I don’t like talking much about Satan. I find him rather unworthy of the attention. But the Bible mentions him enough for me to know that I can’t turn a blind eye to him and what he’s up to.
Now, don’t be confused by the title of this essay. I don’t think we should take our cues from the Devil. I’m just saying that if he’s got a clear game plan and you don’t, you’re in trouble.
Here’s where I’m coming from:
In John chapter 10, Jesus gives what I believe to be a clarion call wrapped in a simple parable about a shepherd and his sheep.
He acknowledges that the sheep are vulnerable to sneak attacks from an enemy with evil intentions. A burglar. A robber. Someone who breaks into the sheepfold through a back door because he doesn’t have the keys to the front. And he’s there to capture the sheep and take them hostage as his own.
Jesus goes so far as to say, “I am the door of the sheep.” Only through him can the sheep move freely in and out between the safety of the sheepfold and the pasture of the countryside.
Then comes his big thesis statement of the parable:
Now, who Jesus is labeling a thief has been the subject of debate among Bible people. I’ll take a moment to address this.
Some say that Jesus is referring to the Jewish leaders that often used religion as a weapon of control, manipulation, and embezzlement. Others argue that Jesus is speaking of Satan himself, the ultimate enemy of God’s people. I personally find truth in both of these interpretations.
Jesus tells this parable as a direct response to the Pharisees’ outrage at his healing a blind man on the Sabbath (in John 9). So, it’s difficult to distance this teaching from Jesus’ ongoing indictment of the Jewish leadership.
But if you zoom out and look at Jesus’ word choice, it’s also hard to distance his description of the thief from the Bible’s description of Satan. Though Satan is never explicitly called a “thief” anywhere else in scripture, I believe it’s an appropriate monicker, and thus an acceptable interpretation of this verse.
Who is it that breaks in through the back door of our lives to try and hold us hostage to our sin, our past, and our doubts? Satan. The ultimate robber of all things good and godly.
Satan wants to steal God’s throne (Isaiah 14:13), and thus destroy our Christian identity.
Satan wants to plagiarize God’s words, and use them to destroy our faith. (Genesis 3:1, 4-5; Matthew 4:3,6,9)
Satan wants to snatch God’s word out of our hearts so that we will not bear fruit. (Romans 10:17)
There are more examples, but this is enough to characterize what looks to me like a run-of-the-mill thief.
Jesus also says the thief comes to “kill” and “destroy”. So in the interest of thoroughness, here’s the Bible on Satan as killer and destroyer:
Satan has always been a murderer. (John 8:44)
Satan’s homicidal nature rubs off onto others. (1 John 3:12)
Satan prowls around like a blood-thirsty lion seeking to destroy our lives. (1 Peter 5:8)
He is the chief thief. The quintessential killer. The ultimate destroyer.
This is his three-pronged mission. To steal from you, to end your life, and to obliterate everything that stands in his way. And he is skilled at what he does. If he wasn’t, the God wouldn’t waste space mentioning him in the Bible. Every mention of Satan is a warning clear-cut warning.
To be clear, God reigns supreme over all of heaven and earth. But in this fallen world we live in, Satan finds his way into the dark corners of minds, cultures, and systems in order to wreak diabolical havoc. Just as God uses human agency (our free will), Satan does too.
And his success rate is high enough that we should wonder why he’s so good at it. In my view, it’s not because he is crafty or powerful or smart. It’s because he has a clear mission.
When Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” it’s not for the sake of developing one of his parabolic characters. He’s giving us Satan’s mission statement.
Sure, Satan didn’t offer up his mission statement on his own behalf — it came through Jesus. But that’s all the more reason to believe it. God knows all things, and he is full of grace and truth. On the other hand, Satan is a master deceiver, and if he himself were to articulate his mission, it may not be very reliable. Whenever he speaks, he is just trying to throw us off our game. He can’t be trusted. But we can certainly trust what God has to say about him.
Yes, Satan has a mission statement. The question is—why don’t you?
Jesus certainly wouldn’t dare let the devil’s mission statement linger out there without countering it with his own: “But I came so that they may have life and have it abundantly,” he says.
What’s your counter?
Why have you come?
Jesus is calling us to respond with our own clear, concise personal statement of mission.
Now, don’t be intimidated. A mission statement isn’t a ironclad box you jump into and live there for the rest of your life. Your mission is simply your best sense of what God is calling you to be and do right now. God works in our lives in seasons, and your mission will continue to be developed and defined as you grow.
But that isn’t an excuse to not start where you are with what you have.
If we’re just freewheeling, out here hoping that somehow the things we are doing will contribute to God’s plan to turn the world right side up again, we are, in some ways, fooling ourselves.
I recently revamped my personal mission statement. It used to be three compound sentences chock full of lofty language as if I had composed it for a 10th grade writing competition. It was too laden with Christianese. It was too narrow.
So I changed it to this: Seek Him. Serve them. Don’t skip a day.
It’s broad on purpose. Not only because I like to keep things simple, but also because it can touch every area of my life. There is no situation where my mission statement won’t apply. It speaks to what is most important to me: my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with others, and the consistency I desire to have in both.
It’s so pithy, you might argue that it’s more of a tag line. But to me it says mission, and as my husband said when I shared it with him, it gives me wings. And that’s what matters.
If I honed in on writing or speaking or campus ministry or motherhood, it would be easy to make excuses. I could say, “Well, such and such is not part of my mission. I’m a writer,” and feel justified. Or, “I know that’s a good thing to do for that person, but I really need to focus on my mission to be a good mom right now.”
Thus, rather than my mission statement opening me up to the wild possibilities of God’s purposes for my life, it could instead be used as an excuse to not do things that are a part of his grander purposes for the world.
And just because I don’t explicitly state my gifts (spiritual and otherwise) in my mission statement, doesn’t mean I’m not embracing, sharpening, and using them daily. My mission statement is simply a guidepost to help frame my attitude and actions as I pursue God’s will for my life.
If you Google the mission statements of the most successful organizations in the world, you may be surprised that most of them give no mention to the products they sell.
Here are a few.
These mission statements are simple, but not vague. They cast a wide net, leaving room for self-discovery and new ideas. But they are specific enough to hold people accountable. That’s a good thing. and that’s why they work.
Allow me to encourage you to pray for God to help you put your mission into simple, clear words. Then take those words and put them on paper (or virtual paper like I’m currently typing on). Even share them with the world, if the Spirit moves you.
A good mission statement will wake you up in the morning. It will keep your mind actively engaged with the right things. It will shape your calendar, define your daily routines, and make you aware of God’s presence in the little things. At least, that’s what it does for me.
I will flesh this out in a later article, but here are four tips for writing an personal mission statement that will actually keep you on mission.
There you have it! God has called us to be people on mission. But we can’t be on a mission if there isn’t one resonating through our minds and hearts every day.
Satan came to steal, kill, and destroy.
Jesus came to give us each an abundant life.
Why have you come?