At the last elder retreat, after the work of the day was done, it was time for fun. Steve Musser had brought along the game Settlers of Catan, so we busted it out. The goal of this strategy game, loosely, is to gather and trade resources, build roads and cities, and outwit your opponents. Only four can play at a time, so we did some rotating in and out. Only Musser had played the game before, so he easily won the first game. But then the others began getting the hang of it and it became competitive.
During one game, we were cruising through the rounds – half paying attention to what was happening on the board and half paying attention to our conversation. Suddenly, one of the players realized that something unusual was taking place. He pointed it out, and that was how we discovered the trap that a certain long-bearded elder was laying for us. By sneakily hoarding all of a certain necessary resource he was hoping to take over the game by making us all come to him begging for a trade at which time he could supply-and-demand himself some hugely lopsided deals squashing us all economically and becoming a self-proclaimed Emperor of Catan. Once his devious plan was discovered, however, the rest of us were able to take steps to turn the squashing back onto him. To his credit, he’s a resilient sort of guy. About ten minutes later, we realized that he was laying the exact same trap – this time with a different resource.
Today, as I was reading 2 Corinthians, I came to the section in chapter two where Paul was encouraging the church to pour out their forgiveness on someone who had done something very wrong. Paul said that the man had been sufficiently punished, then he talked a little more about forgiveness. Finally, he ends the section by saying that all that he had forgiven had been for their sake, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) That phrase struck me and I wondered how many times I had been outwitted by Satan. Likely more often than I would care to admit.
Paul says, however, that this should not be. Satan may be sneaky, but we know how he operates. He is a deceiver, so he’ll tell us lies. He has a god-complex, so he’ll convince us that life is all about ourselves. He is indulgent, so he’ll tickle us with the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh and the sinful pride of life. We know these things! If we’re keeping our eyes open watching for him, then we’ll be able to resist when we can and flee when we can’t. The times that he’ll get us is when we’re not paying attention. When we’re so caught up in our day-to-day that we aren’t paying attention to the spiritual. That is when he’ll start laying his traps, just waiting for us to step right in.
Ephesians 6 reminds us that we are in a spiritual battle. Satan is strong, but he is not invincible. We need to prepare ourselves with the armor that God has provided for us. It’s a powerful metaphor that Paul lays out in Ephesians 6:10-18, but sometimes it is easy to lose what he is saying within the brilliantly descriptive way in which he is saying it. Paul is telling us that we have truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God all on our side. Look at that list. Six weapons that will give us victory every single time – if we use them.
The devil is prowling around “seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) If we aren’t paying attention, we are going to become the devoured. We must daily prepare ourselves to fight by donning our armor through time in the Bible and prayer, and we must walk through our days watching for the pouncing of the enemy. When we are armed and aware, the odds of a satanic victory over us will drop lower than those of a sneaky bearded elder with Napoleonic aspirations.