It can be your parents or a spouse. It can be neighbors or "friends." It can be your job or an unscrupulous business you have to deal with. It can be the government or the church. It can be demons without and sin within.
All people are under attack from "the world, the flesh and the devil." Invisible forces, visible influences and personal flaws are all means by which Satan seeks to deprive you of the everlasting love, joy and abundance that Jesus offers. And your true Enemy, the devil, is smart enough to infiltrate even good things in your life and corrupt them to enslave you.
The morning readings in the first part of this week (1928 Book of Common Prayer) came from Judges 16, the saga of Samson, and Luke 8, reports of Jesus' ministry on earth. In
Samson, you might see a picture of your own life, compromised and sold out to things that destroy you. In Jesus, you can find faith, hope and love.
Samson stayed with Delilah even though she made three attempts to steal his power and hand him over to his enemies (verses 4-17). He played word games, told lies but eventually caved in to her constant pestering. He gave away the source of his power (the old translations say "He told her all his heart") and she finally handed him over to the enemy.
So, how about you? Are you saying, "Well, my husband is really nice - when he's not drunk"? Are you sitting in a church pew saying, "Well, that's the fifteenth consecutive sermon that denied what the Bible teaches - I'll say something if he does that just one more time..." ? Is your financial guy making big bucks while you get dinky returns, and you're saying, "I know I should change, but it is so much paperwork..."? Are you a prisoner? There's hope...
When Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee he ran into a demon possessed man (verses 26-37). All around were broken chains and shackles - signs of failed, repetetive attempts to restrain the demons over a long period of time.
Jesus ignored all that. He focused his power on casting out the demons. He was willing to cut his visit to that region short (the locals were so upset by the exorcism that they sent him back across the lake) in order to free the possessed man.
Jesus looks on you with that same priority. He wants you to be free. He doesn't care about all the forces around you that want things to stay the same. Talk to Jesus in prayer. Let him heal you and set you free.
In captivity, Samson was blinded and abused as a slave and a fool (verses 19-25). He was forced to grind the enemy's grain when they hungered and hauled out to be mocked when they partied.
It is never enough for "the world, the flesh and the devil" to have control - they have to torment you, too. An extreme but obvious example is meth addiction. The physical, emotional, spiritual and social degradation that take place are there for all to see. Are you letting someone or something humiliate you and take you down bit by bit? But there is One who can lift you up...
Jesus wasn't blind, but his human eyes did not see a chronically ill woman sneak up on him (verses 43-48). Frustrated by long efforts to be well, she summoned up the faith and strength to push through a needy crowd and touch the fringe of Jesus' clothing. And even though they weren't in eye-to-eye contact, divine power flowed from Jesus and made the woman well.
What's even more wonderful is that Jesus followed the healing with praise. He celebrated the woman for her faith - "Go in peace. Your faith has made you well." He demanded nothing of her but that she be free and well.
The contrast is striking - enemies are always tearing you down, but Jesus always seeks to lift you up. Not just to meet your immediate needs, but to show you who you are in his eyes, more powerful and wonderful than you can imagine. Talk to him in prayer. Try it in faith, like the woman, sneaking up even if you don't think he's looking at you. Let his power heal you and set you free.
Samson's way led to death (verses 28-30). Yeah, it was a great bit of melodramatic revenge, but like today's terrorists, Samson simply killed himself in order to take out some enemies.
You might be tempted that way. Sensing the need to be free of what ails and oppresses you, you might look for a rash solution. Many affairs, divorces and other "remedies" happen that way. The facts are, you end up hurting yourself along with the others. Are you so desperate that you are getting reckless, effectively cooperating with the enemy?
Jesus' way brings new life (verses 49-56). His word raised a young girl from her death bed, and restored her to fullness of life (he said, "Give her something to eat" - if you have teenagers you recognize that sign of life!) If you are feeling rash, like you "need a miracle," go to Jesus, the one with the power.
Don't seek your healing and freedom without seeking Jesus in the Holy Bible. There are all kinds of things out there that can take the edge off of your pain for awhile, but his word can set you free for new life. Read his word. Ask the Heavenly Father to give you the Holy Spirit, so that you can learn and understand what Jesus wants to say to you. Talk to Jesus in prayer. Let him heal you and set you free.
Lord Jesus, you are the way, the truth and the life. Heal us and set us free from the humiliating and lethal oppression of the world, the flesh and the devil. Let us hear your word of healing and freedom. We ask this in your Holy Name. Amen.