In the secularist culture in which we live I gladly hold to actual spiritual entities of evil. I have a hard time calling them personal, since by their acts they are sinning against personhood, and descending to something less than what people are, which at its heart is relational. Call them forces, entities, what not, but they can be addressed as persons.
What we in Jesus and others more ostentatiously so in other cultures are up against are formidable spiritual powers who are crafty both in intent and function. We have to be aware of that, and avail ourselves of what God has given us in Christ.
One particular aspect of the devil’s wiles or strategy (in NIV, “schemes” in Ephesians 6 and 2 Corinthians 2) is to move us from our moorings or orientation in our faith and practice. Of course they would like to move us off the foundation of our faith, so that we abandon the faith entirely. And sadly enough that happens. But more likely for most of us, what they will disrupt is not our abandonment of the faith, but our own faith and joy in that, undermining it in usually subtle though sometimes all too predictable ways, especially when we’ve been around the block a good number of times with reference to this.
And one major way is to get us off the fundamentals of the faith in terms of our thinking and practice. Getting us there will likely involve deceptioin, but once we are there, we can’t let the next wave of deception come. Instead we have to be aware of the result. The undermining of our faith will mean that the faith we hold to is not sufficiently at work in us to help us into that peace and rest that is ours in Jesus. Not that the faith isn’t at work in us even in our misery to help us see the error of our way, yes I repeat it, the error of our own way in succumbing to the deceptive wiles of the devil. We need to learn well what the lure is, so that we might not be taken in the next time. And learn to watch out for similar lures, or even new ones which might appear bright and wonderful, but cast us into an experiential pit.
By faith and repentance, the Lord will help us climb out of the pit or remove us, giving us a firm place to stand again (Psalm 40). So that we can carry on once again in the way of the Lord, and grow in that.