How easily we succumb to the temptation one-by-one! It is not unlike an avalanche that can begin with the smallest unstable thing that begins to tumble down creating and attracting other unstable things. Gradually it becomes larger and moves faster creating more and more destruction in its wake.
Century after century Satan uses his wiles in the same pattern. He uses ploy as his most effective strategy. By definition a ploy is “a cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage”. There is no need for him to alter his strategy because it has proven effective time and time again no matter how erudite we may think we are.
Any of us can name specific wiles and wickedness he produces as a result of the ploy, but if we look at the ‘big picture” we must come to grips with his ultimate desire and that is to divide. First, he would seek to divide us from the Lord for nothing would please him more than to rob Him of us, His trophies won on the cross. Second, he would seek to divide us from one another weakening and destabilizing one and then another. Whether the result is our worship of him in fact matters little to him so long as we forfeit our commitment to the crux of our connection to Him and one another.
Daily life provides Satan with the fodder he needs. Nearly any situation or circumstance can be used to distract us from our focus on the Lord and who He has created and called us to be. ANYTHING. I know it and you know it. I have experienced it and you have experienced it as well.
Inevitably one of the results is to become anxious or fearful because things are not under our control. What any of us does next will determine how successful the ploy will be? If we quickly recognize it for what it is and turn our focus back on the Lord, our faith and trust is strengthened and he loses the skirmish. If we do not and let’s face it, none of us do so all of the time, then he nudges us to try to take control ourselves in more ways than we can even count or want to admit. (I don’t want to give him credit by listing them here.) He can be effective in this because he has duped us into allowing fear to become larger than life and larger than God.
We lose sight of the key words from 1 John 4:18 ESV:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Okay, none of us love perfectly or perhaps even come close to it, but God does love perfectly. He loves us perfectly. He shows us that in countless ways despite our fallibility, our station in life, or our current circumstances. If the ploy causes us to doubt that and the truth that such love will always be faithful in providing for us, we will quickly look to what John Eldredge calls “less wild lovers” to rescue us or provide for us. Those “less wild lovers” can come in many forms, sizes, and disguises. They can include any and all addictions, self-protection, staying in a victim mode, operating in self-righteousness that belies the truth of our pride, looking to someone who will agree with us whether they speak truth or not, and more. They can include relying on organizations, institutions, or any other entity instead of the Lord.
These then open us to the second punch of the same ploy. We start to fear and distrust others unless they agree with us and support our shaky position. Our fear of others points to the downfall of not loving others as ourselves.
The end result of the interweaving of this two-pronged ploy is increased division. If we, His children, are one body destined to live with Him in one Kingdom then when we fall prey to the ploy, we exemplify what Jesus taught in Matthew 12:25:
“But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
In the end of all time and all things, scripture makes clear that what we will be judged on will be whether we have loved the Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul and if that has brought forth His character in us so that we demonstrate that by loving one another. That is the litmus test each of us faces.
At present, it would seem the skirmishes in the two-pronged ploy are succeeding with too many of us so that we find ourselves arrayed in battle one against another while proclaiming we are a part of the same Kingdom. Our rhetoric has shifted from eloquence based on Kingdom truth to empty rhetoric replete with hateful, fear mongering words and tones whether our position has merit or not. I might think we are in danger here of not only harming whatever cause we believe in, but more importantly tearing down the Kingdom.
The ploy can be defeated. The power of the Lord exceeds any and all that Satan can and does throw at us. The answer comes when we lay aside our sin, our self-righteousness, our pride, and anything that is not like the Lord. The Lord showed us the principle and our purpose before He returned to His Father. I think it behooves each of us to reflect each day on what He pointed to as the foundation for our speech and our actions and we can only do it when we first submit our will to Him:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 36-40 ESV