Dealing With the Devil

Most Americans don’t think in terms of demon possession. We think in terms of disease. If we see a young man beating his head into the ground or throwing himself into a fire, we do not automatically consider the man demon-possessed; we say he is mentally ill. We give complex medical names to multiple personality disorders and various psychotic behaviors and try to treat these problems with unpronounceable, expensive, mind-altering drugs.

Missionaries to Third World countries, however, have a different perspective. They understand that not all these illnesses can be treated medically; some must be treated spiritually. “Look at his eyes,” a missionary friend once told me as he showed me a photograph of a man to whom he was ministering in New Guinea. “He is demon-possessed. The eyes give it away.”

I’ve heard many a missionary speak of demon possession. But perhaps the most amazing account—and the most helpful—came from a man (I’ll call him John) who spent many years preaching the gospel and planting churches in the jungles of New Guinea. It was through a frightening experience that he learned how to deal with the Devil and how to help those of us who live elsewhere do likewise.

While walking alone to a native village, John began to hear loud, horrifying shrieks echo through the air. As the terrifying noises grew closer and louder, everything around him grew darker; and he was seized with fear. Soon he could see nothing in a world dominated by wild animals, poisonous snakes, and quicksand; and he could hear nothing but the bloodcurdling screams penetrating the jungle. Now in utter darkness, he slowly felt himself sinking deeper and deeper into the ground. I’ve stepped into quicksand, he thought, and I will surely die.

His life flashed before him and thoughts of his wife, his children, and all the people to whom he would never have an opportunity to say goodbye. As he was praying to God for help, he suddenly yelled at the top of his lungs, “Greater is he that is in [me] than he that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4, KJV).

Instantly the screaming stopped and bright sunshine lit the sky. John looked down, saw he was standing on a log, stepped off it, and continued his walk to the village. From then on, he said, he was a changed man. He realized more fully than ever the power of Jesus Christ. So John began memorizing Scripture as never before. Using the pattern Jesus set for us in Matthew 4 when He was tempted by Satan, John began using the sword of the Word in the power of the Holy Spirit to resist the Devil. “Try to use a verse appropriate to your situation,” he said.

So I did. One day I went to my favorite bookbinder in Princeton, New Jersey, near my home, to have a name embossed on a Bible I was giving as a birthday gift. It was spring, and the little shop was drowning under a mass of theses that needed to be bound for advanced-degree candidates at Princeton University. They were piled in stacks all over the floor, both in the back shop and up front. You could hardly walk around there.

I had never seen such a mess, and the girl at the counter treated me like an unwanted intrusion. Suddenly I became unreasonably angry and began to tell her off—with the Bible in my hand! Then I remembered John.

When she went out back, I slipped into a far corner of the room, prayed, and whispered aloud, “I resist you, Satan, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. For it is written, ‘The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God’” (Jas. 1:20). Instantly my anger evaporated, and I could not believe I had felt so provoked. I apologized to the girl and told her to take as long as she needed. And I went home praising the Lord. My husband has had similar experiences.

The apostle James was serious when he wrote, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (4:7). Jesus Himself did not use His divine, supernatural power to deal with Satan. Instead, He used the Word of God and thrust it at Satan like a dagger by speaking it out loud. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Stop. Stop what you’re doing and assess your situation. Not everything is spiritual warfare. If you are under spiritual attack, God will let you know.
  2. Pray. We have no authority on our own. All our authority comes from Christ. Nor do we have authority to rebuke the Devil. But through Christ, we can resist him. So first, you must pray and ask God to enable you to resist through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Speak. Neither Satan nor any member of his evil brood is omniscient. Only God knows your thoughts. Satan cannot read your mind. So when you resist, you must speak out loud.
  4. Recite. Use the sword of the Word. Recite a Bible verse that is appropriate to your situation. This, of course, entails memorizing Scripture. Each week John would write verses on note cards that he carried with him on his walks through the jungle. He would memorize a set of cards each week.

Understanding that we can resist the Devil is not a recipe for treading where angels fear to go, but it is a way to identify spiritual warfare and have victory in your walk with the Lord.

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