I listened recently as a man shared with me his confusion regarding the influence and impact of demons in his life. He clearly stated his understanding that as a believer he was not “possessed.” However the oppression he experienced was significant to him. The specific frustration he discussed had to do with how he would “command the demons to leave in the name of Jesus” which usually resulted in a temporary reprieve followed at some point by the return of the tormentors. I asked him about “commanding the demons” and he quickly referenced James 4:7: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
I reminded him of the context and entirety of the verses in the fourth chapter of James: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” I suggested that simply grabbing the portion of the verse in the middle without complying with the rest of the principles that surrounded it may be the kind of thing that Jesus was talking about when He discussed the folly of building a house on shifting sand.
Robert Whitlow has written: “The first step in fighting spiritual evil is not running out to do battle; the first step is submitting yourself to God and surrendering to his authority as the Commander in Chief of your own heart. You have to win the battle within, the one inside your own soul, before you can have a chance to win the battle without, the one against external spiritual forces of wickedness and evil. Once you defeat the enemy within, you can receive your battle plane for offensive action against the plans of the devil.”
The enemy within? Yes, often the greatest struggle, the true battle, is making ourselves available to and cooperating with God in addressing core belief lies and repetitive sin in our lives. Deception and sin are the open doors through which demons gain influence in a believer’s life. We have a tendency to focus on “the devil made me do it” when, in reality, we all must own our beliefs and behaviors, and then come humbly before the Lord to resolve them.
For the man sitting in my office the battle within was still raging – and it made him an easy target for an opportunistic enemy. They would go away, perhaps just so he would assume victory and not pursue resolving the struggle within. But the handholds and footholds remained in his life so the enemy had lots to hold on to. He and I discussed the need to “do the steps” in order: totally submit first, then do external battle. Getting things out of order was killing him.