There was a lot of anxiety in the 1950’s, at the height of the cold war. The USSR had the bomb, and it seemed only a matter of time before they would launch their nuclear missiles at us, and we would launch ours at them, and the world as we know it would cease to exist.
How many of you remember when bomb shelters were popular? Americans bought bomb shelters for $100 to $5000 each and Wall Street predicted the bomb shelter market would reach $20 billion. General Foods and General Mills sold dry-packaged meals as underground rations. School children learned “Duck and Cover” from a Burt the Turtle cartoon and practiced periodic air raid drills.
Nuclear holocaust: That is how we thought the USSR would destroy us.
However, Josef Stalin said:
“America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.“
Nikita Khrushchev said:
“We can’t expect the American People to jump from Capitalism to Communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving them small doses of Socialism, until they awaken one day to find that they have Communism.“
Most Americans thought the Russians were going to use “weapons of mass destruction” when their primary strategy was a bit more subtle.
It helps to know your enemy’s strategy, so you can better protect yourself.
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes:
Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
– 2 Corinthians 2:10-11
I want to focus on verse 11, because Satan is our biggest enemy, and it is important that we know how he works. The Bible says that Satan is very cunning. He is an expert at what he does. He’s smarter that you or I. He has thousands of years of experience in leading us away from God.
But knowledge is power. Armed with a knowledge of how Satan works, we can more easily detect and therefore withstand his attacks.
I want us to look at three methods that Satan uses to attack us, and three tools or weapons we need to counter those attacks. It is not enough just to recognize when we are attacked; we must also take action and defend ourselves.
The Bible calls Satan the father of lies, for good reason. Since the beginning of recorded history, he has been at work blinding men’s minds with his primary weapon of deception, starting in the garden of Eden.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
– Genesis 3:1
Satan deceived Eve in two ways.
He lied about God. God said “You shall surely die if you eat of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.” Satan said “You will not surely die.”, calling God a liar. Satan works to make us believe falsehoods about God. He will work to cast doubts in our minds about God’s power, holiness, will, goodness, faithfulness, and love. How many times have you thought:
“God will overlook this sin.”
“Why is God holding back something that I need, or is rightfully mine?”
“I don’t see how obeying God here will work.”
“God can’t do anything about this situation – I’m on my own.”
“God has abandoned me.”
These are all lies of Satan, who seeks to put “common sense” above trust in God.
Satan also lied about Eve. God called everything He created “good”. But Satan told Eve she was lacking something – she was blind: “God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Satan works to make us believe falsehoods about ourselves, exploiting our own weaknesses when he does so. He makes us believe we need things that we don’t. He also uses our pride so that we believe a false view of ourselves. “I’m different than the other guy. I won’t get burned if I watch a little pornography, do a little gambling, smoke one joint, tell a little lie.” Rationalizing sin can be our undoing, leading us on to bigger and bigger deceptions.
Satan also works to make us believe falsehoods about himself. He would rather you not know he is working on you. How many of you have recognized Satan’s attacks on you personally this week? Not in physical, but in spiritual areas? Your health, finances, or other things are not Satan’s target, but your spiritual well-being is. He can use those other areas to get at your spiritually, but they are only side issues to him.
What do we do?
To recognize and counter Satan’s deception, we must arm ourselves with the FACTS of God word. Ephesians 6:14-18 tells us about the spiritual armor we need to withstand Satan’s attacks. The first item mentioned is “having your loins girt about with truth“. When we are armed with God’s truth, when we really believe what God has to say about Himself, about ourselves, and about our enemy, then we can see through whatever lies the Devil has to throw at us.
Sometimes God’s truth doesn’t make sense to us, but we must continue to trust and obey Him. Don’t let common sense get in the way of faith and obedience. As it says in 1 Corinthians 1:25: “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Satan may be smarter than us, but God is infinitely smarter than Satan.
Let’s move on to the second of the Devil’s Devices.
There’s a story I heard years ago, and I can’t remember how it goes exactly, but as I recall, it tells the story of a lighthouse.
There was a rocky coastline that was known to be very dangerous. Many large ships were wrecked on the rocks due to frequent violent storms. So the king of the land had a lighthouse built to warn the ships away from the coast, and he placed people there to work at the lighthouse to keep it in good repair. Many ships were saved by that lighthouse.
As the lighthouse was maintained, the keepers made some improvements. They added a kitchen so the keepers would have hot meals and they installed a furnace so the place would be warm.
But as the years went by, some other changes were made. News got out how the lighthouse had helped save many ships from crashing onto the rocks, so there came more and more visitors to see the place for themselves.
Many of those visitors were so impressed, they felt they would like to work there, if only the working conditions were not so harsh. So the keepers enlarged the facilities, put in wall-to-wall carpet, central air conditioning, a gym, and a big-screen TV.
Of course, there’s only so many jobs to go around at a lighthouse, so what to do with all of the other visitors? They came up with the idea of a lighthouse theme park. Many rides and other attractions were built. A shopping mall was added, with a 18-hole golf course and country club right next door.
The lighthouse always got a fresh coat of paint every year, but the light itself had burned out a long time ago, and the ships were wrecked on the rocks regularly, just as before. The lighthouse keepers were distracted from their mission.
This is another one of the Devil’s Devices. Distraction works when outright deception doesn’t, but it is also a type of deception. Satan works to divert our attention from things we ought to do, to things we think we ought to do; from the One we ought to trust in, to God-substitutes. Many times detraction happens a little bit at a time, so we don’t realize it is happening.
Another example: My cell phone has a phone book where I can store phone numbers of my friends and family, an appointment calendar, a radio, a voice recorder, a calculator, several games, and it can even access the internet. No, it doesn’t have a built-in camera or MP3 player. How does it work as a phone? Not that good. Sometimes I can’t understand the person talking on the other end. Other times I can’t connect. It has all these fancy features, but it works lousy at what it is supposed to do. The cell phone manufacturers seem to have gotten distracted from the basic reason for having a cell phone.
Satan is an expert distracter. He distracts us in so many different ways.
* Some churches play the numbers game, seeking to bring more people to worship services using clever gimmicks. I’ve seen a coupon for “FREE PRAYER” when attending a service at a church in St. Paul. Another church gave out coupons for a $1 off of tithes. Yet another church in Rochester, NY paid people a dollar to attend. But Jesus gave the church the commission to go out into all the world and preach the gospel, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them what He has commanded. Our job is to go out into the world, not to increase church attendance. Satan knows this, so he seeks to divert our attention away from our primary mission and on to secondary goals and methods.
* Satan can use Christian service just as much as “Christian quarrels” to distract us. The church in Ephesus was doing great outwardly. They had a great service-orientated ministry and good teaching. But Jesus told them in Revelation 2:4 that that had lost their first love, which was Jesus Christ Himself. Satan loves it when we take our eyes off of Christ. And the best way to do that is to give our eyes something else to focus on…
* Satan distracts us with ourselves. I view life as a battle to keep my focus on Christ. Satan tries to use the things that happen to me to get me to focus on myself. Things are always busy at my job. Every time I think I’m starting to catch up, several other “important” things suddenly need doing. it’s hard to keep my mind on spiritual things. But life’s problems are not the only thing Satan uses to distract us. Our pride can also do so. Achievements can also cause us to lose sight of Christ.
Satan’s goal in distracting us is to get us to forget the things we should be remembering. But we can counter this by maintaining our spiritual FOCUS.
Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
– Acts 6:1-4
The apostles recognized that physical ministry could divert attention away from their spiritual ministry. Taking care of the needs of the widows was very important, but because their primary ministry of teaching the word would be hindered, they took action that allowed them to continue doing their mission, while meeting the widow’s needs. They maintained their spiritual focus, and each of us needs to also.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
– Romans 8:5 (HNV)
What does your mind focus on? Paul also wrote:
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
– Colossians 3:2
I encourage you to regularly review the different areas of your life to see what you are treating as more important than the things of Christ. Study the scriptures to find out what God thinks is really important. Recognize that anything that causes you to become more independent and self-sufficient will very likely lead you away from Christ. Seek God’s strength, not your own.
The third weapon Satan uses to attack us is discouragement. We may be aware of his other two weapons, and be able to defend ourselves against them, but discouragement can be really difficult to overcome, even by mature believers.
Sometimes discouragement is due to situations beyond our control. Other times we get discouraged because of things that we do – habits that we just can’t break.
Situations, sometimes life itself, seems hopeless at times.
Jeremiah was a prophet during the reigns of the last kings of Judah. He warned the people of Judah that, because of their idolatry and wickedness, God was going destroy them and lead the surviving remnant away into Babylonian captivity. There would be no escape. In chapter 32, Jeremiah was in prison because the king of Judah did not like his prophecies. However, the army of Babylon had arrived and was besieging Jerusalem. One by one, all of those terrible prophecies were being fulfilled.
While he was in the dungeon, God spoke to Jeremiah. Beginning in verse 6, we read:
And Jeremiah said, “The word of the LORD came to me, saying, Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field which is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.”
All hope was lost. Jeremiah would go into captivity in a foreign land. What use would it be to buy a field that would be taken away? That would be like buying the World Trade Center a month before it was destroyed, knowing it would be destroyed. But God told Jeremiah to buy the field, which he did, even though he thought it was a stupid thing to do. Going down to verse 14, we read:
‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Take these deeds, both this purchase deed which is sealed and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days.” For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.”‘
Jeremiah did so, then he had a little heart-to-heart talk with God. In verse 17 he said:
‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them – the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.
Jeremiah continued recalling what God had done for the children of Israel, and how Israel rebelled against God. He recognized that all the calamity that was coming upon them they deserved. In verse 24 he said:
‘Look, the siege mounds! They have come to the city to take it; and the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword and famine and pestilence. What You have spoken has happened; there You see it!
And You have said to me, O Lord GOD, “Buy the field for money, and take witnesses”! -yet the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.'”
Jeremiah could see no good reason to buy land about to be taken away from him.
Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?
When we lose hope, perhaps we need to stop and remember the God we worship. Is there anything too hard for God? Jeremiah was discouraged because he could see no hope, and the same thing happens when we lose hope.
But look what God says beginning in verse 36:
“Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul. For thus says the LORD: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them.
God said “The future is not hopeless, like you think, Jeremiah. Yes, all of these bad things have come upon you because of the wickedness of my people, but I will restore you. Trust me! Have faith!”
The only way to counter spiritual discouragement is FAITH, trust in God’s promises.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,
– 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
When you can see no hope, that is the best time to trust God, who promises He will never leave you or forsake you. It is only Satan who shouts in your ears “God has abandoned you!”. Discouragement is just another deception of Satan.
Job, Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Paul all despaired of life at one time or the other, so if you are being attacked in this way, know that other great men and women of God have gone the same way, and come through by faith in the goodness of God.
Satan’s primary weapons of attack are:
Deception – He lies to us about God, ourselves and himself,
Distraction – He diverts our attention away from Christ, and
Discouragement – He causes us to lose heart.
We can withstand Satan’s attacks in these areas by:
Filling our minds with the Facts of God’s word,
Maintaining our spiritual Focus, and
Always living by Faith in Jesus Christ.