Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might . . . to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. - Ephesians 6:10, 16a
My sons and I enjoy fishing. Our neighbor’s pond across the street affords us ample opportunity to toss in a line and hope for a few small sun perch. I’m no serious fisherman, mind you. No live worms for me. Leftover hot dog meat from the refrigerator usually does the trick . . . at least at the pond at our house.
But last summer we visited a Christian camp that circled a massive lake, stocked with larger varieties like bass and catfish. My boys and I, of course, couldn’t pass up the chance to try for the bigger catch. But we weren’t having much luck . . . until a man fishing near us saw my sad excuse for bait and offered to exchange it for something better.
He dislodged a tiny perch that one of my sons had just reeled in, affixed a much sturdier hook on the line, and then did something shocking: gashed that poor little fish right onto the hook. As bait!
“Try it now,” he said.
AAAA! We all were thoroughly flabbergasted and grossed out. (Actually, that was just me. My boys were thrilled by the whole bloody mess.) But sure enough, when we cast that perch into the water, my eleven year old was soon reeling in a five-pound bass.
A change in bait changed everything.
The enemy is a master at choosing the right kind of bait to snag you. Sure, he uses some overarching, one-size-fits-all tactics to disarm God’s people in general but he doesn’t use only one type of bait for every person, or even the same type of bait for any one individual over time. No, he carefully considers and calculates your current situation, taking into account your weaknesses and strengths, your interests and tendencies, your history and past abuses, everything. Then, utilizing this available information, He crafts a specific strategy to hook you and reel you in.
Don’t believe it? If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the battles your enemy wages against you – especially the most acute, consistent ones – possess a personality to them, an intimate knowledge of who you are and the precise pressure points where you can most easily be taken down. Random accident? Lucky guess? I don’t think so. These areas of greatest fear and anxiety in your life are clues to some important spiritual information. They reveal, among other things, that a personalized strategy has been insidiously put in place to destroy your vibrancy and render you defeated. It’s been drawn up on the blackboard by someone who knows from long experience how best to exploit what he views as your maximum areas of vulnerability.
That’s right. He has a plan. A strategy. A well thought-out approach.
Don’t believe for one second that the false ideologies of the culture (obsession with appearance, perceptions of worth, the redefinition of the family, all of it) have been developed by chance. The evil temptations that appeal to your specific desires are not accidental. The discord and disharmony that threaten your most valuable relationships are not coincidental. The temptations that tug at you during your weakest moments are not uncalculated. None of these things are happenstance. They are his deceptive tactics (and that of his evil entourage), specifically designed and personalized to keep you from experiencing abundant life.
So, once you become aware of the enemy’s strategy and begin to see his handiwork beneath the surface of your most trying life circumstances, you can not only begin to target the right enemy, but you can also start foreseeing some of his intentions and attacks. Then, you can be prepared beforehand, giving him little room to make you a casualty of war.
Listen to me: Satan is tricky, but he is not original. He’s had the same basic game plan since the beginning of time. And if you’ll be watching, you’ll see that sometimes the areas where he’s targeting you are the ones you’d already expect. Then you’ll be able to detect his secret plans before the attack unfolds, and you can sabotage his efforts to deceive and disable you by being proactive in prayer and girded in your spiritual armor.
So, examine yourself today. Take note of your strengths – because this is what the enemy will want to diffuse. And take note of your weaknesses – because this is what he’ll attempt to exploit.
Armed and dangerous.
* The Armor of God, a new 6-week Bible study, available Fall 2015.