From the Pastor's Pen
From the Pastor’s Pen…
“Lest Satan should take advantage of us . . . we are not ignorant of his devices.”
—2 Corinthians 2:11
Our enemy, the devil, is always busy, always scheming, always roaming around seeking to devour. Sometimes he makes his presence known, roaring like a lion. At other times, he stalks with feline stealth to capture and consume whomever he may (1 Peter 5:8). As long as we are in this world, we are apt to be in his sights.
Sometimes, however, it seems that the devil goes on a feeding frenzy. Like sharks sensing the wounded and bloodied, first circling with an intimidating, silent persistence, then attacking with vicious aggression, the enemy messily, violently, devours his prey. When I take note of all that is happening in our culture, in our country, in our community, and in our churches, these days certainly have the markings of a devilish feeding frenzy. Yes, much of the evidence that leads me to this conclusion is anecdotal. But it is nonetheless compelling. I see individual believers, pastors, families, churches, and values under attack with uncommon persistence and force. I see ends being pursued that could only be satisfying to Satan and his minions. And I see God’s people hurting.
Second Corinthians 2:11 suggests three conclusions of importance for times like these. First, it is possible for the devil to take advantage even of believers and use them to further his purposes. Second, the devil employs ‘devices’ (plans and strategies) that can be known by the followers of Christ. And third, being cognizant of his devices helps us to avoid complicity with him as he seeks to use the children of God for his own wicked agenda. Paul was quick to say that “we are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices,” but sometimes I wonder if that is still widely true today. In this case, the old saw fails—ignorance is not bliss! Rather, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. What follows is a brief, dutifully alliterated catalogue of some of the devil’s more devilish devices.
Deception—One of the devil’s most effective devices is deception. He applied this tactic with Eve in Eden with great success, and has been using it effectively since. Most often, he seeks to deceive us about who God is, what God requires, and how God views both regenerate and unregenerate humanity. He will use deception to get humans to believe that God’s doings are of the devil, and that the devil’s doings are from God, through the use of signs and wonders. ‘Deception’ is any attempt to divert from the truth. God’s word is truth. Jesus is truth. Reality is truth. Any departure from truth or reality serves the devil’s agenda. (Gen. 3:1–4; John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:4, 11:13–14; 2 Thes. 2:9; Rev. 12:9, 20:10)
Desire—Most (though certainly not all) human desires are good and honorable and in keeping with the good gifts of God. The devil, however, is a master of perversion and will twist good and proper desires into temptation that has the potential to diminish or disqualify our usefulness to God. (John 8:44; James 1:14–15)
Despair —The burdens and difficulties of life can bring even the most ardent follower of Christ to the point of despair. Even Paul, the great Apostle, was so burdened at one point that he “despaired of life.” While despair may not always be sinful, it is certainly a device that the devil can use to harm our testimony and hinder our service to the Lord. (2 Cor. 1:8)
Difficulty—Difficulties are simply part of life, the consequence of living in a fallen world. Into each life difficulty and sorrow will come. The experience of difficulty is not sinful in itself, but placing obstacles in our path and causing all manner of difficulty are among the devil’s most effective devices when it comes to dissuading us from pursuing the will of God. (1 Thes. 2:18)
Discouragement—The writer to the Hebrews exhorts us not to be discouraged when the Lord disciplines us. God’s discipline is for our good and His glory. The reason the Holy Spirit, speaking through the writer of the epistle, admonishes us not to be discouraged is that discouragement tends to short-circuit the work of God in our lives. And that, to be sure, is on the devil’s agenda. He will use the means available to him to take us down the road of discouragement and leave us there as long as we will stay. In these ungodly times, discouragement just may be one of the devil’s most effective devices. (Heb. 12:5)
Doubt—Creating and exploiting doubt or unbelief is one of the enemy’s favorite tricks hindering the work of God. Doubt not only closes the path of salvation; doubt also places grave limitations on the work that Jesus is able to do. Unbelief is one of the devil’s most devious devices. (Matt. 13:58; Heb. 3:12; James 1:5–7)
Disobedience—There is within the devil and the demons a bent toward rebellion against God. Paul calls it the spirit that works in the “sons of disobedience.” The devilish nature of this bent toward disobedience is apparent. The devil and the demons will use every means at their disposal to ensure that we are not obedient to God’s will and ways, for in so doing he works not only to bring shame upon us, he robs the kingdom of God. (Eph. 2:2)
Distraction—In the parable of the sower, the devil uses the “cares of the world” to choke out the word of God in the hearts of men. So very subtle, this devil’s device, he can employ many things, especially good things, to thwart our service to the Lord. (Matt. 13:19)
Division—A house divided against itself cannot stand. We are not surprised, then that our enemy the devil would foster discontent and division at every possible turn among the people of God.(Mark 3:24–25; 1 Cor. 3:3; Jude 19)
Doctrine—There are doctrines of devils, false teachings, false doctrines that deviously turn the hearts and minds of people from the worship of the One True God. But that is not all, for false doctrines also divide the church and weaken the testimony of the followers of Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 2:2; 1 Tim. 4:1ff.)
Dread—Avery Willis, the creator of the MasterLife discipleship curriculum, once said that “fear is faith in the devil.” Paul reminds us that perfect love, the love of God, casts out fear. Fear is a powerful tool of the devil. And one of his oft-used devices is to overwhelm those who are seeking a closer walk with the Lord with fear. Why? So the devil will just leave them alone. (2 Tim. 1:7)
The first step to winning over the wiles of the devil and his devices is to know them, to be aware of them, to be alert to their use. The second step is to learn to recognize them when he uses them against us. Scripture reminds us to submit ourselves to God, and resist the devil. The promise is that he will flee. We must put our armor on. And we must rest in the gracious love, and the loving grace, of our Lord. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!