The young pastor was sharp, educated and relevant, so I was surprised when he offered the overused revelation:
“God has a plan for your life….”
The newbies were probably thinking, Good point—wonder what it is….
But we lifers yawned, Yeah, heard this before—checking out now….
We have been in church since before we could crawl and might feel as though we could deliver the same sermon in a state of slumber. We are sadly a tad cocky when it comes to the popular guys—Adam, Noah, Moses. A fig leaf, an ark and a staff no longer evoke the feelings of awe they once did.
Actually, did they ever?
But I judged the man with the mic on his cheek too early, and he continued with a whack to the head….
“…and so does Satan.”
Hmm. Never thought of that before. My focus was refocused and I wanted more.
I have always known Satan resembles a lion, pacing around in search of his next victim. But that is all I have ever pictured his doing—just searching and randomly pouncing on the weak parts of our lives.
The thought of his actually mapping out a plan for my life is new. I know he’d love for me to cheat, fall, fail… but I’ve never contemplated how intentional he is. His ultimate goal? The destruction of my soul. And yours.
He and his vigilant army work as a team, prowling… plotting… planning. And they are almost always undercover. They know my name, address, weak spots, likes, pride triggers, and exactly how to slowly push me like a loose Jenga block.
And I dare say they love the weakest blocks as much as the strongest. However, I’m not dumb enough to think those of us who describe ourselves as the average ones in the middle are immune.
And that should scare us a bit. Not to drive us toward living in fear, but to drive us into action.
I don’t ever want to say, “I didn’t see it coming.” Being caught off guard has never made me feel intelligent or prepared, so I let this concept soak.
- I was blind-sided in basketball, and it resulted in a black eye.
- I was blind-sided behind the wheel, and it resulted in five totaled cars.
- I was blind-sided in a friendship, and it resulted in hurt… distance… silence.
In my old suburban life I do not recall any conversations about spiritual warfare. Though my husband and I faced a normal amount of frustrations and setbacks, I never acknowledged the angelic and demonic beings who were battling for my life.
Embarrassment rose when I finally discovered what spiritual warfare actually was. I accepted Jesus when I was five; shouldn’t I have known about this before my 30s? My sweet baptist church taught many things in the ‘80s, but how crafty Satan is was not one of them. I never heard much about hell either; I just knew I did not want to go there because it sounded like a big blazing mess.
Mature Christians talked of such things like they were common place, and I was still wrapping my brain around foreign ideas of angels and demons duking it out… over me.
We moved from the U.S. to Baja, Mexico, and felt more spiritual attacks than ever, including illness in our kids, marriage challenges, and difficulties within our ministry. Satan probably hated how we were full-time, head-first, all-in. Once we started paying attention and acknowledging he could be the force behind these attacks, we felt like we had more power over them.
I now realize Satan is incredibly intentional. I never gave him enough credit for the ways he pushes, pokes and messes with our minds. He is subtle, and loves a good head game. That’s usually where my battlefield sits—right between my ears.
In the past few years real-life examples have stacked up and become great reminders.
Almost every time my husband goes out of town something breaks on our property. A burned-out water pump had a dozen of us without showers or toilets, a dead freezer housed thawing food, and our drinking water tank sunk into the mud nearly dumping 175 gallons. Each time the resulting chaos left me feeling wiped out, inconvenienced and picked on. While I was frowning was Satan smirking?
On a mission trip deep into Mexico, our youngest got the worst ear ache ever. Over an hour from our base, in the middle of a migrant camp and without any medicine, he cried and intermittently screamed for two hours while I held him and waited for our group to finish their outreach. Of course this kept me from doing any ministry and Satan was probably thrilled.
I know not every bad day or circumstance can be blamed on our enemy; we live in a fallen world. Some trials are sent by God to aid in our growth. But when Satan is on the move, he is constantly searching for a soft spot to launch his evil arrows.
Do you know where your “soft spots” are?
Satan’s plots are changing and ever-growing. In Ministry magazine, Ellen White writes about Satan’s growth.
“Satan hasn’t been stupid and careless since his fall, but has been learning. The power of Satan now to tempt and deceive is ten-fold greater than it was in the days of the apostles. His power has increased, and it will increase, until it’s taken away. His wrath and hate grow stronger as his time to work draws near its close.”
His power is increasing? His wrath and hate grow stronger? Makes sense—anyone in the midst of a drawn-out competition is thinking about how to win. In our home all it takes is competitive boys and a game of winner-takes-all Monopoly. Frustrations rise, strategies change, attitudes fall. Ahh, family game night.
Spiritual warfare is blazing all around us, and perhaps within us. I’m guessing most of us do not wake up with our first thoughts on angels and demons. Whether we think of them or not, they are there—battling for our minds, souls, marriages, children.
How do I live my life when the sun is out, friends show up and cold drinks are near? Am I even aware of someone plotting evil against me? Or am I still floating through life with my, “I’m a good Christian and God will protect me” attitude?
I think Satan loves that attitude. It’s laissez-faire, permissive and lax. It gives him plenty of time to sneak down the halls of our lives, creep around corners, and attack when we’re unaware. Of course he is hoping we will become or remain ignorant of his reality so his assaults will be blamed on somebody or something else. Isn’t it human nature? It has to be somebody’s fault.
What’s a Christian to do? I believe our first response should always be prayer; I also believe praying with a confidante can be extremely beneficial. By voicing a struggle to a trusted friend, you can expose Satan’s schemes and remove power from his efforts. He hates vulnerability that leads to authentic relationships of encouragement. And when we’re vulnerable we tear down layers as we build up the body of Christ. “Where two or more are gathered,” right?
Satan cannot read our thoughts but he most certainly can hear us when we speak. The name of Jesus irritates him to no end, so pray in Jesus’ name with boldness!
Second, like Jesus did alongside the early apostles, command Satan to leave. As believers, we don’t need to fear Satan. But we do need to realize and exercise the authority God has given us over him. Jesus tells us in Mark 16:17, “They will cast out demons in My name….”
A good reminder for me? Satan roars like a lion, but is not actually one.
Think ‘wimpy wizard’ in The Wizard of Oz. Most of us thought the castle housed a gigantic beast. When we found out it was only a booming megaphone with the power to turn any voice into a tool of intimidation, the wizard didn’t seem so scary anymore.
He was reduced.
Satan’s power is strong but it has limitations, and we would be wise to stand up to such a liar. Haven’t you always wanted to shut up the ultimate bully? Bam.
It’s time to stop blaming broken relationships, church politics, and terrible attitudes on “bad days,” or “bad luck.” It’s time to pay attention to the evil lurking in this world and why Satan, the “Father of Lies,” would love to take us out. It’s time for us to step up and be the prepared ones who he’d rather not mess with.
It’s time to be intentional. Because Satan isn’t stupid.
“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up.” ~ 1 Peter 5:8-9 The Message
How do you keep your guard up?