Giving Place to the Devil
Arthur Pink, 1932
"Neither give place to the devil." Eph 4:27
The verse just quoted sets before us an exhortation which every Christian needs to take seriously to heart. Many believers give place to the devil unconsciously, because they are ignorant of his devices. But this ought not to be. The Scriptures clearly expose them but unless we diligently study the Word, we shall neither be forewarned nor forearmed.
In order to fight successfully against a subtle and powerful enemy, it is of first importance to be well informed of the tactics he employs and the methods he follows. The great enemy of our souls hides himself behind many unsuspected forms. His chief weapon is deception. "The Devil, or Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Rev 12:9). Only as the Holy Spirit gives us to see light from the light of the Word, are we able to discern and detect Satan's many disguises.
Now there is a real difference between "giving place to the devil" and being "overcome" by him yet there is a close connection between the two. It is the former, which is the occasion of the latter.
Let us give a simple illustration of this. If I leave my windows unlatched and my doors unlocked, then am I not inviting burglars to enter and rob me? Of course I am.
In like manner, if I fail to avail myself of the safeguards which God's Word sets before me, if I am not careful and watchful against the devil's approaches then I am open to his assaults.
Prevention is better than cure. It is because we fail to use our God-given preventatives that we are so often tripped up by Satan. Let us first name seven ways in which we fail to keep the windows and doors of our souls securely locked against the great thief (John 10:10).
First, we "give place to the devil" when we fail to really believe God's warning.His Word plainly tells us that our "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Ah, it is one thing to be acquainted with the letter of that verse, but it is quite another to appropriate it and act as though we felt we were in real danger from him. O how we need to beg the Holy Spirit to write this word upon our hearts, to bring it home in power to our remembrance each day, to cause us to be cautious and vigilant, knowing that Satan is ever seeking our destruction. God does not preserve careless and heedless souls.
Second, we "give place to the devil" when we are not on our prayerful guard.Let us call to mind those words of our Lord's, "Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation" (Mat 26:41). And let us recall Peter's sad failure to heed that admonition. How differently he had acted in the high priest's palace if, instead of "sleeping" in the Garden, he had spent his time in earnest prayer, seeking grace to fortify him against the approaching temptation!
Alas, how often we have repeated Peter's offence. O my reader, make no mistake upon this point, to lapse into a careless and prayerless state of soul renders us easy victims to Satan's deceptions.
Third, we "give place to the devil" when we fail to "put on the whole armor of God"(Eph 6:11). That armor is not to be talked about, but used. It is no mock warfare we are called to engage in. The fight is intensely real, and the saving or the losing of our very souls is at issue. That "armor" is provided that we "may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." But if we do not gird it upon us, then we have no protection, and our very vitals are exposed to his "fiery darts."
May it please the Lord to deeply impress upon writer and reader the absolute necessity of our putting on the seven pieces of armor which divine grace has provided for us.
Fourth, we "give place to the devil" when we fail to confess every known sin."He who covers his sins shall not prosper" (Pro 28:13). Unconfessed sins clog and choke the channel of blessing between our souls and God (Isa 59:2). Not only so, but our unconfessed sins leave the door wide open for Satan to repeat his attacks upon us at the same point. The evil root must be judged before God, if its bearing of evil fruit is to cease.
Nothing is more necessary if we are to have power against our adversary than for us to keep short accounts with God to daily own before Him every conscious failure and fall.
Fifth, we "give place to the devil" when we fail to fully trust God."The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe" or "set aloft" (Pro 18:10), that is, raised above the place where Satan can successfully assail us. While I am completely dependent upon the mighty God, drawing my strength from Him the devil cannot harm me. It is when I give way to doubting, that the enemy finds the opening which he seeks. As soon as my heart begins calling into question God's goodness, it is easy for Satan to fill me with despondency and a despairing heart is just as wrong as having unclean hands.
Sixth, we "give place to the devil" when we shrink from persecution.Bearing Christ's "reproach" (Heb 13:13) is inseparable from a faithful going forth unto Him outside the camp. Suffering "affliction with the people of God" is set over against "enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Heb 11:25). And such suffering is to be viewed as a holy privilege and high honor and not as something to be shunned and ashamed of, for it brings us into fellowship with the sufferings of Christ (Phi 3:10).
But when these sufferings are looked at by the eye of sense and the heart sinks, Satan soon gains an advantage and tempts to compromise. "Fear none of those things which you shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison [there are spiritual "prisons" as well as material ones!], that you may be tried" (Rev 2:10).
Seventh, we "give place to the devil" when we relax spiritually.O how much we need to heed that word, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13). If we become slack and careless, if we fail to "gird up the loins of our minds" (1 Peter 1:13), and keep not our hearts "with all diligence" (Pro 4:23) then we shall soon be found giving place to the devil.
Has the reader noted what preceded David's fearful fall? It was, "At the time when kings go forth to battle But David tarried still at Jerusalem" (2 Samuel 11:1). Hence, in the next verse, we find him idling, lazing, and then he fell!
The above are some of the more negative ways of "giving place to the devil," namely, by failing to be armed against him. Let us now mention some of the more positive ways through which he gains an advantage over us.
1. We give place to the devil when we listen to his evil suggestions.We do not begin by doing as he wants us, nor even by accepting his whisperings. It is the paying attention to what he says which is the root from which obeying him springs. This is seen clearly in the case of Eve. She parleyed with him before she took of the forbidden fruit. Contrast the Lord Jesus, who promptly rejected His evil suggestions by a verse from the Word of God.
2. We give place to the devil the moment we begin to compromise.Solemnly is this illustrated in the case of Ananias and Sapphira. Of them, we are told that they "sold a possession, and kept back part of the price." The remainder was laid at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part?" (Act 5:1-3).
What a solemn voice this has for each of us! Do we not realize that it was Satan who was filling our hearts when we only half consecrated ourselves to the Lord, when we yielded Him only a partial obedience, when we used on ourselves a portion of His tithe, when we refused to thoroughly go forth unto Him "outside the camp"? What is it that we are keeping back a "part" of?
3. We give place to the devil when we become self-sufficient and independent of God.It was being "lifted up with pride" which brought about the fall of the devil himself (1 Timothy 3:6). Pride is a subtle thing, for we are largely unconscious of its presence. Nevertheless, it can be easily detected if we take the trouble to examine our motives and trace our actions back to their source.
Pride is self-sufficiency. We are controlled by pride whenever we ask not wisdom and strength from God. We are moved by pride when we trust to common sense and "lean unto our own understandings." Contrariwise, the humble man is he who seeks help from the Lord for everything.
4. We "give place to the devil" when we put self's interests before the Lord's glory.This was exemplified by the Gadarenes. Christ had come into their midst and graciously delivered a demon-possessed man. The demons then obtained His permission to enter a herd of swine, which rushed into the sea and were destroyed. How awful the sequel, "And they began to beg him to depart out of their coasts" (Mar 5:17)! The demands of the Holy One were too strict for their liking. He interfered with their money-making. They preferred their swine to the Savior. Does this shock you, dear reader? Then ask God to reveal to you if there is anything which you are preferring (by your actions) above the honor and glory of His blessed Son.
5. We "give place to the devil" when we seek the company of and are friendly with his children.Satan knows full well that "evil companions corrupt good manners," therefore is he untiring in his efforts to induce God's children to take upon them an unequal yoke and become intimate with the ungodly. For this reason does God command us, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph 5:11). Disobedience to this inevitably leads to our being ensnared by the great enemy.
6. We "give place to the devil" when we knowingly enter his territory.God has expressly commanded us, "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away" (Pro 4:14-15). If we disregard this divine prohibition, then we deliberately expose ourselves to Satan's temptations and cannot count upon God delivering us from the same.
A solemn example of one who trespassed on the devil's ground is Lot. By settling down in Sodom, he deliberately courted the fearful disaster which overtook his family.
7. We "give place to the devil" when we allow him to use us to do his work.As a general rule, the devil works through human instruments, and happy is he when he can move a Christian to perform his bidding. It is a solemn consideration that every child of God is controlled, hour by hour, either by the Holy Spirit or the evil spirit. Satan is using us to further his evil ends when he causes us to set an unchristlike example before the ungodly encouraging them in their sins. He uses the Christian when he can get him to sow the seeds of discord among brethren. And how often has he used a Christian to undermine the influence of a servant of God by speaking evil about him to others!
Let us now point out some of the devil's tactics.
1. He aims to inject doubts into our minds.This is seen in the method which he employed with Eve. He endeavors to raise questionings in our hearts. Particularly is this true in prayer, while we are waiting for God to fulfill the promise which we have pleaded. Hence, the Savior said, "If you have faith, and doubt not" (Mat 21:21).
2. He aims to discredit God in our esteem.This is seen in his attack upon Job. It was the devil who moved his wife to bid him, "Curse God and die!" With this before us, there is no excuse for any Christian being "ignorant of his devices." When trials come upon us, Satan tempts unto hard thoughts against God, seeking to make us believe that He is unkind and unjust in His dealings.
3. He aims to puff us up with pride.This is seen in the temptation he presented to David to number the people (1 Chronicles 21:1). Much watchfulness and prayer is needed to guard against this. If he cannot make us conceited over our natural endowments and possessions he will seek to make us proud of our devotedness and obedience to God, our liberality and kindness to others, and even of our humility! The safeguard against this is to remind ourselves constantly that we have nothing but what we have ourselves first received of God (1 Corinthians 4:7).
4. He aims to destroy full dependence upon God.This is seen in his first temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The Son of God had taken upon Himself the form of a servant, and the devil said, "Command that these stones be made bread" (Mat 4:3). Christ was hungry and Satan says, "Trust God no longer. Take things into your own hands." He tempts us to act independently. He seeks to prevent our earnestly seeking from God divine guidance, wisdom, strength, and blessing.
5. He aims to induce reckless trifling with God.When he fails to bring us to distrust God, he seeks to fling us to the opposite extreme and get us to act presumptuously. This is seen in his second temptation of Christ. "Since you trust God fully, cast yourself down from the pinnacle of the temple." (See Mat 4:5-6). Beware of tempting God (under the guise of strong faith) by refusing to take wise precautions, use legitimate means, or needlessly expose yourself to danger.
6. He aims to fix our hearts on worldly things.This is seen in his third temptation of Christ, when he showed Him all its kingdoms and their glory. There are many subtle forms of this temptation, such as coveting a beautiful home, aspiring after a high position in business, following the fashions of the ungodly in our dress, conforming to their ways in our hours of recreation. If we more definitely sought grace to heed that exhortation, "Be content with such things as you have" (Heb 13:5), we should be delivered from many snares and sorrows.
7. He aims to prevent the denying of self and the daily taking up of the cross.This comes out clearly in Matthew 16:21-24. Let the reader slowly ponder those verses. "Spare yourself" is the motto which the devil would have us live by. Beware of lazing in the evenings instead of "redeeming the time" (Eph 5:16).
8. He aims to blind the mind (2 Corinthians 4:4) and becloud our judgment.He often accomplishes this by Scriptures themselves, causing us to wrongly understand them or use them irrelevantly. When we ought to do as David did in Psalm 119:60, he tells us, "He who believes shall not make haste" (Isa 28:16). When we ought to rebuke sin in a brother (Lev 19:17), he quotes to us, "Judge not that you be not judged" (Mat 7:1). Sometimes he blinds people's minds by the sound of words like, "This is my body" (Luke 22:19) or "all" in John 12:32, etc.
9. He aims to catch away the Word of God out of our hearts(Luke 8:12). Oftentimes he is very successful in this, because we have failed to definitely seek God's intervention or because we have failed to fix the Scriptures in our mind by meditating upon them. Satan is also catching away the seed by making people believe that many portions of God's Word are not for them, but for the Jews.
10. He aims to afflict our bodies so that they are incapacitated for the performance of duties or of spiritual exercises(Luke 13:11). He often causes us to eat too much, so that we are dull and drowsy when reading the Word or hearing God's servants preach. He produces lassitude and weakness, but God can "renew our strength" (Isa 40:29-31).
Now dear friend, turn into definite, daily, believing prayer what has been before you, that God would deliver you from these Satanic snares. Be constantly on the alert to recognize the devil's approach to you through persons and things. Remember that it was "While men slept" that he sowed his tares (Mat 13:25)! Plead unto God 1 John 3:8 and beg Him to make it good in your life.
(The above is the substance of an address given by the editor at Glenholden, PA on May 23, 1932.)