Isaiah 61:1-“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,”
To be honest, I hesitated to write this blog because a lot of people don’t believe, or understand how destructive the power of darkness can be in the lives of some individuals. I also hesitated because I have heard others share these kind of things, and I thought they might be, well, a little flaky if you know what I mean.
But, just like Peter and John in Acts 4:20, I cannot help speaking about what I have seen and heard my Jesus do! As I have stated before, jail ministry has proven to be the perfect atmosphere for miracles. I believe there are many reasons for that, but I feel the biggest reason is because there is a silent cry of desperation coming from the hearts of the inmates. They feel hopeless, and we all know where true HOPE is found—only in Jesus. Also Romans 5:20 tells us, “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”
So, if we are going into an atmosphere where sin and evil abounds, we can count on God’s grace to be there in great abundance. We can also count on the Holy Spirit to empower us for what we will face, or to teach us what to do when we are faced with spiritual forces. This is why I always encourage others to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues.
But Ephesians 6:11 says, “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.”
As I was driving to the jail on this particular Friday morning, I was just listening to my praise and worship music. Suddenly it was as if the Holy Spirit just filled the car with me, and I began to pray in the Spirit. It flowed and flowed out of me with such an urgency, I was a little surprised. I arrived at the jail and went inside.
Once inside, twelve ladies joined me for the service. I prayed, and we began to sing worship songs. As we continued to worship, I noticed an older lady with her arms raised. I’m always blessed to see these ladies with their arms raised, tears streaming down their faces in worship to our God. But this lady seemed a little different. I felt I should continue to watch her.
As the music continued to play and the other ladies continued to sing, I made my way toward the lady. When I approached her, she turned to face the wall, mouthing something that I could not decipher. I placed my hand on her shoulder to pray for her, and it was if the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “That is NOT my Spirit.” She immediately fell to the floor, and started trying to bang her head on the concrete.
Realizing now what I was facing, I whispered, “Help me Holy Spirit.” I then turned to the eleven other ladies and told them what was going on. I asked them to check their hearts and ask Jesus to forgive them of any sin in their lives, and ask Him to be Lord of their lives. I explained, “This lady has a demon, and when I cast it out, it will look for the next available vessel. Don’t be that vessel. Make things right with God right now.”
By this time, the lady was starting to foam at the mouth and her arms were curved in toward her body and stiff as if she couldn’t unfold them. I tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn’t. I was holding her head to keep her from banging it into the wall and floor. She still wouldn’t look at me, so I physically turned her head toward me. Her eyes glazed over right before my eyes with what appeared to be thick cataracts.
The whole time I was thinking, “Is this really happening?” Still, I was amazed by the total absence of fear or doubt in me. I knew the Holy Spirit was empowering me. I am certain I would not have had the boldness or faith to do what I did next. I turned around and noticed that three jailers had come into the room with us. All three stood back and did not come near us. That in itself was a miracle because they are supposed to remove inmates that get in the floor for any reason.
In the next moment, I looked straight into the lady’s eyes, and said, “You have to come out of her in The Name of Jesus!” She continued to try to mouth something, but it was as if her jaw was totally locked, and she continued to foam at the mouth. Once again, holding her head in my hands to prevent her from hurting herself, I commanded the unclean spirit to come out.
She still seemed to writhe, and foam at the mouth, so once more I said, “You have no power or authority here, and you MUST come out now in The Name of Jesus!” She looked at me, and her eyes became clear. She sat up, and I asked her if she was ok. She said she was. I immediately prayed with her and led her to Christ.
She told me and the other ladies at the table that this was the first time in years that she had felt like she was in control of her own body. The other ladies began to comment that she looked so different, and even her voice sounded different. She thanked me and thanked me. I told her to thank Jesus, He did it!
The jailers had left the room, and I continued the service using the opportunity to point out the importance of staying sober. Because when we alter our unconscious with drugs or alcohol or other destructive behaviors, we open ourselves up to demonic possession, or oppression.
When the ladies left the room, one of the jailers told me to wait at the desk because the head CO wanted to talk to me. I was thinking, “Oh boy, this is it. They are never going to let me come back.” The CO approached me and said, “I just want to ask you ONE question. Are you SURE you got them all?” I assured her that I felt they were gone.
She continued to tell me that the ladies had been having nightmares, and seeing strange dark shadows when no one was there, and they all just felt an evil presence. She told me it all started when this particular lady came into the jail. She thanked me, and I left.
Driving away, I thought back to my drive to the jail, and I remembered how the Holy Spirit had flooded the car with me that morning. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was preparing me for what I was about to face. We must be prepared to release prisoners from darkness. I’m not just talking about the people inside the jail, I’m talking about anyone who is bound by the powers of darkness.
We must have the spiritual discernment to recognize what is happening in situations like this. That lady had been bound for years by this demon. She told me of the horrible things it had spoken to her, and it had physically thrown her out of a moving car at one point. This isn’t surprising. The enemy comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10)
Let’s be ready to face the enemy head on, no matter what he presents us with. Satan has no authority or power when we stand in faith, and trust in the Name of Jesus. Greater is HE that is in you than he that is in the world! (1 John 4:4)
There are so many things in this world that can bring fear into our lives. We live in a world of uncertainty. Unexpected circumstances are a normal occurrence. If we are believers, we build our lives on faith, and the Word of God—the Holy Bible. But, that doesn’t mean we are exempt from feeling fear.
The enemy loves to use fear and doubt in our lives. Like I’ve said before, his tactics seldom change. He knows how to push our buttons, and bringing fear into our hearts and minds is one of his favorite weapons. I know and recognize many of his tactics, but at times even when I know he is at the source, fear can creep in and try to steal my joy.
Things have been going great over the past few months. I have been extremely busy, but I love it! It thrills my heart to be able to travel and share the Word of God and watch Him move in the lives of His people. He has been doing so many amazing things; saving people, healing people, delivering lives from the powers of darkness, rescuing lives from addiction, and breaking chains in a myriad of situations. There is nothing better than giving God the opportunity to display His glory! It is my hearts utmost desire.
But, when things seem to be going extremely well, and God is moving you can be sure that the enemy of our souls also takes notice. It shakes him up. It makes him nervous, and it makes him mad that our God is receiving honor and glory. He becomes furious when he realizes that souls are being brought into the Kingdom of God. That’s when he begins to use his influences to attack us with weapons from his underhanded arsenal.
After a wonderful weekend of ministry in Iowa, I went in to see my doctor yesterday just for a run of the mill check-up. They did blood work, and today I received a phone call to tell me that some of the levels in my blood panel came back elevated, and now I will have to undergo more tests including an ultrasound.
The first thing that pops into my head when I hear the word abnormal levels, or abnormal tests, is “Oh no! What is wrong with me?” The second thing that comes to mind is, “I don’t have time for this!” And of course all kinds of scenarios begin to run through my mind about what could be wrong, and what the outcome will look like. We all do it. Health matters often have the greatest potential to make us fearful. So, what do we do?
I am currently going through a Bible Study with my ladies at church on the book of Daniel by Beth Moore. Having done this study a few years earlier, I was impacted greatly by one point she makes concerning fear for our lives and wellbeing. I was reminded of it today, and as I looked through my homework for tomorrow night, I was surprised to find it there on the pages for this very week. Coincidence? I think not.
Beth discusses three scenarios when we face trials, and their potential outcomes. In reflecting on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s situation when they were faced with being thrown into the fiery furnace, we can draw some conclusions that can be helpful to us in our own situations.
Scenario A: We can be delivered from the fire. In other words, God could have stepped in, and prevented the king from even throwing them into the furnace. In our personal lives God could completely heal us, or instantly resolve the situation. The outcome—their faith (or our faith) would be built.
Scenario B: We can be delivered through the fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We might have to go through the fiery trial, but God uses other means to deliver us. It could be a doctors or surgeons hands, or another situation resolved by the hands of a person God chooses to use. Either way, Jesus goes through the trial with us, just as He went into the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The outcome—our faith is refined.
Scenario C: We can be delivered by the fire into His arms. In other words, we get to go see Jesus! The outcome—our faith is perfected!
No matter how the scenario plays out, we win! We are often frightened by the unknown, but we can have the confidence in knowing that no matter what our situation looks like, if we are trusting in Jesus—WE STILL WIN.
Even though it may be frightening, and we may initially face tremendous fear, we will ultimately have the victory if we are living our lives for God. The words of the song “In Christ Alone” sums it up so well when it says:
“No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.”
This is the POWER of Christ in us. We have nothing to fear. We have the blessed hope. No matter what you may be facing today, whether it is the fear of a relational outcome, a broken marriage, a financial crisis, or even a health issue. We have not been given a spirit of fear! God is working all things together for our good, despite how things may appear in the natural.
God is faithful, and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. He gives us perfect peace in every situation if we will give it all over to Jesus. Nothing is impossible for God. We can overcome fear because we are overcomers though the power of the cross! In the end WE STILL WIN.
2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Romans 8:28 NKJV
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11(NLT)
I love happy endings. I love the feeling of anticipation as a movie or book reaches the end. You feel the tension rising. You see where the story line is headed. You may not know all the details, but you know “The End” is drawing near.
Don’t you wish life was like that? Wouldn’t it be great if there was always a nice, neat ‘happily ever after’ for every part of your life story? But there’s not a guaranteed happy ending. We don’t always know how things will turn out. We know that whatever happens God will work it for our good. We know from reading scripture that the ultimate end is good. God wins. The enemy loses. We live with God forever in a beautiful place. But between now and then? We know a few things to look for to know the time is getting close. We have some apocalyptic prophecies laid out in the book of Revelation. But exactly how it is going to play out? That’s a bit hazy.
We can’t see the ‘whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end’. We don’t know how things are going to work out. We don’t know how God is going to solve our financial problems. We can’t see a logical way to work out the mess we’ve made of our lives. It seems impossible for God to change the heart of our wayward child. We can’t see the happy ending.
Sometimes, we read the Word of God and we see the amazing stories of the lives of the men and women that God saw fit to put within the pages of Holy Scripture. I stand in awe and wonder at how God moved in their lives. But something hit me one day as I was reading about the life of Abraham in Romans 4:20. It was the phrase that said Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. It says in God’s Word that Abraham did not waver. But if you read the story back in Genesis, it seemed like he did waver. Sarah wavered and gave Abraham her maid Hagar to bear the son. Abraham wavered when he took Hagar and bore a son with her. God clearly said to him that Sarah would bear the covenant son. This looked a lot like wavering to me.
Now I know and fully believe that God’s Word is inerrant. I know that God does not lie. I know that He does not make mistakes. But here it was right in front of me. I knew there had to be an explanation and I knew that I was going to have to seek if I was to find the answer. I pondered. I meditated. And one day, when I was thinking and reading about something completely different, the verse out of Ecclesiastes popped out at me. “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”
God has planted eternity in our hearts and we don’t know His work from beginning to end, but HE does! He is the great I AM! He is timeless. He is beyond and above the limits of time. When he looks at us, He sees us through the eyes of eternity! He sees us completed in His Son! He sees us covered by the Blood of Jesus. He sees His Righteousness! He saw Abraham’s end from the beginning. And He sees our end from the beginning. He sees the end of our story! He sees our ‘happily ever after!'
God looks at us through the eyes of eternity! He also chose to do a unique thing: He planted eternity in our hearts. Whether we choose to believe in eternity or not, it is real. It is part of who we are. I think those that say that we just cease to exist when we die aren’t really being honest with themselves. Why do I believe that? Because God planted eternity in their heart. There’s a seed of eternity there. It may be hidden deep down. It may not have been watered and nurtured. They may have tried to ‘pull it up’ and throw it out. But what God plants, man cannot destroy. Eternity is there.
And since eternity is in our heart, it influences how we perceive things. God looked at Abraham and saw his end from the beginning. All God saw was Abraham’s faithfulness!
When we look at situations, circumstances, and people through the eyes of eternity we see them differently. An eternal perspective helps us see past the here and now to the potential of what God can do! We see, through the eyes of faith, that God has a plan for our situations and circumstances. We see, through the eyes of faith, a soul for which Jesus gave His Life. We see that “God has made everything beautiful for its own time."
An eternal perspective is a perspective of hope. It is a perspective that sees the potential. It is a perspective that sees the best. It changes how we see everything!
What if we chose to see the best in people instead of the worst? What if we chose to give others the benefit of the doubt instead of doubting they are of any benefit? What if instead of jumping to conclusions we jump to their defense? Or better yet, we jump in to help? Or jump into the gap in prayer. What if we chose to see situations, circumstances, and people through the eyes of eternity? We just might see more ‘happy endings’ and ‘happily ever afters’.
Eight weeks ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a Bible study at Northside Assembly. I had no idea what I was in for. God brought some of the most beautiful, sweet and precious ladies into my life. I will forever cherish them. They may never know the extent of my gratitude for how they encouraged me, and lifted me up. I’m so grateful to have met each one of them.
The study was an eight week study and this was our final week. The book was about waiting. We all go through periods of waiting, and since we are not always the most patient, it’s usually frustrating to wait.
I myself have been in a waiting period in a couple of areas. I’ve been in this position of waiting, over and over again. You would think I would get used to it, but every season of waiting is different in its own way. Even though I travel and speak all over the nation, I still have a huge desire to minister in my local area. God has blessed me with a jail ministry (in a town other than my own) that has been such a huge blessing to me. I have been overwhelmed and amazed by all the things God has done behind prison doors.
But, I have been burdened for my hometown as well. At the beginning of February I started trying to get into the jail in my own town. It has been a long 3 months, and I finally decided it just was not going to happen. I contacted the jail chaplain, and he put me on the ministers list months ago, but nothing else happened. I called and left messages at the jail. No one would call me back. I thought I might have to rob a bank just to get in!
I was so frustrated. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has been with me in this ministry to inmates in the other jails. I believed with all my heart He would want me to go into my local jail to minister. So, why was this proving to be an impossibility?
You should have heard some of the conversations I had with God about it. I begged Him to open the doors so I could get in. I prayed and asked Him to lift the burden from my heart if it was not His will that I go there to minister. The burden never lifted. My frustration grew even more. I decided to give God an ultimatum. (Don’t act like you are holier than I am, and have never done it.) I prayed, “God, I’m going to call the jail one more time, and if I don’t get an answer today, I’m going to just accept that You don’t want me to go in there, and I’m going to forget it!”
I refused to accept the fact that God was just telling me to be patient and wait. I thought I had to have a “right now” answer. Isn’t that what frustrates us the most? We want right now answers, or right now results. If this is what You want me to do God, then make it happen right now! But, our demands do not move the hand of God—our patience and putting our trust in Him and His timing does.
As I went through this eight week study with these precious women of God, I was reminded of how faithful God is. He’s always ON TIME, even if it’s not the timing we are hoping for. So many times when we get tired of waiting, we start putting demands on God, or start giving Him ultimatums, when we should be giving Him praise, and thanking Him for the lessons He is teaching us in the meantime.
Of course waiting isn’t fun. But, when we offer our praise and do what we can during the wait, it becomes easier. This was the prayer I prayed at the end of April:
“Lord, I really don’t understand why it is so hard to get into this jail, but I trust in what You are doing. I know You have it all planned out. Even though I can’t see anyway to get in, I know that You have called me to this ministry, and no door is closed to You. Thank You for opening the right doors for me. I may not know what You are doing, but I trust in what You are saying. Amen.”
A few days later, I decided to contact the jail one more time. I went to their website to find their phone number, and a name and email address seemed to just leap off the page at me. It was like God led me right to it, and whispered into my heart, “Send her an email.” That is exactly what I did, and within an hour she had replied giving me the next steps to get into the jail. I would need to attend their orientation class. The class is only given once every six months, and it would be available in just a few days! Do you think that was coincidence? I don’t. God knew exactly what I needed to do to get in. He also knew exactly when the class would be available.
The whole time I thought He was ignoring my pleas to open the door, He knew exactly when it would be the right time. And when He was ready, He opened the door, and showed me exactly what I needed to do, who to contact, and when.
Waiting isn’t easy, but we can trust that our God knows what’s best, and His timing is perfect. We often feel like He is ignoring us, but He is continually working things in our favor. We don’t have to know what He is doing, but we can certainly trust what He is saying. If He tells us to wait, we need to wait. If He tells us to move, we need to move! And, if we feel He is saying nothing, keep doing what you are doing, and praise Him even more.
Donna Sparks is an International Speaker and Evangelist. She is the Author of Beauty From Ashes: My Story of Grace, and, No Limits: Embracing the Miraculous.