Our Spiritual Opponent: The Adversary

1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

A career as a basketball coach has yielded insight about the scouting process that takes place prior to facing an opponent. One aspect of scouting includes identifying the opponent’s weaknesses and developing a carefully calculated strategy to exploit those weaknesses. It’s an intentional strategy. Bluntly, the purpose of implementing the strategy during competition is to defeat the opponent.

This scouting experience in the athletic arena has provided a deeper understanding of the intent and strategy of our prowling spiritual opponent, the adversary. He doesn’t just stumble upon us. He is actively prowling with an intentional strategy to exploit our weaknesses. His goal is to devour.  One more important thing to note: he doesn’t play fair. He is an expert deceiver. He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is a liar and the father of lies. When he lies, he speaks his native language (John 8:44). He is crafty and clever, appealing to our weaknesses in ways that seem safe, pleasurable, satisfying, and even deserved—and not to be easily detected.

1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to be sober-minded and watchful. Since the adversary is prowling with disguised intentions, there is immeasurable value in identifying our personal weaknesses. If we lack an awareness of our weaknesses, we are easy prey. Knowing our weaknesses gives us insight to areas of possible attack.

Life has a way of revealing our weaknesses. Yet learning by the road rash of life experience isn’t preferential. There is another provision. God, through the Holy Spirit, can reveal our weaknesses, including the very thoughts and heart of a man (Psalms 139). Inquire of the Spirit. Bask in his Word. Ask him to search your heart. Let him conduct a spiritual MRI. Listen in humility to what is revealed.

In athletics, game preparation before facing an opponent is crucial. Otherwise, we spiral when it’s “game time.” When weaknesses are identified prior to facing our opponent, there is time to strengthen those areas with intentional practice. Our practice plan includes daily designated time to address our weaknesses. Each drill includes a repetition aspect of the skill that needs to be developed. We gain healthy confidence knowing and addressing our weaknesses.

What should be included in our spiritual “practice plan” to strengthen our revealed weaknesses? Certainly, we don’t want to willingly put ourselves in the adversary’s path. However, he is actively prowling, and we will find ourselves in situations that require “practice and repetition” on our identified weaknesses. Our flesh also creates situations for “practice and repetition” with a healthy appetite of its own. Be sober-minded and alert.

What exactly are we practicing in preparation for our spiritual opponent?

We practice allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal our weaknesses. We practice using God’s provisions in Scripture to withstand the adversary’s attacks. God’s Word is the practice plan, and knowing his Word comes through the repetition of daily exposure and application.

Ephesians 6 highlights God’s provision of the “whole armor of God” for the times when we encounter the adversary. We are instructed to put on the armor. The armor is multi-faceted and designed for complete protection. For the brevity of this blog, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, will be the focus. To effectively use the sword, we must be familiar with the sword before the attack. We develop familiarity with the Word by practice and repetition. Only then can we use our sword to pierce the father of lies. Jesus gave us an example of this when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

In athletics, we have confidence heading into game time when we know the weaknesses the opponent is likely to attack. We feel prepared. Likewise, there is a place for confidence in our battle with the adversary. We must not be overconfident – our spiritual opponent is indeed formidable – yet we must not grant our enemy more power than he possesses.

The importance lies in where we place our confidence. If it’s in our own strength, it’s false confidence. At best, it yields inconsistent results. At worst, we become devoured prey. Stay sober-minded and watchful, yet fully confident in God’s authority. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Game on!

Kelly Packard began attending Faith in 1997. She loves affirming the promises of God from his Word through writing, and, as part of Faith’s writing team, she brings that passion and insight to our church. Kelly has spent her professional career as a college/pro women’s basketball coach. In May 2020, Kelly and her husband Rich and their son Evan launched Living Hope Mountain Respite, a ministry geared toward helping couples who have lost a child. In her leisure time, she enjoys her family and friends, drinking coffee and exercise.