Satan’s Strategies: How to Recognize and Respond
When I played organized basketball “back in the day”, there were two main objectives to keep in mind. The first was to score points. The second was to keep the other team from scoring points. We called that second goal getting a “stop”, meaning we were trying to stop the other team from their “goal” of scoring.
Believers have objectives as well. One of our these is to advance His mission to reconcile people to Himself. We do this when we tell others about Jesus Christ and invite them to trust in Him alone as the only way to God.
Yet, like basketball, there is another team involved who opposes our efforts. Paul describes them in Ephesians 6:12:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
It may be tempting to label non-Christians as the enemy, but they are not. They are the mission field. The real opposition comes from Satan and his demons. Their goal is to stop us from telling others about Christ.
We need to learn how to recognize Satan’s strategies or “schemes” to counteract His opposition (Eph. 6:11). A good offense in basketball recognizes the defensive strategy and adjusts accordingly. We must do the same when Satan attempts to impede our involvement in the mission.
Here are a few of Satan’s “schemes” to oppose us and how to respond:
Shutting us down before we start.
Satan’s first strategy is to prevent us from even having conversations about Christ. The focus of his attack is our mind. He bombards us with thoughts to distract and discourage us from sharing our faith.
God has provided us with spiritual armor to protect us against these attacks (Ephesians 6). For more on how to recognize and respond to these preliminary attacks, check out:
Triggering our emotions.
Have you ever attempted to share the gospel with someone only to hear them make inflammatory statements about Christ, Christianity, or even you? Part of us wants to respond with anger, defensiveness, combativeness, or all the above. While Satan cannot force us to respond this way, he can tempt us to.
Paul exhorts us to guard against this temptation in Galatians 5:16, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” He then lists those desires, including enmity, strife, fits of anger, and others.
“Walk by the Spirit” is another way of saying “abide in Christ.” We do that by depending on Him and yielding to Him on a continual basis. God then empowers us to respond with truth wrapped in the “fruit of the Spirit”, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. as listed in Galatians 22-23. Christ produces this fruit in us, even in response to provocative remarks.
Derailing us through distraction.
Our society is full of distractions. Phones ring, car alarms blare, and interruptions happen. Distractions can be annoying and derailing if we let them.
While we cannot always control these things from happening, we can control our response to them. When you are in the middle of a conversation and a distraction happens, remember that the Lord is sovereign and in control. Satan may attempt to use it to derail the conversation or get you so annoyed you can’t focus, but God is bigger than even the biggest interruption. Put it in God’s hands in prayer and ask the Lord to “mute” it, but also for wisdom in how to navigate it if He does not.
Shutting us down afterward.
After you have a conversation, have you ever felt like, “I should have said this”, or “I should have done that.” We all have those “postgame” reviews. While there is nothing wrong with evaluating the conversation after it is over, when we obsess on it, it becomes counterproductive. We may miss future opportunities to share the gospel because we are too focused on past encounters. The other temptation is to let a conversation that did not go so well prevent us from sharing with someone else.
Take the conversation before the Lord asking, “Lord, teach me what I need to know and help me to silence everything else.” God has answered this time and again in my life by giving me peace in how I need to course correct. He also has provided the strength to ignore the regrets that are not from Him.
Also, don’t let one conversation keep you from having another. Remember that people respond in different ways. Some believe, some postpone, and others reject. This was true for the disciples and for Jesus Himself. Don’t let someone’s response keep you from sharing with someone else.
Knowing Satan’s schemes helps us to counter His attacks and adjust to move forward with God’s mission. The battle is the Lord’s, and He has provided the strategy and resources we need to advance the gospel. John reminds us that our most effective resource is God Himself, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
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