Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

Identifying Your Opponent

  • David Jeremiah Turning Point
  • Published Aug 23, 2005
Identifying Your Opponent

Edward I, known as "Longshanks" because of his great stature, was king of England from 1274 until 1307. The Scots did not take kindly to his desire to make Scotland subject to his rule. Edward defeated the Scots in 1296, but in 1297 a Scottish commoner by the name of William Wallace led a rebellion against England to win back Scotland's freedom.

Sound familiar? The epic film Braveheart told the story of Wallace's patriotic struggle to keep Scotland free. From the film, we learn the value of knowing the warfare strategies of one's enemy. At Stirling, hundreds of English archers lined up facing the Scottish ranks and, as was their predictable custom, let fly a storm of longbow arrows. The Scots simply raised their shields and formed a barrier-like covering over themselves to absorb the incoming arrows. The English always started with arrows, so the Scots were ready.

On another occasion, when the English charged the Scots on horseback, the commoners held their position until the horses, coming at full speed, were a mere ten feet from them. They then lifted up hundreds of long, thin saplings which lay hidden in the grass in front of them, the sharp points of which were driven deep into the chests of the galloping horses. They knew horses were coming, so they prepared weapons that would defeat horses. As the horses went down, the Scots dispatched their riders easily.

Finally, on the night before a battle, the Scots soaked the ground over which the English would be approaching with flammable oil and pitch. The next day, when the wide, straight lines of English troops began marching toward the Scots, the latter sent flaming arrows over the heads of the advancing English, setting afire a wide swath of the battlefield, cutting off the English from their reinforcements.

We don't know, of course, whether the Scots actually made the English look this outmaneuvered or not in real life. We do know that the English ultimately extended their rule over Scotland and executed William Wallace for his insurrection. But in the film, the way the Scottish took advantage of the predictable English warfare strategies was truly inspiring. (We like to see the underdog win, don't we?)

You've Joined an Army
You've heard the question asked by pacifists, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" The same question could be asked about many in the church today. The church has been called to a spiritual battle, but it seems that not many have shown up for active duty.

Though our battle is spiritual, that is, unseen, it is no less real than any battle ever fought between nations on the battlefields of the world. In fact, there is biblical evidence to suggest that the real battles in the universe are first spiritual, then physical (Daniel 10). What is acted out between the nations of the world may simply be reflections of the struggles going on between Satan and his angelic forces and the heavenly hosts of God- struggles in which the destiny of the human race and planet earth hangs in the balance.

The apostle Paul says that we do not fight our spiritual battles as the world fights its physical battles (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). We fight a spiritual enemy, Satan, who has schemes and strategies that he employs against us (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). Therefore, we must know our enemy and defend ourselves accordingly in order to gain and keep the victory.

Know Your Enemy
The Barna Research Group did extensive surveys in 2001 to determine the beliefs of various categories of Americans about Satan. They discovered that . . .

  • 58 percent of adults say that the Devil is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.
  • 45 percent of professing born-again Christians deny Satan's existence.
  • 68 percent of Catholics said the Devil was non-existent.
  • 60 percent of Protestant mainline denomination attendees denied the Devil exists.
  • 50 percent of Protestant non-mainline church attendees denied the Devil exists.
  • The most startling number among Barna's research is that almost half of "born-again" Christians-those who have a high regard for Scripture-say the Devil doesn't exist. What hope is there for Bible-believing Christians to learn about their enemy and his strategies if they don't believe he exists? Is it any wonder that many Christians today lead defeated lives?

    Thankfully, the Bible is not nearly as confused as the church is about the enemy of Christians. There are five aspects of our enemy's being which we can easily describe and which will help you defend yourself against him.

    1. Satan's Personality
    Satan was apparently a beautiful, shining angelic being who had access to the very throne room of God (Job 1:6). In Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, we have actual and typological descriptions of this "Lucifer, son of the morning." The language of Ezekiel 28:12-19 describes Lucifer's great beauty and wisdom, calling him an "anointed cherub." Because of his anointed role in the heavenlies and his great beauty, his heart was lifted up in pride and he was cast out of heaven by God (Ezekiel 28:17). To this day Satan remains a creature filled with arrogance, pride, and rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-14). If Satan's personality is characterized by pride, what attitude do you think he would tempt Christians with?

    2. Satan's Position
    Satan remains a powerful creature on this earth and in the realm of the heavenlies. He is referred to in Ephesians 2:2 as the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." He is also a powerful ruler: First John 5:19 says "the people of the world . . . continue in the grip of the Evil One" (The Message). Finally, he is referred to as the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4), meaning he is an object of worship. So even though Satan is a defeated foe that cannot harm Christians (James 4:7), he is still temporarily powerful. If Satan still has power, who do you think he will most try to intimidate and make fearful with his power?

    3. Satan's Power
    We are not to fear Satan's power; only to recognize it. Just as a healthy recognition of electricity's power causes us to use appropriate protective measures, so acknowledging Satan's power makes us depend on Christ in whom we are safe. Satan is so powerful that he is able to hold men captive to do his will if they have not been freed from him by faith in Christ. The willful indulgence in sin on our part can give the Devil's power a foothold in our life (Ephesians 4:26-27). If sin gives Satan access, what kind of behavior would he tempt us to rationalize as being "not so bad?"

    4. Satan's Purposes
    Hell is prepared for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Out of fury toward God, he will try to take with him to hell as many of God's human creatures as he can. That is his purpose. The verbs used in the Bible to describe how purposeful he is in achieving his goals are these: he beguiles, seduces, opposes, resists, hinders, buffets, tempts, persecutes, deceives, and blasphemes. If Satan is willing to do everything possible to take people to hell, how serious should we be in defending ourselves and loved ones from him?

    5. Satan's Plans
    Satan is three things: he is, above all, the great liar and deceiver (John 8:44). Second, he is the great divider, seen when he took a portion of heaven's angels with him in his rebellion against God (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). And third, he is the great destroyer (Revelation 9:11). Satan will destroy whatever he can: the church, a life, a marriage, a ministry. It is his mission to break up and tear apart the work of God in this world.

    The goal of every Christian should be to learn the identity, plans, and purposes of the Devil-and to stand firm against him! (Ephesians 6:13-18; James 4:7).

    After defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, Lord Wellington said, "Our men were not braver than the enemy. They were brave five minutes longer." Fortunately, we don't depend on our bravery and strength to defeat Satan, but on that of Christ who is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4). And yet our faith and perseverance in battle are required. Remaining faithful until the battle is over-five minutes longer-will allow us to see the ultimate defeat of our Enemy.

    This article was excerpted from Turning Points, Dr. David Jeremiah's devotional magazine. Call Turning Point at 1-800-947-1993 for your complimentary copy of Turning Points.