Seven Ways Satan Attacks the Ministry
by Rich Murphy
Everyone who is in the ministry, has ever been in the ministry, or is thinking about getting in the ministry goes through attacks. Every new work that is started for the Lord receives it's own attacks as well.
The idea that Satan only attacks those who are in sin is as old as the book of Job. That was one of the major reasons Job's friends offered for his suffering and afflictions. However, it is no truer today than it was then. Satan knows enough about warfare to avoid attacking those who are doing his will. Instead, he attacks those who are causing him problems.
In the story of Nehemiah, the work of the Lord which Nehemiah undertakes comes under constant attacks. His enemies, like our enemy, sought to distract him, add problems to his work, and put a stop to his obedience to the will of God.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, of the Persian Empire. This was a position of great trust, with constant access to the king. A cupbearer was more or less the chief butler, with the added responsibility of tasting the king's food to insuring that nobody poisoned him. As such, he was probably also a personal confidant, knowing all the palace gossip, all the king's plans, and everything that was going on in the kingdom. Due to his proximity to the king, Nehemiah enjoyed great personal prestige and influence.
Even in such a position, Nehemiah was preoccupied with the will of God and the promises He had made through prophecy. When he had the opportunity, he used his position to inquire about the condition of Jerusalem and God's people. The answer so distressed him that he took to fasting and prayer before the Lord (Neh 1:2-4).
Nehemiah started his fast in the Jewish month of Kislsv, which corresponds to our months of November and December. He continued in fasting and prayer until the Jewish month of Nissan, which corresponds to our months of March and April. That's four months of fasting and prayer.
Did Nehemiah actually fast for 120 days? That would make it the longest fast recorded in the Bible. No, I don't think he actually fasted for the full four months. What probably happened is that he focused himself on prayer for the full time, taking whatever opportunities he had to pray for Jerusalem. During that time, he probably fasted regularly, possibly a couple of days per week, or a week at a time.
Every work for the Lord must be founded in prayer. If we aren't willing to pray before starting the work, then we won't succeed. Without ongoing prayer, we cannot appropriate the power of God to accomplish His work. Therefore, the beginning of any work must be in prayer.
Nehemiah's prayer wasn't just a prayer of petition, nor was it a constant complaint before the Lord. Instead, it was a prayer of repentance for the sins of his people. Nehemiah understood what the scripture said, and how to receive God's blessing. He praised God, repented before Him, and asked God's favor.
After four months of prayer and fasting, Nehemiah allowed the king to be aware of the sadness that he was feeling about the state of Jerusalem (Neh 2:1-2). The king, who obviously knew Nehemiah well enough to be aware of his moods, readily understood that Nehemiah was troubled about something, and was concerned enough to be willing to do something about it. God gave Nehemiah favor before the king to not only receive a commission as governor over Judah, with authority to restore Jerusalem. On top of this, God moved upon the king to be willing to provide materials for the work (Neh 2:4-8).
It isn't until Nehemiah is at the halfway point of his journey to Jerusalem that we see the first act of the enemy in this story. Notice that the enemy didn't do anything during Nehemiah's time of prayer and fasting. Nor did he get in the way while Nehemiah was talking to the king, or making plans for his journey. It took the enemy time to react to Nehemiah's new work for the Lord.
These two men mentioned here were probably other government officials within the Persian Empire. Possibly they were governors of the areas around Judah, and didn't want their power, influence, or income affected by the new governorship of Nehemiah. Who they were isn't really important, what they did is. In the spiritual understanding of this story, they represent Satan and his counselors.
Just like in this story, the attacks of the enemy always start when he hears of a new work being done for the Lord. His goal, of course, is to stop the furthering of the kingdom of God, so that his own kingdom may be increased. Satan has never stopped trying to raise his throne above God's.
However, Nehemiah kept his plans secret until he was ready to take action. So, even though the enemy knew of a new work for God, he was ineffective in raising up any attack against it.
Once Nehemiah reached Jerusalem, he started out by surveying the need (Neh 2:12-15). He wanted to be sure of what the scope of the need was before he started seeking out how to go about the work. All ministries should be need based. If we start a work where there isn't a need, we won't succeed. Even after receiving vision and direction from the Holy Spirit, studying out the need will help us understand why the vision exists, and also the magnitude of the work that is needed.
Surveys don't have to be long and complicated. I've been with pastors, driving through an area, when they mentioned that there wasn't a single church in that area. That's a survey. In those cases, it was obvious that there was a need for a church. Other surveys might take a little longer. If one is seeking to minister to prostitutes, it would help to find where the prostitutes are. Putting a ministry to them in the suburb when they all are in the middle of the city isn't very effective.
There was a church in a large city which was extremely successful. They started out in the inner city, reaching out to homeless, prostitutes, drug addicts and the like. Because they were meeting the needs of the people, the work flourished. Eventually it had grown to the point where their facility wasn't sufficient for the need.
During the process of investigating options for more facilities, they encountered a large piece of property available on the highway that went around the city. The property they had could be sold for enough to buy this new property, and they would have plenty of room for expansion.
There was only one little problem. Once they moved into the new property they lost the majority of their congregation. The drug addicts, prostitutes and poor they were ministering to didn't have the ability to come to the new church facility. Instead of expanding the ministry, they in fact destroyed it. They lost track of the need, and focused on something else.
After surveying the need, Nehemiah rallied the people, shared the vision, explained the plan, and motivated them to do the work. Since he was well prepared, had the favor of God, and the favor of the king, his words were readily accepted.
I'd like to say here that Nehemiah probably wasn't the first to suggest rebuilding the wall. It had been more than 100 years since the wall had been broken down. Yet, in all that time, nobody had been successful in rebuilding Jerusalem. Nehemiah came with the anointing of God, and was therefore able to accomplish the work.
1st Attack - Ridicule
The first and easiest attack for Satan to bring against a ministry is ridicule. If he can convince us that we can't do the work, we will stop ourselves, and he doesn't have to do any more.
Many ministries die in this way; before they are even born. God gives a vision, and before even starting, the person who God has chosen for that work becomes convinced that they can't do it. Instead of hearing the words of the Lord, they hear the words of ridicule coming out of hell.
Oral Roberts is credited with having said the following three steps for success:
There it is. Just follow those three simple steps, and you are guaranteed to have success in your life and ministry. But, if you won't follow them, there are no guarantees.
Many people never even complete step one of that plan. They're so busy coming up with their own plan, they don't bother to hear God's. They go to God with their plan and pray, "Here's my plan God, please bless it." But, all the time, God is saying, "Here's my plan, become part of it, so that you can receive my blessing."
Of those who actually hear God's plan, many go no further because they're too busy listening to what other people say. If a plan comes from God, you can be assured that people won't agree with it. Some well meaning saint will tell you all about how it can't be done; how others have tried the same thing and failed; how you aren't the right person to do it; or, telling you about all the qualifications that you don't have. If God tells you do to it, that's all you need. Don't worry about what everyone else says, do what God says.
Satan has a big mouth. In fact, that's all he has. He doesn't have any power, just lots of bad words. He'll always try and convince you that you can't do whatever God has told you to do. If you listen to him, you won't be able to.
Nehemiah countered this attack, like he did many others with prayer. Satan cannot stand against a praying minister. If you want to succeed, base your work on prayer.
2nd Attack - Gathering Help Against You
As I already mentioned, Satan doesn't have any power, just a big mouth. If he is going to bring an attack against someone, he has to look for help in order to do it. Satan will seek out whoever he can to help bring an attack against us.
This is the part of the attack that makes us feel as if we're in a war. One thing after another seems to go wrong. Every time we turn around there's some new problem to deal with.
Notice, however, that this didn't happen until they were halfway through the construction. It says in verse six, "all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof." It takes time for the enemy to prepare an attack. That's why new works always seem to start off great, without any hindrance. It isn't until things have been going for a while that the attacks come.
We see some wisdom here on the part of Nehemiah. It says in verse nine, that he "prayed unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night." In every attack that came against the work of rebuilding the wall, Nehemiah prayed. Why? Because "our help comes from the Lord" (Ps 121:1-2). Remember, I said that every work for the Lord needs to be founded in prayer. Nehemiah never stopped praying throughout this work; especially when attacks came against them.
The other part of the wisdom is that he "set a watch." The church today needs watchmen on the wall who are looking out for the attacks of the enemy and warning the rest of the workers what is happening. Many times, we're too busy doing the work to see what's happening around us. So, we constantly take two steps forward and one step back (or, sometimes three steps back). Why? Because the enemy is constantly looking for ways to destroy the work we are doing.
3rd Attack - Take Your Strength
These second and third attacks tend to work together. Satan will try to bring so many things against us that we can't deal with them all. His goal is to put so much trash in our way, that all our strength is used up taking care of the trash instead of doing the Lord's work.
Sometimes, these attacks come in a number of little problems. Each of them in themselves aren't enough to be any real problem, but together they take up a lot of time. By the time all the little problems are dealt with, there isn't any time for anything else.
There are persons who are sent into the church (or ministry) with the purpose of taking up the time and strength of the ministers. These people are always living in a crisis, and never getting any better. No matter how much time the minister spends praying for them and counseling them, things don't change. The only thing that happens is the pastor gets so tired that he doesn't have the strength to do the other things he has to do.
Let me go back to the wisdom of Nehemiah for a moment. The Lord showed him that the enemy was working to put these attacks together against him. How did he hear this from the Lord? Because he was in constant prayer for the Lord's help and direction in the work. Prayer isn't just asking God to do something for us, it's also listening to God so that we can hear his answer.
When Nehemiah became aware of the attacks, he posted guards: "Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows" (Neh 4:13). Why? To watch for the attacks of the enemy, and repulse them before they could come and disrupt the work. Part of the people did the work, while the other part protected the workers.
Many times, we start out to do a work for the Lord without posting guards. Then, when the enemy attacks us, we're surprised, and act as if we don't understand where the attack came from. The enemy should never catch us by surprise. We need to be aware of his devices, and counter his attacks before they even start.
In World War II, the initial allied attacks against Germany were done by massive airplane bombardment. Hundreds, or even thousands, of bombers at a time would fly from England to drop bombs on Germany's military and industries. But, the bombers didn't travel alone; they always were escorted by fighter aircraft. The bombers would attack Germany, and the fighters would protect the bombers from the Germans while they were dropping their bombs.
We need to use the same sort of strategy in the church. No matter what we are doing, whether it is an evangelistic campaign, knocking on doors, or a vacation bible school, we are attacking the kingdom of the enemy. He is going to fight back in one way, or another.
While we are doing those works, we should always have a group of intercessors left behind in the church to pray for what we are doing. The people out doing the work are like the bomber aircraft, attacking the enemy. The intercessors in the church are like the fighter aircraft, protecting the bombers. This way, the enemy can't harm those who are doing the work.
4th Attack - Traps
The next attack we see the enemy doing is to set a trap against Nehemiah. He wanted to distract Nehemiah from the work, and get him into a place where he couldn't return to it. This is most often done by getting the minister to sin.
When we started ministering about marriage and sexual intimacy, I was still working as an engineering manager at a factory in New York state. We needed a clerk in my department, so I called the agency where we hired our help, and asked them to send me one.
The next day, a young lady arrived at my office to fill this position. She came into my office to meet me, and gave me a slip of paper with her phone number on it. Giving the phone number wasn't unusual, but what she said was. She said, "If you need me for anything at all, day or night, be sure to give me a call."
Later in the day, she had to bring some papers to me for my signature. I had a large desk with two short filing cabinets on the right side. On the left was a table against the wall. There were two chairs in front of my desk, and the door was on the left wall, in front of my desk. When she came into my office, instead of sitting in one of the chairs, she walked all the way around my desk and the filing cabinets to stand next to me. She placed the papers on my desk, and rubbed her breasts against my shoulder.
This woman had been sent in to work for me, by the enemy, to be a trap. If I fell into adultery with her, my marriage ministry would be destroyed before it got off the ground. Fortunately, I recognized the trap for what it was, and arranged to keep her away from me.
5th Attack - Lies & Gossip
If the enemy can't get us to fall into sin, he'll lie about it and try to make people think we did. This is why it is so important to "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1Thes:5:22). There are always people who will believe the lie, and satan will be sure to put them where they can see anything we do that appears to be wrong. It doesn't matter if it is wrong, it's enough that it looks wrong.
There are an awful lot of gossips in the Body of Christ. All satan has to do is make sure that the person who saw what appeared to be sin talks to one of the gossips. Then, before you know it, everyone knows how brother so-and-so fell into sin and lost his ministry. The first part about falling into sin isn't true, but you can be sure if the gossip keeps going, he will lose the ministry.
We know a pastor who lost his ministry over lies and gossip. He had a church in a small town in Texas. He and his wife also acted as foster parents for troubled teen girls who had been removed by Social Services from their homes.
One of the girls, who didn't like the rules and restrictions in his home started a bunch of lies and rumors that he was sexually abusing the girls in his home. There was absolutely no basis of truth in what she was saying, but that didn't matter. This girl was very outgoing and likeable. Because of that, everyone believed her and turned against the pastor. It wasn't long before his church was empty. Everyone had left.
When the lies come, don't focus on them. If you do, you will give more credibility to the lies. Turn to God, and allow His truth to overcome the enemies lies.
6th Attack - Fear
Many believers are more afraid of satan than they are of God. Satan uses this fear to control us and keep us from doing the will of God.
Do you know that the Bible contains the phrase "fear not" 365 times! That's one time for every day of the year! Why does it say it that often, maybe because we have too much fear.
Fear will always bind a person up and lead them into slavery. It is the direct opposite of faith. Faith is confidence in God's ability to do good for us. Fear is confidence in something's ability to do us harm. For example, many people are afraid of snakes. Why? Because they have confidence in the snake's ability to harm them.
A couple of years ago, we were driving our motorhome in Reynosa, Mexico and had an accident with a Mexican lawyer. It was a very small accident, we hardly even touched vehicles, and I didn't notice it while I was driving, but there was some scratches in the paint of his new vehicle. Now, if you're an American, the only person worse than a lawyer to have an accident with is the police.
Well, the transit police stopped us and informed us of the accident. We were required to pay him on the spot for the damage. Although it was only $200.00, that was all we had at the time.
My wife was very upset and disturbed by this. The enemy gave her thoughts of our ministry being destroyed; of the lawyer talking to the border guards, and we wouldn't be able to leave Mexico; of everything he could to give her fear.
Finally, she gave up. She was outside one of the churches, crying to the Lord and said, "God, I can't take it any more. I give up. If you want us stuck here in front of this church without money, and without anyone to minister to, that's fine. I give you my will." When she did that, a great peace and joy came over her. But also, the Lord showed her Satan. As she described him, he was about the size of an insect, with a great big mouth. She said, "Is this what I've been afraid of?"
Satan doesn't have any power. He has to seek out help and give us fear in order to harm us. All he has is a very big mouth. We don't need to fear him.
7th Attack - Turn Friends Against You
All of us have a support system around us. This is made up of friends, family members, and co-workers. They give us love, affirmation and share in our joys and pains. Without this support system, these people we can rely on, we are all much weaker.
The last attack that satan brought against Nehemiah was to try and take away that support system. Nehemiah went to visit a friend, who was also a prophet. Instead of supporting Nehemiah in the work that he was doing for the Lord, this "friend" sold out to the enemy, and turned against Nehemiah. He gave a false word to Nehemiah, intending to cause Nehemiah to run in fear, and fall into sin.
It is good to have friends and family members to support us, but our true help comes from the Lord (Ps 121:2). We must count on Him, and not on those around us.
I am not saying that these seven attacks are the only ones that satan uses against us. There are other things he can use, such as sickness, financial attacks, and even death. But, they are seven very strong forms of emotional attacks that are commonly used against those who are in the ministry, especially when they are starting a new work for the Lord.
Jesus told us, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Mt 10:16). There are still wolves out there, and we still need to be as wise as serpents. But, let's be sure that we don't become serpents ourselves. Don't let the enemies attacks turn you aside. Keep faithful, and accomplish all the Lord has called you to do.
Copyright © 2004 by Richard A. Murphy, Maranatha Life. All rights reserved.