How the Enemy Attacks the Saints

D. L. Moody once remarked, “I believe Satan exists for two reasons: first, the Bible says so, and second, I’ve done business with him.” Whether we know it or not we’ve all done business with Satan. A more penetrating question might be: Have you ever done business for Satan?

Vance Havner preached: God is the Great I AM. Satan is the great I AM NOT; and he is never happier than when he has convinced people that he is nonexistent! Satan is currently running an under-cover operation. He hopes to remain undetected. 

What is the main arena of spiritual warfare? If a poll was conducted, what would you say is Satan’s primary strategy in his war on the saints? Many, no doubt would suggest the devil attacks us through circumstances. At home, on the job, and at school he manipulates circumstances to tempt, discourage, and even endanger us. While this is true, this is not Satan’s primary tactic. 

Others would likely advance the notion that the devil is attacking God’s people and purposes through trends and the shifting currents of culture. Movements like humanism, socialism, liberalism, materialism, and the New Age would be cited as culprits. Without question these are vehicles Satan can use to attack and influence God’s people, but movements are not Satan’s main weapon. 

Others would submit Satan is attacking through personal problems like sinful tendencies, depression, disease, and bad habits. He does use sin and human weakness to his advantage: however, this is not his major weapon. If not circumstances, movements, or personal struggles, then what is the main field of conflict? 

Satan’s best kept secret is that he attacks us through relationships. In marriage the husband can be the primary tool of Satan against his wife and the wife can be Satan’s primary tool against her husband. Parents can be Satan’s main weapon against their children and vice versa. In friendship we can be the primary tool against our friends and our friends can be Satan’s primary tool against us. And in the local church believers can be Satan’s primary weapon against other believers. The Bible is clear in stating we are not wrestling against flesh and blood. People are not the problem. Though we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, the battle is being waged with flesh and blood! Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands, but Satan has slain his millions, and he has done it through relationships! 

2 Timothy 3 forecasts a breakdown in relationships: 

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (vs 1-4). 

Of the nineteen dominant characteristics prevalent in the end-time, twelve have to do with relationships: verbally abusive, disobedient to parents, unthankful, without natural affection, trucebreakers, slanderers, lacking self-control, fierce, despisers of those who are good, traitors (betrayers), heady (reckless). All these destructive features are the consequences of self-love. The elimination of God from the equation and the exaltation of self results in “perilous times” where relationships collapse. 

Here are two sobering propositions: I) Satan wants to defeat you through your relationships; 2) Satan wants to use you to defeat other believers. 


David and Bathsheba. How is it possible that a man after God’s own heart could get so messed up? 2 Samuel 11:2-4 gives us the answer: 

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her. 

The one great mark on the whole life and rule of King David was his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of her husband. This was not a circumstance that plagued David, it was not an outside movement; nor was it a personal struggle from which he needed deliverance. This was a direct attack of Satan through a relationship with a loyal soldier’s wife. In a moment, Satan used a relationship to blemish the life and reputation of one of God’s greatest men. 

Jesus and Peter. In Matthew 16 we read Peter’s amazing confession, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.” A few verses later (see v 21-23) we find Jesus informing His disciples of His coming trial, death, and resurrection. 

Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me Satan; thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men (vs 22-23). 

In essence Peter said, “God forbid! This will never happen to you.” Jesus knew the origin of this. It was not coming from Peter, although it was coming through Peter. It was coming from Satan. This was not a circumstance or a movement. Satan was using one of Jesus’ most intimate friends, Peter, to war against His whole purpose in coming to earth. Satan used a relationship. 

Judas and Jesus. “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father….And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (John 13:1-2). When Satan wanted to strike out at Christ he did not send the Roman army. Pagan religion was not the vehicle used to assault the Son of God, nor was it a circumstance. It was a relationship! 

Judas was a man who had left all for Christ. He followed Christ. He ate and drank at the table of Christ and had even cast out demons in the name of Christ. Yet we find Satan entered into Judas (v. 27) and he betrayed the Son of God. 

Paul and Barnabas. The Apostle Paul had invited Barnabas to join him on a follow-up tour to the cities where they had preached the Gospel. In turn Barnabas had asked John Mark to join their team. Due to a previous incident Paul had no confidence in John Mark. “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other” (Acts 15:39). 

Here are two giants in the early church. Everyone liked Barnabas. It was Barnabas who had befriended Paul When nobody else would. They were a dynamic team. What could possibly split them up? Not a circumstance, not a movement, not a besetting sin. Again, Satan employed his favorite tactic by using a relationship to bring sharp disagreement among brothers in Christ to the point they could no longer work together. What a tragedy! 

Having examined these biblical illustrations, let’s get to the heart of the matter, and in the process let’s take a look at our own hearts. 


Our premise is that Satan’s primary arena in spiritual warfare is relationships. Satan can use us to damage other people. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves we must be aware of how Satan can work in and through us to harm others. Consider these four core instigators that proceed directly from the heart of Satan to the hearts of men. 

Lust and Immoral Fantasy. Today “holy” has been deleted from “holy matrimony.” Moral washouts are the order of the day. How much damage has been done to the credibility of local churches and the souls of men because of lust. The Scripture squarely addresses this problem in I Corinthians 7:3-5: 

Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise, also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband; and likewise also the husband hath nor power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. 

David’s sin with Bathsheba illustrates the devastating consequences of this core sin. Uriah was killed. David’s child died. His daughter was raped by her own brother. Absalom, David’ s son, attempted to kill his father. Absalom in turn, was “hanged between heaven and earth, as being worthy of neither,” said Thomas Watson. 

Lust is basically stealing. It is taking what doesn’t belong to you for your own pleasure. Whenever that happens you damage relationships. You damage your relationship with that person and their family and friends. You injure your relationship with your own spouse and family. James said, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (1:14-15) Lust is a prime instigator Satan uses to wreak havoc among people.

Bitterness and Unforgiveness. “Unforgiveness is doing more to hold back the power of God in revival than any other sin,” said D.L. Moody. Paul warns us how Satan intrudes through unforgiveness. “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ: lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor.2:10-11).

A man whose wife had left him for another man attended a crusade in Western Canada. He dealt with the bitterness toward his wife. That night when he left church he drove downtown. While driving along the street he spotted the man his wife was living with. He pulled over and instructed his wife’s lover to get in the car. Hesitantly, the man got in. This Christian man said to him, “I’ve got two choices. I can either kill you or forgive you.” Then he shared with this man how God had ministered to him that night. He chose to forgive.

Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He went on to say, “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Resentment and grudges give ground to the devil. The acid of bitterness will not harm it’s intended object, but it will destroy the container it is stored in! 

Bitterness harms the one who has it, destroys relationships, and defiles others as well. “Lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). Like toxic waste, bitterness pollutes and corrupts everything it touches. 

Slander and Gossip. In the Gulf War America suffered very few casualties. Most of the casualties we did have came from friendly fire. That means the Iraqis were not responsible; our own soldiers accidentally killed their fellow soldiers. Similarly, most of the damage done in local churches comes from friendly fire. 

“Devil” comes from the word “diabolos” which means slanderer. Jesus said Satan was a liar and murderer. The very name “devil” means he’s a slanderer. In the garden of Eden, Satan slandered God to man when he told Eve God was a liar. In Job, Satan slandered man to God when he brought a railing accusation against Job. Today Satan slanders man to man. Where Satan doesn’t go personally he sends a critic! Someone said, “The way to save face is by keeping the lower half of it shut!” Wesley said, “Gossip is anything you say about someone that you wouldn’t say if they were standing in front of you.” Observing this rule would quench many of the fiery darts of the Wicked one! One of the Puritans said, “An unbridled tongue is the chariot of the devil.” 

When John the Baptist came preaching repentance, the Pharisees said he was demon possessed. (Try mentioning the “R” word in some American churches and you’ll have the same charge leveled at you!) The Pharisees later accused Jesus of being a “winebibber, and friend of sinners” (Lk. 7:34), These verbal potshots didn’t come from the prostitutes and criminals; they came from the lips of the orthodox religious crowd. Perhaps it is true that the favorite indoor sport of Christians is judging and criticizing! 

“The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (James 3:6).  The biggest problem in the local church is not what the world says about us. The biggest problem is what we say about each other! A satanically inflamed tongue is a core instigator used to assault other people. 

Anger. Ye have heard that it said by them of old time, Thou shall not kill: and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. (Mat. 5:21-22). 

We would all agree that murder is wrong because God said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Satan is a murderer. Satan probably could not lure us into taking someone’s life. But Jesus says that sinful anger is paramount to murder in the eyes of God! Anger is a destructive and effective weapon Satan uses to destroy relationships. 

Sinful anger issues from a murderous heart. Sometimes this anger expresses itself in verbal abuse—words like, “l hate you!” or “I wish you had never been born!” or “I never want to see you again!”  Other times sinful anger finds expression through physical abuse. Child and spousal abuse is indicative of a wicked, murderous spirit. Contrary to prevailing attitudes, therapy is not the answer. Deep repentance before God, humility, accountability, and even appropriate punishment may be in order. 

Our automobiles have “idiot lights.” If the oil gets low a light flashes. Should the car overheat an idiot light comes on. When anger surfaces in the course of our relationships we need a WARNING LIGHT to start flashing. Satan is on the  prowl and our anger is a vehicle he uses to destroy others. 

Spiritual warfare has become a fad in Christian circles. The liberal media, the educational system, and the political scene are all cited as the field of play in spiritual warfare. Satan is heavily involved in these areas. Yet we fail to look for Satan in the one place where he will do the most damage—our relationships. 

When we receive the brunt of satanic assault we must choose to forgive and respond like Christ. Thomas Watson said, “Jesus shed tears for those who shed His blood.” 

There are other times when we cooperate with the devil to assault other people. Joseph Hall said, “I would rather suffer a thousand wrongs than offer one.” We are vehicles of influence for the “Great I Am” or we are vehicles of influence for the “great I am not.” We either reflect and radiate Jesus Christ or we are perfect ammunition to be used by the devil. 

Too many have been wounded by friendly fire. No longer can we afford to be ignorant of Satan’s devices, especially Satan’s best kept secret! 

*This message, by Dr. Dave Dryer, has been edited for publication. Brother Dryer formally served the Immanuel Baptist Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 


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Harold Vaughan

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Evangelist Harold Vaughan is the founder of Christ Life Ministries, Inc. To date, his ministry has led him to preach in forty-eight states and many foreign countries. Click on "ABOUT" in the menu bar to learn more about Harold.
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