I don’t know much about American Football, but even I have heard of the ‘playbook’ – the manual that contains all the team’s top secret tactics and strategies. An ESPN article by Elizabeth Merrill that I came across puts it like this:
‘In the NFL, the playbook is a sacred hardbound diary of trust. It's an accumulation of decades' worth of knowledge, tweaked and perfected, sectioned off by scribbles and colored tabs. It's the first thing the fresh meat get when preseason workouts start in the spring and the last thing that is pried from a player's sweaty mitts when The Turk arrives and utters those dreaded 11 words. Coach wants to see you in his office. Bring your playbook.’
Players guard their playbook with their life. That same ESPN article described a Vikings rookie who took the coaches’ order to keep it safe so seriously that he even carried it with him into the toilet stall. When some pranksters saw an opportunity to haze the new guy and grabbed it through the gap in the stall, the rookie didn’t even hesitate before chasing after them with his trousers round his ankles!
Why the fuss? If that playbook fell into the hands of another team it would give them a massive advantage in a match. They would still have to play hard, but knowing their opponents' tactics would mean they could anticipate their plays and figure out exactly how to beat them.
Now just imagine the Devil had a playbook – that he had written down all his tactics and strategies for tempting Christians. And imagine you had the chance to get hold of it. Wouldn’t that be very useful? What an edge that would give you over the Enemy of your soul! Instead of being blindsided by his clever, subtle attacks you’d be able to see them coming and block them and even counter-attack.
Well, that’s pretty much what we do have!
In 2 Corinthians 2.11, Paul says we are not ignorant of Satan’s strategies. Why not? Because God has revealed them to us in Scripture. In 1652 a Puritan pastor called Thomas Brooks wrote a book based on this text called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. In this book he draws from Scripture 37 of the Devil’s favourite ‘devices’ – tactics and strategies – for tempting Christians – his most effective ‘plays’. Do any of these sound familiar?
· Satan holds out the bait and hides the hook: he tempts us with the short-term pleasure of sin, making us forget the misery that comes afterwards.
· Satan paints sin with virtue’s colours: he tries to convince us that this sin isn’t really a sin at all, but a good thing.
· Satan persuades us that repentance is an easy thing: ‘go ahead and do it – it’s easy to repent afterwards and God will forgive you.’ And then as soon as we’ve committed the sin he makes us think that repentance is a very hard thing and that we are insincere.
· He tries to stop us from carrying out the holy duties God calls us to by convincing us that they are boring and difficult.
· He tries to keep us in a sad and doubting state of mind by getting us to focus on our sins instead of our Saviour, or by convincing us that our graces are counterfeit.
The Devil is a master tactician. He is clever and ruthless. He doesn’t play fair. We need to know his game plan and we can know his game plan. But here’s where Thomas Brooks goes one better than just giving us the Devil’s playbook. For he doesn’t just tell us Satan’s tactics; he tells us how to beat him!
For each of these 37 ‘devices’ the Devil uses against Christians, Brooks gives at least 3 or 4, and sometimes as many as 8 ‘remedies’. Biblical blocking manoeuvres to defeat his attack. He gives us biblical truths to hold onto that will enable us to stand firm against the Evil One.
Brooks shows us just how varied, subtle and dangerous temptation is, but best of all he shows us how by the grace of God we can overcome the Devil and bring glory to God.
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, by Thomas Brooks is published in paperback by the Banner of Truth Trust, and is also printed in volume 1 of the Collected Works of Brooks (also by Banner of Truth Trust).