By David Faust
The radio broadcaster Paul Harvey created a popular essay called “If I Were the Devil.” You can find the full text of his comments online, along with modified and expanded versions of his original wording. Harvey said, “If I were the devil . . . I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’. . . To the young, I would whisper, ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around.”
While we can’t read the devil’s mind (and truthfully, who would want to?), it’s wise to anticipate his tactics. To succeed on the spiritual battlefield we must apply our best brainpower, so the apostle Peter warned, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is a real threat—dangerous as a hungry lion—not a cartoonish figment of our imagination.
What equipment does our wily foe stash in his bag of tricks as he attempts to defeat God’s people? His strategies include:
Deception. Twist the truth until it’s barely recognizable. Turn value-systems upside down. Make wrong seem right, virtue seem outdated, goodness seem unrealistic, and Scripture seem boring. In the name of relevance, popularize irreverence and replace the unchanging Word of God with evolving cultural trends.
Discouragement. Convince moms and dads that their families are hopeless. Dishearten faithful servants until they feel like giving up. Drain away the enthusiasm of youth and replace it with cynicism. Grind down the patience of senior adults until they become too weary to care.
Detours. Divert Christians onto religious side trails. Keep them debating the latest hot topics and spiritual trivia so they won’t “keep the main thing the main thing.” Saturate them with social media, but prevent them from building authentic relationships. Fill their schedules with leadership conferences, but make them too busy to actually develop disciples for the Lord.
Division. Magnify minor differences of opinion until they become holy wars. Keep church members angry with each other. Suppress forgiveness, for God’s work thrives in an atmosphere of grace. Stir hostility between men and women, old and young, leaders and followers, seasoned saints and new believers. Keep congregations churning with turmoil so they can’t settle into prolonged seasons of fruitful service.
Most of us will never journey through a lion-infested wilderness, but if we did, what gear would we bring along? a large steel trap? a .22-caliber rifle? materials for building a fire? Most of all, if I traveled through the jungle I would want a well-equipped and reliable guide by my side.
The book of 1 Peter shows that “the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls (2:25) provides for our defense. “The word of the Lord endures forever” (1:25), and it dispels deception. The “living hope” (1:3) inspired by Christ’s resurrection helps us overcome discouragement. If we imitate Christ’s example and follow his steps (2:21), we will avoid unnecessary detours. If we are like-minded, sympathetic, loving, compassionate, and humble (3:8), we will stand against division. If we remain prayerful, “alert and of sober mind” (4:7), we will recognize the devil’s tactics and sidestep his traps.
By ourselves, you and I aren’t lion tamers. We won’t fare well if we travel alone through territory inhabited by a ravenous spiritual adversary. Aren’t you glad our guide, King Jesus, is traveling with us?
1. How do you see the devil at work in our world?
2. What steps are you taking to withstand Satan’s attacks?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for October 26, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
1 Peter 3:1–7
Song of Solomon 4:1–7
1 Peter 3:8–12
Song of Solomon 4:8–16
1 Peter 3:13–22
Song of Solomon 5
1 Peter 4:1–11
Song of Solomon 6
1 Peter 4:12–19
Song of Solomon 7
1 Peter 5:1–7
Song of Solomon 8:1–7