First Things First (Newsletter 5-6)

by Robert Stroup

Evil is running rampant in our world today. Man’s surrender to his carnal appetites has opened the door to a vast horde of evil spirits. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey… ” (Romans 6:16) Through his alliance with man’s fallen appetites, the enemy has literally enslaved mankind with evil strongholds. This includes individuals, cultures, regions and nations. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) This war is real! Satan’s forces are well organized and, often, deeply embedded in their fortresses. They do not intend to budge until they are left with no choice.

Ephesians 2:2 reveals that before we were saved we “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” This verse reveals that it is man’s disobedience to his Maker that gives the adversary the opportunity he needs and wants to wield his evil influence. And when he gets that chance – he jumps at it! Man’s disobedience to God literally empowers the enemy. All of the unsaved people of this world, then, are under Satan’s power and influence to some degree – for all of them are living in disobedience to God. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Thus Satan’s influence can be seen everywhere that man has opened the door to him. His influence is worldwide. He is thus referred to in Scripture as “the god of this world’ and “the prince of the power of the air.”

Jesus said, “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.” (Matthew 12:29) The “spoils” of the strong man are the souls of mankind – the people of this world whom he is holding captive. I fear that often times we who have been commissioned to free them from Satan’s grip get the cart before the horse. We try to free them without first binding the strong man. Our efforts then are futile. Little is accomplished.

In the early 1970’s when I assisted Brother Fred Kinzie in Toledo, Ohio, I remember young missionary Billy Cole coming to the church. I was fascinated as he told the story of his years in Thailand. Amazingly during his first three years there only twelve people were filled with the Holy Ghost. In his frustration and desperation he sought the Lord diligently through prayer and fasting until finally the Lord assured him that, “I give you power over the evil prince of Thailand.” In the next five years, approximately 10,000 people received the Holy Ghost! The efforts were no different. The doctrine was no different. The sole difference was that the enemy was now “underfoot”. Now his house could be spoiled.

Jesus’ first order of business in His own ministry was to deal with the strong man in His wilderness temptation. There Jesus used His mighty weapons of prayer, fasting, and the Word to defeat the enemy. “Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” (Matthew 4:11) Now that the “strong man” had been put in his place, Jesus’ powerful ministry of healing and deliverance could begin. “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee … and he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read … The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord … This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:14, 16, 18-19,21) Only after he had dealt with the adversary was He in a position to spoil his house – to heal and deliver those who had been captive.

We often fail to grasp the enemy’s unrelenting determination and how deeply embedded his strongholds can become and how truly difficult it can be to uproot them. I do not think most people realize just how tough winning some battles can be. In my personal experience, I have found that it is tougher than what deeply earnest prayer alone can achieve. It is tougher than what a good Sunday night service can accomplish by itself. Jesus said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29) The only way to win this war against our determined adversary is to be as determined as he is and to use the entire spiritual arsenal that the Lord has made available to us. We have come to realize how determined the adversary is. Now the question is how determined are we?

Years ago, in 1982, Brother Stanley Kelly preached a message at a District Conference in Merrillville. I have never forgotten it. His text was from II Kings 19:23 where the arrogant and evil king of Assyria sent this challenge to King Hezekiah of Judah – “I will deliver thee 2000 horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them.” In essence, he said, “Even if I was to provide you with horses to come out to battle against me, I don’t think you could find anyone willing to ride them. I don’t think I have anything to worry about. I think I can do whatever I want – destroy as many lives and families as I desire to. I don’t think anyone even cares enough to try to stop me. They are all so relaxed and comfortable. They don’t want to be disturbed. I’m free to do what I please!” Hezekiah responded to the challenge and consequently the evil king had to eat his words as 185,000 of his troops were slain by God’s angel and he, him­self, was forced to flee “with shame of face.”

Is there anyone in Indiana willing to accept the enemy’s challenge? Is there anyone, like Hezekiah, who is willing to prove the adversary wrong? We do care! We are determined! We are willing to fight! And we will persevere! In Jesus’ name!

Indiana Apostolic Trumpet / May 2008 3