SOURCE: Douglas Wendel/Discipleship Journal
During my years in the air force, the government spent a lot of money training us to understand and recognize the tactics of our enemies. Why? Because in warfare, you must know your adversary. What weapons does he have? How, when, and where will he use them? This information provides a critical edge in battle.
As Christians, we wage war against a spiritual enemy (2 Cor. 10:3–4, Eph. 6:12). Although Jesus defeated Satan on the cross, the devil still wreaks havoc in our lives, knowing that his time is short (Rev. 12:12). Peter described him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan loves to trip up our walks with God, tempting us to dishonor His name. How does he attempt to derail us? With his tricky lies.
Jesus said that when Satan lies, he speaks his native language (Jn. 8:44). Just as we all speak one language that comes naturally to us, so Satan is a natural liar. In fact, Jesus called him the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44). If we hope to resist the enemy’s attacks, we must realize that Satan doesn’t fight fair. He is a master of the guerrilla warfare of deceit.
Here are five of Satan’s favorite lies and the truths of God’s Word that can empower us to stand firm when the enemy attacks.
Lie 1: “God is holding out on you.”
In Genesis 3, Eve stood at the crossroads of temptation and obedience. Satan had tempted her to eat the fruit God had forbidden, saying, “You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (vv. 4–5). What was Satan saying to Eve? “God is holding out on you. He has something good He’s trying to keep from you!” Unfortunately Adam and Eve succumbed to Satan’s first lie.
Throughout most of my college years (I started college in my mid-20s), I struggled with being single. I knew God had my best interests in mind, as Jer. 29:11 describes: “For I know the plans I have for you …plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yet at times my strong desire to marry tempted me to doubt God’s goodness, just as Eve had done. I wondered why His plans for me did not seem to include a good thing like marriage.
One lonely night I cried out to God over my inner struggle. Sitting among the dark, empty track bleachers of my university, I told Him about this temptation and then recommitted myself to doing His will—even if it meant staying single. A year later I found myself at the marriage altar, thanking God for the grace to believe in His goodness instead of Satan’s lie. I experienced His perfect timing in this area of my life as I trusted Him.
Sometimes our circumstances don’t seem to make any sense and fail to meet our expectations of life. In these moments, Satan tempts us to believe that God’s goodness obligates Him to gratify our desires immediately. But we must intentionally recall that God’s plans are always aimed at our best over the long term.
Lie 2: “Trust yourself.”
David wrote, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps. 20:7). Yet even the author of these words fell victim to another one of Satan’s lies: the lie of self-reliance. In 1 Chron. 21:1, Satan “incited David to take a census of Israel.” David responded to Satan’s suggestion by commanding Joab to count all the fighting men in Israel. Why did David give this order? He had begun to believe his security lay in the size of his army instead of the strength of the Lord. Satan tempted David to trust in numbers instead of God’s provision. Though he was a man after God’s heart, David failed to recognize Satan’s deception.
Because of David’s self-reliance, the whole nation of Israel suffered through a terrible plague. Likewise, when we rely solely on our own insight, it damages our walk with God and our relationships with others.
When I came on staff with The Navigators, I had to raise my salary by asking friends and relatives to give regularly to my ministry. But asking people for their financial support was not something I wanted to do. For months I resisted the idea of earning a living this way while I investigated other sources of income. My unwillingness to ask others for money kept me from moving forward in my calling.
Then one day God clearly spoke to me regarding my hesitance to trust Him. A college friend I had led to Christ years earlier was killed in a car accident. At his funeral, I realized the eternal impact God had allowed me to make in this man’s life. It was clear He was calling me to do the same in the lives of others. To pursue that mission, I needed to trust Him—not myself—to provide an income for my family.
That day I began to believe that God would meet our financial needs as He promised in Phil. 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Today, I wonder how well I would be fulfilling my calling if I had continued to believe Satan’s lie of self-reliance instead of depending upon God.
Lie 3: “You will never suffer as a Christian.”
Another one of Satan’s favorite lies tells us nothing difficult will ever happen to us as Christians. When we believe this lie, it sows seeds of self-pity into our hearts that bloom into bitterness when trials overwhelm us.
In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples He would suffer and die in Jerusalem. When Peter heard these words, he emphatically rebuked Him, “Never, Lord! …This shall never happen to you!” (v. 22). Jesus replied,
Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.—v. 23
Jesus recognized Satan’s seductive suggestion in Peter’s words because He knew God’s plan for His life included suffering.
Several years ago, my wife gave birth to our premature son, Jonathan. Our hearts ached for Jonathan as he fought for life in the weeks following his birth. After five long months, we brought him home from the hospital. Our house became an intensive care unit full of oxygen tanks, beeping monitors, and medication. We cared for him around the clock, enduring months of little sleep.
Yet even in our exhaustion, we never questioned God or quit. Why? Because we sincerely believed Paul’s promise in Ro. 8:28: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Even in our difficult circumstances, we trusted God would accomplish His good purpose in our lives.
God doesn’t promise that suffering will never touch our lives. In fact, He says the opposite. In Jas. 1:2, we are told, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Notice James says “whenever,” not if we face trials. Difficult circumstances will sift all of our lives. But God allows these trials so that we may be “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).
God uses trials to shape our character and conform it to His own. That process equips us to reach out with compassion to a lost and hurting world.
Lie 4: “Money is the key to happiness.”
Satan knows the powerful lure of riches. He promised earthly extravagance to Jesus in an attempt to turn Him from the Father (Mt. 4:8–9). Jesus replied, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (v. 10). Satan is well aware of how greed takes our focus off God. The Apostle Paul verified this when he wrote, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Recently, we sold our home for a profit. Though I had intended to tithe from the additional income, moving to another state delayed my giving. Instead, I put the money in an interest-bearing account until we could buy a new house.
But temptation crept in, and I began to think about how I could make the money grow faster. Periodically I thought of making the tithe, but the idea would slip away with my lack of action.
Finally, God spoke to me one morning through Mal. 3:10.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this …and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Within a few days the Lord showed me how much and where to give. I released the tithe I should have given months earlier. The next week we got a phone call. Some Christian friends outside our city had suddenly decided to move and wanted to sell their house and small acreage to us if we were interested. They thought the property might be a great place for our ministry and family. We were amazed. God wanted to bless us in a greater way but did not do so until I gave back to His work. Listening to Satan’s lie of greed could have short-circuited God’s plan for blessing.
God may bless us with earthly riches. If He does, we need to hold them with an open hand before Him. But when we say yes to the enemy’s lie and no to God, Satan’s promises will certainly be accompanied by a load of heartache. A lifetime of mammon is not worth shipwrecking our faith on the reef of earthly riches (Mt. 6:24).
Lie 5: “You can never forgive them.”
Finally, Satan attempts to derail us with the lie that we can’t forgive those who’ve wounded us severely. A respected Christian leader recently said that with the exception of sexual immorality, he’s seen more men and women drop out of the Christian life because of unforgiveness than any other factor. In the early days of the church, Paul also understood how unforgiveness separated believers. In 2 Cor. 2:7, 11, he urged believers to “forgive and comfort [the offender] …in order that Satan might not outwit us.”
How does Satan outwit us through unforgiveness? Someone once said that bitterness is a poison you drink hoping the other person dies. Refusal to forgive invites bitterness into our hearts, poisoning everything in our lives. It eats away at our souls and robs us of the joy and satisfaction God gives through our relationships with Him and others.
Unforgiveness divides people. As long as forgiveness is withheld, a wall of separation exists between two parties. Satan uses festering grievances to kill fellowship among believers and to thwart the work of God.
Several years ago I lost my job. The pain and humiliation left me bitter toward my former supervisor. Whenever she came to mind in the months that followed, anger flared up within me. One day the Lord spoke to me through Eph. 4:32: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” As I meditated on how much Christ had forgiven me, I realized I needed to let go of my bitterness and forgive her. Although the healing process took several years, today I can think of her with peace and genuine concern for her welfare.
The road to forgiveness begins by remembering how much we have been forgiven ourselves. When we recognize our own unworthiness before the Lord, the sweet love of God can flow again from our hearts toward others. Forgiveness is the oil that keeps our souls from burning up in the friction of our relationships.
Truly, our battle is “not against flesh and blood, but against …the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). The Bible promises God will have the final victory over Satan and his demons. Until that time, may we resist Satan’s lies by standing firm on the truths in God’s Word.