There was a lot I wanted to write about Las Vegas. But I find myself economizing my thoughts tonight.
I could write about the guns, or the gun laws or the necessity of being able to defend yourself when faced with something so horrible. I could write about the need for better mental health care, or the need for people to simply step up and say something when people start acting nuts.
But none of those things have been on my mind at all since Sunday. What has been on my mind since Sunday…what has occupied my thoughts and prayers, has been the reality of evil in this world and the absolute necessity of Christians to battle back against it.
Stephen Paddock was under the guidance of pure evil. Make no mistake. The question keeps arising; “How could this man do this?” He was “normal.” He was wealthy, successful, and bore none of the typical markings of a crazed killer. Yet when the time came, he “snapped” and murdered 59 people and wounded over 500 more.
I was thinking about the story in the Bible of when Jesus cast out the demons in a man and they ran into a herd of swine. The entire herd ran down a hill and drown in the sea. Over 2000 pigs went to their death that way. Does that mean there were 2000 demons in the man, or does it mean that the several demons that were in him, (The demon had said “My name is Legion, for we are many.”) had such influence that they started a stampede and killed all the pigs, even those not possessed? (I tend to believe this idea)
Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Period. Demons never bring life. They never bring joy. It’s never pleasant. He possesses one but thousands live in fear as a result.
Paul warned us in Ephesians 6:12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
We are not at war with other men, even though it takes on that form. We are fighting against demonic powers wrapped in human flesh. We are fighting against sin itself.
Jesus told us in a complex teaching in Matthew 11: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.”
The battle is ongoing. Satan keeps trying, even though he knows he has been defeated. The obligation of the saints is to roll up our sleeves and engage this enemy in the spiritual realm, before he manifests his evil in human form and kills people from a hotel in Las Vegas.
I was troubled in my soul as I thought about this. I am horribly guilty of not praying as I ought. I am guilty of not taking the fight to the enemy. Like most other believers, I pray for my needs, my family’s needs, the needs of friends and loved ones. I recite the prayer list from my church, or for a coworker going through a hard time. I’ll pray for the occasional missionary or world event. But I have never –not in 48 years of Christianity- stepped into my prayer closet, taken a step back to gain a larger view, and went to war on the spiritual level for the souls of men. I’ve prayed for those heartbreaking souls trapped in human trafficking, but never rattled the Sword of the Spirit against the real evil behind it. I’ve raged on my knees against the abortion industry, but never against the Father of Lies who convinces man that destroying life is a good thing, because life comes from God and therefore is the object of Satan’s unbridled hatred. I’ve prayed for someone trapped by addiction, but never prayed down the strongholds that bind him.
I’ve never once prayed against the seeming tidal wave epidemic of mental health crises that are behind killings like Las Vegas, Columbine, Aurora, Orlando…
I’ve ground my teeth at Islam and its inherent violence, but never prayed against the spirits behind it.
We are here for that very reason. We are here to take back the ground the enemy has tried to gain. We are here to beat back those “violent men who take hold of the Kingdom of Heaven.” We are commanded to take up our armor, to learn to skillfully handle the word of God, to wield the sword of the Spirit with authority and power. We are called to push back against the darkness of this world.
When have I last spent the night in prayer over the lost? When have I last wept in sorrow over the high cost of sin in this world? This morning as I read from Ravenhill, he related a story about the preacher Thomas Cook. Cook was on board a train, travelling across South Africa when he opened the door to the Club car. Inside was a haze of cigarette smoke, and the smell of liquor. Men sat at the tables gambling. Foul language filled the air. Cook, under the command of the Holy Spirit, opened the door of the car and walked silently through its length. He did not speak a word. As he walked past, men hid their cards, and their liquor under the tables so he would not see them. Silence filled the room. He walked to the other end of the car and exited without speaking a word. The men suddenly realized that they had hidden their vices from his sight, and they could not grasp why. “Why did we do this?” they asked themselves. To a man, they concluded that it was simply because of the sight of his face. This man who had spent so much time in the presence of God, was physically changed and reflected the very holiness he had been present in. They could not help but feel the need to hide their sin in embarrassment when he walked past.
Has anyone ever said this of us? Has my life ever…even once, so reflected Jesus that sinners felt the burning desire to repent just because of the appearance of my face? Would this world be different if I had? Would a Godly man have possibly halted the events of Las Vegas with the mere presence of his person? Can we still be changed by the proximity of God as Moses was? If not, why not? Do I believe the Bible or not? Do I believe the power of the word of God and of His Spirit, or don’t I?
The hope of this world is not in stricter gun laws, or even in the elimination of guns altogether. It’s not in more religion or less of it. Peace is simply impossible for humanity outside of a right relationship with God. History bears this out.
Voting for the right candidate (whomever that might be) won’t do it. Attending the right church won’t do it. Being “Missional” and “relevant” and “Authentic” won’t do it.
The only hope this world has is for Christian people to read the bible, believe what it says without question, and pray accordingly.
I would love to say I have renewed my vow to do so, but sadly, I am just discovering this truth at 54 years old. I know how to pray in the Spirit. But I don’t do it enough. I understand the concept of “spiritual wickedness in high places” but until recently I never saw the need for this to be my battleground. I never saw the prayer closet as something with a much larger scope than just my world, my needs, and my requests.
I am here to beat back the enemy of man. I’m not talking about being some sort of Spiritual-warfare-Rambo. Some sort of cartoonish warrior quoting lyrics from a Carmen record. I’m talking about duking it out on my knees. In total surrender to a Holy God, realizing that in my flesh I am a lamb to slaughter in Satan’s hands, but yielded to God I am a vessel for victory. It’s the Spirit’s sword…not mine. I am just here to wield it as He wills.
However weak and vulnerable I may be in the flesh, surrendered and spirit-filled, I am a powerful force in God’s kingdom. My heart breaks over the events in Vegas. It has driven me to my knees, praying that even now as the next attack is being hatched in hell, the poor human conduit that Satan might use would be reached with the Gospel. I am praying now against human trafficking on the spiritual level. Against war. Against the evil of Islam that would murder my Christian brothers in the Middle East. Against parents who would abuse their children, under the influence of Hell. I pray against everything that might restrict the freedom of the Gospel.
This is war, brothers and sisters. War in places we can’t see. War in the souls of men, for the souls of men. I am praying for revival. My prayers have moved from repetition to desperation. I am literally begging God, through tears, for a move of the Spirit. I pray that He lets me see those lost men and women. See those children stolen and sold into the most unthinkable kinds of slavery. I am praying that my righteous rage is refocused away from the humans who I can see operating under this demonic power, and toward those powers themselves.
I want to be broken and poured out. I want God to put a hand to his ear when I hit my knees. I want Satan to grind his teeth in anger because at long last…I have learned not only how to pray…but who to pray against. I want to stake my claim to a piece of the Kingdom and from my prayer closet bellow out, “This far and NO FARTHER shall you go!”
I want to finally, after all these years, “pray as I ought.”
The souls of this world hang in the balance.