"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
Sometimes it feels like the devil is actively messing up our lives. Our circumstances overwhelm and our relationships unravel under the pressure. Jesus warned us that there would be trouble in this world and he prayed for us to have protection from the evil one. He prays in John 17:15, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one." Not only do we face our own shortcomings, the devil would like nothing more than to trip us up; we need to be aware of how he works to keep him from gaining a foothold in our lives and families.
Distraction is one of the tools in the Devil's arsenal that regularly takes us out of the game. Many good things distract and pull us away from God's plan for us. Our society idolizes busyness, as if doing just anything results in valuable accomplishment. We spend hours keeping up with everything on our screens, we strive to keep things Pinterest perfect, and we run our children from one event to the next as we try to give them the best of everything. Yet how much of it matters? In our hurry we lose sight of the truly important and opportunities for serving God's kingdom are missed. God has called us to be still and acknowledge that he is Lord, but we struggle to make time to tune in to God's agenda as we are too busy with our own. Invest it what will matter years down the road.
Delay is one of the tools the Devil uses to keep us from getting around to the work that God has called us to do. We think that we should wait for the best time, or until we feel qualified to do things in the perfect way. Delays have a way of multiplying, and before long the opportunity has passed us by. When you sense God's leading, choose to act instead of delay. Responding quickly with scruffy hospitality is better than good intentions that never get acted upon.
We all have a vision for how we want things to be, but our expectations are often not reality. Discouragement is one way that the devil robs us of joy and undermines our faith. Facing closed doors weighs down our hearts, and we miss how God uses closings to direct our paths to new openings. We feel defeated and fixate on not getting what we hoped for, losing sight of how God is at work even in the struggles. Focusing our eyes on our despair means losing sight of the source of our hope. Choose to focus on our faithful God rather than the disappointments in the situation. No situation is hopeless when God is present.
The devil is called the Father of Lies and he delights in twisting truths and obscuring our view of how God is at work in this world. The devil twists our perspectives and undermines our faith by encouraging us to filter our perceptions. As our eyes focus on our struggles, we miss the perspective that our loving God is still in control. As our ears expect disappointment, we twist comments into insults and miss how deeply God loves us. Distortions amplify our existing problems and provoke new ones. Distorted thinking causes us to see ourselves as a victim of our circumstances rather than as an empowered child of God with a mission in his world. Keep your eyes focused on God to hold things in perspective.
Questions, hesitations, and doubts are common to all of us. They can lead us deeper into faith, spurring us on to deeper understanding. They can also be an avenue the devil uses to undermine our faith if we let them fester. Doubt can erode our faith if we fail to bring them before God. Wrestle with your questions. Read books and talk with mentors. In hiding in our doubts, we isolate from God and let our doubts percolate into something destructive. Christianity is built on history, not wishful thinking; it can withstand a little scrutiny. God is not afraid of our questions and he can easily withstand even our anger. He can transform our doubts into faith when we honestly carry our concerns to him.
The Devil may be active in this world, but Christ has conquered all the powers of evil. These tools of the devil are devious, but as we recognize them, we discover that Christ has overcome. John 16:33 Jesus tells us, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Christ has conquered evil, and as the Spirit empowers us, we go forward well-equipped to handle the devil's snares.