I haven’t posted anything new on here for around a week now simply because I just needed to take a break over Christmas and gather my thoughts and wrestle with a few things I have been struggling with of late. My mind wasn’t right to be posting here as the posts probably would have been lethargic and filled with doubt. For the past 3 weeks or so I’ve been experiencing real doubt…….doubt about my salvation, doubt about whether God does truly love me, sees and cares about my struggles, hurts and moments of sheer loneliness and confusion, doubts about whether pursuing ministry is wise or if I have actually even been called. “I’m probably just conjuring up this whole thing in my head…..there’s no way I could do it. I’m not smart enough, strong enough, loving enough, faithful enough or wise enough for such a task.” I was so close to just pulling out of the whole thing because theres was a voice inside my head telling me it’s all going to end in failure, that i’m going to waste 2/3 years of my life for something that i’m just going to be rejected from. More worryingly I saw it as an eventual rejection by God. Here’s me thinking God has called me when it will probably turn out that he hasn’t, just as so many other things in my life have ended in failure. What a laughing stock I’m going to be, and what foolish sacrifices I will have made for the sake of a God who was so cruel to let me continue on in my own self-deception. These have been my thoughts for the past 2/3 weeks. It’s been crazy and it’s caused me to sin out of self-pity.
But then last night I was channel surfing and I came across the film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”. Laying aside the theological oddities displayed in the film one thing struck me like a lightning bolt from heaven itself, call it a epiphany if you will; could I have been the subject of a full on assault by the enemy as this girl Emily Rose was? All the doubt and confusion and temptation to just abandon ship and go back to my selfish desires, to forget about God and preaching the gospel and just get a girl, have sex, get drunk and be happy as all my non-Christian friends are doing. The onslaught was relentless and I was being buffeted on every front- the home, my friends, my emotions, my plans and even whilst in church, to the point where I just had to take a break from it. I’m not suggesting I was possessed like Emily Rose but certainly stumbling upon this film by sheer ‘chance’ hit me hard. I have most probably just experienced the biggest spiritual warfare struggle in my Christian walk to date. I’m serious. Reflecting on the past few weeks I have come to realise this. And I raise this issue because I think it is one that too many Christians forget about and that the church is, by in large, silent about. We in the post-enlightenmed rationalistic West consider demon posession and evil ‘demons’ to be superstitious folly that our ancestors once believed in. Yet we cannot claim to be Bible believing Christians and refuse to acknowledge the evil that exists. We try to explain away depression, unusual behaviour and things that go bump in the night as psychological anomalies that can be best helped by a few pills and secular counselling or a stint in a padded room, however we must not forget that there is another realm that we cannot see and dare not underestimate. Sam Storms says in his article on Confronting the Reality of Spiritual Warfare that,
“Few Christians fully realize the extent of Satan’s influence. Nor do they understand their own authority.”
He cites 1 John 5:19 which states “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” and explains how there is no neutrality in this battle. We are all IN something, and to this as John indicates there are only two options; 1) Christ 2) Satan. For as John states, if we as Christians are in God, then the rest of the whole world lies in the power of the evil one then. There is no third category here and there can be no denying of the spiritual realities and evil influences in the world. Whilst we should not run around associating everything as being ‘demonic’ we should practice discernment and be continually aware of the realities of spiritual warfare. Don Matzat writes,
“In the New Testament our Lord Jesus cast out demons from the people of his day. These were actual encounters with the demonic. The Apostle Paul also encountered demonized people such as the young woman in Acts 16: 16-21. To dismiss these events as merely being a first century description of the healing of mental or emotional problems is foolishness. The devil and his host of demons are, according to Scripture, very real. Demons are fallen angels. As Satan’s subjects they carry out his work in the world. In general, their work seems to be one of temptation and deceit (I Cor. 14: 29; I Tim. 4: 1). More specifically, they seek to torture the victims they possess.”
Mazat goes on to discuss how there are some Christians, particularly from a Charismatic background, who seem to associate a demon with everything. For instance there are demons of lust, addictions and anger etc. Deliverance ministries have been set up to “deliver” people left, right and center from their demons. However, this extremity is bordering on superstitious nonsense because ultimately we are accountable for such sins and 99% of the time it is our own sinful nature that is to blame. I agree with the Christians artist Sara Groves in one of her songs when she sings “To say that the Devil made me do it, is a kop out and a lie…..the Devil can’t make me do anything when I’m calling on Jesus Christ.”
Yes demons are real. Yes Spiritual Warfare is real. But we are not to become so focused on the powers of darkness as to take our eyes of Jesus Christ. We are not to become so preoccupied with “Deliverance Ministries” that we forget about the Cross of Christ. Ultimately, as Mazat states above, Satan and his minions are out to buffet us with doubt, temptation and deceit in an effort to make us turn our backs on Christ. Thus to battle this we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus at all times. We must go to God in prayer and ask for protection and strength through the Holy Spirit. We must saturate our minds with Holy Scripture, for it is just that; Holy, and the spoken word of God carries with it the authority of Jesus Christ to whom “all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given” (Matt 28:18). I took my eyes of Christ and gave the enemy a foothold, yet the grace of God lifted my soul from it’s defeated and weakened state.
As we pursue a deeper knowledge of Christ and grow in our longing to see the Holy Spirit move in powerful ways we can often become disheartened and prone to such spiritual attacks when God doesn’t move when we want him to. I’ve also experienced this in the past few weeks as well. I’ll leave you with the wonderful words of Sam Storms to mull over.
“I would encourage people to find their fundamental identity and satisfaction and joy in the experience of seeing and knowing and tasting and savoring the all-sufficiency and breath-taking beauty of God as he has made himself known in Jesus Christ. If, in the course and along the way of that pursuit, you encounter a spectacular manifestation of God’s power, wonderful. If not, it’s still wonderful.”