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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Neal Pirolo :: Prepare for Battle

Neal Pirolo :: Chapter 5 - Spiritual Authority

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"In My Name you will cast out evil spirits…" Mark 16:17

"Resist the devil and he will flee from you." James 4:7

Never would I want to do such an exhaustive study on the character and methods of satan (as in the previous chapter) without immediately following it with the powerful, victorious message of spiritual authority. The dynamics of spiritual authority over satan and evil spirits have been vested in every believer in Jesus. Satan is a vanquished foe; he lost at Calvary. The power and authority of Jesus' Name can be invoked by every Soldier of the Cross. The devil is a defeated enemy; he lost at Calvary. Victorious living can be the norm for every child of God. For the wicked one is a conquered adversary; he lost at Calvary!

We will consider two significant dimensions of spiritual authority that we are able to exercise over the enemy: to Cast Out and to Resist. They are equal in power and scope and importance, though they are generally applied in different arenas of battle.

Peter stood on the Mount of Ascension with Jesus, still hoping that He would then establish His earthly Kingdom. Instead, he heard Jesus say, "You must go out into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature…These signs will follow those who do believe: They will drive out evil spirits in My Name…" Mark 16:15,17.

Though the former level of authority, "casting out," has the mystique and suspense of drama (and gets more attention-positive and negative), it is practiced less often than the latter. The more common authority that we are to exercise over the enemy can be summarized in one word: Resist! This is a daily-hourly-moment-by-moment aggressive, offensive action of repelling the always-encroaching forces of evil.

Both phrases-cast out and resist are fighting words. Both embody the full authority of Jesus Christ. Neither should be exercised apart from His authority. Neither should be engaged in without full battle preparation. It is important that we strongly depend on Scripture and upon the Spirit of God (Who will lead us into all Truth) as we consider our authority over the enemy.

Cast Out

As riots of a few hundred angry people are more "exciting" than peaceful demonstrations of thousands of law-abiding citizens, so the spiritual authority of exorcism-the casting out of demonic beings-is more intriguing than resisting the devil. At the outset of this study we need to be very careful with our use of terminology, because in this area of authority, satan has successfully side-tracked Christians into an intensely heated "flesh and blood" battle.

As we watch the Christians fight with each other, we can so clearly see this as a tactic of the enemy to divert us from casting him out in Jesus' Name. While the poor bedeviled sufferer looks on-still in the anguish of his pain, Christians go to war with each other. If we could see behind the scene into the spiritual arena, I think we would see satan smiling in sick satisfaction at having diverted the battle away from himself-again!

With Swords in hand, the warriors begin their battle: "Can a Christian be demon- possessed?" one queries. "Well, no, he can't be demon-possessed, but he can be demonized!" another states. "Well, no, he can't be demonized but he can have a demon!" yet another counters. "Well, no, he can't have a demon in his spirit but he can have one in his flesh!" argues a fourth. "Well, no, he can't have one in his flesh but it can be attached to his body!" surmises a fifth person. Well, no…Exactly-no! For the suffering soul is still suffering. And the Christians who battle Christians over this issue have to retreat, suffering from their own wounds, still not having resolved the issue.

(In the original draft of this chapter, I had to scratch out several paragraphs of argument, for, in reading back over them, I realized that satan had drawn me into a "flesh and blood" battle over this "flesh and blood" battle!)

To avoid the semantics of the location of evil presence, I simply use the word: hassled! Satan hassles people-Christians and non-Christans. The word, hassled, doesn't say where he is or how he got there or even if it is actually satan who is there. (Remember, he is not omnipresent.) However, "hassled" acknowledges the presence of evil (evil forces, evil beings, demons, evil spirits, powers and principalities of evil) which, in Jesus' Name, must leave.

Was this not Jesus' approach when He loosed a woman from a spirit of infirmity? She was a daughter of Abraham. Yet she had been bound by satan for eighteen years. Should she not be freed even on the Sabbath? See Luke 13:11-17.

My wife's uncle, a theologian of distinguished recognition, taught in a seminary in West Africa for some 52 years. In reference to the location of an evil power, he would say, "When someone walked into my classroom or office and I sensed in my spirit the presence of evil, I never pulled out my theological texts to try to analyze the situation. I simply said, 'In the Name of Jesus, be gone!' And it had to leave!"

As we prepare for battle, we open ourselves up to the spirit world. We become more sensitive to the presence of demonic power. We also need to believe there is authority in Jesus' Name. And we need to believe in that Authority in order to allow the "signs to follow."

Some Biblical Examples

We don't have to look far into Jesus' ministry before we see Him busy casting out demons. In Mark 1:23-27, Jesus "rebuked him (an unclean spirit), saying, 'Hold your peace, and come out of him!" And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him."

In Mark 3:22, in an attempt to discredit the fame that surrounded Jesus for His authoritative actions (Mark 1:28), the scribes from Jerusalem said He was possessed by Beelzebub, and that He drove out devils because He was in league with the prince of devils.

Mark 5:2-20 records the story of one who lived among the tombs, for he was a man with an unclean spirit. Jesus said, "Come out of him, you unclean spirit." And they cried with a loud voice, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God not to torment me!" Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "My name is Legion, for we are many."

Mark 7:25-30 tells the story of a young daughter of a Greek woman who had an unclean spirit. After a very interesting cultural discussion, Jesus said to the mother, "For this saying, go your way; the devil is gone out of your daughter."

In verse 17 of Chapter 9 of Mark [Mark 9:17], it is called a dumb spirit. The disciples could not cast it out. Jesus asked the father when this spirit came into his son. "Since he was a child," was his reply. In verse 25 [Mark 9:25], Jesus rebuked the foul spirit, commanding the deaf and dumb spirit to come out of him.

Only a few verses later [Mark 9:38], John said, "Master, we saw one casting out devils in Your Name, and because he was not part of our group, we told him to stop." But Jesus said not to stop him, "…for he who is not against us is for us!" Mark 9:40.

Demonic activity, for sure! But you never heard Jesus debating where the spirit was. And you will never catch me in a debate as to where that spirit is. It is evil. It is of the devil. It is hassling the lives of people created to worship the Living God. In the Name of Jesus, and on the authority and power of His Name, we as His believers, can see victory in these battles.

Demonic Activity Today

America was founded by godly men on godly principles. The restraining powers of our heritage have held at bay the full force of demonic activity in our country. However, in recent decades as more and more of what we regard sacred is stripped away, headlines become more frequent of witches and warlocks and of animal sacrifices. And-tragically-many of America's missing children are now known to have been involved in satanic sacrifice. "Snuff" movies, where the actors are literally murdered, are being filmed in America! But most of this activity is still under the cloak of secrecy-or denial.

In other countries, however, where the demonic dimensions of the spirit world have had free reign for centuries, these activities are believed and practiced more openly. F. Kefa Sempangi, in his book, A Distant Grief, tells of his mother sending him off (as a young boy) to learn to read the Bible. Evidently there was no school in his village, so his mother arranged for him to live with some people in another town. And as she told him good-bye, she said, "Do not come home until you can read the Bible to me."

The following account graphically portrays the power of demonic forces in Kefa's life in Africa:

It was then, at the age of 12, that I (Kefa) said good-bye to Banga and to my childhood. My mother took me to Nantule herself, and we traveled on foot. It was my first time away from home. As we walked on small winding paths through heavy trees and tangled climbing plants, my mother explained to me about the gods. The god of the forest was not the same as the god of the grasslands; the god of the grasslands was not the same as the god of the lake. There were many other gods as well. There were gods of planting, of harvesting, of prosperity. There were gods of the earth and gods of the heavens. When I was older I would learn their names. For now it was enough that I learn to serve the living God; I was going to Nantule to learn about Jesus.

We came to a river and, where the water narrowed, we crossed over a small wooden bridge. I stared curiously at someone bathing below. "Be careful," my mother warned, pushing me along. "It might be Omusambwa. She is the river goddess and she will strike you blind!" For the rest of our journey I was quiet in fear. I had not known the world was so full of gods.

When we arrived in Nantule my mother placed me in the hands of a guardian family and left me with this stern warning: "Son, until you are able to read do not come back to me." As she walked away, I began to cry. She did not stop or turn her head, and it was then that I knew she too was shedding tears.

The home my mother left me in was the home of a shrine priestess and only a few hours after my arrival I was taken to the shrine to meet my hostess and pay respect to the gods, "the elders" of the home. The shrine was a round, thatched-roof hut in back of the main house. It was surrounded by an elephant grass fence and as I walked towards it I could hear singing and the sounds of rattling gourds and beating drums. Behind the shrine was a small grove of shrunken coffee trees and their bare, neglected branches made me wish I was home again in Banga.

"Ingira. Tukulamusiza! Come in, my child. We welcome you to our home!" A deep male voice greeted me from the interior of the shrine as I peered nervously through its doorway. I stood hesitating on the threshold until I heard the command repeated and then, taking a deep breath, I stepped inside. For a moment I was surrounded by darkness. When my eyes grew accustomed to the dim half-light of the room, I found myself standing among a small group of people who were sitting on a floor of lemon grass. They stared at me curiously as I looked nervously around the room.

In the center of the shrine were four roof poles embroidered with colored reeds and backcloths, and through the poles I saw a log hearth covered with goat skins. The hearth was protected by a barrier of raised spears and shields, and behind the barrier was a burning fire. In the hot coals of the fire sat a woman!

I stared at her in astonishment, and she welcomed me in the same deep male voice I had heard from the doorway. "Come here, my child. Do not be afraid. I am glad to see you and you will be happy in your new home."

My heart was beating furiously as I knelt and returned her greeting in the manner my mother had taught me. The woman smiled at me, pleased at my politeness, but my own face was frozen in fear. Who was this woman who could sit in the middle of a scorching hot fire and not be burned? Why did she speak like a man? I stared at the flames licking around her clothes but I could see nothing unusual in her dress. She wore a simple cloth garment, like the women of my own village, and her hair was well-trimmed. There were no tribal scars on her face. Her one exceptional feature was her kindness to me, a small child and a stranger in her home.

"While you are a guest here," she said, still speaking in a male voice, "it is your duty to tend the fires of the shrine."

Looking back, I do not know why I answered the shrine priestess as I did. I knew nothing about Jesus except the chorus my mother had taught me, but somehow I felt that I was already in His service and that it would be wrong to serve in the shrine of another god.

"I cannot tend your fires," I said, hoping not to offend the priestess. "My mother has sent me here to learn to read the Book." The words were barely out of my mouth when my hostess was overcome with a shaking rage. She thundered, and the devotees sitting closest to her covered their heads. I stared at the convulsed woman in terror. Seconds later a young girl grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the hearth.

"That is not my mother's voice speaking to you," she said, whispering in fear. "It is the god of thunder. You must do whatever he tells you!"

Just then the god repeated his command and my legs trembled. I had never spoken with a god before and I did not understand why he would be so angry. But I was more certain than ever that I could not tend the fires of his shrine. My mother had sent me to Nantule to learn to read about Jesus.

Almost against my will, I refused a second time. The god thundered again and when he spoke the deep male voice was no longer kind. "If you continue in your stubbornness," he said, "you will die in the first drizzling rain. Lightning will strike you dead."

With this promise, the thundering came to an end. The woman moved from the fire and sat down near the hearth on a leopard skin. She spread a black goatskin in front of her feet and with both hands picked up an ivory horn filled with cowrie shells and coffee beans. She was ready to begin her divination, but first, without looking up, she ordered me from the shrine.

-A Distant Grief F. Kefa Sempangi,

GL Regal Books, Glendale, CA. Used by permission.

This is not a "make-believe" story. It happened in our generation. These forces are at work in our world today. And they are being given more and more freedom to operate in America-in your town and mine.

A Personal Experience

To my knowledge, I have participated in only one exorcism. It was powerfully dramatic. The following day, I wrote down as many details as I could recall. I wanted to keep the account as accurate as possible. I share the story here so that we will "not be ignorant of his devices," so that we will not be caught off guard by the enemy. And to give personal testimony of the spiritual authority we have in Jesus' Name:

Susan and Bill were friends of ours. Sometimes we enjoyed a close relationship, and then through time and distance, we often lost contact. We had been back from Peru for a year and were seeing them more frequently now.

Susan called me in the middle of the night. "Praise God! It's over! It's over! They're all gone. Pray for Bill. I just cast demons out of him." I knew she could not have cast demons out of Bill. Just a few days before, I had had a good talk with him. I knew that he was not demon-possessed. And I knew that she was the one who had been involved in demonic activity, especially trying to contact her father's spirit on several occasions.

I called John, a good friend of mine who had had some experience with exorcism. After several phone calls back and forth, we decided to go over to Bill & Susan's house. Al, another friend, agreed to meet us there.

When we knocked on the door at 2:00 a.m., Susan answered. She was trembling. She greeted us by saying, "Praise God! They're gone!" As we stood in the entry, Bill came out of the bedroom, hesitantly agreeing that "something" might have come out of him. This couldn't be true, I thought. She was the one acting weird, not him. He seemed afraid, but not weird.

We sat in the living room, strewn with junk. A lot of paper bags were sitting in the archway between the living room and the front hall. Needless to say, this turn of events baffled John. I was saying she was the problem; now Bill and Susan were saying Bill had just been delivered from demons. John took Susan slowly through the steps of being a Christian. She answered "yes" to all his questions, even when he mentioned the "blood of Christ," which no demon is supposed to be able to acknowledge. (We'll talk more about that later.) "Well, why does it seem so eerie in here?" we asked.

Susan replied "Oh, it must be some more things in the house we need to get rid of." All of the bags in the hallway were ready to be thrown out. First she had decided the picture of a friend was possessed of a demon-and then a statue. And more items were added to the stack as she roamed through the house trying to rid it of the "demons" she had "cast out" of Bill. The three of us-no, all five of us-were perplexed!

Suddenly it dawned on me that all of this, including that pseudo-exorcism, was satan's attempt at throwing us off the real issue.

By now it was 3:00 a.m. We had earlier asked her about an experience she had told to my wife on a previous occasion. It had happened when she was in college. She had passed if off lightly. Now it came clear to me that this experience was the key issue. So we pressed in on it. She began confidently relating, "Yes, we were in the room." (It was in the dorm of a Christian college.) "Several other girls were there with me. When the room got cold they decided to leave. I knelt down. They warned me not to do it. I told them I knew what I was doing."

"What did you do?" we asked her. At this point she struggled and cried about not remembering. Then in an awful lament she wailed, "I didn't really do that! No, I couldn't have!"

"What did you do?" we insisted.

Finally, she pitifully groaned, "I told satan I wanted to help him with his work if he let me speak with my father." Upon this confession, the demons in her began showing themselves by speaking with strange voices through her lips.

Immediately, Al stepped forward and took such authority over the demons and the whole situation, that later he admitted that the power of God that had come upon him even surprised him. He commanded the demons to identify themselves as they came out. And they were going to come out! John and I stepped back and began praying.

Al: "What is your name? I command you to tell me your name, and then you are coming out!"

In a most gruesome tone of voice, we heard a demon say, "Envy; yes, envy!"

Al: "Yes, your name is envy, and there are six other demons in there with you. Now come out in Jesus' Name. I command you to come out and never enter this body again." And with a scream, saying its name, envy came out, leaving Susan weak and crying softly.

Suddenly, the contortion of evil reappeared. "I'm back! See, you didn't get rid of me."

Al, still displaying that mighty power of God said, "No, you are not envy. Envy is gone and will never come back, but you are another demon and you will soon be gone. What is your name?"

"Murder!"

"No, your name is not murder. There is no murder in Susan."

"Death!"

"No, your name is not death. What is your name? I demand you to tell us."

"Fear! Fear! Fear!" The demon repeatedly shouted this word in an attempt to induce fear in Al. We realized this word was coming out in a different tone of voice than had just been speaking. The very utterance displayed the whole gamut of the feeling of fear, both within herself, and intending to affect us.

Al: "Yes, your name is fear. You have bound this poor girl in fear for 13 years. Now you yourself are fearful about where you are going. You are afraid of being disembodied. Okay, you can go into an animal. You are coming out of Susan right now. As you come out, you will make the sound of the animal you are going into."

The demon during this time was displaying total fear-recoiling from the forcefulness of Al's voice. It was wanting to argue with him and object to what he was saying, but could not. It had made attempts to speak, but fear itself stood silent in fear in the presence of the authority of the powerful Spirit of God. And in obedience to God's authority through Al, it began oinking like a pig-three or four oinks and it was gone, again leaving Susan limp and weak and crying.

Shortly, another demon identified itself by beginning to cause Susan's lips to babble and blubber. Susan-rather the demon-began speaking incoherently in a tone of voice yet different than those previously.

Al: "What is your name?"

"Confusion."

Al: "Yes, you have clone so much to destroy this girl, and now in the Name of Jesus you are leaving her and going to the abyss-the pit from where you came!" It screamed an objection, but then was gone. (I did not take out my theology book at this point to determine whether a Christian has the authority to send a demon to the pit. We did discuss it later and decided since it left, it was gone and there was no value in debating where it had gone.) It was gone!

By now it was 5:30 a.m. Surprisingly, we felt no fatigue. We had clarity of thought and such presence of mind that it amazed us. Also, at the times when the demons were not identifying themselves and having direct conversation with Al, we could talk to Susan or get her a kleenex. At this time, she was drinking a cup of coffee. Al would retire to the other side of the room. John and I continued in prayer and observation most of the time. When Al would step forward again, she would recoil, vividly showing the power of the unseen world. The powers and principalities of darkness were falling in defeat to the power of God.

Al: "Okay, envy, fear and confusion are gone. There are four more of you in there. In Jesus' Name, identify yourself."

A voice with a southern drawl spoke. (I have nothing against our friends in the South, but the voice did have a very clear southern drawl.) It had spoken on several previous occasions, I now remembered. "There aren't any others here. Only me, and Susan wants me to stay. She doesn't want me to leave."

Al: "No, there are four of you in there, and you are all coming out." There was more conversation with this voice. It kept denying the presence of others. Al insisted, "In Jesus' Name, identify yourself and come out.

A different voice snarled with fierce contempt. "Hate! Hate! Hate! I hate you!" And with that it had identified itself.

"Be gone in Jesus' Name!" Al said. It was gone. It was amazing to see the authentic demonstration of the power of God and the clear-cut results.

Al: "Okay, who is coming out next? Identify yourself."

From this point on the only voice we heard was that casual southern drawl. "Oh, go on, I'm not leaving. In fact, Susan is going to have many others joining me soon." About 45 minutes of continual, "Come out! in Jesus' Name" were opposed by that casual voice. Why couldn't Al (by the power of God) exorcise this one? I wondered. It just would not come out!

By now it was 7:30 a.m. We called a prayer chain in the church, gave brief information and asked that they spread the word to pray. We also called several other elders of the church to come over and help in prayer and in spiritual insight.

There was more demanding for this demon to identify itself and come out. A crucifix, from which the yet unidentified demon shrieked in fear, was used to keep the demon from talking.

As I was sitting back, trying to put it all together, it was suddenly revealed to me by the Lord that the demon was a lying spirit. It was this lying spirit then that had confessed the power of the blood of Christ. It had told innumerable lies: Susan wants me; others will be back; there aren't any others here…I shared this with Al.

Al: "You are a lying spirit!" It gave a shriek!

Strangely, this demon, though now identified, would never openly admit its name. It would no more than give an assenting grunt with a sick, sly smile. It began patting Susan, rubbing admiringly up and down her arm, paying close attention to her hands and fingers. (Though it was Susan's hand that was making the motion, it was obvious that her movements were directed by this demonic being). "You like Susan, don't you? You don't want to leave her, do you? You are going to come out, in Jesus' Name!" Al's voice crescendoed.

There was a lot of shouting and demanding. But it was to no avail. Needless to say, we were dumbfounded. As other elders arrived, timeouts were taken to tell them what was going on. This one was quite talkative, which fact was very frustrating. At last, we realized that although it seemed we could not exorcise this demon, we could command it not to talk: "In the name of Jesus, be silent!" It would try to talk. Deep efforts at sounds came and would form and gurgle in her throat, but no words would come out of her mouth. This would last for 10 to 15 minutes, when Al would again command it to silence.

Our desire to have it silent was so that we could talk to Susan. We tried to reason with her to release this demon. When we were able to get through to her, telling her what control this demon had over her, how he was lying to her, she acted surprised. "Did I really say that? What does he want me to do?" she would reply.

Through much effort, we first received the understanding then shared with her that it had convinced her that it had given her her poetic and artistic talents. We assured her that those talents were God-given, that she had them before the spirits had been invited in.

On several occasions the spirit reached out to stroke Mark's arm, or one of the other elders nearby. Mark said, "You like my body, don't you? You want to enter me, but you can't. The Holy Spirit lives in me and you can't have this body." It would shrink away as if acknowledging that it knew that. At one point Mark retired to the other side of the room to pray for insight.

Mike (another elder) and John picked up the crucifix and again, shouting, tried to cast the spirit out. It screamed in fear of the cross, but it would not leave. The two men restrained Susan, trying to keep the cross on her mouth, but they realized that this was not working. Al, in exasperation from the struggle and all the yelling and the tenacity of this demon, prophetically said, "I don't know when you are coming out, but you are; and you are coming out silently and the other two are coming out silently with you. They will not utter a word."

As God had given me spiritual insight as to its name, now Mark, in prayer, received understanding as to the block in communication. The lying spirit had full control of Susan's tongue, but her body was still free to move of her own will. The insight God gave him was that she needed to renounce this demon, but it controlled her tongue. She could not verbalize its name or a renunciation.

Mark stepped forward, again binding the demon and talked to Susan about her need to give assent to wanting the demon out. And here was the plan: "Susan, look at my hands. They are outstretched to you. Let them represent to you the tender hands of Jesus reaching out to you. They want to give you peace. They want to hold you securely. They want to heal you of this nightmare. But, Susan, you need to reach out to me. Show us all that you want to be rid of this demon by reaching out and touching my hands. Let them represent to you the hands of Jesus."

He continued his gentle coaxing for about 10 minutes, but in a moment of impatience he leaned forward and grabbed her hands. "Take my hands, Susan!" She recoiled and another scene of fear, shrieking, shouting and commanding ensued.

Realizing the error and remembering Al's prophesy about it coming out quietly, we all became silent before the Lord. The demon was commanded again not to speak. Mark explained to her her need to renounce the demon. "Susan, this demon is telling us that you want it to stay. We know it is lying to us, and you must know it is lying to you, also. But you need to take a step towards Jesus. Again, look at these hands as the hands of Jesus. Reach out to them."

The very room held its breath. All of us were praying silently-praying and watching and waiting to see Susan extend her hands to Mark. And she did! Immediately a hushed weeping was heard as full release was found. Susan was free! Repentance flowed and the blood of Christ cleansed her heart. Another two hours passed as we read Scripture, sang, cried and praised the Lord.

If we have authority over the enemy at all, we have authority over the enemy in this area. "These signs will follow those who believe: In the Name of Jesus, you will cast out demons." Mark 16:17 It is not something to be entered into lightly. It is not something to be entered into without prayer. It is not something to be entered into alone. But it is an arena of spiritual warfare in which we have the full authority of Christ in us, the One who sets the captives free.

Instruction From The Acts Of The Apostles

As has already been stated, the "signs and wonders" that Jesus promised would follow those who believed, did follow, as recorded throughout the New Testament. I would like us now to look at a few passages in the Book of Acts from which we might gain specific instruction in exercising this authority.

In Acts 19:13-16, we look at the story of a man named Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests. He had seven sons who were vagabonds and exorcists. What their success had been we are not told. But they had evidently heard of Paul's method of driving out demons. For, in their pursuit of those who had evil spirits, they tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus by saying, "We command you in the Name of Jesus whom Paul preaches."

On one such occasion, the evil spirit answered, "Jesus I know and I am acquainted with Paul, but who on earth are you?" And the man in whom the evil spirit was living sprang at them and over-powered them all with such violence that they fled out of the house, wounded and naked.

Let this one point be re-emphasized: We are never to approach the enemy "In the Name of Jesus that my pastor preaches!" or "In the Name of Jesus that my denomination teaches!" When you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, determine to stand up against the forces of evil in Biblical exorcism, be sure of your personal, direct relationship with Christ. And invoke the authority of the only True Power to deliver, the Name of Jesus!

Recorded in Acts 13:8-12, shortly into Barnabas and Saul's first missionary journey, we find them coming across a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Elymas. Sergius Paulus, the proconsul of the country of Cyprus, was anxious to hear the message of God that Barnabas and Saul had brought. But Elymas opposed them, doing his best to dissuade Sergius from accepting the faith. Then Saul (who is also called Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit-it is certainly a good thing to be filled with the Holy Spirit when doing battle against the enemy-eyed him closely and said, "You son of the devil, you monster of trickery and evil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now listen, the Lord Himself will touch you-you will be blind for a season."

You may say, "Wait a minute, I didn't hear any demon being exorcised." You are right! And that is my point. Every enemy of God is not possessed of a devil! Jesus, in explaining the parable of the wheat and tares, told His disciples: "…but the tares are the children of the wicked one." Matthew 13:38 John instructs us by the Holy Spirit that the way to tell who are the children of the devil is this: "Those who do not do righteousness and those who do not love their brother!" 1 John 3:10 But that does not mean they are possessed of a devil.

When Jesus rebuked Peter, He identified the source of Peter's wrong perspective-satan. But Jesus did not have to "exorcise a demon!" See Matthew 16:22-23.

We must be cautious in this area of spiritual authority. We don't want to be "vagabond demon hunters!" There is not a demon behind every bush or in every hiccup! There are times when it is possible to rebuke in the name of the Lord. But every situation of evil does not necessarily warrant an exorcism.

On another occasion, in Acts 16, during Paul's second missionary journey, he and his companions were going to the place of prayer by the riverside. They were met by a young girl who had a spirit of clairvoyance (divination) and who brought her owners a good deal of profit by fortune telling. After several days of being grieved by her action, Paul turned to her and spoke to the spirit, "I command you in the Name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" and it came out immediately.

We don't know whether Paul did not know during those several days that she had an evil spirit, or if he sensed it was not the time to exorcise the demonic presence, or if he feared the repercussions of her owners, or if there was some other reason. But when the time was right, he spoke with the authority and power of Jesus' Name. And it was gone! Acts 16:16-18.

And we can be assured of the same. Whether by word of knowledge, a deep sensitivity in our spirit, or by some other means, when we know there is demonic presence, we can act at His direction and on His authority and in His timing.

And in Acts 19:11-12, we see yet another demonstration of the power of God through Paul. Handkerchiefs and aprons that had been in contact with Paul's body were taken to the sick and those with evil spirits, and the diseases and evil spirits left them. Paul wasn't even present when the evil spirits were exorcised!

The humility of Jesus must be our protection if the Lord is going to use us in the ministry of exorcism. People are idol-worshippers. And one who can "display" such power of God will be "rewarded." Resist the lime-light. Remember, it is the power of God that delivers. He is everywhere present; we might not have to even show up!

Resist

The other dimension or focus of spiritual authority that we want to consider is mentioned a number of times in the Word and from many different perspectives. Resisting relates to the day-to-day combat. Though it does not carry the same euphoria as an exorcism, it is constant battle we must face as the enemy is seeking to rob us of the joy of our salvation. It is on this level of authority that we must be keenly sensitive. Let's look at it closely.

Take The Offensive

Looking again at Ephesians 6, we are instructed by Paul "to fight, to combat, to war against the enemy." Then, in verse 13 [Ephesians 6:13], "having put on the whole armor of God we are able to withstand evil in its day of power, and having done all to stand." This is a strong military term referring to the turning point in a battle. It is the time when we are no longer defending, but we take our final stand against the enemy by launching an offensive. As Paul says in Romans 12:21, "Don't be overcome by evil, (take the offensive), overpower evil with good."

Resisting is not accomplished from a defensive posture. It is a powerful offensive against the enemy. (More will be said about this in the next chapter.)

Praise

Praise is a positive, proactive practice in resisting the devil. In Isaiah 61:3, we are assured that the Lord will give us a "garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness." In the daily hassles of life, when things look hopeless and glum, when we are feeling condemned, when the spirit of heaviness weighs us down, He will clothe us with a garment of praise. Such was the situation out of which David wrote Psalm 34.

It is finally clear that Saul has his heart set on killing David. David and Jonathan have had their tearful parting. David is on the run. He comes to the priest, Abimelech, at Nob. He's hungry. He takes the sacred bread. He lies about his mission. He lies again and gets the priest to give him Goliath's sword. Doeg, one of Saul's men sees him there. Wouldn't that be enough to "make his day?"

No! David, in fear of Doeg telling Saul, gets up and flees to Achish, the king of Gath. The servants of Achish say, "Isn't this the mighty king of Israel of whom it is sung, 'Saul slew his thousands, and David his tens of thousands?'"

And now David is afraid of Achish. So he feigns madness, scratching at the walls and letting his spittle run down into his beard. Achish says, "Get this crazy man out of here!" David, therefore, departs from there and escapes to the cave of Adullam. (All of this is found, by the way, in 1 Samuel 21. I didn't make it up!)

I can imagine David trying to make himself comfortable, leaning back against the rock-hardness of that musty-smelling cave, trying to put the pieces together. In these circumstances and out of this hassle, David begins to sing:

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth;
My soul does make her boast in You, Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
O, magnify the Lord with me
And let us exalt His name together;
I searched for the Lord and He heard me
and delivered me from all of my fears! Psalm 34:1-4.

Bless means to hallow, which means to respect greatly or venerate. It also means to consecrate which means to declare sacred. Praise means to worship, value with merit, commend; and glorify. Glorify means to shed radiance and splendor and resplendent magnificence by ascribing perfection. Boast means to display proudly, glory in, to leap for joy. Magnify means to extol, to praise highly, to laud, to acclaim, to hold in great esteem and respect. Exalt means to lift up on high.

And all that came from a dictionary! It sounds more like what we would do at a football game (when our team is winning) than in a cave of despair! How long will we let our dank hiding place of despondency echo with the groans of lament? Let us rather follow David's example and cause that cave to reverberate with praises to our King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

The result: He was delivered from all of his fears! We, too, can find His victory over all our fears as we allow Him to clothe us in His garment of praise.

Overcome

As Jesus walked among the Churches, He gave beautiful promises to those who were overcomers. To the Church of Ephesus: "To him who overcomes-conquers, is victorious-will I give the privilege to eat the fruit of the tree of life which stands in the paradise of God." Revelation 2:7 To the Church of Smyrna: "The overcomers cannot suffer the slightest hurt by the second death." Revelation 2:11 To the Church of Pergamos: "I will allow the victors to eat the hidden manna, and I will give them a white stone on which is written a new name…" Revelation 2:17 To the Church of Thyatira: "To those who conquer (and keep my works until the end) I will give authority over the nations." Revelation 2:26 To the Church of Sardis: "The victorious will wear white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before the angels." Revelation 3:5 To the Church of Philadelphia: "To him who overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of God…" Revelation 3:12 And lastly, even in the Church of Laodicea, Jesus Christ had a message for the overcomers: "To you I will grant to sit with Me on My throne…" Revelation 3:21.

In 1 John 2:13, John acknowledges that the young men have overcome the wicked one. In verse 14 [1 John 2:14], John repeats their ability to conquer the evil one, but adds a phrase which no doubt is the reason for their victory: "You treasure the Word of God in your heart." If there is one thing I am trying to do in this study, it is this: To do what is necessary to get us to plant that treasure of God's Word deep in our hearts!

In his writing the Revelation of Jesus Christ, John describes three more means by which we are able to overcome. "And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb, by the Word of their testimony and they did not cherish life even in the face of death." Revelation 12:11.

1) "…by the blood of the Lamb." The blood, the perfect, sinless blood of Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb, was slain from before the foundations of the earth.

I don't particularly like the sight of blood. Now, I don't faint or anything like that. I just have a greater appreciation for it when it is in the veins and arteries where it flows and does its thing. So as my understanding of the "blood of Christ being shed for the remission of my sins" grew into adult comprehension, I still (secretly) wondered, "God, why did it have to be His blood?" Yes, I knew the life is in the blood, but…

Medical science has determined that there is no blood in the unfertilized egg. Further, the placenta forms a unique barrier that keeps the mother's blood separate from the infant's. This gave me new reason to appreciate what God knew all along, expressed in this song:

It's His blood that cleanses me;
It's His blood that gives new life.
It's His blood that took my place
In redeeming sacrifice
And washes me
Whiter than the snow, than the snow.
My Jesus, God's precious sacrifice.

And that's just the opening of the door to the depth of understanding of the blood of Christ. It is as we come into a fuller appreciation of the work of Calvary that we are able to more easily overcome-have victory over-the one who accuses us before the Father. For though the enemy may be there, we are able to come boldly into our Father's presence by the blood of Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 10:19.

2) "…by the word of their testimony." That testimony must be a vibrant, alive, current, attractive word; a "today" reason for our faith in Christ.

As Jesus said to the demoniac who had been delivered, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you and how He had mercy on you." Mark 5:19.

It may be my background that is giving me reason to put such emphasis on this point. As I alluded to earlier, I was raised in a church that had some very "unique" practices. One was the testimony service. That they had a testimony service was not unique. It's just that this part of the service "had to" begin with Sister Smith. She was ninety-three years old at the time, but her word of testimony was always about the "glorious day when I was 12 years old and accepted Jesus into my heart." And again, nothing wrong with that "glorious day." But had He done nothing in her life in the intervening 81 years?

And then we knew the testimony service was over when Brother Brown looked around and stood and told us how badly things were going at his manufacturing plant. His "testimony" could possibly illicit pity, but I doubt it ever overpowered the evil one!

Peter tells us that we should always be ready with a quiet and reverent answer for the reason of the hope that lies within us. See 1 Peter 3:15. The hope of the believer is the return of the Lord. But what is our today reason 0for that hope? When you least expect it, ask yourself, "What is going on in my life today-right now-that makes me glad the Lord is coming back?"

David time and again gave a powerful word of testimony. He is standing on his roof on a cloudless night. The sky is spangled with zillions of stars. The Milky Way splatters its creamy effect from east to west. The constellation of Arcturus, Orion and Pleiades are identified. In one grand, effusive testimony of praise, he says, "The heavens declare the glory of God…" Psalm 19:1.

Paul also gave a word of testimony of quite another sort: "Then I will glory rather in my infirmities…for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong." See 2 Corinthians 12:9,10.

Can we identify with John's testimony? "And many other signs truly did Jesus in (my) presence…but these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His Name." John 20:30-31.

Our testimonies (like David's and Paul's and John's) may run the gamut from our rejoicing in the creative beauty of a crocus poking its spring-announcing colors through the snow to our finding a reason to praise Him for a disability to our witnessing the dramatic power of Christ's love. Whatever the content of my report, may the word of my testimony concerning Christ's work in my life-today-be an effective weapon from my arsenal of spiritual authority, thereby overcoming the evil one with praise and honor to Him who reigns eternal.

3) "…and they loved not life even unto death." I do not believe this is saying they wanted to die. They just had a right attitude toward life and death. Paul dealt with this issue in Philippians 1. As we come to understand that our life-our very breath-is in His control, we will be able to overcome the fear of the unknown, a powerful tool of the enemy. We share in the responsibility. As Jude said, "…by praying through the Holy Spirit keep yourself in the love of God…" Jude 1:20-21.

Resist and Come Close

We have now looked at this aspect of spiritual authority from several perspectives:

1) Authority over the enemy is an aggressive, offensive action; there is nothing passive about it.

2) Praise is a powerful means by which to launch this offensive. We resist the spirit of heaviness (depression, despair) by clothing ourselves in His garment of praise.

3) To the Church (in whatever state it may be), Jesus gave beautiful promises to those who overcome.

4) Living victoriously (overcoming) is definitely aided by treasuring God's Word in our heart.

5) Overcoming by the blood of the Lamb, by declaring a positive testimony of what God has done in our lives and by having a right attitude toward life and death raises us to the place of victory in Christ. And places the enemy in defeat.

But the classic passage on this dimension of spiritual authority is found in the words of James. We are, no doubt, familiar with the abbreviated form: "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." But, dear friend, the abridged Word of God will deceive us every time! We need to back up at least one sentence. Well, we better make it two! Better still, would be to begin at verse one of Chapter 4. But we'll start at verse six [James 4:6]. (One time when I began that process-of seeing where it would be best to start-I ended up back at the beginning of the Book!) We read, "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. For this very reason, submit yourself to God." James 4:6-7a.

Never in a thousand lifetimes could we become good enough or powerful enough or "satan-resistant" enough to face the enemy without first submitting to God. We must acknowledge our total dependence on Him. In our own strength, we are no match for the enemy. There is no place for arrogance or flippancy. This is too serious a matter to joke about. It is only from a position of humble submission, protected by the armor of Christ, "strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power" (Colossians 1:11) and wielding the Spirit's Sword that we can stand against, oppose, and resist satan by saying, "Be gone, in Jesus' Name!" Or, to use Scripture, "The Lord rebuke you!" Jude 9 With a sharp slash of the Spirit's Sword, using the specific "It is written…" He has given us for that situation, we can cut through the umbilical cord of sin and stop feeding on death. See again James 1:14-15.

It is not healthy to prolong our encounters with the enemy. Therefore, the sooner and more swiftly we exercise this action-resist-the less time we are giving to satan. And he has to leave! Yes! Gone! Out of here! In Jesus' Name!

But before we do any reckless celebrating, we need to consider a basic law of physics. When something leaves a space, a vacuum is created. Unless we occupy that space with Someone else, knowing the tactics of the enemy, he'll be right back.

Thus, Scripture continues, "Come close to God and He will come close to you." The resist of verse 7 [James 4:7] and the come close of verse 8 [James 4:8] is a two-part action. The former is swift and brief. Coming close to God, however, is a process of life. "Thy Word have I hid in my heart…" Psalm 119:11 It has become a part of me; it has become the motivation of my lifestyle. I surround myself with a godly atmosphere. I create an environment in my home and in my heart that will actively encourage me to mind the things of the Spirit, giving no place for the things of the flesh. That emptiness in my heart is filled. My longings are for a deeper and fuller relationship with the Lord. "As the deer panteth for the water brook, so longeth my soul after Thee," the Psalmist penned. Psalm 42:1.

Paul expressed this two-part process to the Christians at Ephesus. He said that they must not only "put off the former lifestyle of the old man, which is corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion," but to "put on the new man, which was created by God for righteousness and true holiness." Ephesians 4:22,24.

James continues his focus on the process of coming close to God by delineating six steps:

1) "Realize that you have sinned and get your hands clean again." Is it possible James was remembering the Word of God through Isaiah? "And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide My eyes from you… Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourself, make yourself clean… Cease from doing evil." Isaiah 1:15,16.

Our hands represent the instruments by which our deeds are done-evil or good. In the process of coming close to God, it is necessary to repent and "cease from doing evil." When Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you," He added, "Go and sin no more." John 8:11.

Was James also reminding his readers (us!) of the words of David? "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart." Psalm 24:3,4.

Perhaps this was what Paul was referring to when he said to the elders of Ephesus, "I have no man's blood on my hands." Acts 20:26 (See also Ezekiel 3 and 33.).

James continues with the next step in the process:

2) "Purify your hearts, you double-minded." James' readers included many who were double-minded, doubting, wavering persons. Their hearts were not steadfast. They were vacillating. They were asking for wisdom and then wondering if God could really give it. See James 1:5-6. They were asking and not receiving because they only wanted to consume it on their lusts. See James 4:3. James expresses the sad plight of the double-minded man: "Tossed about like a wave of the sea; unstable in all his ways; not able to receive anything from the Lord." See James 1:6-8.

To counter this dilemma, James says to purify our hearts. To be pure is to be of a single substance. (There is nothing wrong with mixing oil and vinegar, and a few spices for a great salad dressing! It's just not a pure substance any longer.) To eliminate all other substances-to purify-is often accomplished by the application of heat. Silver, being prepared for the jeweler, is put into the crucible. Heat is applied, but for only a short period of time. The impurities rise to the surface and are skimmed off. The precious metal is allowed to cool, and then heated again. Each time more of the impurities are separated. As it is said of the Words of the Lord: "They are pure, as silver tried in a furnace seven times." See Psalm 12:6.

For months David had been trying to cover his sins-even going to the temple with burnt offerings and sacrifices. But when he was "nailed to the wall" with Nathan's story of the little ewe lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-13), he cried out, "Create in me a clean heart… A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God…" Psalm 51:10,17.

With the Psalmist may we pray, "Search me, 0 God and know my heart; try me (this is that refining process) and know my thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Psalm 139:23-24.

James continues:

3) "Be afflicted and moan and weep." This is getting serious. It is an act of penitence he is talking about. A change of heart. Not treating sin-any sin-lightly. Paul tells us there is a worldly sorrow that leads to death but "the sorrow which is of God means a change of heart and leads to salvation." 2 Corinthians 7:10.

He goes on:

4) "Let your laughter be turned to grief and your joy to heaviness." As we are brought deeper into the realization of the awfulness of sin, our high-spirited laughter will become heartfelt shame for our sin.

At times I ask myself, "Why don't I hate sin like God does?" And I have to answer myself, "Because I too easily take for granted His forgiveness." Not that we should not rejoice in our sins being forgiven. But I believe that, if we (as we are contemplating those seed thoughts to sin) thought of the pain and suffering that it caused Christ as He took upon Himself the sins of the world, it would serve as a greater deterrent to our sinning. At least it does for me.

The sin being talked about in the context of James 4 is that of Christians trying to be friends with the world, and at the same time feeling like they are serving God. James asks them, "Don't you know that being the world's friend is being God's enemy?" The answer should be clearly yes, but he goes on and states, "So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God." James 4:4 James is encouraging them (and us) to give sober thought to our true position, to abandon the carefree, light-hearted attitude into which we have been lulled, and to become remorseful and aware of our spiritual need, even moaning over the bad situation into which we have gotten ourselves.

The capstone of this process follows:

5) "Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord." Humility is an attribute of wisdom; it is born of true wisdom. Jesus teaches this attitude with two illustrations: Better to stand in the corner beating your chest, saying, "God be merciful to me-a sinner" than to publicly pray with yourself, boasting, "Lord, how glad I am that I am not like him." Jesus ends this discourse with, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." See Luke 18:10-14.

Again, "when you are invited to a marriage feast, do not take the chief seat, lest a more distinguished guest arrives and you have to be escorted to the lowest place. Better to sit in the back, so that when your host comes in he may say to you, 'Friend, here is a place of honor for you." Jesus concludes that story with the same principle: "Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:7-11.

And this brings us full circle back to the opening statement of the lesson: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

What then is the result of this process?

6) "And He (the Lord) shall lift you up!" The freedom-the exhilaration to know that my burden has been lifted at Calvary. The joy-the delight to know that "He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2 What peace-what comfort to know that He has restored the joy of His salvation and that He upholds me with His free spirit. See Psalm 51:12. What perspective-what grandeur to be seated with Christ in heavenly places. See Ephesians 2:6.

In total dependence upon Christ we stand tall, victorious over the devil and his hoards of demonic beings. We turn every attack of the enemy into a compelling force, driving us deeper into the richness of God's provision of salvation. This is our desire; this is our prayer; this is our victory.

For there is victory in Jesus' Name! Out of His abundant resources of Heaven, He has provided all things necessary for godly living. Cast out and resist! Soldiers of the Cross, let us exercise our spiritual authority as we fight the good fight of faith.

PRACTICAL INSIGHTS

When Satan Hassles Christians

I believe that an overconfidence in "having it all together" or being fearful that "I will never have victory" are equally dangerous. Let's be sure to have a "sane estimate of our capabilities" as we look at these problems, and at some solutions I have found helpful.

Problem The enemy tries to hassle me by getting my eyes off of God and onto problems or myself. This is usually a very subtle, gradual change of focus, which happens too often and too easily. We start looking only at our problems, at what is wrong, instead of to the Problem Solver. Even when we are concentrating on a way to solve our problems, the enemy tries to get our attention dwelling on that problem rather than the solution. The problem is known; the solution is still unknown, so it is easier to continue to think about the problem. It can become a very negative perspective. We tell everybody-even God-how wrong something is. The problem grows and grows and looks bigger and bigger until we can't see anything else. The problem can become the consuming issue.

Solution James says, "If you don't know how to handle any particular problem, God will give you wisdom…" James 1:5 "Wisdom" is the solution to the problem of not knowing how to handle any particular problem! Tell God your needs, not your problems. Philippians 4:6 says, "Tell God the details of your needs (requests) in earnest and thankful prayer." The "need" or "request" is what we should ask God for, and with a thankful attitude. And Jeremiah 32:17 gives us the perspective of God's greatness and the realization that nothing is too hard for Him. This is a totally different focus.

Another related thought: We need to be careful about negative self-talk. We all talk to ourselves all the time. Even if we don't do it out loud, in our thoughts are a constant monologue of self-talk. We are either talking constructively or destructively to ourselves. God tells us what thoughts to think about, and they are all positive. "If you believe in goodness and value the approval of God, fix your minds (focus your thoughts) on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy." Philippians 4:8 You can't get more positive than that!

So, we need to watch how we program our minds and what we reinforce in our own thinking.

Problem The enemy can hassle me if I allow an unhealthy dependency relationship to develop. This dependency can go either way-a person can become overly dependent upon me or I can become overly dependent upon another person. This is an area in which Christians can easily be deceived.

There are several reasons why we fall prey to the enemy here: 1) We may have been taught that it is selfish and "unchristian" to say, "No," to any person in need; 2) We may have a strong need to be needed and useful to feel worthwhile; 3) We may have developed a messiah complex-the thought that I am the only one who can help that person; 4) We may "need" to be in control of other people's lives-motivated out of fear of what would happen if we were to let go of that control.

There may be other subtle ways the enemy can lead us into an unhealthy dependency relationship. But these give some idea of the direction we are going. If we are looking to a person (or they are looking to us) rather than to God as the Source of our solution, there is a problem. If we are more concerned about what another person thinks of our actions than what God thinks, we might be overly dependent on that person. If we feel backed in a corner, manipulated, or controlled by another's need for us-they may be too dependent on us.

Solution In our involvement of helping others, there must be a balance with our other time commitments. And in our help, we must lead them to find their solutions in God and through His Word-not in us. It is healthy for all of us to be available for God to minister His love through us to others, recognizing that we are not the Messiah, but servants of the Messiah.

Problem The enemy tries to hassle me through condemnation. I am sure we have all experienced condemnation. We feel like a failures. We just can't do anything right. We might as well give up and quit! I missed reading my Bible for three days now. I might just as well not try. Or, how can I pray now? I just blew up and said some bad words. God doesn't want to hear me now. (Do you hear all the negative self-talk?) And, if we do quit, the devil has accomplished his purpose: To break our fellowship with God, and to stop our Christian witness-to immobilize us.

Solution Fight with the truth of Scripture. If you have not yet memorized Romans 8:1, now is a good time to do it: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."

The devil condemns by starting with a true statement (or a half-truth). Then he goes right into a lie. He'll whisper the truth: "You did this." Or, "You didn't do that." But then he draws a conclusion that is a lie. "You failed." (A truth.) "You might as well give up." (A lie!) Or, "You didn't get what you wanted from God the last time you talked to Him. Why bother asking Him for anything else. Anyway, He doesn't have time for you." (Possible truth followed by two lies!)

You can agree with his truth-"Yes, I was tempted to do wrong. And I did it." But here is where you change it around. You continue to God, "Thank you Lord for forgiving me. And furthermore, thank You for Your Word assuring me that You don't even remember that against me any more." You get your focus right back on God and the truth of what the Word says. Fight his condemnation with the truth of Scripture.

Problem The enemy tries to hassle me through discouragement. The discouragement may come because of our failure to do something, or when we don't see fruit in our personal lives, or by not seeing results from our work. Most of us tend to get impatient if we don't see results in hours or days or weeks. When things don't happen as we expect, we are disappointed. And that leaves us open and vulnerable to be hassled by the enemy through discouragement!

Solution Encourage yourself in the Lord. You need to read most of I Samuel to get the full picture of the discouragement David was facing by the time of the story in Chapter 30. I will just say that he had been through a lot! And now his "faithful" men were about to stone him to death! Verse 6 [1Sa 30:1-6] says, "But David encouraged himself in the Lord."

There are many ways to encourage yourself in the Lord. Here are three ideas:

1) Become actively involved in a small group Bible study. It could be just two of you, or several, who have agreed together to keep each other accountable in the Word. It can be encouraging to sing together, to study together, to pray together.

2) If you live in an isolated location, you can use Bible study and music tapes or CD's to build yourself up in the Lord. Read, sing and pray along with the tapes. Another option is to develop a correspondence commitment with a friend to do a Bible study together long distance.

3) Let the Word search you. If you are discouraged in your personal devotional life because things are seemingly dry and you're not getting anything out of the Word, keep a notebook. With every passage you read, ask yourself these questions: What is the overall message? What is the key point in this passage? In this passage is there an example to follow? Is there a sin to avoid? Is there a commandment to obey? Is there a promise to claim? Is there something in this passage that teaches me more about God-Who He is? What He is like? Is there a personal application that the Spirit could reveal to me? Is there something in the passage that I need to pray about?

If you have these questions (and others you may think of) written down before you read, then while you are reading, you will concentrate on finding the answers. That will help you to get something out of your reading, and getting something out of the Word will definitely encourage you!

I think the following testimony of patience that overcame years of discouragement is one of the best I know. Some friends of ours spent 17 years with a people group living in villages along a tributary of the Amazon River. They first had to make a peaceful contact with them, then learn their language, create an alphabet, write their language, learn and write their folklore stories and teach them how to read. Then, when they felt like they knew the language well enough, they began translating the New Testament for them.

Even though our friends were conversant in the language after a few years and they could communicate the love of Christ, during the whole seventeen years, there was only a single convert-one!

Then, the New Testament having been completed, they decided to make a last journey to all of the villages scattered along the river before moving on to other work. They stopped at the first village, greeted the people and preached the Word. Dan asked if there were any who wanted to commit their lives to Christ. Everybody stood up! He thought they had misunderstood him, so he had them all sit down. He then proceeded to explain the commitment more carefully. They all stood up again! In village after village there was a great harvest of souls. Almost 100% of that language group made a commitment to Christ.

What if they had been defeated by discouragement from the enemy and given up-even in the sixteenth year? I hope you will remember this story as an encouragement to you to stand strong when the enemy attacks through discouragement.

Chapter 4 - Tactics of Satan ← Prior Section
Chapter 6 - Principles of War Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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