That should describe our attitude toward Satan (1 Peter 5:8). I’d bet for many of us, though, we rarely ever think about him. I’d bet we’re more alert about the weather, shopping discounts, or our favorite sports teams.
It’s pretty inconceivable that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). But what’s really inconceivable is that 60% of Christians don’t believe he’s real. How can we be alert to something that we don’t even believe in? And that’s Satan’s great desire. To have us forget about him, and eventually, to disbelieve in him.
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
But the Bible is clear that Satan is real. He is not merely a symbol of evil, but an active, intelligent being with a desire to ruin us. He wants us to question God’s character and to doubt our identity. And like a master chess player, his plotting is subtle, clever, and often unnoticed.
Here, I’d like to offer five truths to provoke our alertness against Satan.
1) Satan is a liar.
Ultimately, Satan is a liar. And he’s really good at it too. He takes the truth of God and he twists it. This is why he asked Eve in the garden, “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). When he tempted Jesus, he even used Scripture: “It is written…” (Matthew 4:6). When he was hurled down to the earth he was called, “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Consider how Jill sees it in The Last Battle: “And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies’ plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger.” — C.S. Lewis
2) Satan fears prayer.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Prayer is our most effective weapon against the strongholds of Satan. This is why Jesus looked at a demon-possessed boy and said, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29). This is amazing because Jesus himself prayed on our behalf, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). And what’s Jesus doing right now? Praying for us! Praying that our faith may not fail (Luke 22:32, Romans 8:34).
Samuel Chadwick said, “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.”
3) Satan has been disarmed by the cross.
When Jesus was nailed to the cross, Satan’s authority over the present age was disarmed. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). “Through his death he destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14). “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The cross left Satan crippled.
Francis Frangipane said, “Jesus defeated Satan in Gethsemane on the cross, not by directly confronting the devil, but by fulfilling the destiny to which He had been called. The greatest battle that was ever won was accomplished by the apparent death of the victor, without even a word of rebuke to His adversary!”
4) Satan is subject to God.
In the Bible, Satan is not described as a formidable opponent to God. He’s more like a really mean dog on a leash. We can find comfort in this, knowing that “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 1115:3), which is why Jesus said with confidence, “Be gone, Satan! . . . Then the devil left him” (Matthew 4:10-11). Jesus asserts that he “drives out demons by the finger of God”—merely by a finger! (Luke 11:20).
A.W. Tozer said, “I’m not afraid of the devil. The devil can handle me—he’s got judo I never heard of. But he can’t handle the One to whom I’m joined; he can’t handle the One to whom I’m united; he can’t handle the One whose nature dwells in my nature.”
5) Satan is not everywhere.
This one has been on my heart lately. God is omnipresent. Satan is not. Satan has an army, but he cannot be everywhere all at once. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). If we resist him, he’ll move on. He’ll feel like he’s wasting time on us. When Jesus resisted, Satan fled (Matthew 4:10-11). When Satan went to torment Job, “he went out from the presence of God” (Job 1:12). When Satan sinned in heaven, “God cast [him] to the ground” (Ezekiel 28:17).
John Gill said, “Satan knows not what to do with [the one who resists], he is puzzled, baffled, and confounded; such he leaves, from such he flees; he does not like the power of prayer, nor the strength of faith, nor the sharpness of the two-edged sword, the word of God, nor the humble believer’s staff, bag, scrip, and sling.”
“Your life is hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:3), and “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And so, be alert. Wage war. Make Satan feel like you’re a waste of his time.
“If you yield to Satan in the least, he will carry you further and further . . . A stone at the top of a hill, when it begins to roll down, ceases not till it comes to the bottom.” — Thomas Manton