Satan was defeated by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, but he is still busily engaged in a relentless battle against the saints of God. He no longer reigns in the lives of God’s people, but he certainly remains, and he is bitterly determined to inflict as much damage on us as he can before we ascend to heaven. To be sure, Satan cannot take us out of the hand of our Lord, but he can harass us along the way to our eternal rest.
. . . in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
Satan has many destructive schemes; here are just two of them that, from my experience as a pastor, seem to be at the top of his list.
1. Shifting our focus away from Christ and toward our circumstances
Satan will do everything he can to cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on our surrounding circumstances . . . often leading to serious consequences.
“Come,” [Jesus] said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:29-30)
Everything was going just great for Peter. He had the faith to get out of the boat and actually walk on the top of the water! I don’t read anywhere about any other disciples joining him in doing the seemingly impossible. Peter was right in the middle of victory . . . until Satan got him to shift his focus away from his Savior and onto the storm winds. Once Peter shifted his focus away from Jesus, his courageous faith turned into cowardly fear.
Can you think of a time something like this happened to you—when you became a victim of circumstance rather than a victor in Christ? I can assure you that it was simply a matter of focus.
2. Causing us to question the goodness of our God
Satan will do everything he can to cause us to question the goodness of God. This strategy goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan attacked Eve by getting her to question God’s goodness. He got her to think about the possibility that God was withholding some good from her that would make her life better.
“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)
In the perfect paradise God created for Adam and Eve, Satan convinced Eve to question God’s goodness by getting her to focus on the one prohibition God had given rather than His abundant provision. And Satan is still doing that to us today. He loves to get us to question the goodness of our God, and he will throw every lie he can think of at us until he gets something to stick.
It is only by being aware of the attack strategies of Satan that we can “armor up” against them. The more we prepare ourselves for his attacks by marinating in the stories of his attacks recorded in sacred Scripture, the better prepared we are to live in a state of readiness to repel every attack that he sends our way.
And when we fail—when we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our circumstances—we can expect Satan to launch his “God-is-angry-with-you” fiery dart at us. At these times, you can repel that attack by simply remembering that God poured out all His anger on His beloved Son as He hung on crossbeams paying the penalty for our sins . . . all our sins! That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Far from being angry with us when we mess up, God loves us and forgives us.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!