Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: realm of darkness

Facing up to the bull

One year in my late teens I spent several months working for farmers. I drove the truck for one during harvest. Then I spent a month on a cattle farm, putting up hay, fixing fences, things like that.

The fences were in bad shape. The first day, the big Hereford bull walked through the fence to graze the greener grass on the other side. I had heard and read enough scary stories about what a bull could do that the sight of this guy filled me with a sense of impending trouble.

Then the farmer said “Put that bull back in the pasture.”


Image by Olichel Adamovich from Pixabay

I was shaking, but I didn’t want to admit that a grown fellow like me was afraid of a bull. So I prayed. At that point in my life I only prayed when fear overwhelmed me.

Then I walked toward the bull. He looked up, shook his head–then ambled along the fence line toward the gate. I went ahead of him, opened the gate, he walked into the pasture and I closed the gate.

That was my daily task after that; when supper time came, I first helped the bull  go back where he belonged. The bull and I never became friends, but he knew the routine and was always cooperative. That stretch of fence was the last one fixed.

In later years I have faced other bulls in my life, in the form of thoughts. My father was prone to unpredictable outbursts of anger. That seems to have left a hook within me where fears of how other people might react in anger can fasten themselves. Other destructive thought patterns became a routine in my life.

In time I realized that these are tempting and tormenting spirits from the realm of darkness. I don’t want them, but my willpower is not enough on its own to overcome them.

So I pray. Then tell those thoughts to go away. By the grace of God they do.  The next day I have to rebuke them again. Victory comes through Jesus Christ, but the battles repeat day by day.

Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me,” (Luke 9:23).

This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting

Jesus came down from the mountain where He had been transfigured and found a great crowd gathered around his disciples and a demon-possessed boy. At the end of the account, after casting the demon out of the child, He told His disciples “Howbeit, this kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting.”

The disciples had been perplexed. Jesus had earlier sent them out and given them power to heal diseases and cast out demons. When the father of this boy brought him to them, they were confident that they had done this sort of thing before, they knew how to do it. This time it didn’t work.

No doubt the scribes were delighted at the discomfiture of the disciples. The crowd was probably disappointed at not being able to witness something spectacular. What went wrong?

This whole passage, and particularly Jesus’ words at the end, have often puzzled me. I think a glimmer of light has dawned in my mind. Jesus is not giving a recipe, or formula, for healing, such as: “six days of fasting and ten hours of prayer every day and no evil spirit can stand against you.” He was warning against self-confidence or any kind of idea that “I can do this.”

Fasting is to deny ourself of that which sustains our natural strength. It will not do to fast in order to have strength; we must rather relinquish any claim to have strength of our own. Prayer then will connect us to the power that comes of God.

We humans are no match for the spirits who populate the unseen realm of darkness which is all around us. Physical fasting can help take our mind off our natural appetites, but does not, of itself, give us power over the forces of darkness. It appears that fasting gives some people a sense of spiritual superiority, which leaves then defenceless against temptations to pride and self-exaltation.

What I think Jesus means here by fasting is to deny all pride, ambition and desire to be praised, and to trust only in Him to give us power to withstand temptations. The result may not be dramatically apparent to others, or ego-building, but it does promise a life of spiritual victory.

Don’t listen to them

Eight or nine years ago, Minister Isaac Akinyombo of Nigeria was in one of our Canadian congregations to assist in revival meetings. An invitation was given at the end of one of the meetings, and as brother Isaac was giving the invitation he added these words: “Be aware that there is someone right beside you, you can’t see him but he is there, and he is telling you that ‘Of course you need to repent and get right with God, but you don’t need to do it tonight. Tomorrow will be just as good, or next week. Take time to think it through clearly.'” He went on to warn that if someone was clearly hearing the call of the Spirit that night, there was no guarantee that the call would be as clear tomorrow, or that the person would even live until tomorrow.

The messengers of the enemy of our souls are very sly and speak to us in words that promise comfort, but leave us with our burden of sin. They are present in every worship service to point out the faults of the preacher and the inconsistencies of the people around us in the pews.

Yes, the people around us all have their flaws. But other people’s flaws don’t lessen my guilt. I am a sinner by nature and if the preacher is telling me that Jesus died for my sins I shouldn’t criticize him for not choosing exactly the right words, or the right tone of voice, to give me that message of hope.

The messengers from the realm of darkness want to entice us into the darkness where there is no hope. They want to convince us that everyone around us is in that darkness, that there is no hope. Yet when we step out into the light, we are able to see the light in so many of the people around us. Even though we are weak and sinful by nature, we can walk in the light and have fellowship with our Saviour and with others who are walking in the light.

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