Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Identifying Demons

Sometimes I think the Bible says as much by what it does not say as by what it does. If not every sin or every illness is the result of demons, I have to ask, how do I tell which is which? But I search in vain in Scripture for some kind of an easy method for diagnosing demonic involvement. There are extreme cases, such as the person who lived among the tombs and broke chains (Mark 5:1-13), but this was indeed an extreme case. There may be supernatural powers (Acts 16:16-18) or the demon speaking or acting through a person (Acts 19:13-16), but not always. And we have to ask what is real and what is simply faked. One can rely on a gift of discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). But how do we test the genuineness of such a gift (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22) if we do not have something to test it by?

The thing I would conclude from the Scripture's silence is that it is not always necessary to understand whether something is demonic to deal with it. When we encounter problems of whatever type, the basic thing we need to do is to pray (Philippians 4:6,7; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) and trust God (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6). This is true whatever the source of the trouble. When we do this, sometimes we may be led to conclude that there are unusual circumstances that suggest demonic involvement. We may even feel led to pray against or directly rebuke such involvement. We may in the long run conclude, through a series of unusual occurrences, that we have the gift of discernment of spirits (I have).

This can be helpful. It can remind me that I face things bigger than myself and cannot simply rely on my ability and intelligence. It can help me not be surprised if things go wrong when I am trying to do the right thing. It can encourage me to look beyond the superficial in understanding a situation. But it is not the main thing. God can answer our prayers even if we do not perfectly understand what is going on (Romans 8:26,27; Ephesians 3:20,21; Acts 12:1-17). What we need to do is turn to Him. 

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