Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:11).
“Rommel . . . I read your book.”
So said George C. Scott playing the role of General George Patton in the 1970 academy award winning film Patton. The historicity of the statement has been challenged and it may be that Francis Ford Coppola took some liberties with his script. However, in 1937 German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel did publish a work titled Infantry Attacks. A planned sequel on tank tactics was never completed.
In the movie, Patton’s units are engaged with Rommel’s forces. Patton stands viewing the battle through field-glasses. Out-maneuvering his opponent, Patton utters the movie’s oft-quoted line: “Rommel . . . I read your book.” The actual line is somewhat more colorful than that, but you get the idea.
Victory belongs not only to the well-equipped, but also to the well-studied.
The ‘Wiles’ of the Devil
In Ephesians 6:11 Paul states plainly his reason for urging his readers (us) to put on the whole armor of God. We are to equip ourselves for battle so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
The word ‘schemes’ is a rendering of the Greek word methodia from which we obviously derive the English ‘method.’ The King James Version translates Ephesians 6:11 with the more devious word ‘wiles.’ The basic thought behind all of these words is craft and cunning. The devil works with deceit and trickery. A strong defense requires more than the right gear and the right weapons. We must understand with our minds how the enemy works.
To speak of the devils ‘wiles’ or ‘schemes’ assumes that our adversary works deliberately and with intent. We are inclined to think of evil as an abstraction. We treat it as a large and vague ‘force’ of some kind, drawing us or luring us away from what is good and right and true. This isn’t entirely wrong – but there’s more going on. Our adversary’s schemes are tailor-made. His attacks are not abstract, they are personal.
Maybe we need to know our own weaknesses if we want to stand against the devil’s wiles
The details of how the devil’s schemes work on us will vary from person to person. But there are some common maneuvers that our enemy is fond of using, and they work effectively on most of us, even if in different ways. Paul urges us to stay alert (6:18). Here are a couple of things to watch for.
First, beware your own fatigue. When we are weary and worn out we are easily annoyed with other people. We have no patience. We are not disposed to grace. Also, in our fatigue we turn to other comforts, anything we lightly name a guilty pleasure. Some of these may be harmless, but many are not. And besides, we find our comfort in something other than God. The ‘wiley’ one wins.
Also, stay on top of your own busyness and distraction. Busyness and distraction keep us from prayer and dull our interest in God’s word. Paul names the word and prayer as our primary weapons, so to be busy and distracted means to be defenseless. The adversary will gladly tolerate a regular church-attender who lives a prayer-less life the other six days of the week.
Unlike Patton, we do not read the enemy’s book. We read God’s book to understand ourselves and the devil’s schemes. But there is a book by an imaginative Christian thinker that focused on the wiles of the devil. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the Screwtape Letters.
For today, stay alert. How have you detected the adversary’s schemes in your life?
Prayer:So often, Lord God, we dismiss the ‘wiles of the devil’ as silliness. Wake us up to the reality of our enemy and the malicious intent of his schemes. Make us wise, always alert to whatever pulls us from you. And give us strength to stand firm in the power of Christ, through whom we pray. Amen.