Spiritual Warfare: Understanding Satan's Strategies
The Battle belongs to the Lord…but You are the Soldier!
In every war, there are battles. In every battle, there are attacks. As Christians, we experience these attacks in varying degrees. Some attacks seem like skirmishes, some like never ending battles and some battles seem like all out war. Regardless of how much we may want to ignore this component in our Christian lives, the battles do exist and the warfare will continue. The more we learn the truths concerning spiritual warfare, the more prepared we can be to fight and to be victorious. In furthering our knowledge of spiritual warfare, this lesson addresses the strategies of Satan. Behind every war and every battle and every attack lies a strategist, the mastermind of the ultimate plan of attack. In our case, this strategist is Satan. He is our enemy, our adversary…the one who wants to take us out.
Spiritual Warfare & Satan, The Master of Deception
Webster defines a strategy as “a careful plan or method: a clever stratagem.” Strategies in general can be applied to every area of our lives. Strategies invoke plans, goals and achieving ultimate purposes. A stratagem goes a step further in definition and means “an artifice or trick in war for deceiving and outwitting the enemy, a cleverly contrived trick or scheme for gaining an end.” Satan is the master of deception, tricks and schemes and he will do anything he can to win the battle. Satan waged war against the Lord the moment he was cast out of heaven. We entered that war the moment Adam and Eve succumbed to his temptation to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Genesis 3:1 says, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” The Bible is clear in its description of Satan from Genesis to Revelation and we have no excuse for our ignorance of his strategies. We must shine the light of truth into the darkness of Satan’s lies and deceptions. The Word of God is our light of truth and we are the soldiers who must know it and live it out everyday.
This lesson focuses on the most prevalent strategies that Satan uses against us. From the beginning of time, we have been dealing with certain human characteristics, ones that he understands better than we do. He watches us, observes our behavior and then cunningly wields his schemes to get us to fall into sin. We will examine the key areas of temptation, pride and lust, as they are the focus of Satan’s major tactics and schemes against us. We will learn of what the Bible teaches about these weaknesses in our flesh and how we can overcome them, just as Jesus did.
Who Is Satan?
Satan is described in Revelation 12:9 as “the great dragon [who] was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” His name is Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12) and his original home was heaven. However, Satan did not remain in heaven as the beautiful angel he was created to be. The Bible tells us that he was cast out due to his rebellion against the Lord. Behind rebellion lies pride.
Isaiah 14:12-15 includes 5 “I will” statements that illustrate Lucifer’s pride in rebelling against God.
- I will ascend to heaven
- I will raise my throne above the stars of God
- I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost high of Mount Zaphon
- I will ascend above the tops of the clouds
- I will make myseld like the Most High
“I will” always stems from a heart of pride. When the words “I will” or “I will not” quickly come out of our mouths, we must recognize the pride that is behind the words and the attitude. Once we begin to acknowledge the pride within us, we can then begin to recognize how Satan uses it to strategize against us. Why? To try to destroy us. The Bible warns that pride comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). One of his main goals is to lead us into temptation, to get us to fall. Satan loves to see us fall.
Deception: Satan's Strategy to Trap
Satan’s strategies are all aimed at trying to kill, steal, and destroy us. Satan hates us. He hates God. His hatred is manifested through his schemes to destroy God’s people. Satan will use every tactic possible to get our focus off of the Lord and onto ourselves. One of Satan’s greatest tools is deception. When we least expect it, we can be lulled into a trap set by the enemy. We must become more aware of Satan’s schemes and take the steps to fight back.
Let’s go back to the beginning and see how Satan first appeared. Read Genesis 3:1-8 and let's look at Satan as the serpent. The serpent is described as "crafty". His tactic against Eve is to question her and what she believes of God. Eve’s choice reflected her heart. She is tempted to question God's goodness and best for her. Eve wants to be like God.
Satan knew the weaknesses of man better than Adam and Eve knew themselves. Satan’s objective was to make Eve think that God was withholding from her. He challenged God’s commands by twisting His words to cause Eve to doubt God. When Eve tried to clarify God’s one, single command, Satan challenged God’s reasoning. Eve’s pride got the best of her as she wanted to become wise in her own eyes, so she ate the fruit. Pride means to lift one’s head above another, to hold contempt for another, to compare oneself with others. Pride can be hidden in the heart as well as openly displayed. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 3:24). So if Satan can get us into pride, we will make choices against the will and ways of God. Additional descriptions are self-exaltation, being puffed up; arrogance, haughtiness, insolence, putting oneself above others, looking down upon others, scorn, contempt. None of us are exempt from this innate human trait.
Temptation: Satan's Strategy to Entice and Lure
Let’s take a lesson from Genesis about Satan’s use of the eyes to bring temptation into our lives. Read Genesis 13:5-17. When Abram and Lot returned from Egypt, the land was too crowded with both of their flocks. So, Lot’s men started a fight with Abram’s. When Abram suggested they part, Lot sees that the plain of Jordan was "well-watered, like the garden of the Lord". Lot chooses to settle in Sodom with people who were "wicked and sinned greatly against the Lord".
Abram, however, listened to God and choose (or “got”) his land as a blessing. By following God's direction and remaining obedient, Abram was promises all the land he could see and offspring that would last forever.
Lot, like Eve, saw Sodom and Gomorrah as “good to look at.” Their lusts of their eyes was looking at the fruit (and the land) and seeing how beautiful they looked. Sadly, both followed Satan’s deception. Clear consequences resulted in their lives, as they do in ours when we follow Satan’s deceptions.
Satan cannot force us to sin. He cannot control the behaviors of a believer but he can place thoughts into our minds and lead us into temptation as a powerful strategy to lure us into sin. The enemy uses temptation as a strategic tool “to entice to do wrong by promise of pleasure or gain” (Merriam-Webster). Our flesh loves pleasure. Our flesh loves to feel good and feed its desires. No one knows that better than Satan, which keeps him actively seeking ways to tempt us.
Lust: Satan's Strategy to Open the Door to Sin
1 John 2:16 tells us that Satan uses these three ways to tempt us:
- lust of the flesh
- lust of the eyes
- pride of life
Pride opens the door for temptation and Satan uses lust as part of the strategy to lead us into temptation. Lust is an overwhelming desire or craving; thus, lust gives Satan a foothold to tempt our flesh. We are born as a natural man, with specifics needs to be met. The natural man has three major components: the body, the soul and the spirit. The body “needs” to be touched, fed, to be free from pain, to rest, and to work (or exercise). The soul is made up of our mind, emotions and will. The soul has needs that are controlled by what we think, how we feel and what we want. These things motivate us and/or affect the decisions we make on a daily basis. That’s why lust is such an effective tool of the enemy.
Satan knows how to use lust to play on our body and soul. If we know Jesus as our Savior and Lord, our spirit is awakened to understand the conflict between how we were born (the natural man) and how we are to be as the spiritual man. Lust affects both the natural and the spiritual man. The only difference is that the Christian senses the conviction greater and has the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome it more easily. And understand that conviction is a good thing…not bad. Without conviction, lust would continually lead us into sin and sin causes death. As we said before, for the natural man, it is an eternal death, separation from God. For the spiritual man, it is a death of all that God has for you here on earth.
Lust is a desire in our flesh that must be kept under the control of the Holy Spirit living within us. When the Bible tells us to flee from lust (1 Corinthians 6:9) it points out the dangers that come from allowing lust to control our decisions and behaviors (Romans 6:12). When we are lured into temptation, this almost always involves a component of lust on our part. When we act on our lusts, we fall into sin. Temptation in and of itself is not a sin. We can resist temptation by identifying these tactics used by the enemy. However, sin still needs to be forgiven and forgiveness only comes from Jesus. Jesus alone saves sinners.
Sinners need a Savior. But sinners keep sinning because it is their nature to sin. That is why Paul says in Romans 7:18-19, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” Jesus, as our Savior, saves us from our sin. Jesus, as our Lord, wants us as sinners to be dependent on Him. As sinners, we will not become sinless in behavior, but we do become guiltless of our sin as we grow in our relationship with the Lord. Sin hurts, destroys and kills the sinner. Sin brings death--the death of dreams, the death of the peace of God and death to a spiritual life set apart by God.
Jesus: Our Answer to Defeat Satan's Strategies
God sent His Son to free us from all our sins, but Satan fights us to keep us in bondage of it. He keeps us from truly embracing God’s mercy and grace. Jesus can and does set us free from the bondage of sinful desires, lusts, and idolatries. Victory came through the victory of the One who endured the same temptations that we endure here on earth and overcame them for us.
Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ temptations. Luke 4:1-13 describes how Jesus was tempted. Satan tried to entice Jesus with pride and lust to be like God. Jesus responded each time with the truth of God's goodness.
Jesus came to earth as a man and experienced the complete essence of all temptation. He understands our struggles and our sufferings because He struggled and suffered too. The difference is that Jesus overcame them and has given us the power to do the same. Hebrews 2:18 says, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Satan used every scheme and strategy on Jesus just as he uses on us. We need to learn from how Jesus handled Satan’s temptations and we need to use the power God gives us in the Holy Spirit to stand against Satan’s tricks and lies (Ephesians 6:10-12).
The more we understand the enemy, the easier it is to recognize his tactics to not fall into his pit of hell right here on earth. Lust and pride will take us down. They go hand in hand with the desires of the flesh, the teachings of the world and the ways of the devil. Jesus addressed the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life with the Word of God in each of the temptations Satan used against Him. If the Living Word of God (Jesus) needed to quote the Written Word of God (the scriptures) to overcome the tactics of the enemy, how much more do we need to cling to, memorize, meditate and claim the Word of God in our struggle against sin?
How to Fight Against and Overcome Temptations
- "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Matthew 26:41
- "clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." Romans 13:14
- "walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." Galatians 5:16
We can know the Word of God and have a great prayer life and still not be able to fight effectively. Why? Because we cannot always objectively evaluate ourselves. We become limited by our own spiritual blindness in things that we think are okay but are not. We deal with spiritual ignorance in not really understanding the ways of God.
Fear: Satan's Strategy Against Faith
A major tactic of Satan that he uses against us is fear. Fear is in direct opposition to faith. Fear kills our faith. Even though 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” fear strikes our minds first. Faith stems from the heart but has to be thought through in the mind before we act on it. Fear can paralyze us. We can only begin to fight against fear when we know where it comes from. We are instructed in the Bible to fear the Lord, in reference and respect. We are not to fear the lies and deceptions of our enemy. Satan is a master at hiding his identity and masking his strategies. And, therefore, Jesus told His disciples (us!) to pray “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
When fear is brought into the light, it loses its power over us. What tactics of fear does Satan use against you? Bring them into the light and pray over them. Pray 2 Timothy 1:7 back to the Lord and know in faith that the Lord is not responsible for creating the fears that you are experiencing. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control" 2 Timothy 1:7.
How to Respond to Satan's Attacks
1 Peter 5:8 says to be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Satan is seeking someone to devour. Your areas of weakness are the areas where he will attack you. We have to pray to have eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:9-11). We need to ask in prayer to be made as “wise as serpents but to be gentle as a dove” (Matthew 10:16). We need to beg God to remove any spiritual blindness and complacency to overcome through the name of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit and by the blood of Jesus.
The Bible makes an important distinction between condemnation and conviction. The enemy condemns us—“Christian, you are worthless! How could God love you when you just did that?” Condemnation drives us away from God. But, the Bible tells us: “Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Conviction, on the other hand, drives us towards God. The simple prayer, “Oh, God, be merciful to me a sinner” is a prayer of conviction, which drives us towards God and seeks His mercy, love, and power to overcome Satan, the world and our flesh. Be victorious in Him! Be happy in Him! Be fulfilled in Him!
Hebrews 4:14-16 say “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” These verses bring hope as we know that no sin can keep us from coming to the Lord because Jesus is our High Priest. He has made us clean before the throne of God to ask for anything and to keep pressing on because our sins are not held against us any longer.
Get your eyes off yourself and on your High Priest. We achieve victory not by our works of righteousness but because of His mercy. Focus on His mercy, not your works. Jesus overcame, God sees you through His victory so that you can have victory in life regardless of what you are struggling with. God wants you to pray. He wants you to ask, He wants you to have all that God has promised you through His Son, for you are not a slave (to sin) but a child of God and your Dad (Abba Daddy) absolutely loves you, is committed to you and wants you to be blessed abundantly.
A Prayer Against Satan's Attacks
Father God, we praise you for your love and faithfulness towards your children. We praise you for being a perfect, holy, trustworthy God that is bigger than all the evil we experience here on earth. We ask that you give us eyes to see when satan is before us, hearts to hate evil and the desire to flee from its presence. We ask that you would not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from satan's evil strategies and draw us closer to yourself. We ask for the long-expected Jesus to come quickly and make all things new. We ask these things His precious name. Amen. - Beth Anne Baus
Taken from the Bible study Spiritual Warfare by Tonilee Adamson and Bobbye Brooks, and used by permission of Daily Disciples.
Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc., founded by Tonilee Adamson and Bobbye Brooks, embraces a vision to reach the world for Christ by teaching others how to be His daily disciples. Their mission is to evangelize the lost and to re-awaken the saved to live lives empowered by the Word of God and His Holy Spirit, and to teach and to train those who desire to grow, to serve and to have all that God has for them…encouraging everyone to be a daily disciple of Jesus Christ. From Bible studies to daily devotionals to daily radio programs to a comprehensive discipleship program, Bobbye & Tonilee have a passion to help others apply the Word