Monday, July 13, 2009

My Own Personal Bible Story

In Acts chapter 19, Luke recorded a story specifically for me. I don’t remember asking him to; then again if it was up to me I probably wouldn’t want it there. Yet there it is.

The story is about people dabbling with things they don’t really understand. There were a number of Jewish exorcists who had found a new weapon in their efforts to cast demons out of those who desperately needed their help. They had heard stories of a man named Paul who was much more than a successful exorcist. While their efforts included a great amount of work and had only so-so results, Paul cast out demons easily and seemingly as a simple means to an end. It was not his main business, just a side effort. Yet, he did it with such ease. He simply spoke a few words and demons fled.

One group of these exorcists, a group of seven brothers, the sons of a high priest named Sceva, decided to employ Paul’s methods. They approached the demon-possessed and cast out demons by invoking, “the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” They saw great success in this method and traveled the land with their newfound powers.

Eventually the brothers encountered a demon that they weren’t ready for. After speaking their “magic words,” contrary to what they had seen before, the demon spoke to them. “Jesus I know, and Paul I have heard of, but who are you?” Uh oh. The brothers were somewhat taken aback, this was the first time they had seen any resistance since they had begun using their new spell. They looked curiously between one another and back to the demon-possessed man. Before they could even consider what to do next, the man, filled with demon-inspired rage and strength, jumped into action, attacking the brothers. The single man pummeled the brothers, leaving them bruised, battered, bleeding. They fled the house, bereft of dignity and most of their clothes.

What had gone wrong? Why had they failed? Up until this point they had been successful. Up until this point they had been okay on their own. They had encountered small problems, weak demons, which they could handle on their own. As they handled these problems on their own, they became more and more confident – in themselves.

They failed to realize that the power of Paul in casting out demons wasn’t in the words that he spoke or the names that he dropped. It was in the man Jesus, not just the name. Paul knew Jesus, he relied on Jesus. Sceva’s sons didn’t know Jesus, they didn’t rely on him; they relied on their own devices and when they faced a problem that required more than what they had to give, they found themselves outmatched.

So, why is this my story? Like the brothers Sceva, I have tendency to overestimate my own abilities, to rely on my talents and gifts to solve a problem or remedy a situation. And, like the Scevas, those problems have been known to fight back. So, God gave me this story to remind me where my strength comes from. When problems mount up and ask me, “but who are you?” I answer that I am a child of God. The talents and gifts I have are from Him. Any success I have is from Him. When facing any problem, large or small, the only way to successfully handle it is to turn it over to Him, in word and in deed.

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