Tricks up his sleeve

So that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.
— 2 Corinthians 2:11 CSB

Sometimes things that seem "so right" are nothing more than the enemy's tricks.

It was the summer of 1940. Great Britain was on alert. The rescue of Dunkirk behind them, the fall of France fresh on their minds, British leaders were now occupied with "The Invasion Problem." Germany controlled the land mass on the opposite side of the English Channel, making a German attack on the homeland a real possibility.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted to be ready.

On June 28, 1940, Churchill issued an eight-point bulletin to General Ismay, his Chief of Staff and most trusted advisor. The Prime Minister's communique warns of the enemy's tricks. It is a warning Christians should heed.

Parachutist, Fifth-Columnist, and enemy motor-cyclists who may penetrate or appear in disguise in unexpected places must be left to the House Guard, reinforced by special squads. Much thought must be given to the [enemy] trick of wearing British uniform.

The British enemy had tricks up his sleeve: Blend in. Wear the adversary's uniform. Outmaneuver by outwitting.

There is nothing new here. It is a well-used military strategy. It is chief tactic of Satan too! That is why Paul cautions believers with these words:

And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
— 2 Corinthians 11:14 CSB

Satan is a master of disguise and chief conniver. In his second letter to Corinth, Paul spells out four ways the evil one tries to outwit you:

  1. Satan will try to get you to hold a "holy grudge."
    Paul had written the church in Corinth to exercise church discipline on one who caused major disruption in the fellowship. Discipline given, repentance recognized, now it was time to forgive. Paul writes, "you should rather forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him ... so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs" (2 Corinthians 2:7-8,11).

    Satan can turn a quest for church purity upside down. A desire to keep the church holy can end in a "holy grudge." We feel justified withholding forgiveness and reconciliation. "Hey, they walked away from God, not me." There is no room for this kind of attitude in the church of Christ. We forgive even as we have been forgiven.
  2. Satan will try to fool you into falling for a false teacher.
    The church of Corinth had to contend with a first century brand of preachers who were in the ministry for profit and prestige. Claiming to messengers of light, in reality they were "false apostles" and "deceitful workmen" (2 Corinthians 11:1-15). Christians must be careful to distinguish "the feel-good faith" of the silver tongued preacher from "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Not everything that sounds good is true. Be like the Bereans in Acts 17:10-15. Examine the Scriptures to validate the teaching you hear.
  3. Satan will tempt you with "another Jesus."
    Ours is a tolerant society. Our only intolerance is for those with claims of absolute truth. "One way" signs are not popular on a pluralistic planet. So Satan sells "another Jesus," a Jesus who is happy to be just another lane on the super highway to heaven.

    Coexisting is fine, co-equality is not. Jesus won't allow it. Paul cautions: "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts would be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ" to "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). This is an error with eternal consequences. It is so serious Paul pronounces a curse on those who preach "another Jesus" (Galatians 1:8).
  4. Satan will try to cripple you with a thorn.
    It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that God's love means good times. In other words, because God loves you he will keep you "healthy, wealthy, and wise." That's just not true. Jesus promised us trouble in this world (John 16:33). God even allowed Satan to cripple Paul with a "thorn in the flesh." Paul didn't see this as God's abandonment or God's punishment or God's lack of concern. That's what Satan would him believe. Paul saw it as God's means of keeping him humble and dependent -- and that was a good thing. A Christian humble and dependent on Christ is a Christian joyful and powerful in life.

Churchill was wise to recognize the tricks of his enemy. You are too.

Don't let the schemer outwit you. Keep your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). Study him and you will become more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). God will use that pure devotion to keep you from being duped by the tricks up Satan's sleeve.

Want to get started focusing on Jesus? Here are twelve wonderful truths about Christ from Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth:

  1. Grace and peace come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1:2
  2. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 1:5
  3. God strengthens us in Christ. 1:21
  4. We are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2:15
  5. Christ is the very image of God. 4:4
  6. We receive the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. 4:6
  7. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, the new has come! 5:17
  8. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ. 5:18
  9. We are ambassadors for Christ. God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.” 5:20
  10. Though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 8:9
  11. He is meek and gentle. 10:1
  12. His grace is sufficient for you. His power is perfected in weakness. 12:9
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all
— 2 Corinthians 13:13 CSB




  • "The Invasion Problem" is the title of chapter 14 in Their Finest Hour, Volume 2 of The Second World War by Winston Churchill. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 1949. Pages 280-300.
  • "Parachutist, Fifth-Columnist, and enemy motor-cyclists . . ." from Their Finest Hour, page 285.