C.S. Lewis wrote in the preface to The Screwtape Letters: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. The evil spirits are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist and magician with the same delight.”[i]
Ask the average person on the street today if Satan exists and they will shake their head in the negative. Satan has been relegated to the dustbins of mythology by our sophisticated, scientific culture. In fact, a recent survey done in 2009 by Lifeway asked thousands of evangelical young people if they believed in the existence of Satan and 40 percent of Millennials (those born from 1980-2000) said Satan is “not a real being but just a symbol of evil.”[ii]
When I hear things like that I am reminded of what one poet quipped:
And so they voted the Devil out,
and of course the Devil’s gone,
but simple people would like to know,
who carries his business on?[iii]
Perhaps, the greatest trick the Devil ever played is convincing the world that he didn’t exist.
Yet, the other day as I was reading through the Bible I came across something that startled me. In Luke 13 Jesus heals woman who had what the ESV text calls, “a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself” (Luke 13:11). When Jesus healed her scoliosis, the Pharisees criticized Him because He did this miracle on the Sabbath. The Lord replied, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16).
What struck me was that Jesus said the cause of her infirmities was Satan. This sent my mind reeling, and I went in search for other instances in the Scriptures where Satan was directly linked to sickness. Here is what I found after just a brief search:
· Job’s body was inflicted with painful sores from his nose to his toes. “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).
· Jesus encountered a demoniac who went by the name Legion. Before, Jesus healed him the pitiful creature lived like a wild beast, having broken through every restraint. He lived among the tombs, regularly cried out like a howling wolf and practiced self-mutilation (Mark 5:1-5).
· After His glorious transfiguration, Jesus came upon a demon possessed boy who also suffered from epileptic seizures. The boy’s father explained, “And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid” (Mark 9:18).
· The Apostle Paul suffered from what he called “a thorn in the flesh,” but in that same passage he tells us where it came from, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Cor. 12:7, emphasis mine).
For some reason, I had never made this connection in my mind—that sometimes we suffer sickness because of the work of Satan. We shouldn’t be surprised, because after all his M.O. is to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). In some mysterious way that we cannot fully understand, the physical world and the spiritual world intersect in our bodies and our Enemy knows how to exploit this to his advantage. Our bodies and our souls live so closely together that sometimes they catch each other’s diseases.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that behind every headache, toothache and stubbed toe is a demon. But, we forget that disease is a weapon in the Devil’s toolbox to wage war against humanity and to handicap the saints of God. Moreover, I’m not certain how we would discern if a disease is demonically caused or not, unless it was supernaturally revealed to us by the witness of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, the answer is the same yesterday as it is today—Jesus. 1 John 4:4 reminds us that, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Christ is still the Great Physician who knows how to heal body and soul. And when He heals there is no mistaking it—Jesus heals instantly, completely and powerfully.
Perhaps one of the most powerful demonstrations of miraculous healing in modern times can be found in the example of Marolyn Ford as told in her book, These Blind Eyes Now See.
“You are blind, go home and learn to live with it.” Marolyn was devastated when she heard the doctor's announcement at the age of eighteen. In confusion, she sought God to know how to go on with life as a blind personality. She was determined to lead a normal life.
While attending Temple schools in Chattanooga, Tennessee Marolyn furthered her education with the use of a tape recorder and by taking oral exams. She met her husband Acie Ford, who was studying as a ministerial student. Together they believed God for a miracle. They married and eventually started ministering at Memphis, Tennessee’s Broadmoor Baptist Church in 1981.
Acie and Marolyn had prayed for God to restore Marolyn's eyesight for 13 long difficult years. Marolyn had never seen what her husband looked like, nor their five-year-old daughter Sharon Marie. Then God came through. It was just after midnight August 26, 1972, the day of Acie's 33rd birthday. While having a devotional prayer at their bedside the Lord Jesus opened her blind eyes. Marolyn yelled at the top of her lungs, “Acie, I can see you…” and then she added, “…and you need a shave!” Acie brought her the newspaper and said read the headline, she exclaimed, “Acie, I can read the fine print!” When they went back to the optometrist, the doctor was flabbergasted. -DM
[i] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (London, UK: Geoffrey Bles, 1942), 9.
[ii] Rob Phillips, “Research: Millennials Are Spiritually Diverse,” Lifeway, 27 April 2010 <http://www.lifeway.com/
[iii] Billy Graham, Peace with God (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 1984), 65.