Four Tactical Strategies Your Spiritual Enemy Uses to Defeat You

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

(I Peter 5:8)

You have an enemy. Your enemy doesn’t want you to be intentional. He doesn’t want you to live with divine purpose. He doesn’t want you to have an abundant life filled with meaning, or have hope for a better future. He wants you to feel discouraged, depressed, anxious and hopeless. He wants you to settle for mediocre (or worse). He wants you to give up—drown yourself in the bottle, immerse yourself in entertainment, distract yourself with time wasters and distance you from everyone that cares for and supports you.

You may not know this enemy exists. You may discount his power to pull you from your intentional path. That’s because he’s subtle and cunning. He’s also invisible. He doesn’t want you to see him. Better yet, he’d prefer that you not believe in him, or be aware of his existence. If you do—if you believe in him—he doesn’t want you to take him seriously.

I’m talking about Satan the devil—and yes, he’s real.

And he wants to devour you.

Even among Christians there are varying beliefs about Satan’s existence or influence (1), yet the Bible speaks about him a lot. That tells me something. It tells me I need to pay attention!

God’s Word describes Satan as:

It also describes him as a roaring lion prowling around, looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8)…which makes me think of my time in South Africa several years ago.

Your spiritual enemy is there…whether you see him or not!

It was my first (and only) safari and I was excited! I was about to see animals in the wild that I’d only ever seen in the cages of a zoo. It was raining, however, and our guide warned us that we may see fewer animals on that day as a result. I didn’t know what to expect.

As we set out that early morning, our guide—armed with his high-powered rifle next to him on the seat—explained to us the importance of not getting out of the vehicle. It was an open-air jeep—no protection from predators. All kinds of thoughts jumped around in my head as we bumped along the gravel road.

Were we really safe?

What if we needed to stop for a bathroom break?

What if a predator attacked us?

What if a lion was hiding somewhere?

The tall grasslands and exotic trees were beautiful but they also were home to potentially dangerous animals. Though I wanted a full experience, I also felt exposed. I wanted to see lions, but I wanted to be safe as well.

Childhood memories of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom—a TV documentary series that was popular when I was growing up—came flooding back. Each episode brought to life the exotic animals of faraway countries, but from the safety of my living room. Now, here I was in Africa, about to see firsthand some of those same animals in their natural habitat.

You’re not in your living room anymore, I thought to myself.

The rain cleared away though it was still cool. There were about six of us, not including the guide. Several of us were huddled under blankets, sharing body heat as we searched avidly for sign of wildlife.

Our efforts were rewarded. As the sun inched its way out from behind the clouds our sightings increased: springbok, kudu, sable, dik-dik, water buffalo, giraffes, elephants. It was thrilling! I can’t even begin to name all the animals we saw that day. As the afternoon progressed, however, the one animal we wanted to see but hadn’t yet was a lion.

Then it happened. Someone needed a bathroom break.

When you’re on safari (at least, the one we were on) there is no rest stop or outhouse conveniently located by the side of the road. You get out of the vehicle—find some semblance of privacy—and do your thing. That’s a little challenging, or embarrassing, given that your guide has gotten out too (with his rifle) and is standing nearby, and everyone in the jeep can see and hear you (if they choose to watch or listen). You can’t wander off to the nearest tree or into the tall grasses. There could be a lion!

And there was…but we couldn’t see it.

That’s the thing about lions. They can be right there, watching you, and you’re oblivious.

Lions are efficient. They don’t exert unnecessary energy and they don’t like to reveal themselves until they have to. They stay hidden.

Lions primarily stalk their prey. Sometimes they hunt alone, sometimes in a pack, which increases their effectiveness. When lions hunt in a pack they surround their prey while staying hidden for as long as possible. By the time the prey is aware of them, it’s often too late. The chase is on! But the suddenness and speed of the attack—and the brute strength of the lions—are too much for the intended victim. It’s knocked off balance or dragged down with an initial attack to the legs or haunches. Then the fatal blow is delivered—a bite to the neck or throat.

Have you ever considered that Satan attacks in a similar way? He does, after all, have demonic help (Revelation 12:7- 9). He’s capable of attacking by himself, or sending a demon, or sending several. He also knows when and where we are most vulnerable. He doesn’t go after those who are spiritually healthy or surrounded by other spiritually strong-minded people. He waits for times when we are weak or isolated, and then he attacks. We don’t tend to think of ourselves as prey, but in a way we are. And Satan is indeed a predator. He preys on our weaknesses and our human nature, which is contrary to God (Romans 8:7).  How?

Know the tactics of your enemy and stay alert!

Here are four tactical maneuvers that Satan uses to bring us down.

Enemy Tactic #1—Diversion

What greater success can Satan have than to redirect us from our God-given purpose and calling? When he can make other things seems more important, interesting and fulfilling, then he’s pulled our attention away from the One who matters most. How does he do that? He tantalizes us with something that looks good. He appeals to our five senses and our desire for pleasure in all its forms. He strokes our egos and awakens our vanities (1 John 2:16). When our fascination has been directed elsewhere we’ve become diverted from the very source of our safety.

If I were a gazelle, that might be a tasty morsel of grass or a sip of refreshingly cold water in a nearby spring. That might require me to venture a little further away from my herd than I’m usually comfortable with, but that tender shoot looks so good! That water is just what I need under this blazing hot sun. I can still see the herd, even though I’m over here by myself. It will be okay. Won’t it?

Enemy Tactic #2—Diminishment

That grass, that water…so delicious! Exactly what I wanted. I look up. No herd.

I feel a moment’s panic. Where did they go? They were gone before I even realized they’d moved. Did they even see that I was gone? Did they miss me at all?

I look around. Everything seems fine. I sniff the air for any scent of danger. Nothing. Still, I should probably get back to the herd.

Or should I?

Do I really need my herd? After all, I’m a fast runner. I have strong legs. I’m young and agile. I’ll hear or smell danger before it’s too late. And this grass…it’s the best I’ve tasted in days. I really just need a few more bites, then I’ll go.

Perhaps that’s not how gazelles think, but it is how humans think. When we are successfully diverted away from God, the next step is to diminish the value of His plan and purpose for us. The only way we can justify our new course of action is to devalue what we’ve walked away from, even temporarily.

I don’t really need to talk to God. He already knows what I’m thinking.

I don’t really need to read the Bible every day. I believe in God and that’s enough.

I don’t really need to go to church every week to feel close to God.

I don’t really need to tithe. God doesn’t need my money.

I don’t really need to repent and ask for forgiveness for my sins. God loves me as I am.

And so it goes. The fundamental truths we once believed start to fade away, until one day—

gone.

And we convince ourselves we never believed them to begin with.

Enemy Tactic #3—Division

There are many ways to be or feel alone. You can be separated from God. You can be separated from your spiritual family. You can feel alone even within your marriage. You can feel misunderstood by those who claim to love you. You can come to believe that you don’t deserve to have a relationship with God.

The end result is that loneliness, discouragement and even hopeless can set in.

Once we’re alone (removed from the protection that comes from connecting with God and His people), we’ve made Satan’s job far easier. When we stop seeing that protection for what it is—stop believing we even need that protection—we then begin to rely on ourselves. We convince ourselves that we don’t need others.

Enemy Tactic #4—Destruction

That gazelle, it may be grazing quietly, off to itself. But in the blink of an eye it can all change.

Its head comes up, its nostrils quiver, its body stiffens. It knows. And it’s too late…

It’s not too late for you and me though.

Satan does want to destroy us. He wants to destroy our hopes and dreams, and our confidence in a future life. He wants to destroy our marriage and our family. He wants us to stop believing in God, stop having faith in His power to save us.

But he can’t. God won’t allow him to destroy us. He may allow Satan to divert or distract us, however. He may allow Satan to discourage us. He may allow Satan to discredit Him (for the time being). A perfect example of this is in the book of Job. Satan put Job through a lot of difficult trials, but only with God’s permission (Job 2:2-6). At no time did Satan have the power to take Job’s life.

Only we can choose to walk away from God—and that’s how Satan wins. When we decide that we don’t need God anymore, our destruction is assured and Satan knows it.

That bathroom break turned out to be uneventful. Though we didn’t know two lions were lying down in the grass nearby, we realized it shortly after everyone was back in the jeep. Staying close to the vehicle, having the driver with his gun at hand, and others in the jeep chattering away were potentially all deterrents for the two lions. It could also be that they just weren’t hungry!

Don’t be afraid. Be aware, and be prepared. Be aware that you have an enemy, and that he is deliberately trying to sabotage you, even destroy you. Be aware of his tactics. Stay alert and stay close to God. He’s got your back.  

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