In 1968 the Rolling Stones debuted a song about Satan, Sympathy for the Devil. While I do not endorse the song in any way, and the title is simply ridiculous (the devil deserves no sympathy) the song does convey the evil one’s deceptive and destructive motives and raises two very important questions: Do we know the evil one’s name? And do we understand his game?
Pleased to meet you, Hope you guess my name.
But what’s puzzling you, Is the nature of my game.
“The Nature of His Game”
Yes, Satan does attack us. He schemes to do harm and to cause us to sin. However, we know from the life of Job, and we must always remember, that Satan is restrained by God. Satan can’t do anything without God knowing about it and even controlling it (either by stopping it or allowing it). God providentially protects His children from the evil one. While God also permissively allows trials, tribulations, pain, and suffering to enter our lives and to afflict us, it is always with a good reason and for a purpose that will be for our good and His glory. Often, when we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, it’s difficult to believe that it’s for our good, however, in such times, we must always return to that which we know:
- Our God is loving, faithful, and all powerful.
- Nothing happens to us that is not first “filtered” through His strong hands, His loving will, His faithful mercy, His amazing grace, and His all-powerful control.
- In all things, He gives us His faithful mercy, His amazing grace, and His mighty strength to endure.
With assurance, of God’s presence, provision, and protection in all things, let’s address the schemes of the devil. His goal is to diminish our witness and steal our joy. And always, he is determined to accomplish his will. The list is unending because the evil one is ruthless, so let’s look at three “big” schemes and how they can be summed up in one subtle, but destructive, tactic.
The Big Three Schemes of Satan
- LIES: Satan schemes by using lies. He is the father of lies (John 8:44) and he attempts to deceive us by twisting or completely changing God’s Word with the purpose of confusion leading to sin.
- TEMPTATION: Satan schemes by using temptation. He works to set before us sinful things that will tempt us to sin. While Satan cannot inhabit us and make us sin, he can certainly mess with us and tempt us to sin.
- MANIPULATION: Satan schemes by using manipulation. While Satan is not all-powerful, he is very clever and skillful at manipulating situations and people—always to achieve his purpose of provoking us to sin.
All of Satan’s attacks are done with covert tactics. He is subtle and skillful in his ways. He uses deception to confuse and blind us, hoping we will fail to see the harm that lies before us and be unable to hear and heed God’s Spirit’s direction in our lives.
Satan’s desire is to provoke us to walk in the flesh and not live in the Spirit. He schemes to turn us from Jesus to false gods, from God’s ways to the ways of the world, from God’s will to our own selfish desires, from hope to despair, from belief to doubt, from faith to fear, from peace to anger, from satisfaction to neediness…and the list goes on and on. Satan’s hope is to shake our faith and do us harm.
Satan’s Schemes in One Word
All three of Satan’s schemes, lies, temptations, and manipulations—can be summed up in one word—DISTRACTION. From the Garden to our present day, Satan’s way has been to turn our heads, to redirect our eyes, and to divert our attention away from God and put it on anything else. He wants to distract us and cause us to focus on worldly and fleshly desires. In the Garden, and with every one of us, he attacks using the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (Read Are there only three sins? What are they?).
C.S. Lewis illustrated this clearly in his book The Screwtape Letters, which tells of a senior demon, Screwtape, who instructs his apprentice nephew, Wormwood, on ways he can make Christians forget their beliefs, distance themselves from God, and ultimately sin. All of this, he taught, can be accomplished with distraction:
“What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And’. You know—Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform.”¹
Beware of the Distractions of Satan
When Satan distracts us with “Christianity and”, we become prey for his schemes: his lies, temptations, and manipulations. But always remember, his three weapons cannot stand against the power that we have. “For greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Just as Satan has the Big Three to cause us to sin, our God tells us the Big Three to avoid sin and live righteously. These three are the foundation of Christian faith:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
- Love the Lord your God with all your soul, and
- Love the Lord your God with all your mind.
The foundation of everything is love (heart) which is the “fuel” of the soul (emotions and desire), and the “food” for our mind (knowledge and wisdom). Reasons for Hope* Jesus is a ministry of apologetics (the mind, knowing) and discipleship (the soul, living) and is dedicated to the glory of God (the heart, loving). Our homepage proclaims our mission statement of knowing, living, and loving with:
- Knowing: RENEW YOUR MIND IN THE WORD: Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Ro 12:2)
- Living: ANCHOR YOUR SOUL IN HOPE: This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. (Heb 6:19)
- Loving: ESTABLISH YOUR HEART IN GRACE: It is good that the heart be established by grace. (Heb 13:9)
Don’t Be Distracted
The Apostle James summed this up well, when he said “…every man is tempted, when he is drawn away [distracted] of his own lust, and enticed.” (James 1:14)
Do not let Satan and his minions distract you. Stay focused on Jesus. The Apostle Matthew wrote that “the light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye is single, your whole body shall be full of light” and Proverbs confirms, “the light of the eyes rejoices the heart” (Prov 15:30). Therefore, keep “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith…” (Heb 12:2).
About Focusing Your Eyes on Jesus
Eph 1:18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Read/watch more about Satan and his tactics:
- Why Did Satan Rebel Against God?
- Where did the sin of Lucifer come from?
- How Does Satan Attach Christians? What are His Big Three Schemes?
- How Much Should I Fear Satan?
- Is Satan’s Real Name Lucifer? Or Should We Call Him Satan?
- Does Satan have a stronger influence on Halloween?
- Was Jesus a sacrifice to Satan?
- The “I Will” Statements of God and Satan and the “I Am” Statements of Jesus
- What Though The Vile Accuser Roar (song video)
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¹ Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters, New York: Collier Books, 1982, pp. 115–116.