In June 2012 we were invited to Indonesia to teach The Elijah Challenge to a group of disciples who had gathered at the Camp David Resort in Cipanas, a suburb a few hours outside of the capital Jakarta. These disciples were mostly of middle-to-lower income. Every weekend they would gather faithfully in Camp David for all night prayer and worship beginning Friday evening at midnight.
With strength and grace provided by the Lord, we completed this strenuous Training event. By taking turns, the two of us were able to teach for several hours each day directly in the Indonesian language. Lucille taught the very last session between 1 am and 3 am Saturday morning. The Lord was gracious to confirm His word through various miraculous healings as the Indonesian disciples ministered to one another. To apply what they have learned, they want to join us on a future mission trip to Indonesian Borneo.
Also at Camp David that weekend was a group of Indonesian women musicians and artists called “The Bride.” Lucille shared with them.
As part of The Elijah Challenge Training, we presented separate teachings on what are called “the anointing” and the practice of “spiritual warfare”—by which we mean directly addressing and attempting to drive out principalities and territorial spirits from geographic regions. As far as this discussion is concerned, “spiritual warfare” does not include prayer to God but only direct action against His enemies in the heavenlies.
Inasmuch as this practice is quite popular in Indonesia, we knew that the teaching would be controversial. But the Lord helped us in an unexpected way.
We went through the scriptures arguing that the practice is in fact unscriptural and that it can in fact result in unnecessary backlash against those who practice it. Two men who were there listened with interest because they had witnessed such backlash in people they knew personally.
Our host, a Jakarta businessman, had sent his son to Thailand on a YWAM mission trip. In Chiang Mai the young man had gone around “sprinkling the blood of Jesus” on Buddhist temples and rebuking the spirits within, commanding them to leave. The young man came home demonized with the manifestation of slithering on the floor like a snake. After deliverance he was set free.
Another Jakarta businessman present at the teaching knew a pastor in the state of West Kalimantan who had a similar experience. This pastor climbed up to the top of a mountain and rebuked the principality and the territorial spirits controlling the idol temples in the area. Afterwards this pastor began to behave and speak very strangely. In his church he would roll on the floor. Many of his congregation left.
I was reminded of a report I heard when I was in Trinidad earlier in the month. A dear lady servant of God had a radio program every Friday. On the air she would conduct “spiritual warfare” against the powers and principalities and territorial spirits over Trinidad. One day she was found dead. She had gone home to the Lord, but perhaps prematurely.
A very godly pastor in Brazil who is active in “spiritual warfare” almost died from an illness which he attributed to the enemy. There are undoubtedly myriads of similar reports which are not gathered or reported. I have my own personal experience.
Not necessary and very risky
“Spiritual warfare” is not necessary for effective evangelism. If we rather obey the Lord’s commands to “heal the sick and tell them, ‘the kingdom of God is near you’”, we can be very fruitful for the gospel—even with gospel-resistant peoples. And the Lord’s promise to us in Luke 10:19 will be fulfilled: “Nothing will harm you.”
It is important to note that the context of Luke 10:19 is carrying out the Lord’s command to preach the gospel to the lost on earth, to cast out demons from people on earth, and to heal sick people on earth. The context is ground-level activity centered around people on earth, not in the heavenlies. Look at the following context:
Matthew 10:1 And when He had called to Him His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. …7 And as you go, proclaim, saying, The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. …9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ …17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
From the context of verse 19, we see that snakes and scorpions—which crawl in the ground—refer to unclean spirits whose activity is on the ground, and over whom indeed we have authority. Only when we remain in the context of ground-level activity for the gospel can we “overcome all the power of the enemy; and nothing will harm us.” As for Satan, he has already fallen like lightning. We need have nothing to do with him. Our business and warfare is on earth with his underlings.
Once we depart from that context and attempt to engage principalities and territorial spirits in the heavenlies, we will be at risk of backlash and subsequent trials and suffering. We have seen that the enemy can and does in fact harm us when we go out presumptuously in disobedience to the Lord’s command.
Testimony from a servant of God
This brother who formerly engaged in the “spiritual warfare” as discussed above was constantly harassed and attacked in his physical body (along with even his wife) following meetings in which he healed the sick, cast out demons, and proclaimed the kingdom of God to the lost. Then he repented of the spiritual warfare. He wrote us:
“Praise the Lord, the rash on my chest and back is slowly getting better. I did humble myself and repent of presumption in regard to principalities. The times of refreshing that follow each repentance is powerful. The Lord is showing me how these principalities are baiting me into their realm to overwhelm me. The hardest that I have been hit is when I am on the Indian Reservation. I am not sure why but just because I sense their presence does not mean I have to take their bait and rebuke them. Thanks again for your help.”
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
There are other very sad reports from servants of God we have heard concerning unnecessary suffering at the hands powers and principalities as a consequence of presumptuous “strategic-level spiritual warfare.” By contrast, we have personally ministered with great boldness in some of the darkness nations on earth, including challenging witchdoctors in Africa as the prophet Elijah did on Mt. Carmel. But we have not and do not suffer such retaliation at the hands of the enemy, but rather enjoy the Lord’s peace in every way in our personal lives. Because we are careful to obey His commands and His specific commands only, He sends His heavenly host to encamp around us to keep us safe. But zeal with knowledge can be dangerous to oneself.
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, “the kingdom of God has come near to you.”