“Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)
My first introduction to spiritual warfare happened at a youth rally when I was in the eighth grade. During the rally there was a breakout session where participants could choose various classes to attend and I somehow ended up in a class on demon possession. I didn’t know that’s what the class would be about. The title of the class was creative and caught my attention, so I went with a few of my friends to be scared to death hearing about things we were pretty sure didn’t exist anymore. We had all been raised in traditional, conservative Christian homes where we read about angels and demons in the Bible, but we were convinced they weren’t active anymore. Imagine the surprise when the teacher started telling stories of teens and families he knew personally who had been playing with Ouija boards (or something similar) and had become possessed. Part of me didn’t believe him, but I had to admit his stories seemed real. I was terrified. Lunch was right after class, but I didn’t eat a thing. I didn’t sleep for a few days, and when I did I had nightmares. It was horrible.
While that was a horrible first experience with the spiritual realm, it did open my eyes to the spiritual war waging around me. Since then I’ve tried to be more open to the spiritual world, recognizing there are forces at work that I know nothing about. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on any level; I have many more questions than answers. I still live and work in a faith tradition that is skeptical of angels and demons at best, so in many ways it’s still easier to ignore their existence than to try to find answers to questions. But I’ve tried to pay attention.
My first ministry experience was with two former missionaries who not only mentored me in how to be a minister, but who would at times share stories of things they experienced in Brazil. With some of the stories they shared instances of witchcraft and what could only be explained as some sort of demon possession.
My second ministry experience was with a wonderful church community that on the outside looks healthy and strong with many great people. However, it has an internal struggle of twenty or thirty years with multiple different people who can only be described as spiritual attacks by forces of evil. These forces of evil have used the same trap to disrupt good works over multiple decades by causing conflict within leadership. My own frustration is that I unwittingly fell into the same traps.
Currently, I have mentors who are open to spiritual forces, but admit they are novices in recognizing and interpreting the forces at work around them. It makes it easier to ask questions, but not always easier to get answers.
It seems that with the spiritual realm, it’s easier to focus on the negative than the positive. Missionaries tell tales of demon possession, or witchcraft, of strong feelings of evil around them. Youth rally class teachers tell stories of a mother who become possessed after her teens played with a Ouija board that is possibly just fake, or maybe it’s real. Churches can look back at trends and disruptions in church leadership over multiple decades and realize there is something going on in this church besides just personalities that clash or unhealthy processes. It’s easy to look at these and become fearful, especially about things we don’t fully understand. “What happens if a demon attacks me? Could I somehow become possessed? Are demons going to destroy me while I’m not looking?” Fear is sometimes evil’s greatest threat. (The greatest threat is denial that the forces exist, but that’s a separate topic.) Our battle is truly not against flesh and blood but against the forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Yet, the answer is not to be fearful, wondering what will these forces do to me, but to remember that those who are with us are greater than those who are with them.
In 2 Kings 6 the king of Aram is trying to attack Israel, but before he can Elisha, the prophet of God, receives a vision and warns the king of Israel to flee to safety. This happens multiple times, frustrating the king of Aram. Eventually, the king realizes Elisha is thwarting his plans, and sends his army to attack the city of Dothan, where Elisha is currently located. Early in the morning, Elisha’s servant heads out and sees the armies of Aram surrounding the city and returns in fear. Elisha, we are in danger. But Elisha responds: “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:16-17) The angels of God were there to protect Elisha, there was nothing to fear.
There is a spiritual war going on. There are spiritual forces trying to disrupt our lives. Often our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against these spiritual forces of evil trying to wreak havoc in the world. We need to be aware of this war. Ignoring the war only allows the forces of evil to continue to cause trouble. However, we must not succumb to fear, because those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Trust in God, God will be victorious.