“… for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)
Paul and his close co-workers made it their business not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices. This does not mean that Paul spent a lot of time researching all the dark secrets of Satan’s kingdom. No. Paul said to the Romans, “I want you to be wise in what is good, but simple (innocent) concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:19). Honestly, we don’t need to be “au fait” with all the latest conspiracy theories and what Satan may or may not be doing (Isaiah 8:12,13). But we do need to be aware of his basic tactics with regard to Christians. They are many, and we’d do well to understand them better so we can be aware when we are under attack in one form or another.
Unforgiveness and Disunity
In the context of the text in 2 Corinthians above, we can see that Paul knew the importance of forgiving those in the church who repented. Yielding to an attitude of ongoing unforgiveness is to yield to Satan, and multiple the vicious circle of evil that keeps creating new offenses and counter-offensives. Such things keep us from enjoying “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). God “commands the blessing” where brethren dwell in unity, therefore one of Satan’s principle tactics is to promote disunity in the Body of Christ. This happens at every level – disunity with God, disunity with oneself (double-mindedness), disunity within the family, within small groups, within assemblies, and within the city-wide church. Understanding the value of unity is important if we are to treasure it enough in order to resist Satan’s attacks on it. Satan offers us far less than he seeks to take by destroying our unity. As Paul said on one occasion, “Why not rather be wronged?”
Jesus taught us to forgive when we pray. And since we are to “pray without ceasing” and “in everything to give thanks”, “to pray always and not lose heart”, there is never a time when it is acceptable in God’s eyes for us to hold unforgiveness in our hearts against someone, especially, but not limited to, a brother or sister in the Lord.
According to the teaching of Jesus, we can’t even be forgiven by God when we do not forgive our brethren (see Matthew 6:14,15). Satan would love us to remain unforgiven. We have no right to expect God’s forgiveness while we do not forgive. Not only that, but we cannot pray the prayer of faith with unforgiveness in our hearts (see Mark 11:23-25).
While we are demanding what we see as “justice” (for ourselves) in a situation where we perceive we have been wronged, while we complain about it to others, we can quickly be blinded by the enemy of our souls to the point where God can no longer bless us.
A lot of the time it is better to just forget about the injustices done to us in the church or in society and get on with seeking God and telling others the good news. If we seek to reform society and root out corruption because injustice was done to us we are likely to get away from our primary calling as Christians. I’ve seen this happen to a number of people before. Its a trap. One week with God’s favor is better than 10 years of fighting for one’s rights in a corrupt world (or a corrupt church situation). Of course we can pray for God’s will to be done and that is good, but beyond that we had better be very sure of our leading. Its easy to get sidetracked. Sidetracking us is one of Satan’s specialties.
Attacking our Faith through Trials
Satan wants to attack our faith any way he can. One of his favorite ways is mentioned above – he does it by attacking our love. When we are hurt by a Christian we have trusted its easy to yield to discouragement. Personally I am of the conviction that we can almost expect that Christians will disappoint us. But GOD is faithful. He is committed to us and our futures. Therefore we need to “hope in Him” and “encourage ourselves in the Lord”. We can freely forgive those who have disappointed us and move on with the help of the Holy Spirit. Satan however, wants to suggest that we constantly replay the negative things over in our mind in an effort to promote bitterness and to cripple us up spiritually. A bad response to adversity or disappointment is usually far more damaging than the original blow itself.
Sometimes we can be discouraged through financial losses, especially when we thought we were being led by God. A lot of times its our own hastiness and self-will which is to blame. God does not punish us for mistakes but He does allow us to feel the consequences of our folly. Again we have to put it behind and focus on God again to renew our faith and spiritual strength. It is the only way.
Demons are always on the lookout for ways to tempt us. Yielding to sin opens the door to enslavement to sin. The feeling of being trapped in a sin is worse than the pleasure of yielding to it initially. Hopefully as Christians we can learn this sooner rather than later. Sinning weakens our spiritual authority and starts a chain of negative causes and effects. Damage control in the case of sin includes confession, trusting in the blood of Christ for renewed cleansing, and stopping the sin. Sometimes though, sin yielded to becomes an enslaving bondage. It takes deliverance to break such bondages and the path to deliverance is not always easy and usually not entirely pleasant. Yielding to evil desires and habits only increases them. When we refuse to feed the evil nature and start to consider ourselves dead to sin as the Scripture instructs us in Romans 6, the desires for evil lose their grip and we become free to go after God with a pure heart and renewed faith.
How much favor Christians have lost with God and men because of sin that could have been avoided will never be possible to calculate in this life. Thankfully, God can restore us in a marvellous way if we get our eyes back on Him and allow Him to be the major reason and passion for our lives.
Getting our eyes of Jesus
To obtain and maintain victory, all we need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus. By this I mean focussing our hearts on Him in worship, through the Word and in prayer until His presence and His purpose become the magnificent and permanent obsession of our lives. We look to Him for approval and wisdom, as well as for everything we need for life and godliness. These things have been promised and given to us, but they only become ours effectively “through the knowledge of Him”. This personal knowledge of Him comes mainly through a heart and life devoted to worship. Sometimes the Spirit of God will reveal Jesus when we are not actively seeking Him, but usually He is revealed to those who seek after Him.
Satan knows He is losing ground whenever our eyes are on the Lord. That is why he will try anything to distract us. It doesn’t matter what he uses – the television, the stock market, sexual fantasy, how “we are feeling”, thoughts of condemnation and accusation, computer games, personal career ambitions … any and all of these things can be used by the devil to get our eyes off the Lord. One of the most subtle traps is the religious trap of getting our eyes onto spiritual and moral laws, personal religious performance, how well “we are doing” or “not doing” – our failings or our successes. He tries anything to get us to focus on ourselves rather than on Jesus. He seeks to get us to eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” rather than the “tree of life”, which symbolises Jesus.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is all you need.
Distractions from Prayer
Satan fears praying Christians, especially when they pray persistently in unity. But even a single Christian who seeks God in prayer can damage Satan’s interests greatly. Therefore he seeks, through orchestrating events and suggesting thoughts, to distract you from real prayer. Prayer is the key to revival. Only prayer can bring God onto the scene. We need God. Prayer helps to create the attitude of humility in which God can bless us without causing us to be lifted up in pride, as though by our “own power or godliness” we had achieved great and mighty things.
You may have noticed that when you set out to pray, the phone rings, the baby cries, your spouse irritates you, something happens. Apart from such external things there can be the attack on our minds. Demons seek to inject thoughts of unbelief and any kind of ungodly suggestion or attitude to hinder of weaken our prayers. That is why we need to learn to cast down strongholds and imaginations that come against the knowledge of God in our own minds. Paul taked about this in 2 Corinthians 10:1-5 and we need to know about the weapons of our warfare in God in order to overcome these insidious attacks.
Some Christians don’t even take prayer seriously at all. These Christians will never seriously threaten Satan’s interests unless they have a change of heart. It doesn’t matter how rich you get, if you don’t walk with God. “Let not the rich man boast in his riches” …we only have something to boast about if we truly know the Lord, and without much prayer, that is just plain impossible.
False Doctrine and Deception
Sadly Satan has ensnared many unwary people through false doctrines and other forms of deception. The only way to overcome this is to remain humble and teachable, stay in the Word of God and prayer, and in fellowship with other Christians. Much could be written about this, but its outside of my time constraints to write a great deal on this matter. Learning the Word of God and staying in it is a vital safeguard in this area. Don’t easily believe that you have a great revelation or understanding which puts you in a category of believer far more advanced than others. Pride opens the door to deception very quickly, and Satan loves to promote pride. Maintain an attitude of dependence upon God, of love for God’s presence and God’s Word, and deception can be guarded against. Also avoid sowing deception – we reap what we sow.
Attacks on Christian Marriage
Apparently the weakening of Christian marriages, especially of Christian leaders, is a major priority for satanic worshippers. That in itself is an encouragement for us to walk in love towards our spouses, if we are married. We need time alone with God, but also plenty of time together to communicate and serve the interests and wellbeing of the other, helping them to be all they can be for the Lord.
We can always find faults in our spouses and in ourselves, and Satan would love us to do this. We need to learn to accept our partner and build then up with godly words. Its also true that we should not look in our spouses for the happiness that actually only God can give. Nevertheless, when God enriches a marriage it is truly a source of joy and blessing for those involved and for others who relate socially to the couple.
More Later if God wills…
This is just a brief introduction to what I consider to be some of the mot important areas to watch out for. But let us not be fearful of Satan’s power and influence. Rather let us seek the Lord and yield to His Spirit who is never far away from us – in fact He lives in us if we are true believers.