Knowing the Thief’s Strategy - The Warrior's Journey®

Knowing the Thief’s Strategy

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Virginia Guard chaplain support teams support military personnel in Louisianna. Photo by Coast Guard is licensed under CC By 2.0

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  (John 10:10)

The question of whether Satan exists is one of the most contentious theological debates of our time. Discussions on this subject polarize people both inside and outside the Christian church.

Interestingly, this is not an issue in the Bible, neither Old nor New Testament. From Genesis to Revelation, Satan is mentioned many times though not by the same name. Jesus often spoke about Satan in His teaching.

One of those teachings is found in John 10. Jesus is drawing a comparison. He refers to himself as the Good Shepherd. He refers to Satan as the thief: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

If I know anything about life, I know that God is real. So is Satan. There is a heaven. Hell exists, too. Life is a struggle. We are engaged in a daily spiritual battle. Satan wants to destroy you whether you are a Christian or not. Jesus wants you to have life, and have it to the fullest measure possible.

The devil is a powerful enemy that we should not underestimate. In our own strength, we are no match for him.

But Jesus came to save us and to destroy the works of the devil. At the cross, He triumphed over Satan. By rising from the dead, Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave. By faith in His name, we have forgiveness of our sins. We also have the power to stop sinning.

Though the war has been won, there are yet battles to be fought. Satan has not been totally subdued yet, and he is still raising havoc around the globe. Spiritual warfare is still ongoing.

Since we are engaged in this battle for our souls, it only makes sense to understand as much as we can about our enemy. That’s why Jesus taught so much about Satan. He wanted His disciples and the people of that time to know the devil’s strategy and tactics.

The devotions in this section aim to do just that. Remember that the Bible has much to say on this topic, and it’s smart to make a study of the enemy’s tactics a lifelong pursuit.

But I want to leave you with one powerful example. It happened to a good friend and fellow military chaplain. This story graphically illustrates the importance of knowing Satan’s strategy and tactics as they apply to your own life.

My friend, Jeff, returned from 15 hard months in Iraq. His unit experienced frequent combat with the enemy, and unfortunately lost many soldiers. Jeff ministered faithfully throughout the deployment and developed the reputation as a soldier’s chaplain, one who was with them constantly and even during dangerous situations.

Even prior to his return from Iraq, I had spoken with Jeff on several occasions. I could tell that the effects of combat were taking a toll on him. I encouraged him to seek help.

Upon his return to the United States, Jeff’s post-traumatic stress became quite evident. We talked a few times, and to his credit, Jeff sought professional help. After a few months of counseling, he began to experience noticeable improvement. He was not out of the woods by any means, but his progress was encouraging.

Six months after his return to the U.S., he and his wife received orders to another post. He was going to work with a basic training unit. I was glad because I believed Jeff would excel with new recruits. Having been a former enlisted soldier himself, he could relate with their challenges. As a proven combat veteran, he could also help these trainees prepare for the rigors of war.

Jeff and his wife moved to their new assignment. Things started off very well. Jeff loved his ministry, they liked the area, and Jeff’s chain of command knew they had an outstanding chaplain on their team.

Remember the thief. With him, no one is off limits. The stronger your Christian witness, the more Satan wants to destroy you. I believe he went after Jeff with a vengeance.

Jeff called me to report that he was at the city jail and might be spending the night inside a cell. I was caught completely off guard and asked for more information. Over the next 45 minutes, Jeff described the event that triggered the problem. Almost instantly, I could sense that the powers of darkness were right in the middle of the whole circumstance.

Jeff had been walking with his 9-month pregnant wife along the road in their neighborhood. Their dog was with them. With no sidewalks, they were forced to walk along the right side of the road.

Suddenly a car came roaring up the road from behind, almost hitting them. They leaped to the side of the road. Jeff screamed at the car to slow down. It had been a close call. His wife was scared. Jeff was scared, too, but mostly angry.

To their surprise, the car stopped on the hill in front of them. The driver put the car in reverse and came back toward them with amazing speed. Again, they leaped off the side of the road. The car stopped and the driver jumped out.

Jeff, both scared and angry, did not know what to expect next. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his pocketknife in case the driver might try to hurt them.

Fortunately, there was no physical contact. But there were shouts and threats coming from both Jeff and the woman who had been driving. After exchanging harsh words, the woman got back into her car and drove off.

The next day Jeff went to the local sheriff’s office to file a report. To his surprise, the woman had beaten him to the punch. Her account and his account of the incident could not have been more different. She was filing criminal charges. The whole situation was about to get serious.

I will spare you most of the details, except to say this. With each passing day, the case seemed to get uglier. The lady’s intent was clearly to destroy Jeff. She made her way around to almost every neighbor and even got a friend to go to Jeff’s house to threaten him. Lies were spread. The situation was toxic.

When the dust settled and lawyers on both sides compared notes, it was clear that the prosecution wanted to end Jeff’s career as a chaplain, and possibly to put him in prison for a long time.

When Satan gets involved, the only rule is that there are no rules. Untruths were spread to senior chaplains on the installation, and word of the charges appeared in the national news. The negatives against Jeff, true or not, were stacking up rapidly.

The challenge for a military chaplain in this situation is that a “near win” would not suffice. Anything less than full exoneration could likely end Jeff’s career.

But lest we give Satan too much credit, read the second part of verse 10 above. Jesus says He has “come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

As only He could, the Lord helped Jeff locate a witness who saw the whole incident and knew of other instances where the lady had tried to hurt people. Additionally, the Lord helped Jeff’s attorney present a powerful defense to a grand jury that resulted in the case being completely thrown out of court.

Jeff called me and related the good news. Of course I celebrated with him. But as we reviewed the happenings, we both saw the enemy’s hand in all of this. Was Jeff happy with the lady? Of course not. She had lied and tried to destroy Jeff and his family. But behind her actions, we saw the enemy at work. The apostle Paul states it so beautifully in Ephesians:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

Bottom line: Know your enemy — his strategy and tactics. With God’s help, you can defeat him.

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