Reading the Bible, we learn about various “desires” that God has for us. He wants us to repent, obey His commands, love Him and love our neighbors (Deuteronomy 6:5, 2 Peter 3:9, Matthew 22:37-39). He wants us to trust Him, look to Him for strength and commit our lives to Him (Proverbs 3:5, 1 Chronicles 16:11, Psalm 37:4-5). In time, God hopes to “bring many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10) and “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Those are some of “big things” God wants for us, all of which are very good.
But Satan also has his desires for us. Ultimately, he wants to destroy mankind, and he has deluded himself into thinking he can actually thwart God’s plan for humanity. Satan sees those of us who are trying to live by biblical precepts as a threat to his agenda. So, he will do whatever he can to wear us down, steer us away from God and lead us to destruction. And he is not working alone. Satan has many demons and carnally-minded people on his side, who are always ready to do his dirty work.
The devil is quite shrewd in how he carries out his evil plans. He sees the particular weaknesses in each of us and that’s where he will aim his attacks. If he cannot disable us by one method, he will try for another. Very often, he wages this battle in our minds. If he can get us to contemplate destructive thoughts or harbor ungodly attitudes, that can lead us into disobeying God and developing sinful habits, and eventually bring on our demise.
We need to be mindful of our enemy’s objectives so that we’re not caught off guard. God calls us to “be alert and of sober mind,” watching out for the schemes of the devil who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, New International Version). We should never think we are so strong, that we can’t succumb to Satan’s devices. However, if we’re aware of what Satan wants and how he operates, we can know how to respond to his tactics and be better equipped to combat them (2 Corinthians 2:11).
There’s no end to the kinds of mindsets and habits Satan and the demons might seek to foster in us, but these seven are some of the most common and are all very harmful:
1. To doubt God’s existence and His Word
We can fool ourselves into thinking we’re immune from this first one, because after all, we may have always believed in God. But Satan is relentless. These days just about anywhere we go to for information or to be entertained—whether we read a book or a magazine article, go to class, visit a museum or zoo, or watch a TV show—we’re often presented with the ideas that the natural world came into existence through evolution and there is no God. It’s all conveyed as facts, often in very scientific terms, and the average person may feel hard-pressed to refute it. Satan is certainly behind this messaging. If we’re not careful, it can start to erode our beliefs.
We might develop some doubt in the back of our minds about God’s existence, and God might seem a little “less real” to us or not as important as He should be. We might start to entertain the concept that God created the natural world using evolution (as theistic evolutionists espouse), which could cause us to not only see the biblical creation account in figurative terms, but also doubt other biblical passages. This view is reinforced by many of the “intellectuals” in society, who assert that the Bible is just a piece of literature or has serious errors and should not be taken literally.
The danger is, if we doubt God in any way and then we’re faced with major decisions, we’ll likely rely on our human reasoning rather than look to God or His Word for direction. We might start to reason that certain biblical precepts do not really mean what they say or that they do not apply in our situation, so we just do what we want to do. Satan knows this is not what God wants for us. God wants us to trust Him and not depend on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Nothing of true, eternal value, can come out of our lives if we do not include God in our thinking.
2. To live in fear and worry
Satan will “plant seeds” of worry in our minds, hoping we will nurse those anxious thoughts and allow them to fester and grow. Satan knows what “buttons” to push, as he sees what has us worried—whether it’s financial troubles, health concerns, relationship problems, all the instability in the world or something else.
Over and over again the Bible tells us to not worry, fret or be fearful. For starters, read Philippians 4:6, Matthew 6:25-34, John 14:1 and Proverbs 12:25. Worrying is not only bad for our physical health, it is also very damaging to our spiritual health. In fact, it can drive a huge wedge between ourselves and God. If we start obsessing over what scares us (meaning we’re going far beyond just having a healthy concern about a situation), we end up thinking and living just like someone who does not believe in God. In effect, we’ll be turning our backs on God, pushing Him out of our lives and not looking to Him like we should. We’ll be telling God that we don’t believe He will see us through difficulties, that we don’t trust Him to protect us or provide for us, and that we don’t think He will answer our prayers. Again, this is not what God wants for us, but it’s definitely what Satan likes to see.
3. To prioritize what’s physical and temporary
The Bible says to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and to “lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven” (Matthew 6:33, 20). We are to seek the things that God wants for us as a priority over obtaining the things of the world.
Human beings naturally tend to do the exact opposite. We preoccupy ourselves with fulfilling our personal desires and living for the “here and now.” So, we might see people posting photos on social media of their vacations to exotic destinations or their brand-new “toys,” or we might go shopping and see all the merchandise on display and ache to have these things for ourselves. Satan, as the “prince of the power of the air,” works around-the-clock, trying to stimulate this thinking in us even more (Ephesians 2:2-3). He undoubtedly “inspires” a lot of the advertising and television programming which bombard us with the message that “having fun” and “acquiring stuff” is the way to find satisfaction and fulfillment. If we’re not careful, we can start prioritizing our time and energy on achieving material pleasures.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t seek enjoyment in life or have “nice things.” But if these things become our top priority, that can steer us away from building and maintaining what has eternal value: our relationship with God and our connections with other people. In general, as people become more materialistic, they become less empathetic and show less concern for others.
4. To become preoccupied with entertainment
Another way Satan might try to steer us from God is to lure us into wasting our time. These days the tendency is for people to spend inordinate amounts on time in “entertainment mode”—checking out social media posts, playing video games, binge-watching TV shows or tuning-in to the constant media circus on the internet about entertainers, politicians and other famous people. With our smartphones and entertainment devices constantly at our side, it’s easy to become absorbed by these kinds of distractions.
Obviously, we all need time to relax after a long day of work. There is certainly nothing wrong with enjoying some leisure time. But if we use most or all of our free time to amuse ourselves or to simply “veg out,” we probably won’t be devoting the time to Bible study, prayer and meditation that we should. Moreover, the type of entertainment people typically involve themselves in these days is usually passive, meaning they’re “engaging” with a digital device and not interacting with another person. That takes away from having actual interactions with family and friends, which we all need. Truly, our time is our most precious commodity, and Ephesians 5:16 stresses that we need to “redeem” or “make the most” of it.
5. To be confused
We live in an age of confusion. Most of us are overloaded with information coming at us 24/7 from online and traditional news outlets, podcasts, websites and social media feeds. It’s a real challenge—or even impossible—to process it all. Furthermore, we often only hear part of the story, the facts might be twisted to promote a particular agenda or those presenting the “news” might use ambiguous terms which are never really defined. Consequently, it can be hard to know what’s true and what isn’t. This is problematic, because we need to have at least a basic understanding of what’s going on in the world so we can make basic life decisions relating to household finances, work, healthcare, where to live, etc. Even when we’re seeking guidance relating to personal or relationship problems, we may get contradictory advice, depending on which “expert” we go to for help. Everyone has their own ideas.
Very likely it is Satan, who is referred to as the “father of lies” and “deceiver of the whole world” in John 8:44 and Revelation 12:9, who is instigating all the confusion. Satan knows that when we’re confused, our default response tends to be to just waver, vacillate and do nothing at all. We can’t make decisions because we don’t see clear answers. If we’re paralyzed in a state of inaction, we won’t develop the courage and convictions we need to face life’s challenges—which is exactly what Satan desires.
6. To harbor grudges
In Ephesians 4:26-27, the Apostle Paul warned about the dangers of prolonged, uncontrolled rage: “‘Be angry, and do not sin:’ do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” We are not to allow anger to last beyond the day, nurture it into a grudge or allow it to control us.
When we become angry, we open up the door for Satan to influence our thinking. Specifically, he will stoke our pride. Each of us already have the tendency to think too highly of our own opinions, but Satan will try to get us to nurture this mindset. He wants us to think we’re always right, so we’ll feel justified in holding grudges against those who offend us. He will try to prevent us from seeing or being concerned about the hurt we’re causing.
The end result is that we become enslaved in animosity. Holding grudges can weigh us down and destroy our character, which is right where Satan wants us. Conflicts won’t be resolved, but only intensify. Moreover, friends and coworkers might start distancing themselves from us, as most people do not want to spend time with those who are easily angered and stay mad.
7. To feel alone and disconnected
God created us to be social beings. Genesis 2:18 clearly states that “it is not good that man should be alone.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 explains that “two are better than one,” and that when we have a companion, we will have support we need when we face difficulties. We need warm, caring relationships with friends and family. Even having just casual, positive exchanges with strangers can make us feel happy.
This article has pointed out some of the things that can cause us to feel disconnected from others, like being materialistic or over-busy, becoming addicted to digital entertainment or harboring ill will. Satan knows that loneliness (either being physically isolated from other people or emotionally disconnected from others) harms us. Lack of social contact can lead to depression, burnout, malaise or stress, and can contribute to physical health problems. Trials and challenges can seem insurmountable if we’re facing them alone.
For Bible believers, we particularly need the contact with like-minded individuals. Sadly, Satan seems to have convinced a lot of people in our society that they don’t really need to go to church services. Numerous studies in recent years have reported that church attendance is way down in western nations for most religions. Yet attending church is so important—not only to hear the messages, but also to have the fellowship. Our church friends can be good mirrors; they help us to see areas that need to be sharpened and help us stay on track if we’re starting to go down dangerous paths. If we’re not an active part of a church community, our minds will be more vulnerable to Satan’s lies.
Resisting the devil
Satan is definitely a formidable foe. James 4:7 sums up how we are to ready ourselves for the kinds of assaults mentioned here. This verse says we are to “submit to God” and “resist the devil,” and then Satan will flee from us. To submit to God means that we look to Him for direction, yield ourselves to His revealed will as outlined in Scripture and strive to obey Him. To resist Satan means to actively and purposely uproot the destructive thoughts he sows in our minds.
This can include guarding what we allow into our minds through the media—what we read, listen to and watch—and avoiding entertainment or information sources that blatantly promote unbiblical ideas or values. We also need to be mindful about who we spend our time with. 1 Corinthians 15:33 warns us that “evil company corrupts good habits.” We should surround ourselves with wise and godly individuals whose influence can lead us towards wisdom. Regularly attending church is vital (Hebrews 10:25), so we can have that community of fellow believers where we can find and offer support and encouragement.
Realistically, none of us can counter Satan on our human strengths alone. We need God’s help. We need to draw near to Him, as our greatest defense against Satan is a right relationship with God. We should be praying daily—for spiritual strength, discernment and clarity to make wise decisions, and deliverance from Satan’s attacks. We should be regularly studying the Bible, so we can know how God wants us to live and be better equipped to battle all of the lies and false values being promulgated in our society. When we are close to God and truly striving to think like Him, and when we have the support of uplifting, godly people, we will be far less likely to be enticed over to Satan’s way of thinking.