Experience of the demonic
Two stories of Duncan’s experience with the demonic are taken from the article Does the Devil Exist? in Patheos Evangelical JANUARY 11, 2022 by Duncan Edward Pile.
STORY ONE: My friends and I were in San Fernando, Philippines. It was our day off, so we decided to walk into town and share the Gospel with anyone who was interested. Ten minutes into the walk we came across a gathering on a street corner. It was the intersection of several dirt streets, with an open area of dusty ground and a small stand selling coca cola. Around us were rustic homes constructed from tree fibres.
We stopped and began to talk with the locals, and I was soon engaged by an old, staggering drunkard, wearing a large medallion – a carving of a snarling, demonic face. I’d seen plenty of similar items in the UK but they’d always struck me as harmless, gothic accessories. This was different. Just looking at it made me feel sick.
The old man grabbed my arm, and I immediately felt nauseated. Suddenly he wasn’t drunk anymore. I began to retreat but he came after me, seeking to touch me again. I became frightened. Every time his skin brushed mine I felt another wave of nausea and an intense sense of spiritual oppression. It was clear the old man was aware of the discomfort he was causing me. His eyes were cold and hard, staring at me with a hatred so intense it was palpable. He raised a bony finger before my face.
“In…your…HEAD!” he barked, stabbing my forehead with his finger. I ran, chased by his cackling until I found a group of friends. I ducked into the middle of them and squatted on my heels, arms wrapped tightly around my knees. I was literally hiding, utterly terrified.
I knew what I’d encountered. Back in the UK, I’d cast out a couple of demons. I knew the look in a person’s eyes when possessed. It’s like nothing else, but I wasn’t afraid of them until that moment. I believed they were defeated at the cross, and had no power other than that which we lend them, but I’d never encountered a person utterly given to possession – like the man in the Bible who had a whole legion of demons within him. Now I had, and the encounter had shaken me to my core.
My friends calmed me down, and a good look around told me the old man had gone, so I went to the Coke stand to get a drink. There was one customer already at the stand, and as I placed my order, I realised it was the same old man. I have no idea how I failed to spot him. He saw me and broke into a broad, nasty leer. He got into my space, and banging the heel of his palm rapidly against his chest, said:
“Why is your heart going boom boom boom?” For the second time that day, I ran, and this time I didn’t return.
STORY TWO: Some friends and I were ministering at a church in Manila. During a meeting a girl doubled over, crying out in pain. She was clutching her chest, just below her left collarbone. Everyone gathered around her, praying for her to be healed, but I was on the far side of the room and there was a ring of people between her and me.
One of the gifts of the Spirit is the discernment of spirits, and at that moment, I knew beyond human knowledge that her pain was the result of demonic oppression, rather than illness. I was filled with power and authority and knew I had to act, so I crossed the room, asking people to move aside. The ring of praying folk around her parted, and on reaching her, I placed my finger on her collarbone and said: “Go! In Jesus’ name.”
Instantly, she gasped, collapsing in relief. She’d been having these attacks for some time, and even had a diagnosis for them, but the pain was instantly and completely gone. This wasn’t a ‘out of ten, how do you feel?’, before and after kind of comparison, which can be manipulated to make something seem like more than it is. One moment she was in agony, crying out in pain, and the next she was completely free of pain. She was utterly astonished.
So, what to make of the above? Each situation can certainly be explained in modern terms. The old man might have been a master of human behaviour, and sensing my vulnerability, decided to prey on me. Or perhaps we were both deluded. Maybe there is no God, and no Devil, and human beings are capable of manufacturing all manner of intense inner experiences we then label as spiritual. Maybe we were both complicit in a mutual delusion, playing for imaginary teams in an imaginary game.
In the second scenario, perhaps my conviction was enough to persuade her she was set free, and the placebo effect resulted in the sudden cessation of pain.
It’s possible to explain anything away if you try hard enough, but why do we feel the need to do so? It is also possible that there is a God, and that evil spirits oppose him, seeking to harm the lives of those he loves.
The consequences of denying the Devil’s existence
The Bible gives us both warnings and advice about demons and how to cope with their attacks. Sadly many churches do not address this basic issue and leave their congregations open to demonic attack.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5: 8-9
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” Ephesians 6:10-13
The importance of spiritual warfare
When I pray for others, I rely on the leading of the Spirit to know how to pray. At times I know to pray for the mercy of God, at others for grace, and yet for others, I know to go to battle on their behalf, praying in power and authority against spiritual forces trying to harm them. This spiritual dimension is essential to the dynamics of effective prayer, and to Christian faith in general. I’ll tell you this much – if you’re going through trouble, these are the kind of believers you want praying for you. Good wishes and warm thoughts achieve nothing.
I fear we are busy pouring out the baby with the bathwater, reshaping Christianity in an image so far from the life and ministry of Jesus it becomes something else altogether. My prayer is that we are not so deceived by our own importance and cultural perspective that we deny the spiritual side of life, including the darkness we are called to resist. Where we’ve replaced spiritual activity with softly-spoken ponderings and general niceness, I pray we will get real.
In these last days before Jesus returns we know from Biblical prophecy that demonic warfare will only increase so we need to heed Paul’s warning to put on the full armour of the Lord daily to be able to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit gifts. Know full well that the world will hate you for being Jesus’ disciple. Torben Sondergaard and his team at Last Reformation Ministries were casting out demons from people on the streets of Denmark. Satan managed to make it look like Torben was doing something that was damaging particularly to children looking on and so the government made it illegal and a jailable offense. The situation became so intolerable for Torben that he fled to the USA. After an incredible time of ministry all over the USA making disciples of Christ that are prepared to reach out to their communities to make more disciples, Torben is now in jail in the USA on a trumped-up charge. It has been six months and he is still there. God of course has used Torben in jail to transform the lives of other prisoners but his testimony of what God has been doing to transform Torben Sondergaard will both challenge and inspire you. Take a look at my post New Year’s Greetings from Torben Sondergaard – Now six months in Jail posted January 4th, 2023.