In sports, players and coaches on successful teams attribute some of that success to not taking any opponent lightly. The same principle is adhered to in corporate boardrooms or when planning military strategies. Knowing the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, characteristic patterns, and work styles are crucial to gaining victory. To not consider these factors is to invite failure and perhaps disaster. We can be assured that the enemy is also studying us, intent on exploiting every weakness that could bring our downfall.
The Christian is involved in spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4), and our enemy is out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) using whatever means necessary. In the natural, if we knew of such an enemy, we would take every step to protect ourselves and those we hold dear. Yet, in the spiritual realm, it is easy to overlook, not to recognize, the styles and patterns of how this enemy works. Earlier in his letter, Paul cautioned the Corinthian Church not to be ignorant of the devil’s sly ways (2:11, The Message). In other words, know your opponent. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines being sly as, among other things, being “clever in concealing one’s aims or ends.” If we are not careful and able to discern what the enemy is about, we can be easily deceived. What seems like the right may not necessarily be the right way after all.
In the Scriptures, we find the perfect example in the story of Eve (Genesis 3:1-13). Even before we are given the account of her conversation with the serpent, we are told that he “was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made” (v. 1, KJV). It was this subtlety that provoked Eve into believing the serpent’s half-truths over the sure Word of God, and so deceived her into committing the first recorded sin. As Bible Commentator Matthew Henry noted, “There is not anything by which the devil serves himself and his own interest more than by unsanctified subtlety.”
The child of God cannot be ignorant of how the devil works. Every day we are confronted by choices – take the easy way out over doing what is right; overlook this/that because it is not so bad; do this/that, who will know? And it continues. May God grant us the wisdom to be aware of the enemy’s schemes, and may He enable us to discern how we should go when we arrive at the crossroads of our daily experiences.