The Role of Demons and Disease
by Tom Brown
On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.
She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Luke 13:10-16).
On another occasion, a man knelt before Jesus, saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment (Matt 17:15-18).
What is the Cause?
There is definitely a relationship between healing and the need for deliverance. In my travels around the world I have discovered that many are never healed because they have not received deliverance from the spirits that made them sick. I am not saying that every disease is caused by a demon. There is a need for both natural healing and demonic healing.
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was (Mark 1:32-34).
Notice that Jesus accomplished two things: Jesus healed many who had various diseases and He also drove out many demons.
Some people simply need healing from the diseases that have made them sick; others need deliverance from the spirits that have made them sick. Just the thought that demons could be behind sickness sounds radical. If that is the case, then perhaps we need a radical approach to healing.
Some people might caution me at this point and say, “Pastor Tom, we need balance.”
I agree, I believe in balance, however, to some people the word means middle of the road compromise. Yet that is not how Jesus achieved balance. Jesus achieved balance by being extreme in all points. Jesus taught:
Extreme love—“Turn the other cheek.”
Extreme holiness—“If your right eye sins, gouge it out.”
Extreme faith—“If you have faith as a mustard seed you can speak to this mountain.”
Extreme evangelism—“Go into all the world and preach the gospel.”
Extreme deliverance—“In my name you shall drive out demons.”
Balance is not achieved by watering down the fundamentals of the Christian faith. If we do that we will have a lukewarm Christianity, and I think people are tired of tepid faith.
The Bible provides a radical approach to healing as far as modern thinking is concerned—including the modern thinking of born again believers.
Many Christians quote C.S. Lewis, “Don’t ignore the devil or give him too much attention.” I agree. But does this mean we ignore the role demons may play regarding sickness? I don’t think so.
During the 1960’s, when the deliverance movement was at its peek, many Christians saw demons behind every bush. It seemed that any problem someone had was attributed to a demon—from the flu to overeating. Now, with such a de-emphasis on the devil and demons by the Church, you no longer have to look behind shrubbery for demons; you can find them parading down the streets almost unnoticed.
When was the last time you went to a Christian conference where they had a seminar speaker devoted to the teaching of deliverance?
Today pastors, evangelists, and prophets teach on church growth, friendly evangelism, prosperity, and a host of other important subjects. Rarely do they mention deliverance.
Don’t misunderstand me. I believe in teaching all those needed subjects, but how about devoting a portion of those seminars to the scriptural principles of setting people free. The problem with this de-emphasis of demons is not just found in ecclesiastical and denominational churches, it can be encountered in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well.
The Spirit-filled movement seems to be afraid to tackle this subject, perhaps because they don’t want to be viewed as unscientific or they are afraid that Christians will give disproportionate time to demons. Whatever the case, I believe there is needed a new and greater emphasis on the need for deliverance, with a stress on biblical accuracy.
Is it the Devil?
I am often asked, “How can you tell if a demon is the source of the sickness or if it is just a natural cause?” This is a great question, and I have diligently searched the scriptures to come up with some answers.
Here are a few of the ways I have been able to know whether or not demons are behind a sickness. (The, Healing Through Deliverance, book covers ten ways.)
It is demonic if the discernings of spirits is in operation.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another (divers) kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Cor 12:7-10, ASV).
Notice the seventh gift on the list: discernings of spirits. God gives at times the ability to see and perceive the operation of good and evil spirits.
The word discerningscomes from the word “judge.” It is hard at times to judge whether a spirit is the cause of a sickness, but through the gifting of the Holy Spirit you will be able to correctly decide.
The word discernings is actually in the plural, and this is how it is in the original Greek. This means that discernment can come in various forms. First it can arrive in the form of a vision, in which you actually see the demon with your eyes.
One of the most influential charismatic leaders, Kenneth Hagin, tells the story of when he was preaching in a country church and a man came forward for prayer. From every outward appearance the man looked normal, except his face showed pain. As he came closer to the preacher, Hagin said that he had a vision in which he saw a monkey-looking creature wrapping his arms around the man’s head, as in a headlock. Immediately, brother Hagin exclaimed to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus, you foul spirit, leave this man at once!”
The spirit looked startled and taken back that Hagin had seen him. Next, the spirit eyed him for a moment, so Hagin told him again, looking him in the eyes, “I told you to leave this man!”
Knowing that the spirit had been uncovered, it replied, “Well, I don’t want to leave, but if you tell me I have to, then I’ll go.”
With boldness, Hagin commanded, “You will have to go.” The spirit released the man’s head and jumped off his shoulders, landing on the floor. It just looked at Hagin for a moment.
Hagin persisted, “You will have to leave the premises now!” The spirit whimpered like a beaten dog, and stumbled out of the church.
This story is a dramatic account of the discernings of spirits coming in the form of a vision. I personally have not experienced any visions of demons, but I have had the discernings of spirits work in different ways.
The word “discern” means to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect. As you can tell from this definition, discernment is not perception by sight only, it can come through other senses, such as hearing, smelling or feeling.
Oral Roberts, the renown healing evangelists, says that oftentimes he can smell the demon in a person. Perhaps no one else can smell it at the time, but he can. This is another form of discernment.
Many feel the presence of a demon. They may start to sweat, get clammy, or have a tingling sensation.
I have heard some say they feel fire when they get near a demon. Hagin was told by the Lord that when he lays both hands on the sick, if he feels fire going back and forth to his hands then there is a presence of a demon in the sick person he is praying for. Others may feel cold, a chill or some physical sensation. God is sovereign, so He will work with you in His way to help you discern a demon.
The more common way that discernment works, however, is through a “knowing” that something is there. You may call it your intellect or gut feeling. You just “know that you know” that a spirit is behind a sickness. This is another form of discernment and this is the typical way God uses speaks to me in these situations.
It is demonic if the sickness affects the spiritual life of the sick.
Demons, when they are present, do not just affect the body but also the spiritual life of the individual.
Do the infirm have peace even though they are sick? If they feel at ease, even when afflicted, then most likely the disease is natural. There is probably no demon involved.
I often look to find evidence of spiritual growth. If it is occurring in the sick person, then their disease seems to be of natural causes. On the other hand, if the sick are being hurt spiritually, then the disease could have some demonic roots.
Demons are not interested in simply bringing physical infirmities, but they desire to hurt the spiritual life of the person.
Once I was speaking in a little church in the suburbs of Dallas. I preached my heart out, and yet there was very little enthusiastic response from the congregation, except for one dear elderly woman who kept shouting, “Praise the Lord. That’s right! Keep preaching!” She was so exuberant.
After the service, while I was signing my books, a rather large gentleman walked up to me and said, “I want to apologize for my mother. She was the one who kept shouting ‘Praise the Lord.’”
I told him not to worry, that I enjoyed her enthusiastic response. Then he told me, “You see, she shouts praises because she has Alzheimer’s.” The only person who seemed to enjoy my message was a lady with Alzheimer’s.
Here is my point: this dear woman did not have a demon. A demon would not be shouting, “Praise the Lord!” Her disease was just physical. She was still intact spiritually even if her mind was diseased.
On the other hand, I have physically ill people get furious at my preaching. Who would get furious over the ministry of the Word? The only ones would be the devil and his demons.
If you are physically sick give yourself a check up. For example, if you find yourself becoming angry over reading this article or listening to the gospel being preached could it be you are not only sick in body, but there is also something else wrong?
Many Christians grow more spiritually during their sickness, and that is an indication they don’t have a demon. However, in cases where the sick are not experiencing spiritual growth but getting bitter, angry, and more sinful, then I believe that their sickness has a demonic root. They need more than healing; they need deliverance.
It is demonic if there are strange occurrences taking place with the disease.
A danger sign there are demons causing the infirmity is when there are unusual happenings taking place with the person who is sick.
When MSNBC featured my ministry they showed a woman in my church with depression. How was she convinced it was a spirit that caused her condition? She knew it because she also had strange, unexplained marks on her body.
She did not just suffer from clinical depression; there was something else tormenting her. Those marks on her body testified that there were supernatural agents involved in her depression.
Here is a scripture to consider: “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water… Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment (Matt 17:15, 18).
How can we tell that the boy’s problem wasn’t simply epileptic seizures? In this case, we know by the fact that the attacks took place at very inopportune times, especially at moments that endangered the boy’s life. He would have the seizures near fire or water, and he would often fall into them. That was a sign of demons.
This also happens today. Some people become ill at the most inopportune times, such as when they go to church or attend a very important meeting. I have successfully prayed deliverance for people who seem to get sick only on Sunday mornings and at no other time. It is clear that the devil is causing the infirmity to occur at certain times in order to prevent the person from hearing the Word. Others become sick when they start to read the Bible, while some fall ill when they begin to share their faith.
In the case with epilepsy, we need to ask: does the person have seizures at very dangerous times or at ordinary times? If the attacks come during unsafe times, it appears that demons may be the cause. However, if the seizures take place at normal times then it is likely to be a physical problem only.
Someone might say, “If the disease is diagnosed by doctors, doesn’t that disprove that demons are causing the sickness?”
Not really, because there is a false assumption that diseases have life in themselves, and that no spirit is causing the disease to live. For example, the Bible says, “The body without the spirit is dead.” Although you cannot see the human spirit, it is the force that keeps the body alive. Doctors might think it is the heart that sustains life. Yet the Bible says it is the spirit that gives us breath.
Just as an invisible force keeps our bodies functioning, the same is true of diseases.
A disease may have some life beyond the germ that keeps it alive. The condition is real and can be seen; yet the evil spirit behind the disease may keep it alive, just as our human spirit keeps our bodies alive.
Once the offending spirit is cast out of the body, then the disease—without its life source—must die. This is why an illness may have both physical and demonic roots.
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