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The Wiles of our Adversary

by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries

A real danger and a real adversary you cannot see

In yesterday’s post we introduced the idea that being in bring pressure and trouble. Unfortunately, pressure and trouble are not all we have to worry about when we serve God in ministry. There is an even darker danger – an adversary we can’t see, but we can feel. This adversary attacks in many different ways and frequently you don’t even realize you’re in danger until you are right smack, knee-deep in the middle of it. It sucks you under faster than a ten-ton sack of bricks in quicksand. Sometimes, you may even feel like you are wearing a giant-sized target on your back and there are flaming arrows coming so constant you feel like you might crumble.

We have an adversary

This adversary is not imaginary. He is real. Like the danger he constant hurls at us, you don’t ever see the enemy, but you feel his presence. You can almost sense he and his minions are standing off in the shadows, planning and plotting just how to trip you up or destroy you. But if they are unsuccessful in destroying you, they will settle for destroying your ministry. They snicker at your failures as one minion pulls another arrow out his quiver and loads it in his bow. Another minion lights the arrow on fire, and you can smell the smoke and sense the swoosh as his flaming arrow hurls through the air and once again finds that target you wear. It feels as if the arrows are relentless, and his aim is perfect.

He is an enemy that lurks around in the unseen, spiritual realm and he hides out in the shadows, spying, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” This enemy has a name. One we all know well. The devil. Satan. And his minions? We call them demons.

If we are going to stand firm against this adversary, then we need to know who he is and how he works. Just as an army will study who they are going up against in a war, so we must study and know all we can about our adversary. Only then will we be able to recognize when he deploys an attack against and be able to have victory over him.

What are the wiles of the devil?

Our adversary has been using the same tactics in his warfare since the beginning of time. The Bible calls his tactics “wiles” or “schemes.” If we are going to withstand all the wiles of the devil that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6:11[1], then we need to know everything we can about him. But first, let’s make sure we understand what the “wiles of the devil” are.[2] Wiles are tricks or manipulations designed to deceive someone.  In Revelation 12:9, Satan is the one who deceives the whole world. So, Satan’s wiles are his clever schemes that he uses to ensnare us into the trap of sin through temptation, threat, or intimidation. We are going to look at four of his “wiles” and most of the temptations he hurls our way can be wrapped up in one of these four “wiles.”

 The adversary uses “doubting wiles”

“Wiles” were definitely at work in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). He hurled some wiles at Eve by challenging God’s Word and she succumbed to the temptation and sinned. Satan raised doubts in Eve’s mind about the instructions God had given and her question what God said. I call this the “doubting wiles” of Satan.

In Genesis 3:1, we find Satan approaching Eve and the temptation begins: “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” You can recognize the “Doubting wiles” with that opening phrase, “Did God really say…?” That scheme worked so well in the Garden of Eden, that Satan still uses it today. So, dear Christian solider, beware when you hear, “Did God really say….?”

What does this look like for us in ministry? Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking, “Did God really call me to this ministry?” Or maybe it sounds like, “Did God really want me to take a step of faith?” If you have found yourself asking these kinds of questions, you can be assured that Satan is using his oldest scheme on you and challenging God’s Word. Write a Scripture below that confirms what God has said to you.

 The adversary uses “Identity crisis wiles”

Another one of the “wiles of the devil” is the “identity crisis wile.” When he uses this wile, he challenges our identity in Christ. In the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13), Satan begins the temptations saying, “If you are the son of God…” Satan will do the same to us, making us question our salvation. He might say something like, “If you were really God’s child and he called you to this ministry, then it wouldn’t be this hard.” Or perhaps it sounds like this, “If you were really God’s child, you would win more souls to Christ.” Or maybe it sounds like this, “If you were really God’s child, you’d have more faith.”

What is the “identity crisis wile” that Satan has whispered into your ear? Whatever that statement is, write a Scripture below that debunks the wile of challenging your identity in Christ.

The adversary uses “Twisting wiles”

Satan will also twist Scripture when he is working his wiles on us. Typically, when using the “twisting wiles” Satan will leave out key parts of Scripture so that the meaning of the verse fits his agenda. We might call a person caught up in the “twisting wiles” a prosperity teacher or false prophet. These people go through the Bible looking for verses that support what they are teaching and ignore the context of the Scripture.

In the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:10-11), Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12, saying, “he will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” However, he conveniently left off the next verse that says, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” These are not an actual lion and cobra. They are metaphors and Satan is described as both a lion and serpent in Genesis 3:15, Revelation 20:2, and 1 Peter 5:8.

Is there a “twisting wile” that you have fallen prey to? If so, what is the full Scripture that includes the entirety of God’s Word? Write it below.

The adversary uses “Alternative wiles”

There is also the “alternative wiles.” In this wile, Satan will offer an alternative to total surrender and obedience to God. In other words, he will compromise with you. In Luke 4:5-7, we read, “the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Satan was offering Jesus an alternative plan than the cross. He was offering Jesus a shortcut.

Satan is still in the business of offering shortcuts and compromises. It shows up in the declining morals and values we see in our world. He might say to someone, “Well, yes, it is God’s plan for a man and woman to get married before sex, but if you say no then he might dump you and then how will you witness to him?” Or it might sound like, “It isn’t really murder because the child is just a fetus. It’s the mother’s right to choose.” Maybe it looks more like, “You don’t really need to go to church to worship God. You can worship Him from your fishing boat. Just sing a praise song and be sure to thank him for every fish you catch. That’s worship enough.”

Any compromise that goes against what the Bible says or offers something than total surrender and obedience to God’s will is a “wile of the devil.”

Is there a compromise that Satan has been whispering to you? If so, write a Scripture verse that exposes this wile of Satan and speaks uncompromised truth to your heart.

Combat the wiles of the adversary with the truth of God’s Word

These are not intended to be a complete list of Satan’s wiles, but they are some of the most common. You may think of another way that Satan has used one of his wiles on you. If so, we combat his wiles with the truth of God’s Word. So, if there is another wile he has used on you, find a Scripture that speaks to it, memorize it, and quote it whenever you catch him slinging that wile your way. The truth of God’s Word is our weapon when we are in a battle against our adversary. It is the only offense weapon God gave us in our spiritual armor and when combined with prayer, we activate the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us so that we can live victoriously because in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37)

Check back tomorrow and we will look to see what the Scriptures tell us about our adversary.


[1] Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11, KJV)

[2] Remember Wiley E. Coyote from the Roadrunner cartoon? Keeping his antics in mind might better help you understand the wiles of the devil.

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