Four Ways to Follow Satan

What do you do when the path you’re on takes an expected turn for the worst? Do you take matters into your own hands? Or do you do the hardest thing in the Bible—trust God and wait on his timing?

If you’re honest with yourself, you, like me, probably try to take matters into your own hands. And it’s usually in one of four ways I like to think of as Satan’s sinful shortcuts. Watch out for these! No one sets out to ditch God and follow Satan, but these shortcuts have exactly that effect:

1. Rationalized Revenge

Revenge almost always feels right. When you’re wronged, it’s like a little tuning fork gets rung inside of you that feels in complete harmony with the universe. And when you’re getting back at someone, it feels so right—you feel like you are nigh unto deity paying the person back. But to pursue revenge, you have to rationalize behavior you usually know is wrong:

Your wife doesn’t appreciate or respect you, so you cheat on her.

Your boss is a jerk to you, so you do sloppy work and find ways to undermine him.

Some group discriminates against you, so you discriminate against them.

People are uncharitable with your motives on social media, so you’re uncharitable with theirs.

These all feel justified because of the wrong you’ve endured. But out of the wicked comes wickedness (1 Samuel 24:13).

2. Pilfered Pleasures

Life hasn’t delivered for you, so you find escape in some stolen pleasure. It’s like Joseph in the Bible. After all the unfair treatment he’d gone through—being sold into slavery, being lied about, having Potiphar’s wife proposition him—it must have been tempting to think, “As badly as my life has gone, I deserve a little happiness.” Maybe that’s your inner narrative, too.

An affair becomes an escape of pleasure in an unfair world.

You find escape in a bottle, through looking at porn, or through retail endless hours of social media.

Surely, you think, if it’s not hurting anyone, and it makes me happy, it’s fine, right? You might think, God seems to have forgotten me anyway; at least I have ___________.

3. Cowardly Compromise

Similarly, there are times when you’re tempted to think, God’s not delivering, so I’ll take matters into my own hands. Like Abraham and Sarah did with Hagar, using her to ensure their lineage and not trusting that God would provide offspring in his own timing.

Maybe you’re not married yet—God hasn’t brought along a partner for you—so you date someone you know you shouldn’t (you know this because all the people you trust most keep telling you), all because you figure that’s better than being alone.

Financially, you’re not where you want to be, so you overwork and cut out your tithe from your budget.

God’s not moving fast enough, so you take matters into your own hands.

4. Panicked Presumption

Because God isn’t delivering on your timetable, you start manipulating circumstances, forcing things. You’re panicked.

While not taking “no” for an answer isn’t always bad, sometimes you do it because you’re impatient. Your behavior becomes unhealthy, obsessive, and manipulative.

I struggle with this one, especially through self-promotion. In my flesh, I’m not content to wait on God’s timing, so I try to force myself ahead, manipulating situations or leveraging relationships. I subtly tear someone else down so someone else will look more favorably on me. Or if someone won’t do what I want, I try to coerce them or guilt them into doing it.

In all these things, I’m trying to complete in the power of my flesh what only God can do in the Spirit. I might achieve results this way. But the results of panicked presumption are worlds away from the power of the Spirit.

Here’s the thing: Waiting on the Lord is active. David’s life proves it. He protects himself by running; he prays about his situation and asks God to change it; given the opportunity, he confronts Saul and passionately pleads his case before him. He does a ton during his “waiting.” He just does all this from a posture of trust, refusing to compromise or bow to sin along the way.

Like David, the biggest enemy in your life is not Saul. It’s not your boss, or your ex, or your finances. It’s your inability to wait.

Don’t fall prey to Satan’s sinful shortcuts. They’ll get you “there” faster, but in the end, you’ll learn it’s not the “there” you want to be.