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Many of us think that Satan’s works are pretty obvious.  ‘Oh, I’d know if I were being tempted’.  Yet like Christian error and heresy, subtlety is ever present.  It only takes a tweak here and there to fall into sin and unorthodox belief. 

Deus Pro Nobis (the title of which is taken from Romans 8:31 — ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’) has an illuminating post, ‘Discerning Satan’s Strategy’.  It illustrates Satan’s gentle snares and velvet traps.  After all, if he were obvious in his temptations, we’d be sure to say no!

The Revd Stephen Yuille, pastor of Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas, tells us in his post how Satan operates.  Excerpts follow (emphases in bold are mine):

He tempts us where we’re weakest. He’s like the Amalekites, who attacked the Israelites. “He attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you” (Deut. 25:18). He knows our weaknesses. He tempts the ambitious man with power, the passionate man with beauty, the covetous man with wealth, the proud man with praise.

He tempts us when we’re weakest. David was a passionate man. As long as he was engaged in God’s work, his passions were controlled. The moment he succumbed to idleness, he was an easy target. He became unsettled and frustrated. His passions flared. And we know the rest of the story. What makes you a sitting duck? It may be idleness, carelessness, or weariness.

He tempts us by degrees. Satan will never appear to you in all his vileness. Why? He doesn’t want to shock you. He wants you to think you’re safe. And so, he tempts by degrees. He didn’t immediately tempt David to commit adultery. If he had, David would have been alarmed.

He tempts us with what we least suspect. Job loses all that he has. He loses his children. He loses his livestock. He loses his health. These were temptations. Yet Lot experienced his greatest temptation when his wife turned said to him: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). At times, the very things we least suspect become the greatest means of temptation.

He tempts us when we’re melancholy. I’m not talking about clinical depression. I’m talking about seasons of melancholy. There are many factors that produce these. It may be diet, weather, or any number of factors. My point is this: melancholy gives Satan an advantage. Thomas Watson explains why. (1) It renders us unfit for spiritual duties. We fail to derive any benefit from them. (2) It makes us side with Satan in concluding that God doesn’t love us. (3) It breeds discontentment. This leads to impatience, ingratitude, or bitterness.

Rev’d Yuille has much more to read, with scriptural illustrations.  A most worthwhile post.

In my own life, faith is like a muscle.  Too many secular distractions — an extended holiday, perhaps — weaken that muscle. That may also be true for many of us. Letting up on prayer or Bible study can affect our relationship with Christ and His Church.  We become more worldly, turning to thoughts of material comfort or secular ambition.  We become fretful and agitated.  We become impulsive or angry.  We start focussing on our carnal appetites.  We get into a relaxed state spiritually.  Satan, meanwhile, is watching, moving in ever so gently.

There’s another element which ties in with this and melancholy may be a contributing factor.  There are days when some of us relive moments or periods in our lives when we could have handled situations so much better.  These may have been with family members, friends or colleagues.  We relive these scenes over and over, mentally chastising ourselves when we those whom we have offended have already pardoned us and when we have prayed for God’s subsequent forgiveness.  Of course, some of those sins may be lesser or greater.  Yet, where we have truly repented by resisting that offence further through the grace of God, our sins are as white as snow (Is. 1:18).  So, what is happening there to make us feel so miserable?  It’s Satan at work, getting us to obsess on the past.  He is encouraging us to feel worthless, weak and unloved. 

What then?  What do we do?  Every time that happens, take time out to pray the Lord’s Prayer or silently recite a relevant Bible verse to do with faith, comfort or forgiveness.  God loves us.  He created us.  He has forgiven us.  He won’t let us go.  Yet, our human frailty sometimes causes us to walk at a distance from Him.  And that is where Satan wants us — at a distance from the Lord. 

In other words, every moment we spend going over and over our old sins is another moment wasted.  A moment we could have spent in service to God or to others.  

This is why developing a regular plan of Bible study, worthy Christian reading and prayer is so important.  Forget going to the gym; it’s that muscle of faith that needs the daily exercise and maintenance.  Let Christ walk with you to help to pick up the strain.

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