“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:7-8
Years ago we were ministering to a young man from the streets and asked him to come to youth group. When we arrived at the house his friend was there with him and the young man asked if his friend could come along. We agreed. When we got to the church the friend who had come along began to curse and swear and grow agitated. It was obvious that there was something demonic going on and we began to pray for him. In a moment of clarity and freedom he turned and said to us, “I want to see the light,” and after praying with him, he received Christ into his heart. The crazy thing is, even his teachers at school noticed an immediate difference in his performance in class, his attitude and his behavior. And it started when we confronted a demonic influence in his life.
And I think about this.
Several months ago there was a lady from across the street by one of our ministry houses. She has been drunk for several years straight. We love her dearly. One day she came over to our weekly lunch gathering and was intoxicated enough that we had to help her get her food so that she didn’t spill it over herself and others. As I was walking her out of the house, compassion for her overwhelmed me and I began to just gently pray for her. She looked up at me in alarm and said, “We know what you’re doing. We’ll be good now.” I was shocked. I remember calling one of the other volunteers over and praying for the unclean spirits to leave. The testimony around the neighborhood that week was that she was in her right mind for some reason. And it began when I accidentally stumbled on demonic influences in her life.
And I think about this.
I guess what I’m getting at is, the Church is supposed to pattern ourselves after Jesus Christ. But Jesus told His followers (who had probably been following Him less than a year at the time) to heal the sick, cleanse leprosy and drive demons out. It was a command. Do we take that seriously enough? Do we believe it is possible or necessary? Maybe the young man who came to youth group could have had life more abundantly a lot sooner if we, the Church, were listening to scripture carefully? Maybe the lady could have had freedom sooner if we took Jesus at His word? Maybe when Jesus said He came to set the captives free this is some of what He meant? I think about this.
Personally, it’s not something I understand. I’m a western minded person. We believe in science. We’re rational. The lady with the alcohol problem has some deep wounds that need to be addressed. It’s why she’s drinking so hard. I believe that. But from what I saw the unclean spirits took advantage of those emotional wounds and made their home in them causing oppression or possession. And that’s maybe why we were commanded to drive that influence out. But it’s hard for me to think in this manner because it’s not the way I was brought up. I never saw anyone cast a demon out of someone. It wasn’t even mentioned. The stories were fascinating to read but not as a pattern for living. It was something Jesus did and something missionaries in Africa did.
What I’m proposing is that we begin to make this a matter of prayer if we haven’t already. In the past months I have confronted what I believe to be a demonic presence in someone I care about only to see them make such a huge change that I regretted not thinking about it before. And I wonder if some of the problems that we see in people we love have to do with influences that aren’t rational at all, but are spiritual and very real. I’m asking the Church to begin asking for wisdom and direction in this because if we are supposed to pattern our lives after Jesus, from my experience, this is something in the western Church that we are not very experienced or skilled at. And maybe we should be?