Several weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend who was going through an extremely difficult season. On top a crisis in her family life, she also faced stresses in her ministry. The timing of it could not have been worse. Each area of her life that mattered to her was filled with chaos of some sort. But what stuck me most about the conversation is that when the problems began mounting one of top of the other, she immediately recognized it as an attack from the enemy.
This person had walked with the Lord and fought spiritual battles long enough to see Satan’s schemes. This was his method, and one he’d used many times in the past. But instead of succumbing to it, she put on her armor, had friends surround her in prayer, and sought the Lord. She did not fall for the enemy’s deception, because she knew the One who was in her was greater than the one who sought to destroy her.
Often, I believe we fall for Satan’s schemes because we don’t recognize them for what they are. Instead, we focus on the distraction. We look at the troubles multiplying around us and try to control the situation instead of coming to the One who can actually help us. And this is exactly what the enemy wants.
Here are four ways we are often wrong about how the enemy works:
1. He can’t read our minds.
Satan is not omniscient. He doesn’t know what you’re thinking or have the ability to, as the psalmist says, name a thought that’s on your tongue before you speak it. (Psalm 139) The way he operates is through slow observation. He has lots of demons carrying out his tasks, and his armies pay close attention to our actions over time. And friends, our actions speak volumes about what our weaknesses are. Through this careful examination, he’s able to present lies, temptations and scenarios that pinpoint our pressure points.
Let’s not give our enemy undue power by declaring that he’s gotten inside our head or “The devil made me do it!” Instead, let’s remember that we alone have the ability to control our thoughts. God has given us everything we need to declare victory over the devil, and he did not leave us to fight this battle alone. We get to say what goes in and what comes out, and the devil can’t take this power from us. Paul explained it this way:
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
Taking every thought captive is not a passive process but an active, moment-by- moment one. Doing this requires us to know the Word of God, and to apply it to our everyday lives.
2. He masquerades himself in light, not darkness.
One of the last things Satan says to Eve before she eats the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden is that “she will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5) At surface level, this promise would seem like a good thing. God is holy and perfect, so what could possibly be wrong with being more like God, right? But the bottom line is this: By listening to the serpent, Eve chose to trust him over God. Her actions were in direct disobedience to what God told her, and she fell for a lie masqueraded as truth.
Today, our enemy follows the same pattern. He doesn’t announce himself with a blaring trumpet, but often masquerades himself behind things that appear good. This deception may also include people, like false prophets. Even the early church had to arm themselves against his schemes.
“…for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, that his very servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NIV
When faced with a lie or temptation that may appear good at surface level, some questions to ask ourselves are: Does this contradict a command or another truth I’ve read in God’s Word? Does following this path elevate myself above God? Does doing this make me feel anxious?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then stop and pray. Proceed with caution and talk to God about it until you have a clear answer. He is more than willing to give wisdom to those who ask.
3. He knows the Word of God, but twists its meaning.
Our enemy is not ignorant about the Word of God. After all, he is a fallen angel. This is one of the reasons we need to study the Word in its proper context and ask for the Spirit to help us in our understanding. Our world is filled with Instagram posts, sermons, and YouTube videos sharing messages that may seem biblical on the surface, but upon further examination, are not.
If we look at Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the desert, we see the importance of not only knowing the Word, but knowing God and his heart behind it. Satan first tries to appeal to Jesus’ physical need- his hunger. Jesus uses the Word in his denial of the temptation, so in Satan’s second attempt, he tries to get Jesus to pick up his deity and show his power. But this time, he also uses the Word, twisting it to try to manipulate Jesus.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Matthew 4:6 NIV
But Jesus knows the Word and the Father too well to fall for Satan’s schemes. He answers, “It is also written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7)
Although none of us will ever know God or his Word better than Jesus, the good news is this: He sent us a Helper, the Holy Spirit. And when we’re in doubt about whether something is true, he will help us. He gives us discernment and is the voice in our ear, pointing us to the right or the left. (Isaiah 30:21)
4. He uses distraction more often than direct invitation.
One of our enemy’s main goals is to distract us from our purposes here on earth- to glorify God, enjoy him, and to help lead others to him. And we don’t have to look very far to see that distractions are endless. Some of these distractions may even seem good on surface level. How often do you ask people how they are doing and they say, “Busy?” We have become a culture that equates business with happiness and importance.
The problem is that all of these distractions draw our attention away from the One who matters. Our souls become weary and burnt out, but often we don’t even realize why. And when this happens, our enemy has achieved his goal. Our souls aren’t connected with God in the way they’re designed to be, we keep going about with our days as though everything is fine. Revelation speaks strongly about this type of double-mindedness and distraction:
“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4 NIV
But you know what? It is never too late to begin again. God’s mercies are new each morning, and he desires nothing more than to have a relationship with us. We can come to him no matter have far we’ve roamed, and he is there waiting. Let’s not let our enemy distract us from the most important relationship in our life or keep us from fulfilling the purposes he has for us. It’s not worth it.
Friends, the lies of the enemy are too numerous to name, but we can be sure of this: He’s always telling them. Jesus called him the father of lies. (John 8:44) So, anything that comes out of his mouth is meant to steal, kill and destroy.
While it’s important to recognize his tactics, our best defense will always be to know the One who defeated him. Because he is greater, and he will lead us to victory. Let’s start there, today and every day.
If you need to shift your focus from a struggle or worry and see what God is already doing in your life, I encourage you to pick of a copy of my book, Shift: Changing Our Focus to See the Presence of God. I talk more about the ways a simple shift can change everything. Many people have sent me messages saying it impacted their life and helped them see how God was working in the midst of a hard season. This encourages my heart so much. I pray that God continues to use it to touch lives.
Here’s what one reader said:
“Shift invites us to redirect our focus from our problems, stressors, and fears of the unknown and to set our gaze upon the certainty of God’s character and his faithful word. The best part is that Abby doesn’t talk about faith from a theoretical perspective; she gives us practical tools and shows us how we can know God’s presence in the middle of the the mundane.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience Jesus outside of a Sunday worship service, this book is written just for you.” -Amy