How can we rob oppressors of their power?
I remember reading about a family who didn’t demand much in life. They wanted to be able to go about their day without interruption, not necessarily accomplishing great things, but enjoying a simple, quiet, and happy life.
But it didn’t seem to be their lot. A great oppressor hounded them until the family stood united against him. His old approach no longer worked, he had to devise a new attack. Unknown to him, the family had devised a sure countermeasure. He launched his plan which had a point of no return. The family’s successful scheme enabled them to live securely for the rest of their lives.
The above is a fairytale. You are more familiar with the story under the title “The Three Little Pigs.” What makes this story a fairytale is it’s totally made up and intended for entertainment and teaching. Furthermore, it ties up all the loose ends so the conflict is completely resolved, never having to be bothered with again—a happily-ever-after moment. Many fairytales have a character with supernatural powers who magically makes things happen.
I know of another story that has a similar beginning. Instead of a wolf, the oppressor was a man who terrorized a whole community. No one was immune to his bouts of anger and violence– which were without restraint or boundaries. Having tried everything, the townspeople deemed him insane and cast him out of their city. He could have gone anywhere else, but he camped outside of town and terrorized everyone traveling the road into the city.
This must have gone on for a long time, we aren’t told how long, but it all stopped the day another man came to the community and stopped to talk with him. The conversation with this stranger released all the stored anger and violence in the man and allowed him to re-enter the city, where he gained the trust and respect of his neighbors, living the rest of his life—as far as we know—in the company and comfort of friends.
No one is beyond God’s reach
The story seems to have the same markings of a fairytale, but is it? No. It’s in the Bible. You can read all about his story in Matthew 8, Mark 5, and Luke 8. He’s called the Gadarene demoniac. Matthew’s account mentions two men near the city of Geresenes, not just one. Every other detail of the account agrees with Mark and Luke. I reworded both accounts to help us see two things. First, many people look at the Bible as just nice stories — even to the point of calling the fairytales. Such an attack can erode our ability to believe every word. And second, I chose the demoniac story to help us all see that no one is beyond God’s reach.
As my wife and I have been reading through the gospels again, I remember that they record only a pinch of Jesus’ work and words. John said the world was not big enough to contain all the books that could have been written about Jesus’ works or keep account of his whole ministry. So, I considered the handpicked stories written for us to read. I saw in them how Jesus has every aspect of life completely covered. There’s no illness He cannot heal. No need He can’t fulfill.
Even when life’s storms and circumstances become more than I can carry and invisible forces in the world seem to turn against me, I remember He has authority over all and can set all things right. The image of Jesus asleep in the storm-tossed boat forms in my mind. The disciples awaken Him, fearing for their lives. He commands the storm, the wind, and the sea to calm down. The wind stops. The sea turns to glass. The disciples turn to jelly as they wonder who this man is that even the storm obeys Him. In times like these I learn afresh how powerful He is.
Nothing is Impossible with God
Nevertheless, every time I go through a situation I deem impossible, doubts assail me. I begin to believe lies about my God and about the futility of my efforts to work through the problems I face. When I conclude a person in my path is impossible to deal with or will never change, I tell myself to write him off and go around him. Eventually, I realize I don’t know how wise my God is and how His plans cannot be frustrated.
The paths Jesus has taken me down have shown me how little of His love I know or comprehend. I have found His love covers the sins and offenses of others in far greater measure than was possible in me. As I yield to His Spirit, He touches the lives of others through me. When I am so unworthy, He has made me worthy. Repeatedly, I’ve witnessed what is ‘not possible’ with man ‘is possible’ with God.
This is the lesson the Gadarenes had to learn. The man in their community they had judged as being too far gone, unreachable, and non-reformable—an impossible case—met the One who could make a difference and do the impossible.
Their conclusion could not explain how the impossible became possible. Not one said to Jesus, “I don’t know what you just did or how, but what a difference that is going to make in our city!” Travelers had been staying away. Now they could pass through the city gates safely. Maybe even spend the night and buy things from their stores. Quite the contrary. Seeing the man who had been demon-possessed now quietly sitting at Jesus’ feet — clothed and in his right mind– they became afraid of the authority and power Jesus had over the demons that they told Jesus to scram.
The former demoniac wanted to stay with Jesus, to be near Him, but Jesus told him to stay so he could tell others what God had done for him. He did so and apparently became an effective evangelist. We later read that the next time Jesus came near their city, they all came out to ask him to stay and teach.
Don’t underestimate God
Paul wrote that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or even imagine. Believe that the impossibilities we face are possible with God. Believe what you can. Ask Him to surprise you. Just remember, no one is beyond the Lord’s grace and ability to save.
Wolf photo by Marc Olivier/ Unsplash