THE CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN TENDS TO DOWNPLAY THE REALITY OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE. But the Bible clearly asserts that unseen spiritual entities intimidatingly named “rulers, authorities, and powers” are arrayed against us. It would be foolish to think we can fight them in our own strength.
Like many, I believed in the reality of this conflict for years. In theory, I knew evil spirits were out there. Then one unforgettable Sunday morning everything changed. My theories became reality.
My wife and I went through our normal routines of feeding and dressing our five children and hurrying to get to church on time. We heard an excellent sermon from John 15 about the importance of abiding in the Vine. Afterwards, the guest speaker invited those who wanted prayer for special needs to come forward. This was nothing unusual. Our church occasionally did this, and when we did, all was handled decently and in order.
I was an elder and headed one of the prayer teams. A teen-aged girl came forward asking us to pray for her eating habits. (We learned later that she had been struggling with Bulimia and Anorexia). We laid hands on her, and to cover all of our bases, one of the men commanded any unclean spirits to quit oppressing her. This was our normal procedure. But, to our surprise, she immediately went into a trance-like condition and swooned to the floor. A deep, masculine, Earl-Jones-like voice spoke out of her mouth, “I am starvation. This woman is my house, and I am not leaving.”
I was stunned. God had pulled back the fragile curtain that separates the material world from the spiritual. I had read about these kinds of encounters. In theory I knew it happened, but I had never experienced it myself, nor did I know anyone with this experience. Not knowing what to do, but feeling responsible for doing something, I blurted out nervously, “In Jesus’ Name, I command you to leave her, now.”
“I am not leaving. I live here. This is my house.” The spirit growled back in his deep guttural voice.
Her semi-conscious body began to writhe on the floor like a snake. Now the other men joined in, commanding the spirit. “In Jesus Name, leave now.” Each time they said “Jesus Name” her whole body shook as if someone had kicked her. Ocaisionally the spirit would respond, “Don’t say the name. I hate that name.” This went on for about fifteen minutes. Finally, the unclean spirit left. When she returned to her senses I asked her if she had been aware of what was happening. “Vaguely,” she responded.
That day God in His mercy, and for His sovereign purposes, peeled back the fragile curtain separating the material realm from the spiritual. I got a first hand look at the intense behind-the-scenes war that rages all around us. In this case, the oppressed were believers, and none of it was staged. It sensitized me to the spiritual conflict that daily rages about us.
All Christians are “oppressed” by the Devil to some degree. He hates us. Destroying us is his objective. Demonic temptation (oppression) is, therefore, a daily experience. I use the word “oppressed” because the KJV uses the English word “possessed” when it would be better translated “oppressed.” The girl in this story was a professing Christian. The Devil did not possess her, but he did oppress her.
Most of us experience demonic interaction as unwanted and intrusive fears, anxieties, compulsions, lusts. or temptations to despair. Most serious are the unwanted thoughts that God doesn’t exist, that he isn’t really good, or that he doesn’t really love us. It is an all-out, daily war. It will never end this side of the grave. How then should we fight back?
First, be aware of the Devil. He is real. He is a present, existential reality. “Your Adversary, the Devil, prowls about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Believing this matters because our culture denies the reality of the spiritual world. Therefore, you must fight back.
Second, apply Paul’s battle instructions in Ephesians six.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.Ephesians 6:1-20