Awhile back, we looked at the petition from the “Lord’s Prayer” to deliver us from the evil [one] and briefly touched on the fact that Satan, like a roaring lion, is prowling around seeking whom he may devour. In a very real sense, Satan is actively pursuing mankind in order to leave them blind or lead them from the light into darkness, even if this be temporary for the true child of God.
Thus we have come to consider a method that our enemy uses in assaulting the saints of God. Keep in mind too, that when we say Satan, it may not mean a direct attack from the singular figure of evil, as in the Garden of Eden or the Wilderness of Christ, but may and most often does include some other demonic personage serving the will of his master. Thanks be to God that the head of Satan was crushed at the cross of Christ, nevertheless our opponent is very real and very active. In this particular post, we’ll look at the Fabian Strategy of Satan to see how that ancient serpent, the Devil, employs an old military strategy in one of his many attacks on the children of God.
The Fabian Strategy was a military idea implemented by Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (280 – 208 BC), or Fabius Maximus, sometimes simply Maximus for short. He was arguably one of the greatest generals in the Roman Empire and is often credited with being the father of guerrilla warfare. In perhaps the most famous war of all time, the Punic War, Rome, led by Fabius prepared to battle against the superior Carthaginians, led by Hannibal.
Recognizing his army was outpowered, Fabius employed his now famous Fabian strategy in which he wore down his enemy by avoiding any “pitched battles or frontal assaults” and instead relied on a war of attrition. As this strategy unfolds, it calls on the proponent to harass his opposition through smaller skirmishes that cause attrition, disrupt supplies, and effect morale largely believing that time is on their side to wear down their opponent (see wikipedia article). How then does Satan employ this strategy against the saints of God?
Before we start it’s important to note that we’re not inserting the Fabian Strategy into Scripture, simply observing the methods of our enemy and finding a fitting description of them to better help us to understand the war in which we are engaged.
First, this strategy of wearing us down is extremely dangerous and extremely effective because it avoids many of the frontal assaults that the believer may be more aware of in his or her battle against sin. For example, if a person knows that a particular location, we’ll call it the sin store, however make the necessary application in your own case, causes him or her to sin, obviously they would stay out of that location, simple enough.
However, through means of the Fabian Strategy, the devil would not tempt a person towards that location, but would instead wear them down physically, mentally, and spiritually, over time, perhaps even to the point of cutting off all other avenues leaving the only opening that travels past the “sin store”, inevitably leading to sin. At this point, you are weakened and worn down, unable to avoid what would have normally been a very weak temptation had it occurred as a frontal assault.
As alluded to, primarily Satan wears us down physically, mentally, and spiritually and sometimes in that order. Physically this may come by way of a variety of means, sometimes through illness, sometimes through lack of sleep, sometimes simply through the exhaustion of the day. He need not bring these on directly, but may, as in the case of Job. Or, he may simply take advantage of an opportunity of these weakness that is already preexisting.
Obviously, physical exhaustion lessens mental alertness, which in turn makes one more susceptible to temptations. Consider the example of our Lord, who after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness was left no doubt, weak, tired, hungry, and physically exposed. Satan sought opportunity in this weakness to strike. Take also for instance the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane with our Lord and His instruction upon finding them asleep to “watch and pray. That you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40
Against this war of attrition in physical strength, a greater reliance on the strength of God will be necessary. Consider our Lord’s response to Satan with the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, from our example cited above. Too often, we become comfortable and self-reliant, either in our own gifts, strengths, even our material possessions. Reconsider Job, who had his material possessions and physical strength taken away, yet Scripture affirms for us that Job did not sin with his lips (Job 1:22, 2:10). When these comforts evaporate, we are left to return to the fountain’s source, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Ephesians 6:10 In this alien strength, pray and grab one verse at a time to hold onto. Volume of reading, either Scripture or godly books will not be as helpful here, but could actually hinder progress in the battle if one is not careful. Become a master of one verse and use it acutely, praying until you can’t.
Second, the Fabian Strategy, having plundered our physical resources shifts to the attack of morale, sometimes via the form of lacking mental alertness. This may come in the form of discouragement from the physical weakness, mental fogginess, or simply resorting to vegging out. In our society, we are perhaps more prone to this than any other time in history and we have a lot of devices and opportunity to do so. After running the daily rat-race, we can be given to extended periods of vegging, be it in our consumption of social media, binging on-demand videos, video games, shopping, etc. all to make us feel better in a flesh-led effort to recharge our physically weak batteries as it were. This simply opens up further opportunity for the devices of Satan.
The key opposition against this is to reengage the mind upon the word of God. Meditation can functionally serve the same purpose that many hope to gain by turning to vegging out by essentially calming and refocusing the mind. Here of course, we are talking about biblical meditation and not that which accompanies yoga, transcendental meditation, or other ungodly forms of mind emptying.
Finally, if both physical and mental strength be lacking in any substantial quantity, the spirit is essentially left exposed in the battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil. Think again on Matthew 26:40 cited above, “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.” The two are diametrically opposed and without diligence, the flesh can sometimes gain the upper-hand on the spirit quite easily, Galatians 5:17. Here then the Fabian Strategy of Satan often employs the temptation to lesser sins over those of more scandalous or outlandish nature all in an effort to subvert the spirit’s resistance against the flesh.
Beaten down physically, sapped of mental alertness, and blind to the peccadillos of life, the Fabian Strategy has subtlety given Satan the upper-hand often without us being none the wiser. This of course may happen over a long period of time to further heighten our drowsiness until he makes an attempt to strike a mortal blow.
Very rarely to believers fall into sin upon the first hints of a frontal assault. Little by little the enemy pecks away much like water dripping on a mighty granite boulder until finally a crack appears, when heat is applied the entire rock is in danger of exploding. Be alert and sober, dear Christians. Our enemy, the devil often has more success in lulling us to sleep, via the Fabian strategy, than an all out, in your face assault. Resist him and he will flee from you. James 4:7