Updated: Nov 7, 2018
Contrary to popular belief, the Devil is excited when you try new things and take on new challenges. He loves that initial spark of energy. He has a deep affection for the moment when you take a step toward your destiny. He gets excited about the prospect of destroying the “good work [God] has begun in you” (Philippians 1:6) and ensuring you never reap your harvest. He celebrates these opportunities because, it is here in these moments, that a few well planned attacks can disable you forever.
Unlike God, the Devil is not omnipotent. He has limited resources and power. He is in a race against time. When you step into something new you are at your weakest. In this new challenge, there is no history of past success from which you can draw strength. Acting only on faith, you may have to spend weeks, months, or even years before you see the fruits of your labor. Momentum is non-existent.
The Devil must complete his sabotage before God shows up! God rewards acts of faith and with each reward you grow into a stronger, bolder, warrior for God. Soon acting on faith will become second nature and then the Devil is screwed.
To conserve his limited resources, the Deceiver has become an expert in guerrilla warfare. He cannot afford a full frontal assault. It may raise your defenses requiring too much of his precious time and effort. He prefers open doors as opposed to locked gates. Often he appears as a friend (Proverbs 27:6) or an adviser offering compliments and seemingly wise advice (1 Corinthians 1:26-27). From this position of influence, he will weave lies and distort the truth.
The Devil tends to rely only on a few strategies recycled and repackaged for his target audience. The Bible does an excellent job of revealing his playbook and with some study, one can be prepared to fight and win. Knowledge of the word of God allows us to “resist the devil, [and] he will flee from [us].”(James 4:7).
Perhaps the best example of the Devil's tactics can be found in an interaction between the Devil and Jesus. Alone in the desert after forty days of fasting, the Devil comes to tempt Jesus. In the three temptations of Christ, we see the Devil's core strategies for stealing our harvest.
Appeal to Ego
The Devil test Jesus saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:1-11)
Because of the various ways this tactic can be repackaged, it is particularly effective.
Positive thinking, self reliance, and self confidence are residual effects of this trick of the Devil. These concepts all emphasize the “self” over a reliance on God.
Perhaps God has had favor on your family and you have experienced some success. You may even have significant resources at your disposal. As you approach your next challenge, the Devil points to all your hard work and past success. He hints, that you do not need to pray; you don’t need to trust God. After all, “you are kind of a ’big deal’ and you got this.” Together you revel in your accomplishments and push forward - full steam ahead.
But, Jesus answered the Devil saying, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” In other words, while you may have the power to provide your own bread; bread is not sufficient. It is the word of God that gives life to any endeavor. No matter if you are King David or the leader of a Fortune 500 company, the lesson is still the same. When you stop relying on God and start trusting your “own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) the end is near and the Devil has won the battle.
God is not God
Next the Devil says to Jesus, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7).
The Devil often attempts to humanize God. He uses this perspective to redefine our relationship to God. In the case above, he creates a scenario in which God is a pupil being tested and places us in the role of teacher; testing God.
In reality, we are the pupil. We are called to “be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind[s]” (Romans 12:2). Study will reveal that the “Lord do[es] not change” (Malachi 3:6) and that we can have confidence in him. While circumstances may require God’s supernatural intervention, no tests are required! “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). Therefore real power is found in trusting not in testing.
An Easier Alternative
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
It is in weakness that we are transformed. This transformation is often a painful process that the Devil would like to derail before any positive results can be realized. Therefore, he comes offering an apparently simpler, easier, path. In our ease, we learn nothing and the Devil’s goal of derailing our growth in Christ is achieved.
To tempt Christ, the Devil offered all the kingdoms of the world. For us, the trade is often much less. We are willing to trade a brownie for the promise we made to ourselves and with it our burgeoning self confidence. With each broken promise, we are choosing to worship the “other” instead of growing in Christ. Consistently defeated, we become weaklings that will never challenge the Devil’s grip on our society and culture. For mere trinkets, our transformation and testimony is compromised.
The alternative is clear. We will “walk through the darkest valley[s] ”, but in our pain and difficulty we should “fear no evil” for our God is with us; he will comfort us (Psalm 23:4). “For Christ’s sake, [we can] delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when [we are] weak, then [we are] strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Overtime, our experience with God’s provision and strength will provide us with the confidence needed to boldly take back our power from the great Deceiver. This transformation is what the Devil fears most, an army of men and women who through trial and persecution have developed the faith of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).