Spiritual Warfare and Fasting – John 9:14-29

When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting*]”

Mental Mayhem

The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people.  It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown).  Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Here we see the evidence of demonic activity:  A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety.  The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”.  Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.

Fact Finding

Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy.  But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue.  Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding.  Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Be a Believer

Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy.  Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost.  Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe.  We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.

There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:

  1. Demonic POSSESSION
    • If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan.  Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
    • 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  2. Demonic OPPRESSION
    • Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out.  This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives.  For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief.  This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION.  While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity.  Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.

The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.

Name the Name

The name of something is very powerful.  It reveals the nature of it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”.  Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature.  This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s).  Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Command and Control

Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy.  He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it.  He commands it.  We are to do the same in the name of Christ.  All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us.  Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things.  All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father.  When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Fasting Faithfully

So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen?  First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst.  Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this.  Fasting draws a person closer to God.  By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God.   Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented.  Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you.  While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.

We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that.  By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will.  When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.

Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I drawing close to God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them.  Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin.  Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process.  Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed.  Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified.  Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.

“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts.  However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God.  When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish.  In spiritual warfare, this is especially true.  The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…”  When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field.  Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)

People Pleasing and God – Galatians 1:10

By Being God-Pleasers, We Can Stop Being People-Pleasers

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Appropriate Approval

One of the greatest desires of humanity is to feel accepted by others.  We go to great lengths to be in the “right” jobs, “rub elbows” with the “right people”, say the “right things” so no one is offended, and do whatever it takes to be accepted and recognized by others.

Paul challenges our culturally induced bondage by asking a challenging question:  From whom are we trying to win our approval?  Is it man, or God?  Many people struggle with identity issues.  Many women have emaciated their bodies, trying to lose that extra pound so that they won’t be perceived as “fat”, when they are – literally – on the brink of starvation and malnutrition.  Men try to earn enough money, power, and respect to be accepted by other men and to attract a mate, especially when they are not perceived as “attractive” by the people they want to notice them.

The question on everyone’s mind is, “am I good enough?

Pleasing People

Culture tells us that we should be people-pleasers.  By conforming to the expectations of other people around us (or the people we want to be around us), we will find contentment, community, relationship, and happiness in life.  Pleasing people generally leads to one outcome – the surrender of your personal identity and purpose.  When we allow others to dictate and determine the circumstances in which we will be accepted, and doing “whatever it takes” to conform to those expectations, we are, in effect, surrendering our autonomous control over to those whom we seek to please.

Paul challenges this by saying that we need to be God-pleasers, not people-pleasers.  The order of importance with whom we should please should form the acrostic JOY:

  • Jesus
  • Others
  • You

When we follow this rule, we will have JOY in our lives!

Doubtful Doulos

Paul then suggests that if he was trying to please people, he would not be a servant of Christ.  The word servant, in the Greek, is doulos.  It means a person who voluntarily is the bond-servant of another because they love the other person so much.  When we seek to please people, we are placing them above God.  The doulos places his master’s interests above his/her own interests, as well as the interests of others.  By placing Jesus in the place of authority over our lives, and placing His interests and desires over the interests and desires of everyone else, we are able to overcome the bondage that people-pleasing introduces into our life.

Objectively Overcoming

So, you might say, I am a people-pleaser.  I have been doing it for so long, I don’t know how to do anything else!  My life is miserable, and I want to be free of it!  I read the Bible, pray, and plead with God to remove it, but I keep failing, almost every single time. What can  I do?

Spend more time in prayer with God

This is a sin that is deeply ingrained in many people.  Prayer is the opportunity to place God above other people as you seek relationship with Him and acknowledge that He is the one who is most important in your life.  Soak this concern in prayer with tears.  Mourn over your sin. Confess your need to have this broken in your life to God.  And ask God to remember you.  When God remembers a person, He acts divinely on behalf of that person.  It was once said that when God remembers you, “Batten down the hatches, grab hold of something sturdy, because here comes God in a mighty way!”

Confess your sins to other Christians

Find Godly, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ, and confess your sin to them.  Ask them to pray for you that you may be delivered out of this sin.  God wants us to be free, not in bondage!

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

When we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, we are being accountable to one another and supportive of one another.  God desires this in community, and this makes us real to one another.  Let us put aside the fake smiles and facades that we present to each other and be real, without guile.  Let us not be judgmental, but supportive and encouraging.  It is time for the church to step up as we advertise ourselves to others in TRUTH.

Remember who you are in Christ

Many times, we forget who we are in Christ.  Rather than be drawn to people in our time of loneliness, pain, suffering, abandonment, or any other situation that leaves us feeling disconnected from others, we need to embrace God, and remember who we are in Him:

  • Jesus died on the cross for you while you were still a sinner
  • God loves you because He sent Jesus to die for your sins
  • God has given you the Holy Spirit to indwell you, empower you, comfort you, console you, admonish you, and glorify Jesus
  • Read Ephesians 1-3.  Remember who you are in Christ
  • God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you
  • God has promised to always forgive you and restore you when you repent
  • God is omnipotent.  He can fix anything, and even move Heaven and Earth to help you
  • God redeemed you because He wants to have a relationship with you!
  • God never changes.  He loves you more than your parents every could, and loves you unconditionally, as an act of His will, and does so sacrificially (both through the death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as His continued support today and throughout eternity)
  • It is God who will always be there for you
  • Feelings are not facts (even though that is what culture teaches).  They are just feelings.  With your renewed mind, force your will to take them captive and place them under the authority of the Holy Spirit.*

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question:  Are we people-pleasers, or God-pleasers?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it should be You and You alone that I seek to please.  Help me when I feel obligated to please people.  Give me the strength and desire to set You above all, and to place every obligation I make, and every decision under Your guidance and care.  Help me to weather the criticism of others as I seek to honor You in all things.  And if honoring You in this manner causes difficulties in my relationships, help me to endure the emotional pain that ensues.  Give me Your peace in my heart that transcends understanding, and overcome the bondage that I am in.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for spelling errors, formatting, and clarity

*Taking every thought captive to Christ in the mind is a difficult thing to do if you are not proficient in this skill.

First, remember that God has freed you from the bondage of sin.  If there is unrepentant, unaddressed sin (apart from people-pleasing) in your life, confess it to God, turn away from it and turn towards God and His holy word (which is the final authority for these things – 2 Timothy 3:16).

Next, realize that God has healthy boundaries (for a good book on the subject, read “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend).  He cannot abide sin, because He is holy.  Sin damages our relationship with Him, as it places a wedge between us and God.  Set appropriate boundaries for others.  “No” is actually a good word!

Take a year off saying “Yes” to people.  Say “No” to anything and everyone that tries to involve you in anything that will take away from your devotion to God (call it a “fast” for your Christian friends, or a “sabbatical” for your secular friends).  Be reasonable – you probably still need to work to eat and have a roof over your head…

Spend ALL of this extra time in the word of God and in prayer.  Draw close to your Savior, and go deep with Him.  Let Him nudge you and change you and strengthen you.

Remember the J.O.Y. principle, and follow it.

Entrenched sin will take some time to overcome.  Don’t expect that God will (always) just flick the switch, and voilà, that aspect of your character is fixed (He does do that sometimes…).  Expect that as part of your training in righteousness, that he will place people in your life who will intentionally try to manipulate you by playing on what they perceive to be your desire to like them.  Anyone who does this is doing so at the behest of Satan, who uses deceit to get his way.  Good, righteous, Spirit-filled disciples of Christ will not manipulate you in this way, even when your answer is”no”, and may appear to cause them loss or difficulty in some way (disciples of Christ know that God will provide for their needs through another source).

Once you set healthy boundaries for people, don’t use this as an excuse to not do anything for Jesus.  You need a reset to get your life back in balance.  Once it comes back in balance (be patient – a week or two is not enough time for this to occur), you are in the position to say “Yes” only when it is appropriate (don’t overbook or overwork yourself, but don’t move to the other end of the spectrum and rest forever – Christ has good works that He has planned in advance for you to do.  Go do them and claim your reward from Him later!).

Now, reconsider that life, as viewed through your eyes, is like TV commercials designed to influence you to do things that you normally wouldn’t do.  We must be aware of these influences so that we can say “NO!” to them.  Satan can place thoughts in your mind.  It is up to us to recognize that those thoughts are not always Godly, even if they appear to be (for instance, if you overextend yourself in ministry, the toll that decision and resulting effects take will cause ALL of your ministry to decrease in effectiveness, even though you are doing “good things” for the cause of Christ).  We generally don’t think about our thoughts.  We just let them go, and think they are all from us.  They aren’t!

We need to set up barriers in our minds against them.  The best barriers are the words of scripture.  When we have a bad thought (stealing something, for example), we should immediately tear down that stronghold thought by countering it with “You shall not steal” if there is a desire behind the thought.  Many of these thoughts are safely discarded as rubbish.  It is the ones that invoke desire in us to harbor the thoughts and act on them that need to be dealt with more immediately and with greater fervor:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (emphasis added)

This is just the start.  Rely upon and seek out the wisdom of God in His word and through reliance upon His Spirit to convict, exhort, and empower you as you work through the recovery from this dark pit.

Special Considerations:

Some people are in jobs where if they say “no” to anything, they’ll be fired.  Others may be single parents trying to keep it together, with no time for themselves, barely living and certainly not thriving.  There are people who are severely challenged physically or with severe health-impacting diseases.  To every person in these circumstances, I would counsel you to understand that God sees your plight and has a special place in His heart for you.  Seek Him, and trust Him.  Take your eyes off of your situation, and place them upon Almighty God, who is able to do even more abundantly than we could ever imagine.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.  And when the pressures of this life fade in the peace of God that transcends understanding, you will be in a better position to see clearly what God desires for you to do in your circumstances.

Praying to God – Luke 18:1-8

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

We live in an instantaneous culture.  Within milliseconds, we can get answers to just about everything on google.com.  We have instant oatmeal, instant rewards in video games, instant hot food with microwave ovens, instant news, instant communications with just about anyone in the world, and we expect results instantly.

Jesus shows us that we should be persistent in prayer to the Father.  Using this parable as an illustration, He also reveals to us that when He comes, people may very well not be persistent in prayer by saying, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  That should sober us up and give us pause.

This isn’t the only place Jesus exhorts us to be persistent in prayer.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says that those who ask will receive.   In the Greek, the verb “ask” is aiteite. There are two interesting qualities about this.  First, it is an imperative command.  We are expected to do this – it is not merely a suggestion.  Secondly, the verb tense is not a passive, one-time thing that we do.  A better translation would be, “Ask, and keep on asking”.  This is true of the other two imperative commands in that sentence – “Seek, and keep on seeking; Knock, and keep on knocking.”

George Müller, a Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, prayed for five friends of his to be saved.  It took over 50 years for that to come to pass, and George prayed faithfully for all of them.  The last was saved just after George died.  Persistence in prayer pays off powerfully!

We can pray for anything that we want.  God knows what’s best for us and may not give us something that would impede us, even when it would bless someone else.  But even in that, James tells us something interesting:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Our prayers should be aligned with the will of God.  We shouldn’t pray selfishly or for worldly things (to merely gratify the flesh).  When we become a friend of the world, we are an enemy of God.

Daniel, after having a vision, fasted and prayed for three weeks for an answer.  What the messenger said to him when he arrived should give us pause:

A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.

There is a spiritual battle going on, and answers to our prayers may be delayed by them!  We are to be faithful and continue to pray, in full faith that God will answer our prayers.

When we pray, we should have our eyes focused on God and His priorities, not on our own selfish desires.  After all, God is not some cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops the blessing of your choice.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants us to desire Him for who He is, not what He can provide to us.  The latter type of relationship is a vendor-customer relationship, where we have no loyalty to the vendor, we just want the best product at the best price.  He wants friendship and trust, for He loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally [this last one is an act of the will].

So, let’s ask the question:  In my prayer life, am I asking God for the things that are needed to further His purposes, and am I diligently seeking Him for these things even when there may be great delay in the arrival?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of great gifts to us.  You shower us with Your love, affection, mercy and grace, when we justly deserve death and separation from You.  Grant Your servants success this day in all that we do, that whatever we do would honor and glorify Your name.  Give us strength when delay is occurring, and help us to be faithful, even until Your Son comes in the clouds in glory.  Let us not grow weary, but be encouraged by Your people of old who show us how to respond to delay.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?