Fabian Strategy: How The Devil Disguises His Primary Attacks

Named after the Roman dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, a Fabian strategy is a military tactic used where “frontal assaults are avoided in wearing down an opponent through a war of attrition and indirection.” In one of my favorite movies, Amazing Grace¸ which follows William Wilberforce and the fight to end the slave trade in England, Wilberforce and his allies employ a Fabian strategy.

Wilberforce tried multiple times to pass a bill to abolish the slave trade but was met with strong opposition. Instead of continuing to attack the issue directly, Wilberforce and his allies introduced legislation that appeared to have no impact on the slave trade yet in reality crippled it. Wilberforce’s opponents didn’t realize that the legislation would damage the slave trade and so didn’t oppose it. Once passed, it didn’t take long before a direct attack succeeded.

This is an example of a Fabian strategy, and I believe that this strategy is one of the main tactics the devil is using to attack Christians.

My church has been preaching through the book of Romans, and last week, we arrived in Romans chapter 8, one of the most powerful and important chapters in the entire bible. The theme for the chapter is that Christians have been adopted as children of God and that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

If I were the devil and wanted to thwart the advance of God’s Kingdom, I would make attacking this message my primary goal. But the devil is cunning, and he knows that direct attacks are likely futile, so he uses a Fabian strategy. Just like Wilberforce and the abolitionists, the devil attacks elsewhere with the idea of undermining the message of Romans 8.

The bible offends all of us at times, and when it does, we have two options. We can reject the bible’s authority and believe our feelings, or we can reject our feelings and believe the bible.

Maybe you’re offended by the bible’s views on sex and sexuality, or on the role of women in the church and marriage, or on submitting to the government. While yes, rejecting these teachings will cause damage because we will be living outside of God’s design, the devil’s primary target is the message of Romans 8.

If we reject a biblical teaching because we find it offensive, we establish the principle that our feelings are a greater authority than the bible.

This is dangerous because we all have times when we feel alone, abandoned, insignificant, or forgotten. We all have times when we feel guilt and shame because of our sinfulness. If we submit to the principle that our feelings have greater authority than the bible, then we have no weapon to fight against our feelings.

It won’t matter if Romans 8 says we are not condemned, the guilt of our sin will make us feel condemned, and we’ll believe our feelings. It won’t matter if Romans 8 says we are adopted children of God, our circumstances will make us feel abandoned and forgotten, and we’ll believe our feelings. Our feelings will convince us that God doesn’t love us and will create insecurity that will wreck our lives and the lives of those around us.

Friends, make no mistake, this is the devil’s goal, and we need to fight against it.

I love the lyrics of a song we sing at my church – lyrics that go like this:

I’m a child of God, yes I am

I am chosen not forsaken

I am who you say I am

We sing this song as a reminder that our feelings do not dictate the reality of our situation. What God has spoken over us is true, even when we don’t feel it. Out of love, God has purchased us so that we can become his children! This is the most radical message that has ever been preached, but it is hard to believe because it doesn’t always feel true. We need all the help we can get if we are going to let this transform us – we can’t be undermining this by submitting to our feelings when the bible offends us.

3 thoughts on “Fabian Strategy: How The Devil Disguises His Primary Attacks”

  1. The enemy most likely to defeat you is the one who has convinced you he doesn’t exist. Great post. One of the devil’s most effective strategies in dealing with churches is to allow them to succeed and think everything is going well, then to show up one night and say, “All of this is going away, unless you cave on this one little point.”

  2. Well said, Andrew! The devil will use every strategy he can to dissuade us from truth God has spoken even using our feelings against us. We must trust truth over feelings. Grateful for this reminder.

  3. “We sing this song as a reminder that our feelings do not dictate the reality of our situation. What God has spoken over us is true, even when we don’t feel it.” As someone who feels deeply, I related to what you said there because it is one of the biggest lessons I have had to learn! Feelings aren’t truth, but they do tell us a great deal about what is going in. Engaging the Lord with those feelings and asking Him to help me trust in what He says is true (in spite of them, sometimes,) has ushered me into a really amazing season of knowing Him more! Hard work, but so worth it to have my faith deepened that way.

    Great blog, Andrew!

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