The Battle is Now
Writhing on the floor like a crazy man, he moaned, “I’m going to die!”
Clawing, biting and fighting those who were trying to protect her from herself, the small girl wrestled a larger and stronger girl to the floor. Then she bit the larger girl’s arm and wouldn’t let go.
Completely out of his mind, another man glided smoothly through the intricate movements of an advanced martial arts routine as if he had been pre-programmed, though he had never studied martial arts.
The woman spouted a stream of profanity in a voice not her own, locked in the delusion that she was married to everyone she saw, even a dog.
Exhausted from the harassment of beings he could not resist, the man ran and ran until he launched himself off a cliff, thus ending his misery.
“Oh, let the demon that is in Satu come into me!” the man said. It did, and he immediately regretted his words.
These are not a bunch of schizophrenics. These are people locked in combat as real as any soldier has ever faced. Who are these enemies, and why do the Palawano people have such frequent battles with them?
For generations, the Palawano have known the names and characteristics of beings that most people in the Western world would dismiss as fictitious characters from movies or video games. For centuries, the Palawano have recognized that these beings will kill people if they are not controlled and appeased. This reality is part of everyday life and conversation, imbedded into everything they do. Parents use the threat of these beings to coerce their children into obeying. Village elders use fear of these beings to control villagers’ behavior. Palawano people do rituals to appease these beings and give them what they want to keep them from attacking. Some Palawanos invite these beings to be their “familiars,” believing they can control and manipulate them to do their bidding.
The very real presence of these dangerous beings in their lives cause the Palawano to have some strange taboos and behaviors. They do not like to sleep in houses with open windows, fearing that the beings might come in. Since darkness is the domain of these beings, Palawanos do not walk alone at night or sleep without a burning clump of pitch as a nightlight. They make offerings of blankets, cooking pots, chickens, pigs, specially prepared rice and many other things to appease these beings so they won’t make people sick. When someone gets sick, a witchdoctor will communicate with dead ancestors who have direct access to the prince of the beings, and he will tell them what to sacrifice and how much. If the sacrifice is correct, the beings will remove the sickness—sometimes.
When walking on the mountain trails, Palawano people stay alert for beings that waylay travelers. They wear specific flowers and plants on their clothing to render them invisible to these beings. When a Palawano man builds a house, he invites a nature spirit to inhabit each post to keep enemy spirits away. He hangs other items in the home to confuse evil spirits and cause them to pass by without making trouble.
In the Palawano understanding, the battle is between people and spirit beings. But in this they are mistaken. First of all, the power they think they have over the spirits is a delusion perpetuated by the spirits themselves who have abused and confused the Palawano people for so long. These spirits have tricked them into believing that their rituals, sacrifices and spirit worship give them control and keep them safe, even as they continue to suffer and die at the evil whim of these beings.
So who is this enemy really? “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil . . . walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:7). That’s right. The enemy of the Palawano people is none other than Satan the deceiver, the destroyer, the liar and murderer. They have seen and heard his demons. They have occasionally benefitted and frequently suffered because of them. These are not fictitious beings. They are as real as you and I. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers” (Eph. 6:12). I believe that these beings exist not just on the island of Palawan, but everywhere in the world, though many of us in the West are ignorant of them and their methods.
Working with the Palawano, we have witnessed many times what happens when a person opens themself up to the enemy, even believers in Jesus Christ. And I believe the lessons we have learned are applicable to every Christian as we grow in faith and Christ-like character.
When we debrief those whom God delivers from demonic harassment or possession, they say things like, “I was holding a grudge against my sister. That is why the enemy overcame me.” Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear a grudge (Lev. 19:18). “I must guard the edges of my mind so the enemy doesn’t come in and overpower me.” Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind (Phil 4:8). “I must guard the avenue to my soul or else the enemy takes over my body.” But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). “I was infatuated with someone who was not my husband, and the enemy took advantage of me.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). “I was listening to and watching things that filled my mind with evil. I forgot God.” By beholding we become changed (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 355).
These biblical principles and many more are often overlooked in the Western world, even by Christians. Perhaps demons don’t come in and visibly possess you as they often do the Palawano, but don’t think that in ignoring these principles you are immune to the work of the devil in your life. “. . . knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (1 Peter 5:9). “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded” (James 4:7).
Friends, the battle for your heart and mind is now, and it is real.