In Part One of this series, we mentioned that the word “arena” refers to a place of contest or combat. We noted that in the spiritual realm the arena is that place where battles are fought for the souls of men, women, and children. We are all born into sin and darkness. This is Satan’s dominion, and he and those who serve him will do anything to ensure that as few as possible find the way out.
The world in which we live is the domain of darkness. The Bible makes it clear that anyone who does not receive Jesus as Savior and Lord remains under the control of Satan and those who serve him. This can be seen in verses such as 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV):
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
One of the enemy’s most powerful weapons is the ability to work covertly. Most of those under his control are completely unaware of their spiritual circumstances. They think they’re in control of their own lives and destiny. Unless something changes, the truth will only be clear to them when they die. According to John 14:6, without faith and trust in Christ unbelievers will enter eternity separated from God.
As unbelievers live on earth, some simply choose to ignore spiritual issues. Others embrace faith traditions that stand in contrast to the teaching of Jesus. Still others forcefully reject biblical faith and openly defy God and live as they wish. The sad part about this latter group is that they think they’re rebelling against God. In reality, they’re simply serving their master.
True spiritual rebellion takes place when an individual puts his or her faith in Jesus. At that moment, that person is freed from spiritual bondage to Satan and the domain of darkness. Here’s what Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV) says about what God has done for those who have genuine faith in Jesus:
He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Yes, the Christ follower still lives in this dark world, and yet through faith in Christ, the guidance and encouragement of God’s word, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with God and with other believers we can live outside the control of Satan and his servants. Only Christ followers have the freedom to choose to live in God’s love and to enjoy the fruit of living in God’s presence.
In Part Two of this series we noted that as Christ followers authentically live out the message of biblical faith in this world, they shine light into the darkness. We also noted that this cannot help but draw the attention of Satan and those who serve him.
I suspect that nothing enrages the enemies of God more than Christ followers. After all, they alone represent God’s plan for helping other people escape from the domain of darkness and Satan’s control. This being the case, Satan and those who serve him must know Christ followers well, and must seek to work against them in any way they can.
So how do the enemies of God work against Christ followers who choose to remain faithful in this dark world? How does Satan deal with those who represent his only threat in the spiritual arena?
It seems to me that Satan and his forces use three primary tactics in dealing with humans. We describe these below.
As noted, unbelievers are already under the control of Satan. The truth of God’s word is hidden from them and they are thus deceived. I suspect that the weakest among Satan’s forces are assigned to keep unbelievers happy in their current state. As long as they don’t come near the light of biblical faith, they likely draw little attention from God’s spiritual enemies.
The same tactic, deception, is likely skillfully used against those who come to Christ. Unless a believer is led by God’s word, he or she is open to all manner of deception. In Ephesians chapter four, Christ followers are encouraged to grow in biblical faith. In addition to reading and applying God’s word on our own, it’s also helpful to do so in fellowship with others who faithfully adhere to it. This includes those who have been gifted by God as teachers of sound biblical truth. It’s noted in Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV) that as we do so:
We will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
There’s no question that many who call themselves Christians are deceived to a significant degree. God alone knows which individuals are genuine believers who simply need to mature in true biblical faith, and which are not actually believers at all.
It’s likely that Satan’s servants spend a good deal of time seeking to deceive believers, and thus making them ineffective in sharing the light of biblical faith. But how do the enemies of God deal with those who are more mature in their faith, and who are thus more effective in shining the light of biblical faith in the domain of darkness?
The world is full of distractions for everyone. Christ followers are still plagued by our sinful nature as we wait to be united with Christ in heaven. Only then will we be fully free from temptations that abound in this world. Until then, we are subject to the distractions of this world, and need to fight hard against them.
There’s no question that we all suffer from time to time with being distracted, and thus don’t shine the light as brightly as we otherwise could. I suspect that some of Satan’s most sophisticated and celebrated forces are assigned to keep Christ followers as distracted from faithfulness to Christ as they can. Some of their most potent weapons involve lust, power, profit, reputation, fear, anxiety, anger, division, etc. To the degree they can keep us distracted with these weapons, we are not as effective in helping others to see the light of God’s truth as we could be.
For Christ followers who are led by God’s word and the Holy Spirit and are thus enabled to recognize and avoid deception, and who by God’s grace and empowerment alone have been able to fight off most distractions, I suspect that Satan has only one option left. These are Satan’s most powerful enemies, and he will do all he can to destroy them. An example may be seen in the words Jesus spoke to Peter, then known as Simon, just before Jesus was to die on the cross. In Luke 22:31-32 (NIV) Jesus said:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
The Christ follower who seeks to authentically live for Christ in this domain of darkness, in this spiritual arena, does so at great cost. Few beside they and their Lord will know that cost. And yet, time and again Jesus encourages us to live in this way. What’s more, Jesus says that even as Satan throws his worst at us, we can know the peace that passes all understanding as noted in Philippians 4:4-7. Jesus also reminds us in John 16:33 (NIV) that:
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
If you’re striving to remain faithful to Christ and seeking to authentically live out biblical faith in this dark world, you likely know what it means to be targeted by Satan’s forces. As you fight to remain faithful, please be encouraged by reading Ephesians 6:10-18. You can do so by clicking here.
Finally, let’s recall the encouragement offered in the book of Hebrews. In chapter eleven we’re introduced to many who authentically served God at great cost. And in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV), we can find great encouragement in the following words:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
May God grant us grace and peace as we strive to love and serve him and to help others in this fallen world. And may we encourage one another as we await the return of Jesus and the end of the domain of darkness. Amen.