Beware of the Devil’s Snares!
“Come . . . out from the snare of the Devil.”—2 TIM. 2:26.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
What self-examination is needed if you are inclined to be unduly critical of others?
From the examples of Pilate and Peter, what can you learn about not giving in to fear and pressure?
How can you avoid the feeling of excessive guilt?
1, 2. What snares of the Devil will we consider in this article?
THE Devil stalks Jehovah’s servants. His goal is not necessarily to destroy them, as a big-game hunter kills prey. Rather, the Devil’s main goal is to capture his quarry alive and use the person as he sees fit.—Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
2 To catch prey alive, a trapper may use a snare of some sort. He may try to get the animal to come out into the open where he can capture it with a noose. Or he may use a hidden trap that has a trigger and takes the animal by surprise. The Devil uses similar snares to catch God’s servants alive. If we want to avoid being caught, we must be alert and heed warning signs indicating that one of Satan’s snares, or traps, is nearby. This article will consider how we can guard against three of the traps that the Devil has used with a measure of success. These are (1) uncontrolled speech, (2) fear and pressure, and (3) excessive guilt. The next article will consider two additional traps, or snares, of Satan.
QUENCH THE FIRE OF UNCONTROLLED SPEECH
3, 4. Failure to control our tongue could result in what? Give an example.
3 To flush animals out of hiding, a hunter may set a section of vegetation ablaze, catching the animals as they try to escape. In a figurative sense, the Devil would like to set the Christian congregation ablaze. If he succeeds, he can drive its members away from that safe haven right into his clutches. How might we unwittingly collaborate with him and thus be entrapped by him?
4 The disciple James likened the tongue to a fire. (Read James 3:6-8.) If we fail to control our tongue, we could start a figurative wildfire in the congregation. How might this happen? Consider the following scenario: At a congregation meeting, an announcement is made that a certain sister has been appointed a regular pioneer. After the meeting, two publishers discuss this announcement. One expresses joy and has good wishes for the new pioneer. The other questions the pioneer’s motives and implies that she is merely seeking prominence in the congregation. Which of those two publishers would you like to have as a friend? It is not hard to see which one is more likely to set the congregation ablaze through her speech.
5. To quench the fire of uncontrolled speech, what self-examination would we do well to conduct?
5 How can we quench the fire of uncontrolled speech? Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) So the first step is to examine our own heart. Do we shun the bad feelings that fuel destructive speech? For example, when we hear that a brother is reaching out for some privilege of service, do we readily believe that his motives are pure, or do we suspect that he is driven by self-interest? If we have a tendency to be cynical, it is good to remember that the Devil questioned the motives of God’s faithful servant Job. (Job 1:9-11) Rather than being suspicious of our brother, we would do well to consider why we are critical of him. Do we really have good reason for being that way? Or has our heart been poisoned by the unloving spirit so prevalent during these last days?—2 Tim. 3:1-4.
6, 7. (a) What are some reasons why we might be critical of others? (b) How should we respond if we are reviled?
6 Consider some other reasons why we might be critical of others. One could be that we desire to make our own accomplishments more noticeable. In effect, we may be attempting to look taller by pushing others down. Or we may be trying to excuse our own failure to take positive action. Whether pride, envy, or insecurity is driving us, the result is destructive.
7 It could be that we feel justified in speaking critically of someone. Perhaps we have been the victim of his or her uncontrolled speech. If that is the case, retaliating in kind is not the answer. Doing so only adds fuel to the fire and works in harmony with the Devil’s will, not God’s. (2 Tim. 2:26) We do well to imitate Jesus in this regard. When he was being reviled, “he did not go reviling in return.” Instead, he “kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Pet. 2:21-23) Jesus was confident that Jehovah would take care of matters in His own way and time. We should have the same trust in God. When we use our speech to heal, we help to preserve “the uniting bond of peace” in our congregation.—Read Ephesians 4:1-3.
ESCAPE THE NOOSE OF FEAR AND PRESSURE
8, 9. Why did Pilate condemn Jesus?
8 An animal caught in a snare loses control over its freedom of movement. Similarly, a person who succumbs to fear and related pressure has given up at least some control of his life. (Read Proverbs 29:25.) Let us consider the examples of two very different men who yielded to pressure and to fear and see what we can learn from their experience.
9 The Roman Governor Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was an innocent man and apparently did not want to harm him. In fact, Pilate said that Jesus had done “nothing deserving of death.” Nevertheless, Pilate condemned him to death. Why? Because Pilate succumbed to pressure from the mob. (Luke 23:15, 21-25) “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar,” cried those opposers, thus applying pressure in order to get their way. (John 19:12) Pilate may have feared that he would lose his position—or possibly his life—if he sided with Christ. So he allowed himself to be led into doing the Devil’s will.
10. What induced Peter to deny Christ?
10 The apostle Peter was one of Jesus’ closest associates. He publicly declared that Jesus was the Messiah. (Matt. 16:16) Peter remained loyal when other disciples did not grasp the meaning of what Jesus said and abandoned Him. (John 6:66-69) And when enemies came to arrest Jesus, Peter used a sword to defend his Master. (John 18:10, 11) Later, however, Peter succumbed to fear and denied even knowing Jesus Christ. For a brief time, the apostle was caught in the snare of fear of man and allowed it to restrain him from taking a courageous course.—Matt. 26:74, 75.
11. We may have to contend with what negative influences?
11 As Christians, we need to resist pressure to do things that would displease God. Employers or others may try to coerce us into being dishonest or may seek to induce us to engage in sexual immorality. Students may have to deal with peers who try to pressure them to cheat on exams, to view pornography, to smoke, to use drugs, to abuse alcohol, or to engage in sexual misconduct. So, what can help us to escape the snare of fear and of pressure to do what displeases Jehovah?
12. What lessons can we learn from Pilate and Peter?
12 Let us see what we can learn from the examples of Pilate and Peter. Pilate had little knowledge about Christ. Still, he knew that Jesus was innocent and was no ordinary man. But Pilate lacked humility and love for the true God. The Devil easily caught him alive. Peter had both accurate knowledge and love for God. At times, though, he lacked modesty, became fearful, and succumbed to pressure. Prior to Jesus’ arrest, Peter boasted: “Even if all the others are stumbled, yet I will not be.” (Mark 14:29) The apostle would have been better prepared for the tests ahead had he taken the same position as that of the psalmist who put his confidence in God and sang: “Jehovah is on my side; I shall not fear. What can earthling man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6) On the final night of His earthly life, Jesus took Peter and two other apostles with him deep into the garden of Gethsemane. Instead of remaining alert, however, Peter and his companions fell asleep. Jesus awakened them and said: “Men, keep on the watch and praying, in order that you do not come into temptation.” (Mark 14:38) But Peter fell asleep again and later gave in to fear and pressure.
13. How can we resist pressure to do something wrong?
13 The examples of Pilate and Peter can teach us another vital lesson: Success in resisting pressure involves a combination of such elements as accurate knowledge, humility, modesty, love for God, and fear of Jehovah, not humans. If our faith is built on accurate knowledge, we will courageously speak about our beliefs with conviction. This will help us to resist pressure and conquer fear of man. Of course, we must never overestimate our own strength. Instead, we should humbly recognize that we need God’s power in order to resist pressure. We need to pray for Jehovah’s spirit and must let love for him motivate us to uphold his name and standards. Moreover, we need to prepare for pressure before we face a test. For instance, advance preparation along with prayer can help our children to respond effectively when their peers try to induce them to do something wrong.—2 Cor. 13:7.*
AVOID THE TRAP THAT CRUSHES—EXCESSIVE GUILT
14. Concerning our past mistakes, what would the Devil like us to conclude?
14 Sometimes an animal trap consists of a heavy log or stone suspended over a path where prey often move about. An unwary animal hits the trip wire, causing the log or stone to fall, crushing the victim. Inordinate feelings of guilt may be likened to that heavy load that crushes. When thinking about a past mistake, we may feel “crushed to an extreme degree.” (Read Psalm 38:3-5, 8.) Satan would like to have us conclude that we are beyond the reach of Jehovah’s mercy and are incapable of meeting His requirements.
15, 16. How can you avoid the trap of succumbing to excessive guilt?
15 How can you avoid this trap that crushes? If you have become involved in serious sin, act now to restore your friendship with Jehovah. Contact the elders, and ask for their help. (Jas. 5:14-16) Do what you can to right the wrong. (2 Cor. 7:11) If you receive discipline, do not become downhearted. Discipline is a sure sign that Jehovah loves you. (Heb. 12:6) Be determined not to repeat the steps that led to the sin, and act on that resolve. After you have repented and turned around, have faith that the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ really can cover your errors.—1 John 4:9, 14.
16 Some individuals continue to harbor guilt over sins for which they have actually been forgiven. If that is true of you, remember that Jehovah forgave Peter and the other apostles for abandoning His beloved Son in Jesus’ greatest hour of need. Jehovah forgave the man who was expelled from the congregation in Corinth for flagrant immorality but who later repented. (1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Cor. 2:6-8) God’s Word speaks of gross sinners who repented and were forgiven by God.—2 Chron. 33:2, 10-13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11.
17. What can the ransom do for us?
17 Jehovah will forgive and forget your past errors if you are truly repentant and accept his mercy. Never feel that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice cannot cover your sins. To do so would be to fall victim to one of Satan’s snares. Despite what the Devil wants you to believe, the ransom can cover the sins of all who have fallen into sin and have repented. (Prov. 24:16) Faith in the ransom can lift the burden of excessive guilt from your shoulders and can give you strength to serve God with your whole heart, mind, and soul.—Matt. 22:37.
WE ARE NOT IGNORANT OF SATAN’S DESIGNS
18. How can we avoid the Devil’s snares?
18 Satan does not care which trap ensnares us, as long as we are caught by him. Since we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs, we can avoid being overreached by the Devil. (2 Cor. 2:10, 11) We will not be caught in his snares, or traps, if we pray for wisdom to deal with our trials. “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom,” wrote James, “let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” (Jas. 1:5) We need to act in harmony with our prayers by engaging in regular personal study and by applying God’s Word. The Bible study aids provided by the faithful and discreet slave class shed light on the traps set by the Devil and help us to avoid them.
19, 20. Why should we hate what is bad?
19 Prayer and Bible study promote in us a love for what is good. But it is equally important that we develop a hatred for what is bad. (Ps. 97:10) Meditating on the consequences of pursuing selfish desires can help us to avoid them. (Jas. 1:14, 15) When we learn to hate what is bad and truly love what is good, the bait that Satan places in his traps repels us; it holds no allure.
20 How thankful we are that God helps us so that we are not overreached by Satan! By means of His spirit, Word, and organization, Jehovah delivers us “from the wicked one.” (Matt. 6:13) In the following article, we will learn how to avoid two more traps that the Devil has found to be effective in catching God’s servants alive.
Parents would do well to discuss with their children the “Peer-Pressure Planner” that appears in the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 2, pages 132-133. This material might be used as part of the Family Worship evening.
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Uncontrolled speech can set the congregation ablaze with problems
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You can shed the burden of excessive guilt