How to Recognize and Deal with the Enemy as He Seeks to Invade Us through Distractions, Conflict and Division
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV
In our previous post, we introduced the idea of identifying and dealing with the enemy in the camp; the notion that we have an enemy and that he will do everything in his power to keep us from being and growing in a continual relationship with Jesus and therefore, separated from God.
We’ve acknowledged that, since the enemy has so many tools in his shed, we could chase this topic on any number of pathways.
In part 1 of this series, we looked at how our enemy, the devil tries to attack our identities and mindsets. If you haven’t had the chance yet to read or would like to review last week’s blog before proceeding, you may do so via this link.
This week, we’re going to continue by looking at several additional weapons the enemy uses to try and take us down; distractions, conflict and strife. We’ll show you how to spot these tactics and guard against or deal with them so the enemy ultimately fails in his attempt to derail you and undermine your relationship with Jesus.
Satan’s strategy of distraction is quite evident within today’s culture. Our attention spans have dwindled, and we can’t seem to focus for more than a few minutes at a time, especially when we sit down in prayer or to read God’s Word. But his strategy of distraction also seems to flow into our interactions with work, family and friends.
As rampant as ADD (attention deficit disorder) seems to be today, most of us don’t need a physician’s diagnosis to recognize that we seem to experience some level or form of it pretty regularly in our daily lives. I certainly don’t mean, in any way, to make light of or disrespect the diagnosis or those who genuinely suffer from it. But we seem to have become a people polarized to either extreme apathy or unrelenting busyness. It’s as though we’re losing our ability to focus, concentrate and vigorously pursue the good things God intends for us in our lives.
It’s been said that if the enemy can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.
Our enemy seems to have found a way to utilize our busyness and even the technology and gadgets we, ourselves have created to keep us from the things Christ counsels and calls us to.
When the Pharisees tried to stump Jesus by asking him which is the greatest commandment, Jesus boiled it down to two. (Matthew 22: 34-40; Mark 12:28). And yet, our maintaining our love of God with all of our heart, soul and mind and loving our neighbor as ourselves has proven to be really hard for most of us to focus upon and carry out.
…just a few examples:
- The devices that were designed in hopes of better connecting us have as/more often created in us individuals who are deficient if not inept at maintaining relationship; i.e., genuinely having focused dialogue and meaningful conversation with one another. Instead, we’re regularly distracted by some of the other isolating enticements they offer.
- Despite our Bibles and access to other useful tools and resources now being available in our palms or laps, as soon as one of these devices signals a notification, our attention is immediately drawn away to other things.
- We can be actively involved in study, meditation or even prayer, either on our own or in a study group and then, in an instant, distracted to focus on a completely unrelated (and often far less useful) other thing.
Of these distractions and our tendency to fall into these traps, David Jeremiah writes, “Satan creates all sorts of distractions to keep us from studying our Bibles, attending church and praying. He will do anything to keep us from realizing that Jesus has already defeated him at the cross (Colossians 2:15) and that we, in Christ, can overcome his schemes (Ephesians 6:11).”
When distractions from the enemy come, our friends at Abundant Life Church in Missouri suggest we try responding against him with some of the following weapons:
Get quiet before God and repent of the distractions. Ask Him to refocus your and your family’s minds on Him. Get into the Word and use verses that help renew and transform your thoughts.
Always remember who the real enemy is. It isn’t your schedule, work, activities, relationships, or even the other noise around you. The enemy uses those things to distract you, but God can use those places and people as grounds for His glory to be displayed. Satan doesn’t want you to notice the distractions because he knows that may be an opportunity to draw nearer to Jesus.
When the enemy goes hard after you or your family and friends by using distraction, one response is for us to get into and pray God’s Word. Even a few minutes at a time in God’s Word can bring amazing power and the ability to reset and refocus.
- “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”—Psalm 1:2-3 (emphasis added)
David’s words in Psalm 1 remind us of God’s promise to those who study and meditate on His Word. In Hebrew, the word meditate expands to mean “to ponder, think about, and murmur.” In other words, read the Word, think about what it says and how to apply it, and speak it out loud. God’s promise is that, if we will do this, in due season, we will bear fruit.
Ask God to plant His Word in your mind.
- Spending time in God’s Word—the seed (Luke 8:11-15)—plants it in your heart. Decide to get into God’s Word daily and tell those whom God has placed in your life what you are learning about Him, yourself, and others. And be an encourager by inviting them to do the same. It’s helpful to know that we’re not in this battle alone.
Ask God to remind you of the importance of being still.
- The distractions we face can cause our heads to spin and our hearts to be unsettled. Sitting still goes against our desire to check things off our to-do lists and keep moving. But it is important to make and set aside time to rest and be still. Sit in the quietness of God’s presence and peace. In the stillness of prayer is when God’s voice can best be heard. Dedicate 5-10 minutes at some point each day to simply being still and asking God to speak to your heart. Share what He says to you with fellow believers.
Two strategies Satan comes back to again and again are conflict and division. This should come as no surprise. They’re some of the most successful tools in his arsenal.
Oddly, in our present society and culture, there are people who just seem to crave conflict and constantly seek to stir up division – some even while claiming to be believers. Our Bible offers many examples of Pharisees seeking to practice and project their legalism on Jesus and others around him. Is that still happening today? Is Satan twisting the Word of God and our roles to serve his purposes? As believers, we’re called to act differently from the rest of the world, but to seek to build relationship and operate from a position or posture of love. Have you sometimes seen the enemy try and depict divisiveness as a badge of honor where it actually functions more readily as a tool of evil?
Where God seeks to unite his children; Satan seeks to stir up conflict and cause division among us.
It’s surprising if not alarming and somewhat sad at some of the seemingly really petty things we can find ourselves in conflict with others about.
How does the enemy manage to deceive us into these spats with one another?
The apostle James, believed to be the half-brother of Jesus wrote about it this way;
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. James 4:1-2
Really? At our age and stage of life, is it still our sins of desire and pride, our greed, our selfishness, our fragile egos and unresolved pain that threaten to derail even our Christian relationships with one another?
When we fall prey to the schemes and temptations of the enemy and choose to play his games, what do we get when we win?
Perhaps, more importantly, what do we lose? (…hits to our character and reputations, our sense of community, potentially even close friendships, other things?)
Here are some practical truths I’ve come across to battle conflict and division:
- You don’t need to catch everything that’s thrown at you. (Genesis 50: 20)
- Relationship is more valuable than preference. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
- You don’t need to be so easily offended. (1 Corinthians 4:3; 13:5; Proverbs 19:11)
- It is better to take time to respond than to react. (James 1:19; Romans 6:11-14)
- “Ask” more than you “tell.” You can try to be right all the time or you can be inquisitive and maybe learn something new or be an encourager. Proverbs 16:32; 21:23; 1 Corinthians 8:1)
- Seek to take the high road; it takes maturity to be the first to say (and mean), “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” (Colossians 3:13-14)
- Mirrors can be more instructive than binoculars. (Matthew 7:3)
- Actions speak louder than words. (1 John 3:18)
- What we focus on tends to expand. (Proverbs 4:25-27)
- There can be great value in asking some form of the question, “I wonder what in that person’s past has caused them to believe, act or speak that way?” (Proverbs 19:11)
- Fighting fire with fire almost never works and almost always damages relationship. (Colossians 3:8)
- In every situation or circumstance you encounter, you get to choose how you will respond. (Matthew 5: 39-41; James 1:5)
What might happen if more of us decided to become known as a person who “just seems to get along with everybody?” If you’d like to become that person, what steps will you need to take in your life to make this a reality?
I shared it in the previous post, but I think it’s an interesting perspective that bears repeating again as we close this post; John Piper has written, “God is sovereign over Satan. The devil does not have a free hand in this world. His complete defeat is coming and sure. But not yet. God intends that part of our preparation for heaven be a life of warfare with hell.”
Ultimately, it’s the things that we battle well in this world that make us stronger, better people.
But we’re not meant to go it alone.
We were all created for community.
Seek and gain professional and/or pastoral counsel where needed.
Sharing, learning, giving and receiving support to/from others remains one of our greatest defenses when the enemy strikes.
Absent an active, intentional, growing relationship with God, through His Son Jesus, we’re toast.
With Him, all things are possible.
The enemy knows it and it’s why he fights so hard in every aspect of our lives to separate us from our loving, heavenly creator and father.
Together we can, so together we must…
Right here with you,