Perhaps it is hard for us to believer demons are real, not only because we don't see them in the world around us, but also because they are generally held back from harming us.
Whether you take it poetically or literally, a fellow I know well awoke one morning at 4:00am from dreams of devils chasing a crowd of helpless people across wet fields at night, delighting in torturing, maiming, and killing the children and old people who couldn't keep up. He sat up in bed, sweating. Then he got out of bed and went to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. It was about 4:00am in the morning. He calmed down as he drank the milk and after a few minutes felt fine, but as soon as he walked back into his bedroom a sickening wall of horror overwhelmed him again, and he "saw" (he has difficulty explaining it) a demon at the foot of his bed. It was just like a man, but something about its head was reminiscent of a lion, and a sphere glowed around him. It didn't seem to be quite in touch with the physical floor of the apartment--it was mostly in the room, he says, but partly overlapping into the apartment below. Evil and hatred radiated from the being like a furnace, but he seemed to be in a cage or in chains.
My friend knew that he would be torn to shreds in a moment if the being, radiating hatred and power, were free to do so. A great fear continued to wash over my friend, but no physical harm came, though the being pulled his chains taut and stared with furious hatred at my friend, who was the very next morning planning to send a letter re-committing to another term on the mission field. My friend knelt beside the bed and prayed Psalms, while a small presence like a candle in his heart glowed and held back the worst of the terror. At last the awareness faded or the being left, and my friend simply fell into fitful sleep again. In the morning he went to the office, where a co-worker, who lived in the apartment and in the bedroom directly below him, asked why he looked so haggard. "Bad dreams," was all he said. "You looked tired also." "I had bad dreams, too!" she exclaimed. "Really horrible dreams." "What time did you have them?" he asked. "About 4:00 in the morning," she replied. He said nothing else at the time. How do you casually explain an event like that in the cheerful light of morning?
In the book of Job, Job had lived a happy and prosperous life until Satan at last obtained permission to "touch" all he owned. Satan proceeded in a single day to destroy thousands of cattle, sheep, camels, and brought a windstorm to knock down the house with all Job's children in it. After obtaining permission to "touch" Job himself (but not obtaining permission to kill him), Satan covered Job from head to toe with painful boils.
It would appear that were Satan free to do everything he liked, he could literally tear us to shreds in minutes. Again with Simon Peter, Jesus said, "Satan has requested to sift you like grain. But when you have returned, strengthen your brothers." Apparently Satan's request was granted, for Peter's fervent faith in God turned to three denials and deep depression. But neither Job nor Peter were left in the hands of the evil. It is instructive to realize how great a power leans toward us on its chains, longing to destroy us. It is comforting to realize how thoroughly God has bound the enemy in regard to us. Yet He has let the enemy have his voice, it seems. Satan cannot thresh the nations with his own power into a bloody pulp. But he can deceive them into doing it to each other. And God seems to allow him the chance to test our obedience and trust in God, just as he tested Adam and Eve long ago. Though held back by chains from torturing us slowly to death in delight, Satan can speak lies to us. We have the choice to believe God's truth or the devil's lies. Even such an enemy with his hands tied behind his back can wreak horrors and havoc on those all too willing to listen to his deceit. "You can't be forgiven for those sins....you'll never be free of that habit...you have every right to think about yourself before others...just a little dabbling in that won't hurt very much...you have destroyed every chance of happiness in your life and your only choice is to wallow in your guilt...no one cares or understands...God must not really love you...your prayers must not really be working..." The list goes on.
Our enemy is chained and double-chained from harming us, except for rare occasions when God lets him off his chain, with restrictions, to test and refine us. (Remember, Jesus was tempted forty days in the desert--and Jesus bore our shame on the cross.) Afterwards, like Job and Peter, we are stronger. Brothers and sisters, let us not doubt the reality of the enemy of our souls. And let us not doubt God's great kindness in powerfully holding them back from us. Let us not listen to their furious and crafty whisperings as they resent being so held. And if we have, let us simply run back to our heavenly Father, and ask him to forgive us and lead us in the way everlasting.
"You are good, and what you do is good. Teach me Your commands." Psalm 119
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