In these early days of a new year, you have likely already experienced some level of spiritual discouragement or defeat. Any fresh resolve by a Christian to follow the Savior, walk more closely with the Lord, or make a difference for His mission is met with spiritual counterattack. The devil is intolerant of our spiritual progress.
We all know we are in a spiritual battle against an unseen foe and his army of minions. As Christians we have the assurance that “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We are challenged to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” and to “put on the whole armor of God” in order to live in victory (Ephesians 6:10-11). A vital part of that victory is that we pray always, with all kinds of prayer, with all perseverance, for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).
Knowing the Enemy’s Tactics
The Bible says that “we are not unaware of his devices.” The Bible and practical experience reveal the nature of Satan’s character and strategies. We know, for instance, that a primary tactic is to attack believers at the relational level, doing all he can to engender unforgiveness, misunderstanding, and discord. When we fall prey to his efforts we “give place to the devil” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 4:27).
As we seek to understand and overcome his tactics we must remember Jesus’ words, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). In this new year, we want to fully experience and walk in that abundant life Jesus promises. Satan seeks to counterattack through his efforts to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Let me suggest three practical ways this happens in our lives. I have seen that it is not uncommon that our enemy will seek to steal our time, kill our desire, and destroy our spiritual potential.
He Steals Our Time
Paul writes, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). We are to live wisely in evaluating and maximizing our time and opportunities because we are in a context of spiritual battle with the forces of evil. If we allow the enemy to steal the moments of life, he has neutralized our primary commodity for living and doing well.
For me, this seems so subtle but incessant. I typically am up no later than 5:30 each morning. My first endeavor is to spend time with the Lord. Yet, a barrage of distractions of every variety comes against my mind in those early morning hours. I am learning that when the devil steals these moments, my entire day lacks spiritual vitality and focus.
If he cannot distract us from the time we try to dedicate to spiritual renewal, he will keep us so busy that we do not find the time in the first place. Whether through distraction or busyness, our time for spiritual renewal is lost – and the devil’s strategies prevail, sadly, with our cooperation. Of course, this happens slowly and incrementally, not all at once. Sometimes the loss is so gradual we hardly miss it, but when his pilfering is complete, we stay busy for God with no quality time with God.
He Kills our Desire
We all know the joy of a heart that cries, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1-2). The object of our spiritual enemy’s thievery is to neutralize these longings. The demons delight when the summary of our spiritual temperature has been reduced to “lukewarm” or a lost “first love.” With powerful moments of spiritual focus and renewal gone, our spiritual desire suffocates. For lack of cultivation and nurture, we lose interest in spiritual intimacy.
He Destroys our Potential
The “Destroyer” ultimately seeks to wipe out our potential for Christ. When our time has been stolen and desire has been killed, we stand on the precipice of losing our spiritual integrity and impact for Christ. We may attend church, serve, and appear to be spiritually vibrant – but it has become the shell of an empty life, no longer abiding and without the evidence of supernatural spiritual fruit. The enemy has systematically, gradually, but effectively accomplished his mission.
If this assessment of the nature of the spiritual battle is accurate, then we must go back to that first front in which the attack comes – our time. Certainly we are reminded that daily time with the Lord is essential as the inner man is being renewed day-by-day (1 Corinthians 4:16). We also need to find that vital “Sabbath” pattern where we can cherish substantive time in the rhythm of the weekly journey to give the Lord our undivided attention. Then, there should be those seasons of extended prayer (perhaps fasting) when we lock ourselves away to experience an extraordinary encounter with the living Christ. For me, this amounts to an extended personal retreat or a Prayer Summit for several days with other believers.
By His grace, we can rise above the cunning counterattacks of the enemy and declare from the reality of our daily experience, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
P.S. – I have also observed that this same kind of attack comes against church leaders and congregations. Satan steals our times of corporate communion with Christ through distraction and busyness. He kills the passion of the church to seek God’s face. Instead, we become content with a treadmill of religious activity. Eventually, the church loses all supernatural impact and instead becomes a frenetic collection of superficial programming; the battle is lost and the mission suffers at a corporate level. May the Lord give us eyes to see this temptation and grace to repent and return to the heart of spiritually authentic ministry.
Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.