Satan wants to keep you from worshiping the One he hates. He wants to keep you from doing the right thing, whether that is spending time alone with the Lord in Scripture and prayer, attending and participating in public worship services, or any other thing that will draw you closer to the Lord.
Here, courtesy of Thomas Brooks, are eight ways Satan will keep you from worship.
Here’s how I would encourage you to use the list. Think of the times that you decide to stay in bed instead of getting up to read the Bible; think of the times you scrapped family worship for no good reason; think of the times you stayed home from church instead of going to worship. Think of those things, and see which of these temptations is the one Satan brings to you.
1. He makes the world look beautiful, attractive and desirable.
Many people profess Christ and see him as desirable for a time. For a while they enjoy private and public worship and do it all with enthusiasm. But before long Satan presents to them worldly things and makes those look more beautiful and desirable than Christ, and many souls are drawn away. “Where one thousand are destroyed by the world’s frowns, ten thousand are destroyed by the world’s smiles.
2. He makes you aware of the fact that those who worship the Lord have often faced danger, loss and suffering.
There are many men who would obey the Lord and worship him, except that they fear the consequences. Satan loves to present the high cost of obedience. This was the case for many in Jesus day: “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue” (John 12:42).
3. He gives you an awareness of the difficulty of worshipping well.
Satan will whisper, “It is difficult to pray well, it is hard to spend time with the Lord and to persevere until he speaks to you through his Word, it isn’t worth the effort of going to church and being warm and friendly and engaging with other Christians.” Whatever God tells you to do, Satan will present it to you as a great burden or as something you do poorly, and in this way he will keep you from it.
4. He leads you to wrongly understand the implications of the gospel.
Christ has done everything for you and given everything you need in his death and resurrection. There is nothing left for you to do but rejoice in Christ and to serve him out of the joy of salvation. But Satan will lead you to make wrong inferences from what Christ has done, encouraging you, for example, to believe Christ has freed you from the need or desire to spend time with him or to gather with other Christians. He will allow you to see the gospel, but do all he can to make you understand it all wrong.
5. He shows you how many of those who follow Christ with obedience are poor and despised.
Satan will ensure you see that those who are most interested in worshiping God are the poorest and most despised of all. You can see echoes of this in John 7: “The Pharisees answered them, ‘Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed’.”
6. He shows you that the majority of the people in the world, along with the great and mighty of the world, do not worship the Lord.
Satan will ask, “Don’t you see that the great, the rich, the honorable, the intellectual elite, the wise, the most honored, and the sheer majority of people do not trouble themselves with worshiping the Lord? You would be much better off to be like them. After all, why would you think that you, of all people, have this figured out?” To have success here he will intentionally draw your attention away from Exodus 23:2 and many similar passages: “You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.”
7. He fills your mind with unimportant and distracting thoughts while you are attempting to worship.
He afflicts you with so much distraction and futility that you are tempted to say, “I have no desire to hear from the Lord in his Word, no desire to speak to him in prayer, no desire to spend time with other Christians in worship services.” He crowds out the very thought of worship by the sheer weight of lesser concerns.
8. He encourages you to take comfort in past performances of your religious duties and in that way he convinces you to stop trying.
He reminds you that in the past you read so much and prayed so much and spent so much time in worship. And having reminded you, he convinces you that you have earned the right to coast for a while. “You already know this. You’ve already done this. You’ve already prayed this. You’ve been to better worship services than this.” And through it all he inclines you to rest from worship.
Let me share just a couple of choice quotes. Here is one about the value of a soul:
Oh, the soul of man is more worth than a thousand worlds! It is the greatest abasing of it that can be–to let it dote upon a little shining earth, upon a little painted beauty and fading glory–when it is capable of union with Christ, of communion with God, and of enjoying the eternal vision of God.
And here is one about the Lord’s kind providence in difficult circumstances:
I remember a story of a godly man, that, as he was going to take a ship for France, he broke his leg; and it pleased Providence so to order it, that the ship that he would have gone in, was sunk at sea, and not a man saved; so by breaking a bone, his life was saved. So the Lord many times breaks our bones–but it is in order to the saving of our lives and our souls forever.
He gives us a portion that makes us heart-sick–but it is in order to the making us perfectly well, and to the purging of us from those ill humors that have made our heads ache, and God’s heart ache, and our souls sick, and heavy to the death. Oh therefore let no danger or misery hinder you from your duty. ‘Had saw not these things perished, I would not have been safe’, said a philosopher when he saw what great possessions he had lost.
Tim Challies is author of the weblog Challies.com: Informing the Reforming and lives near Toronto, Canada.