Storms and demons will come and go, God's plan is advancing

There are times in life when we feel like we are in the midst of a storm. The coronavirus has definitely been described as a storm, something that appeared suddenly and overwhelms. I also heard the virus described in the language of evil, as a demonic force that does not respect its victims regardless of status. It comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Perhaps this is overdramatic but the seriousness, danger, malicious intent and sheer scale of the problem needs a God sized response.

Jesus is not phased by storms or demons, in fact his message is "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven...." Matt 16:18,19

There's a great example of Jesus demonstrating God's rule in Luke 8:22-39 which ends with a man once bound in chains becoming a powerful evangelist to his community. The story has two parts , one is external pressure (a storm), the other an internal oppressor (a host of evil spirits called Legion).

Internal and external pressure are normal parts of life but how much pressure we can handle depends on our resilience levels. Most people handle low level pressure fairly easily, things like work, family, paying the bills, handling conflict. When the pressure rises (and that's what causes storms) we find ourself having to tap into a different way of coping. If that mechanism doesn't exist we are in trouble.

In Luke 8 the disciples were seasoned fisherman, they were used to storms so this one must have been at a different level to have shaken them. It says in verse 23 that "they were swamped..and in great danger." This is how many people feel about the global pandemic, it is too big for them, it is overwhelming. The disciples response is fairly normal, they turn on Jesus and say "Master, we are going to drown." It's like saying "do you not care?" Jesus has actually been asleep on the boat. He is at peace in the storm. The contrast between the faith of Jesus and the faith of the disciples is very apparent. In some versions of the bible Jesus says "Peace, be still." It is as if Jesus is muzzling the forces of the storm. This action has the effect of deeply unsettling the disciples who ask "who is this guy?" When we invite Jesus into the midst of a storm it can be unsettling for people to see how much authority he has. This is a good evangelistic strategy. Rather than explaining who Jesus is, invite him to work in the middle of the storm.

The second part of the story involves a man oppressed by evil spirits so vile and so oppressive the man is chained in a graveyard. He has lived like this for a long time and everyone knows who he is. The demons negotiate with Jesus because they recognise his authority. They call him "Son of the Most High God." Strangely Jesus shows them a little bit of mercy and allows them to escape. He knows their time of judgement is coming but it is not yet. In Luke 8:35 it says the local people "found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid."

Notice in both stories there is an awe and holy fear at work. And notice there are different reactions to Jesus. The disciples receive a greater revelation of who Jesus is, the local people of Gerasene ask Jesus to leave, and the man set free shares a powerful story among the people giving glory to God. Three outcomes, two demonstrations of kingdom authority.

In the midst of the coronavirus, we can invite Jesus to still the storm. Offer to pray for people, speak out words of faith that reveal the true nature of Jesus. Where people are feeling the external pressure in the storm we can show them an alternative reaction, even if we sometimes feel like the disciples and are a bit confused. Where internal fears and forces are at work we do not need to feel powerless and oppressed but trust in the Son of the Most High God.

Both storms and demons will come and go, but the kingdom of God is advancing and these current events give us ample opportunity to show Jesus for who he truly is.

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