In 1929, the French government began work on what would become known as the Maginot Line. It was a series of forts built largely underground in mutual protection of each other and was designed to deter their long-time enemy, Germany, from repeating their invasion of World War One into French territory. For the years leading up to their defeat early in World War Two, the French armed forces had planned on a war fought much like World War One. As a Christian, it is easy to fall into the same trap. So many times we are told to learn from the past in order to prepare for the future. This theory exists on the fact that, by knowing the style of Satan, we can understand how he will attack. I would submit, however, that by looking for the last attack of Satan, we could be, just as the French army, setting ourselves up for the next.
I am not, by any means, stating that one cannot learn from the past. The past shows weaknesses that can be exploited by our enemy. Our past shows us particular people that “push our buttons,” or situations that cause us to easily come to the boiling point, and areas within our own lives that have a need for improvement. On one scale, the French had learned from their past with the building on the Maginot Line. They learned that a sustained attack by troops engaged in trench warfare could be devastating and thus built the string of forts to provide overlapping protection for troops while fighting the previous style of war. The German army, however, had spent its time building powerful tanks that ran around the Maginot Line and defeated what modern army the French had, just as Satan is often able to defeat Christians, even when they work hard to correct past mistakes and learn from previous Satanic attacks.
The problem with relying on past mistakes to prepare for future battle is that the enemy, in our case Satan (Ephesians 6:12), often attacks in new ways the next time, even if against the previous weaknesses. Without awareness and alertness in our lives, our fight with the devil is that much harder. He has a number of weapons to use against each and every Christian, and yet we rely on only learning from our past to confront him. While it is important, it is by far not the only variable in the equation.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan walks around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The Bible says that we must be alert. Why? Because he is! If we are going to defeat Satan (and our fleshly lusts), we must look forward to his possible attacks, not only his past ones. The Bible constantly alerts Christians to be on their guard against the wiles of the wicked.
Part of being alert requires us to watch for certain situations that can lead to a fight with our enemy. Ancient Chinese generals once taught that one should look out when a flock of birds suddenly takes to flight, for it means that an enemy is setting an ambush. Christians would do well to see the wisdom in this warning. I often find myself realizing, in hindsight, that there were places during my temptation wherein I should have realized Satan’s plan of attack. Because I failed to remain alert, I failed to protect myself. The comparing of Satan to a lion is a particularly important one. All cats hunt with a silent, skillful process that sometimes involves setting an ambush for passing prey. Can we not expect Satan to do the same to us?
I do not mean that we can, if we heed Peter’s warning, protect ourselves alone without God. In fact, if we expect to be prepared, we must be in communion with God. After we are told about our enemy in Ephesians 6:12, and then about our armor in verses 13-17, we are told to pray in verse 18. Paul uses prayer practically as part of the armor of a Christian warrior! It is vital to have constant communication with our commander, God, who can direct our paths and lead us away from or through traps.The French army learned quickly in World War Two that they could not merely rely on learning from past attacks in order to protect them from future ones. They failed to be on the alert when Germany began building fast and formidable tanks. As Christians, we can ill afford to rely only on past experience when dealing with Satan. Instead, we need to pair our past experience with alertness to our surroundings and look to the future.