We all believe in things we cannot see.
I cannot see wind, but I know it exists and I can see the effects when it is blowing. I cannot see microscopic germs, but I know they exist and I experience the awfulness when they give me a case of the flu or a head cold. I cannot see see electricity, but I am thankful the lights in the room come on when I throw the switch.
Jesus understood the unseen battle that is taking place in our world between the prince of this world and the Living God. Some people maintain a worldview that does not include things like angels and demons. They believe everything can be explained by science, and the unseen world of spiritual powers described by Scripture is ancient superstition, or at least only allegory for the struggle between good and evil.
But Jesus dealt directly with demons. He spoke with authority and set people free from their bondage. Here is just one example:
Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. (Mark 1:23-26 NIV)
It is not paranoia to believe there are unseen spiritual powers that oppose God.
The Apostle Peter gives this warning: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NIV)
Jesus tells us this about the enemy of our souls: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)
The Apostle Paul gives us this glimpse into the reality of the unseen, spiritual world: Put on the full armor 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. (Ephesians 6:11-12 NIV)
I do not believe everything that happens in life comes from either an angel or a demon. Plenty of good and evil come into the world through the agency of human decision and action. A dad spending the afternoon playing catch with his son is the expression of the love of his heart. A coworker takes credit for your work out of the selfishness of his own heart. No angel or demon required to explain these.
But some things are deeper than that. Some things are the result of demonic strongholds in our lives that hold us in bondage. Long term unforgiveness can become a spirit of bitterness in our lives. Is it so hard to believe that demonic agency might be behind the poisoning of the waters that results in deep division in a family, in a workplace or even in a congregation?
The good news is that Jesus has given us authority over the powers of darkness. He already defeated Satan and his fellow fallen angels by His atoning death on the Cross and His victorious resurrection from the grave. We are not powerless against the principalities and powers!
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 NIV) Submit to God. Resist the devil. He will flee!
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:11 NIV) Put on God's armor. Stand your ground. Take up the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. A life that is filled with truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, faith and the Word of God will withstand demonic attack. We don't have to fear. We stand in faith in the Son of God who is Victor over the powers of darkness!
And undergirding it all, we pray. Ephesians 6:18 (the next verse after the listing of the Armor of God) says: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. People of prayer have intimacy with God. People of prayer have the fullness of the Holy Spirit living in them. People of prayer withstand the attacks of the enemy.
Sometimes it looks like evil is winning. The prince of this world (as Satan is referred to in the New Testament) has been given much temporary authority in this fallen world. But he is a defeated spirit, and Jesus Christ will have the last word! In the meantime, we resist and stand and pray in the unseen battles...