Should deliverance be a wrestling match?

If an attempt at spiritual deliverance turns into a wrestling match, there’s a lack of authority somewhere. Now, this may seem like a harsh criticism of the methods and character of many who move in this type of ministry. However, we ought to consider the Biblical models which are available. What does the Bible show us when it comes to the ministry of casting out unclean spirits?

The best model to follow for deliverance ministry is, of course, Christ himself. At no time, did he ever ask a demon-infested person whether they wanted to be rid of the demons, and never did he have to wrestle anyone to the ground. Surely, some who are reading this will say, ‘Well, we aren’t Jesus.’ True, we are not. Yet we are his younger brethren, called to follow his example. The real issue at hand is that we will fall short in our authority over unclean spirits to the extent that we fall short in our submission to God.

Some will say, ‘Nobody’s perfect,’ and this might seem like a good excuse, except for the fact that none of the early leaders of the church are recorded as having problems in this area. Thus we may surmise that it is possible that we are doing something differently. A good place to examine ourselves is the fourth chapter of James:

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?  Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.  Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?  But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.  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.” (James 4:1-7)

Wars and contention. In every church in which I’ve ever witnessed the pro wrestling version of deliverance ministry there were always ‘wars’ of contention among the flock, rivalries, gossips and calumnies arising from carnality, as we are told above. If you are called to deliverance ministry, do everyone a favor and mend whatever fences you need to mend. Unresolved relationship conflicts can easily become a means whereby the enemy can erode your godly confidence or by which you can be unduly tempted. Either way, they are at best a distraction you don’t need when you’re face to face with the danger of demonic powers.

Even the things we do for the kingdom can become abomination when our motives are not right. In these same churches there are prayers which go unanswered because of the ulterior motives which are tied to the same carnality,  Carnality, of course, will always be an obstruction to the exercise of spiritual authority. As for ulterior motives:

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination: how more when he brings it with a wicked mind?” (Proverbs 21:27)

This will not just lead to unanswered prayers in general, but it can render the prayer life of the would-be deliverance minister ineffectual, and will often lead to the individual being unprepared to deal with demons who are under no obligation to obey someone whose motives have compromised the integrity of his priesthood. This doesn’t mean the individual isn’t saved, but let us recall that when the early church needed men to serve meals, God required men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom. I daresay that setting people free from demonic bondage is more important than serving tables!

Friendship with the world is enmity with God. Now, while God may still use flawed vessels, this by no means frees us of the responsibility to be good stewards of our personal relationship with God. Where there is a friendliness with the ways of the world, there will always be a lack of spiritual authority. In 2006, I attended a meeting of apostolic and prophetic leaders. At that meeting, the main speaker was a prophet of some notoriety. Toward the end of the meeting a woman fell to the ground, thrashing. A demon was manifesting itself by tormenting her. Immediately, these leaders, some of whom led very large churches and were thought to be powerful men and women of God, quickly backed away in fear. The main speaker of the night approached. He was a huge man, and seemed confident enough. He waved his hand over her and spoke in tongues, and the woman’s body arched up off the floor until only the back of her heels and head were touching the floor. After a minute or two, this prophet seemed to shrug and walked away. The woman got worse. At this point, I walked over to where she was and commanded the demon to be silent and come out. It came out immediately, and the woman settled down. Now, the prophet came back and acted as though he was praying over her again in an attempt to seem as though he’d cast the demon out. My wife asked me why he couldn’t cast it out. I told her that he did not have sufficient authority, and that he himself had a spirit of lust. My wife thought I was being a bit harsh at the time. Two years later it was revealed that the prophet was running a pornography business. Perhaps ost of us are not so far gone as this prominent prophet, but let us consider how we relate to the world and whether we participate in its ways. After all, can an enemy of God serve as his representative with full authority?

Pride. Even if we are highly consecrated and committed to the Lord, there is nothing that we do in his service that is not by grace. The Bible tells us:

“Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.” (Proverbs 15:6)

So we can see that not only does pride render us abominable, there is an absolute guarantee of divine punishment. Is this the best state in which to attempt to act as God’s representative? I’ve known people who had once been very effective in deliverance ministry, but as pride arose, they were reduced to a spiritual impotence that was pitiable to behold, and dangerous whenever they would still presume to confront an unclean spirit.

The remedy: We must first submit ourselves to God. There is more to this than a mere verbal claim of being submitted. If we are truly to submit, then we must deal with this issues in full. This isn’t salvation by works, but rather works which are the result of faith that comes by grace. The grace of God is sufficient for us to face our various flaws and willful refusals to submit to God. Grace never lowered the standard of God’s righteousness; it elevated us to that standard through the blood of Jesus Christ. Understanding this, we can then move on to maturity by making use of grace to strengthen us, purify us, and guide us away from our own particular tendencies. For years I often prayed ‘Not my way, but your way. Not my will but your will. Not my personality but your personality.’ I sought to be free even from my personality because God had shown me that much of what I had accepted as my ‘personality’ was really the result of patterns of sin in my decisions, emotions, and character. When I began to earnestly face these issues, the ‘obvious’ sin symptoms were easily overcome, and I adopted the same approach to deliverance ministry. I have not arrived, but I can say that I fear no unclean spirit, and that I’ve never had to wrestle anyone down to cast the devil out of them.

I challenge you this day to make an honest assessment of your character and then take appropriate action in prayer and fasting before presuming to represent God in the ministry of deliverance.