we are isolated for whatever reason. Isolation makes us vulnerable because our defenses are down, our body is weak, and our spirit is distracted. When we are in this condition we become easy targets for attack by Satan. This is especially true when we are becoming more isolated from God and the church for whatever reason.
Strategy #3 - Enthrallment
Enthrallment is Satan's most common tactic. The word enthrallment (to enthrall) means to capture one's interest; or to hold spellbound, overwhelmed. For example:
- Lot's wife was enthralled by the pull of the city she left behind and looked back (Genesis 19:26).
- David was enthralled by the lust he felt for Bathsheba as he watched her bathe (II Samuel 11).
- Demas, a missionary helper to Paul the Apostle, was growing in his faith and service, but was so enthralled by worldly attractions that he abandoned Paul and his ministry in order to fully enjoy the world and its pleasures (II Timothy 4:10).
This is how Satan keeps people from becoming Christians or causes Christians to fall away from their faith. He uses the lethal combination of seduction and enthrallment:
A. Seduction is like the pull of gravity. We all have weaknesses that can easily be exploited. Things like pride, greed, illicit sexual desires, and the need for power and control are only a few human failings where Satan can gain a toehold in order to draw us into evil conduct we would never have thought ourselves capable of.
B. Enthrallment is a kind of sin-prison that holds us captive because we are overwhelmed and enslaved to the sins we were seduced by (i.e. the person at a party who tries cocaine just for fun becomes addicted and falls headlong into all kinds of sinful behavior to satisfy his addiction or enthrallment).
James describes the process in his epistle:
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
- James 1:13-15
Satan draws us to that sin which overpowers and destroys us. The problem is that many times we either:
- Don't pay attention.
- Don't care.
- Don't believe that we are vulnerable.
- Don't listen to God's word or others who are warning us (i.e. God warned Cain that he was being drawn to violence by his anger and jealousy towards his brother. Cain ignored the warning and murdered Abel (Genesis 4:1-8)).
We need to understand that as Christians, we are not only vulnerable, but are targets for destruction by the one who "…prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." We need to realize that the "someone" the Bible refers to is ourselves.
We must all be aware of Satan's strategies for destroying our faith, our peace with God, and our salvation:
- He will use every lie to convince us to disobey God.
- He will attack us when we are isolated.
- He will use every seduction necessary to capture and imprison our souls.
Satan has power, but we also have power and strategies given to us by God in our battle against him.
1. Know Who Our Enemy Is
Paul says that our true enemy, as Christians, is not human but spiritual in nature.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
- Ephesians 6:12
The real battle is for our souls; and Satan, our enemy, has no rules of combat. He will use anything and anyone to destroy our faith and ultimately deny us our reward. Those who scoff at the reality of Satan do so at their own peril. We who know Christ know better, and should be careful of the very real and dangerous schemes of the devil.
2. Know That We Can Win
One of Satan's lies is, "Just give in, you know you can't win." Many people believe this and use this lie to justify their bad behavior and habits with excuses like:
- I can't help it.
- It's too strong for me.
- I'm too far gone.
- I'll never be able.
- It's too late.
- I'm just weak.
These ideas may excuse our behavior but they don't justify it, nor will they be acceptable when we are judged. Paul says that we can win over temptation/seduction/enthrallment.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
- I Corinthians 10:13
When it comes to sin Paul reminds us that:
- We are not the first or only people in the world that have to struggle with our particular sins.
- God knows our endurance limits and will not allow us to be tempted beyond that limit.
- God Himself will provide a way to deal with every test and temptation.
…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
- I John 4:4
If we realize that in Christ we are stronger than the evil one and his tactics, we will not be fooled into giving in or giving up when we are tempted or discouraged.
3. Know How to Fight - I Peter 5:6-11
Peter, who knew something about winning and losing battles with Satan, shows us how to fight him successfully.
Strategy #1 - Humble Yourselves Before God
6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
We need to recognize that we are easily fooled and tempted and need God's help and mercy every day in our battle against sin.
Strategy #2 - Bring Your Worries and Fears to Him
7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
One of the reasons we become overwhelmed is because we try to solve everything by ourselves instead of giving these things over to God in prayer, and waiting patiently for His help.
Strategy #3 - Remain Alert
8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We fall into sin because we are careless, don't listen, and are too busy consuming the world and thus become insensitive to spiritual matters. We lose our souls by neglect. We must Pay Attention!
Strategy #4 - Stand Firm
9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
Hold your ground, don't be moved, resist the pressure to give in or compromise your commitment to Christ and His church. Be of a mind that no matter what happens, you will remain faithful. This decision defeats Satan.
Strategy #5 - Expect a Reward
10After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen
The great hope is that God Himself (not man) will reward you. He will complete your entire transformation into a being who is perfectly like His Son Jesus Christ, and ready to share eternity with Him. The promise is that we will be equipped with a "body" and exist in a place without Satan, without temptation, without failure and sin, and without death.
Every time we resist the evil one, every time we start over after failure, every time we pray for help and encouragement, it is with the abiding hope of this great reward set before us by God.
I encourage you, therefore, to resist the evil one each day and look confidently to the future for the reward that will surely come. For He who has promised is faithful. Amen