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Are You Under the Influence?

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:15 (NIV)

Anybody else sensing a darkness creeping in on the body of Christ like a thick fog?

Anxiety and fear have become common place, surfacing in places we never expected to see them. Depression robs our joy. Many of us live defeated, shrouded in a misery of our own making.

You see, we have forgotten to believe. Let me remind you of some things Jesus said.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

Precious one, you hold the power within you to defeat the darkness. In fact, that’s your calling. Christ didn’t suffer the cross so His family could live defeated. He did it so you and I could dispel the darkness and live free.

The question is, do we?

I wonder if you can relate to that feeling of hopelessness. Let me introduce you to a man drowning in it, living among the tombs in the Gerasenes, across the sea from Galilee. A prisoner to his mind, he had suffered a long time, an outcast welcomed only by the dead.

When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. Luke 8:27

You may have already tuned out at the mention of the word demons. I understand. The word makes us uncomfortable. We’d really rather pretend they don’t exist.

But scripture reveals that much of what we battle results from their oppressive influence over our thoughts.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Whether we like the idea or not, evil is real, and its servants seek to exert its power over each of us. Perhaps it would be wise to learn to recognize their handiwork.

This man overcome by demons in Luke 8 offers a glimpse at what life can look like when evil influences are permitted to have their way in the mind of man. Look at the devastation they caused in verse 27:

  • For a long time he had worn no clothes They rob us of our dignity. The enemy loves to produce destructive behavior in us and then gleefully expose our shame. Then he uses that shame to manipulate us.
  • He had not lived in a house but among the tombs. They cut us off from our families and leave us feeling we belong among the dead. Demons love to drive us into isolation. Loneliness and solitude are sure marks of evil’s handiwork.
  • They also make us self-destructive. Verse 29 reveals that when they put him under guard and shackled him to stop his tirades, “he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.” Under the enemy’s influence, we will even fight any measures put in place to protect us from ourselves.

No wonder God wants each of us to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). A mind influenced by evil oppressors eventually self-destructs.

Verse 33 provides a clear picture of the enemy’s plans for us when he is left unhindered. Once Jesus commanded the legion of demons to leave the man, they begged His permission to enter a herd of pigs, and Jesus gave it.

Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned. Luke 8:33

What does the enemy do when free to exercise his will? He drives us straight over a cliff to the death of everything God created us to be. John 10:10 says it plainly:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

That’s a heavy thought if that were the whole truth of it. But praise the Lord, Jesus offers the way for us to escape the enemy’s clutches and live the life God intended for us. He promises in that same verse:

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Beloved, while the enemy destroys, Jesus saves.

How did that translate in the life of our demon-possessed friend?

Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. Luke 8:35 ESV

Oh that we would come to understand the magnitude of an authentic encounter with Jesus! His transformation was so radical, the people responded with fear! They witnessed a miracle in the life of a hopeless man—once without dignity and out of control, now clothed and sitting at the feet of Jesus; previously out of his mind, now clearly in his right mind.

Jesus carries the power to rescue you from the dominion of darkness (Colossians 1:13). He longs to remove your shame and restore your dignity, to robe you in His righteousness and cloak you in His power.

And He has conquered the enemy who torments your mind.

Believe, child of God.

Let Him prove it.

Despairing of Hope, or Living With It

But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. Job 30:26

I wonder if you’ve ever felt the heavy weight of our opening scripture.

Perhaps you allowed your heart to hope for good—believed God for something good—but the good you hoped for didn’t appear. Instead evil leered at you, taunting you with a darkness that overwhelmed.

And you were tempted to disbelieve John 1:5.

 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I faced that temptation last week, beloved. Pain has a way of casting a shadow that seems impossible to escape. Especially pain evoked from loss.

And I recently lost someone I love to glory. The frail tent of my dear aunt’s body gave way to the cancer she battled. Now my mother grieves the loss of her beloved sister while facing another three months of chemo herself. Chemo she didn’t anticipate. Her doctors and faithful prayer had projected remission.

It didn’t come.

Now faith is tested while hope dwindles. Darkness approaches, proclaiming a message of hopelessness, sucking away life like a vacuum. Only the emptiness isn’t a void. Fear fills it. Unimaginable pain. Sorrow. Despair.

We so easily allow the darkness to rob our hope, beloved.

But what if we refuse to let the darkness win? What if we recognize that we are the light that overcomes darkness? What if we choose to believe what God says despite what circumstances declare?

I know my God, dear one, and I know His goodness. He is incorruptible. Perfect. Kind. And He always keeps His Word. Always.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

It seems impossible to believe. Can God really bring a great good from death and suffering?

Yes, beloved. Just look at Jesus. What appeared to be humanity’s darkest hour became its brightest. Jesus’ suffering unleashed life and blessing that still produces a harvest.

And now He challenges us to follow His example.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

Glory looms on the horizon for the heart infused with faith. And hope for a future joy that waits beyond the darkness.

Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:49-50

Life flows into the hearts of the afflicted when we choose to believe God’s promises. I am living proof of the miracle faith produces when we yield our hearts to the will of our good, good Father. My heart hurts for the people I love. But I do not despair. Hope in my Father’s Word engulfs my heart with peace. It beats with purpose, anticipating a harvest we cannot yet conceive.

Joy released through suffering.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Beloved, God loves us too much to allow us to live lacking. He wants us perfect and complete, and He will do whatever it requires. He gave His Son to remove our lack. Will we also trust Him by surrendering our loved ones?

The Holy Spirit recently gripped my heart with Jesus’ words in Mark 10:29-30.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

What are you willing to leave for Jesus’ sake, beloved? Will you relinquish your suffering loved ones? Will you entrust them to God’s will, feeling the sorrow but releasing all bitterness?

No one who has surrendered a loved one for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of the gospel will fail to receive a hundredfold blessing, now in this time. This isn’t just about heavenly crowns. It represents an earthly harvest. But the fulfillment of that blessing will be released through persecutions. Pain. Suffering. Loss.

And faith.

What is that harvest worth to you, beloved?

Surrender your heart to your Father’s will. Find hope as you believe His Word. And experience His resurrection life.

You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint. Isaiah 57:10

I believe, Lord Jesus. Bring life.

In the Cleft of the Rock

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

Sometimes that scripture seems impossible to believe, doesn’t it?

Moments come when the darkness seems so thick you find it difficult to breathe. Your deceiving heart insists it will suffocate you. And yet your lungs fill again.

But with every breath, the darkness murmurs it will have the next one.

It won’t, beloved, unless you allow it to.

Perhaps I need to remind you who gives you breath.

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

The enemy doesn’t own your breath, dear one. He just wants you to think he does.

And there’s something else the enemy doesn’t want you to know. The light that defeats the darkness rests within you. Christ gave it to you. Beloved, you hold the power within you to defeat the lord of the darkness.

And he’s terrified you’ll figure that out.

So the deceiver of the whole world (Revelation 12:9) works his illusions, insisting he is stronger than you and that darkness prevails. But his schemes only work if you believe him.

This last month has brought an onslaught of darkness against my family. Serious health concerns have come out of nowhere against four of my family members. The enemy whispers the future holds the promise of more darkness. If I didn’t know my God so well, fear may have crumbled me.

But I do know my beloved Savior. So I told the enemy I would not take his fear. I belong to the Most High God, and I rest in the shadow of the Almighty. And the God I love has promised:

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16

No matter how things appear, the God I know always keeps His Word. Always. And love draws His presence. He can’t keep away from it. It’s what He created us for.

So I know that as I turn my heart toward my Savior in praise, glory approaches with Him. And I am reminded of Moses.

“When my glory passes by, I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” Exodus 33:22-23

These words of God came in response to Moses’ bold request, “Now show me your glory” (verse 18). God responded by saying,

I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.” (Verse 19)

Beloved, will you consider with me that in your moments of greatest darkness, God has hidden you in the cleft of the Rock to shield you from His approaching glory? As He covers you with His protective hand, the darkness appears thickest, yet He is nearest. While the enemy whispers that God has forsaken you, He is actually holding you in His grasp, causing all His goodness to pass by and proclaiming His name, the LORD, in your presence.

[bctt tweet=”As God covers you with His protective hand, the darkness appears thickest, yet He is nearest.” username=”Kelley_Latta”]

You see, we cannot see God approaching. We can’t stare head on into the fullness of His glory and survive the experience, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (verse 20).

And so as He draws near to meet us in our need, He covers us with His hand. Darkness looms, not because it’s winning, but because in that moment, we are unable to see the light of His glory. But as it passes by and He removes His protective hand, we have the privilege of seeing His glory as it departs.

Oh, how I love our Savior. He is near. Always. It’s we who continually depart.

And that, of course, remains the goal of our enemy’s illusions. Because union with God and belief in His Word sets the river of life within us flowing. And when the river flows within us, the power of God releases from us.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us. Ephesians 3:20

There it is, beloved. The power of God lies within you waiting to be released as you exercise faith.

Believe, dear one. God’s Word remains true no matter how things appear. Offer Him a heart of praise in the midst of your difficulty. Draw near and grip Him tighter than ever. And when the darkness begins to dissipate, your eyes will glimpse the light of glory—glory released by your faith.