In the middle of the night I got up because our neighbor’s dog wouldn’t stop barking. As I went into the foyer, I stepped on the most dangerous and diabolical thing ever known to man: the Lego brick. This “toy,” if you can call it that (I call it a tool of death and destruction), punctured the sensitive, soft part of the bottom of my foot that doesn’t actually touch the ground. I think the foot doctor I had to visit right after that called it my arch (which isn’t so swoopy lately, no thanks to the aforementioned Lego piece).
Anyhow, this incident taught me two deep and never-to-be-forgotten lessons about the devil’s schemes.
The first one: what looks harmless to us in the light can be deadly to us in the dark. Ahhhh, I know, right? I’ll give you several seconds to let that gem of wisdom sink in. OK, moving on. The naughty thing that seems easy to refuse when you’re spiritually full and things are going great may be the same thing that seems so overly tempting once you’ve gone without Bible study and prayer for a day or two and the pressures of life seem overwhelming.
Here’s the second thing it taught me: earlier, while the light was on and my son was awake, he needed to pick everything up and clear the floor—a preparation for when it would be dark and we wouldn’t want to suffer a puncture wound by blindly stepping on the stuff. In our walk with God, during times of strength (when the light is on, so to speak), it’s important for us to prepare for times of weakness (for when it’s dark). That means doing things such as memorizing scriptures that are applicable to our own weaknesses and temptations and making sure we’re being strengthened by daily connecting with God and godly people. The devil wants to keep this preparation from happening.
The Bible calls the devil many things, but mostly none of them are good. Let’s take a quick tour and see what the Bible has to say about the devil, and then we’ll take a look at his strategies of warfare, what God has given us to beat the devil, and last, what we can do to prepare ourselves to do battle with him.
Naming the Enemy
The devil is called by many names in the Bible: liar and father of lies, dragon, serpent, thief, Beelzebub, Satan, Lucifer, lion, the enemy, the evil one, the deceiver. In general, all of these names, except for Lucifer (his name before he became evil), denote someone who is evil and does evil things.
It’s All About Strategy
What are the devil’s strategies? Well, he likes to make us question God’s goodness, God’s plans, and God’s motives. He likes to make us think that we know better than God. Sometimes he would like to just kill us if God didn’t stop him—yes, he’s that evil! He also uses his angels who got kicked out of heaven, his demons, to work miracles to fool us and sometimes to act like he and they are good angels. The devil uses all kinds of tricks to get us to stray from God.
Here’s the important thing: he knows you, and he knows what your specific weaknesses are, your personality and character, your likes and dislikes, your pet peeves and your quirks, and he, at this very moment, while you’re reading this, is probably watching and studying you in order to trip you up, discourage you, and get you in his clutches. The prodigious writer, Ellen White, wrote a brief, but chilling narrative of a vision she had concerning Satan’s present physical appearance:
I was shown Satan as he once was, a happy, exalted angel. Then I was shown him as he now is. He still bears a kingly form. His features are still noble, for he is an angel fallen. But the expression of his countenance is full of anxiety, care, unhappiness, malice, hate, mischief, deceit, and every evil. That brow which was once so noble, I particularly noticed. His forehead commenced from his eyes to recede. I saw that he had so long bent himself to evil that every good quality was debased, and every evil trait was developed. His eyes were cunning, sly, and showed great penetration. His frame was large, but the flesh hung loosely about his hands and face. As I beheld him, his chin was resting upon his left hand. He appeared to be in deep thought. A smile was upon his countenance, which made me tremble, it was so full of evil and satanic slyness. This smile is the one he wears just before he makes sure of his victim, and as he fastens the victim in his snare, this smile grows horrible" (Early Writings 152, 153).
The devil and his demons were thrown out of heaven during a civil war (Rev. 12:7-9). When they were thrown out, God sent them to earth. God made the wise decision to put them out because of the lies and outright rebellion that the devil instigated. The Bible calls the devil the prince of the air and of this world. The devil is powerful, but God is more powerful! AMEN! Ultimately, the devil is a dog on a leash and can do nothing without God giving him express permission to do it (see Job 1).
The Fantastic Four
Ugghhh! Enough about Satan. Let’s switch gears and focus on God. To that end, there are four things that you to know about Him:
- God is greater and stronger than the devil.
- God already won the war with evil when He gave His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for us, and He will ultimately restore everything and do away with evil.
- God wants you to be victorious over the devil and his demons.
- God will go with you, He will never leave you, and He will give you all the skills and weapons that you need to win both the battles and the ultimate war against the devil.
Good to Bad—in a Hurry
Let’s take another look at what the Bible has to say about the devil—what he does and how he does it. This passage is especially significant if you are seriously considering accepting Christ as your Savior or just became a Christian, just got baptized, or are presently going through difficulties. The fact is that even if things are going good—even great for you—they can go to bad in a hurry.
Before we look at the passage, let me give you some background on what’s happening. Jesus has just asked His cousin John the Baptist to baptize Him. John dunked Jesus like a Krispy Kreme chocolate doughnut into a glass of frosty cold soy milk—mmmmmm—sorry about that. He baptizes Jesus in the river Jordan, and as Jesus comes out of the water, God lets everybody there know that He is happy about the whole thing and approves of it all and of Jesus! Wow, can you imagine being there and hearing God talk! Anyhow, right after that is where we pick up the story. We find it in Matthew 4:1-11. Read it for yourself, and then we’ll talk about what we can learn from it all.
1. You Can’t Handle the Truth!1. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert so that the devil could test Him. Why do you think that was? Simply put, God allows temptation and trials and difficulties in our lives in order to draw us closer to Him and to make us more like Him.
2. The devil knew the Bible—HELLO! The devil is the ultimate psychologist. He’s had millenniums to watch human beings, to learn about our behavior, and to figure out what makes us tick.
3. The devil took the Bible out of context and twisted it to make it say what he wanted it to.
4. The devil tempted Jesus with the same three temptations—pride, position, and possessions—that he tempted Eve with (look at Genesis 3), and we all know how well that went for Eve, and consequently for you and me. The devil tried to do the same thing with Jesus, but Jesus made a different choice, the right choice.
5. Jesus successfully overcame the devil through the power of God and through His knowledge of Scripture. If perfect, sinless, Son of God Jesus had to know His Scripture to overcome the devil, then how much more do we need to be reading and studying our Bibles so we can be ready with the sword of the Spirit to fight off the attacks of the devil. (We’ll talk more about the sword in a little bit.)
6. The devil tempted Jesus when He was at His weakest physical and emotional state. The devil’s not stupid. He’s knows exactly when and how to tempt you. He’s just like the Dell computer company: he’ll custom-make one, just for you!
7. Once Jesus successfully overcame the devil, the devil left—but he came back. He’s like the Energizer Bunny: he just keeps going, and going, and going. You read about how he worked through the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and how he even worked through one of Jesus’ inner circle of 12 followers—Judas Iscariot! Again, the devil’s not a quitter. He’s not going to let you go without a fight!
8. After the devil left, angels came to attend Jesus. Remember, God will never leave you alone. You have the eternal, inexhaustible resources of God on your side when you team with Him. If it were you alone versus the devil, my money would be on the devil. But you and God make a majority! The Bible says that if God is for us, who can be against us?
So now that we’ve learned the truth about what happens behind the scenes, let’s learn about the weapons that God has given us, and how we can guard against the tricks of the devil and his angels.
Weapons for Warfare
God hasn’t left us alone and unprepared for this war. In fact, He has given us weapons—incredibly effective weapons--to beat the devil; we just need to learn about them and how to most effectively use them to prepare ourselves to do battle with him.
When it came to dealing with this battle between good and evil and being aware of what it took to be successful in the Christian life—and just to literally stay alive—the apostle Paul was an old pro at it. Near the end of his letter to the Christians in the city of Ephesus, Paul addressed this issue very clearly and comprehensively. Remember, the Christians were used to seeing Roman soldiers walking around dressed in their full battle armor and carrying their swords, spears, and shields. So he uses this as an example of how we need to be prepared to meet the devil and his angels in this battle for our hearts, minds, and our very lives.
I want you to read this passage of Scripture for yourself, and then we’ll talk about it. It’s found in Ephesians 6:10-18.
There are a few crucial points that we need to take away from this passage of Scripture:
1. It is God’s strength that makes us strong. Don’t think for one moment that you can battle the devil or his demons in your own strength.
2. We must put on all the armor that God gives us, so we can defend ourselves against the devil’s tricks. By the way, all the devil has is tricks; the reason is if he came at you directly, you would push him away—so he has to be sneaky, deceptive, and underhanded.
3. We’re not ultimately fighting against human beings but against the devil and his demons. Now, it’s true that sometimes flesh-and-blood beings get involved; but many times they are controlled by the spirit of the devil and his demons—perhaps even controlled by them directly, aka demon possession. Yikes! I hope you want to be possessed by the Holy Spirit, not an unholy one!
4. Paul tells us to “be ready!” Notice he didn’t just suggest for us to be ready. He knew all too well that the “day of evil” and the battle that followed it was coming our way—and we could either be ready and stand firm or not prepare and die, spiritually speaking.
5. Let’s look at every piece of the armor individually and see what truth we can apply to our lives:
a. Belt: God’s truth. The mark of a soldier, a belt was not meant for civilian use! The belt was commonly used to hold the soldier’s sword and/or a dagger. I find it interesting that the belt held the sword in place and kept it ready for the soldier to fight with when needed. God’s truth is the only truth we should be using to fight off the devil. It’s the only truth that will work because it is . . . truly true! Everything else is man’s knowledge, philosophies, and lies!
b. Armor or breastplate: God’s justice. This armor appears to have been a purely Roman invention. This piece of armor was made up of overlapping pieces of iron bound together with leather straps and metal hooks, forming a very flexible, strong protection for the soldier. This armor protected the soldier’s chest and torso—where the majority of the vital organs are. You can lose an arm or a leg, but if you get injured in this part of your body, you’re in bad shape! The understanding that God is ultimately in control of what happens in this world and will ultimately make all things right can really help to take a lot of pressure off us, when we would typically get angry for all the wrong reasons and consequently want to get even. Our faith in God’s sovereignty should inform our knowledge of where and when to use the knowledge of the Scriptures.
c. Shoes: your desire to spread the gospel. Roman military sandals used iron hobnails as treads, a lot like the cleats of a modern-day football player’s shoes. This footwear was basically made for any and every situation and allowed the Roman soldier to fight with total confidence in any battle condition. Our desire to spread the gospel should come from the total confidence that this is what God has put us on this earth to do!
d. Shield: your faith. The shield was the main form of body protection for the Roman soldier. It served the purpose of deflecting targeted missiles, as well as protecting from the impact of handheld weapons. The shield’s large size allowed soldiers to form a shield wall that could protect them all during an advance. For us, the faith that we have is not in ourselves but in God. So we see here the application that our faith can not only protect us but also bolster the faith of others and protect them as well.
e. Helmet: God’s saving power, or God’s salvation. I find it interesting that Paul tells us to wear on our head, the knowledge and assurance that we have received salvation. Our brains are in our head, and God knew that the devil would consistently try to put doubts in our minds about our salvation.
f. Sword: God’s Holy Bible. This is the only offensive weapon—not something that offends people (although it does that as well), but something that is not defensive. Every other part of the armor is used to defend you, but the Bible is used to fight back against the devil. It’s interesting to note that the original Greek word used to describe the Bible is literally the “saying” of the Bible—not the writing or the reading. By the way, this is just how Jesus, when tempted in the desert, drove the devil away. Reading and writing the Bible is important, and those methods really help you to move the knowledge from short-term to long-term memory, but when you speak Scripture out loud in a situation that is stressful and tempting, it is absolutely amazing to experience the resolution and conviction that you begin to feel. And the Bible tells us that if you submit yourself to God and resist the devil, the devil leaves . . . no, he flees! That means he runs away really fast—in a panic!
6. Last, Paul says to “never stop praying, especially for others.” Isn’t it interesting that Paul distinguishes praying by the power of the Spirit from praying within our own power? Again, we are told to “stay alert.”
The Big Picture
In our time together we learned about the devil’s plans and organization of his demons and how they can disrupt good things that are meant for us. We learned that although we are treated badly by the devil and the world, we still have God’s Holy Spirit with us and there is nothing that can or will happen to us that’s bad enough to ever separate us from the love of God. We also learned that the devil doesn’t play fair and that he attacks us when we’re at our weakest, and that he knows Scripture, so we must know it too and always fight him in the power of the Holy Spirit. Last, we learned that we must always be on our guard and put on all the armor of God, and we should never stop praying with the power of the Holy Spirit.
I hope that after our time together, you realize how important it is not only to know your enemy, the devil, but more important, to know God, the One who can give you--and who has already given you--the power and full and complete victory over Satan. In Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians, he boldly writes from jail, of all places, “God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away and nailed them to the cross. There Christ defeated all powers and forces [of Satan]. He let the whole world see them being led away as prisoners when he celebrated his victory” (Contemporary English Version, Colossians 2:14, 15).So remember, in the darkest part of your life, when you step on the proverbial Lego piece, never forget in the dark what God has told you in the light. Suit up and get ready for battle, because God has promised you that greater is He (God) that is in you than he (Satan) that is in the world (1 John 4:4).