The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear. It is the storm within which endangers him most, not the storm without.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am not what you would call a motion picture aficionado. In fact, I cannot even recall the last time I traversed the entrance of a movie theater. I have a very nice home theater system and it provides me with all of the entertainment options that my heart desires – sans the huddled masses. Truthfully, I have little to no interest in most of the drivel produced by the motion picture industry.
Recently though, I read that Stanley Kubrick’s movie adaptation of The Shining is considered the most popular Stephen King inspired film ever made. I have not seen the picture, but I can read a review. In the flick, well know actor Jack Nicholson plays a character named Jack Torrance, a struggling writer who accepts a job as the winter caretaker for some place in Colorado called the Overlook Hotel. Torrance is aware that the previous caretaker had gone insane and murdered his entire family at the resort. Does that deter ol’ Jack from taking the job? Nope, and in short order (this is a movie, remember) both Jack and his “psychically” gifted son are communing with the evil spirit manifesting at the Overlook. From there, things go from bad to worse.
I would like to submit my own movie script for the consideration of the Hollywood moguls. It is also a story of demonic possession, and it contains all of the essentials that Tinseltown loves. Here’s a plot synopsis: we begin with a naked man, living in a graveyard, scaring the townspeople half out of their wits. He is so powerful that chains cannot hold him. Eventually, along comes the hero of our film who sets the possessed man free by exercising a multitude of indwelling demons, sending them into a nearby herd of swine. The pigs, (now full of demonic spirits) wildly rush off, plunging headlong into the sea where they drown.
Incredible fantasy? Believe it or not, it actually happened a long time ago. Here’s the historical account as written the Bible’s Newer Testament:
26 “So they arrived at the other side, in the Gerasene country across the lake from Galilee. 27 As he was climbing out of the boat a man from the city of Gadara came to meet him, a man who had been demon-possessed for a long time. Homeless and naked, he lived in a cemetery among the tombs. 28 As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell to the ground before him, screaming, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of God Most High? Please, I beg you, oh, don’t torment me!”
29 For Jesus was already commanding the demon to leave him. This demon had often taken control of the man so that even when shackled with chains he simply broke them and rushed out into the desert, completely under the demon’s power. 30 “What is your name?” Jesus asked the demon. “Legion,” they replied for the man was filled with thousands of them! 31 They kept begging Jesus not to order them into the Bottomless Pit.
32 A herd of pigs was feeding on the mountainside nearby, and the demons pled with him to let them enter into the pigs. And Jesus said they could. 33 So they left the man and went into the pigs, and immediately the whole herd rushed down the mountainside and fell over a cliff into the lake below, where they drowned. 34 The herdsmen rushed away to the nearby city, spreading the news as they ran.
35 Soon a crowd came out to see for themselves what had happened and saw the man who had been demon-possessed sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, clothed and sane! And the whole crowd was badly frightened. 36 Then those who had seen it happen told how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And everyone begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone (for a deep wave of fear had swept over them). So he returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. (Luke 8:26-37 TLB)
After reading this story, your attention has most likely been drawn to the more sensational (and supernatural) elements of the narrative (talking demons, exorcism, etc.). So let me ask you this, did you happen to notice the pervasive fear factor present throughout the narrative?
Can you imagine a life with no fear? What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats?” – Max Lucado
With the exception of Jesus, everyone was dealing with some form of fear. The good people of Gadara were certainly scared of their local bogeyman, and later they were afraid of the miracle man Himself. The disciples were creeped out and afraid of this crazy guy, and even the demoniac himself displayed fear in the presence of the great liberator Jesus. Yes, fear factored deeply in this captivating story. I’m beginning to wonder if our modern world is any different.
It seems like just about everyone is a tad uneasy these days. How about you? What are you afraid of? Killer Viruses? Food shortages? No toilet paper? Let’s not forget Terrorists? Serial killers? Catastrophic storms? Road rage? Burglary? And perhaps the biggest fear of all – the Grim Reaper. Death terrifies the multitudes.
What are the results of our modern day fears? Let’s see, some people buy guns for protection, others build walls, install alarms and cameras, or move to gated communities, and many simply solider on each day with that nagging feeling that something dreadful is going to occur. Fear is a relentless oppressor. And yet, the Biblical writer Paul once told his friend Timothy:
7 “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
There was as much fear and uncertainty in those ancient times as there is today. But Paul reminded Timothy that believers are filled with the Spirit of God. The indwelling Spirit empowers us with confidence rather than fear, imparts to us a love that is pure, and a mind capable of sound judgments. This equipping helps us to overcome excessive uncertainty, anxiety and hysteria. Another Biblical writer named John said this:
18 “There is no fear in (God’s) love; perfect love casts out our fear: because fear has torment. He that is fearful has not matured in the love of God.” (1 John 4:18)
So again, the Divine Spirit whom we call Almighty God replaces our fears with His powerful love and clarity. When we mature in our understand of that perfect love, the fear factor cannot control our lives any longer unless we allow it to do so by giving in to our fears. Listen to what a close friend and follower of Jesus once wrote in a letter that eventually became the Bible’s Newer Testament book of 1st Peter:
6-7 “So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties (fears) upon him, for you are his personal concern.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 PHILLIPS)
It is no easy task to practice genuine humility. Mankind is arrogant by nature. Placing our lives in the hands of an invisible God does not come naturally to a spiritually mixed up race of beings stranded on a dying home world (Earth). Nonetheless, we all must learn to humble ourselves under God’s strong hand. It’s a necessity to finding genuine freedom and life.
Jesus once told his followers, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” He also said to them, 28 “Come unto me, all you laboring and burdened ones, and I will give you rest, 29 take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Rest for the soul. Now there is something we could all use. Plato once said, “Courage is knowing what not to fear.” Do you have the courage to let the liberating Spirit of Truth that is found in the mission and the message of Jesus search out and name your inner demons? Fear kills, steals and destroys. Divine Truth is freedom and life. The Creator of all things is whispering even now to your inner most being; inviting you to throw the whole weight of your anxieties (fears) upon him. It’s simple really. All you have to do is ask in faith (trust). I sure hope you will. I’m praying for you.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656