From the Storm to the Trenches: Trading Your Storm For Someone Else’s Struggle

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by John Mark. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty verses of the fifth chapter. When you come to this particular passage you will find an encounter Jesus and the disciples had after crossing over by sea to the region of the Gadarenes. As you draw near and approach this passage of scripture you will find Jesus and the disciples making their way out of the boat and although we aren’t sure exactly how long it was before they were met by the man who had the legion of demons we are told that when the man saw Jesus from afar off he ran unto Him and fell down before him. Once before and in the presence of Jesus we find the unclean spirit that was found within this man crying out unto Jesus asking what he had to do with Him who was the Son of God. This unclean spirit went on to ask Jesus it He has come to torment them before the appointed time. It’s necessary when reading this passage of scripture to recognize that the unclean spirits, the demons and the principalities and powers of darkness knew of the appointed time when they would be utterly and completely destroyed in the midst of the lake of fire. Within this passage we come face to face with the reality that the unclean spirits are fully aware of the fact and reality that there days are numbered and that they have but a short while reigning upon the earth. If there is one thing this passage of scripture points to and reveals it’s the same reality that is found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the revelation of Jesus Christ where after Satan along with his angels were cast to the earth they were filled with great wrath and indignation knowing that they had but a short while left before their final and ultimate judgment. We dare not miss and lose sight of this particular reality, for the angel who cried out with a loud voice that salvation and glory and power and honor belongs to God and the kingdom of heaven has come, also cried out with a loud voice concerning the earth and even pronounced woe upon the earth. The angel emphatically cried out and declares that the dragon is filled with great wrath for he knows that he has but a short period of time and his days are in fact limited and numbered. Oh we must understand that the devil and his angels and all the evil host are aware they their days are in fact numbered and limited.

As you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find this man with the unclean spirit racing and running toward Jesus upon seeing Him come from a distance. What is so interesting and unique about this passage of scripture is what we learn of the man with the unclean spirit. Though the other synoptic writers penned their own account of this particular man who had the unclean spirit, it was John Mark who wrote in greater detail concerning this particular man and the tremendous and intense struggle he found himself in. One of the most important realities we learn and encounter when reading this passage of scripture is that this man was in the most intense struggle and battle of his life. When Jesus asked the unclean spirit what his name was, the unclean spirit responded by emphatically declaring that his name was Legion, for they were many. What’s worth noting is that when you continue reading this passage of scripture you will find that when Jesus fave permission for the unclean spirits to enter into the herd of swine that was feeding nearby, the evil spirits entered into the herd of swine and they ran violently down the hill and into the sea. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this particular reality for within it we find Mark writing and recording that the number of swine which ran down the hill was about two thousand in number. Pause for a moment and consider how many evil spirits would have to have been present within this man who spent his days living among the tombs. For a total of two thousand swine to all be violently possessed in such a way to run down into the sea where they all drowned, there would have to have been at least two thousand unclean spirits that were living within this man. I can’t help but wonder what this struggle was like for this man as he wrestles with that many demons which so violently tormented and oppressed him. What’s more, is the fact that I can’t help but wonder how long this struggle and battle was which this man faced with this many demons and unclean spirits present within him. What’s more is that I can’t help but wonder what this man’s backstory was and how this man came to allow a legion of demons to enter into and torment and oppress him.

The more I read and the more I consider this particular passage of scripture the more I can’t help but be curious and wonder what this man’s story was. Mark is very careful to provide us with details concerning and regarding this man and what his life was like as he wrestled and struggled with the legion of unclean spirits, but what Mark doesn’t speak to, write and reveal is what brought this man to the point and place where he would allow himself to be inhabited, tormented and oppressed by such a great number of unclean spirits. As I sit here this morning and consider the words and language that is found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but wonder what this man’s life was like prior to his permitting and inviting this horde and legion of unclean spirits into his physical body. Is it possible that all of these unclean spirits entered into this man’s physical body at once, or is it possible that they entered one at a time, or perhaps one entered at one point during this man’s life, and through the course of events within his life he permitted and allowed a whole host and legion of unclean spirits into his physical body. I have to wonder if at first the presence of that which was unclean within his life was somewhat enticing and appealing to this man as he permitted a single unclean spirit to enter into his physical body. Was this man drawn to the power? Was this man drawn to that which he felt the unclean spirit provided for him within his life? What was it within this man’s life that caused to reach the place where he would permit and allow such a horde of unclean spirits into his life? What was his childhood like? This particular passage paints a gruesome and grim picture of this man who had the unclean spirits, for Mark provides us with some incredible details concerning and regarding this man and the horde of unclean spirits which so oppressed and tormented his life. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find the following words written and recorded concerning this particular man:

“And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. For He said unto him< Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. And He asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country” (Mark 5:1-10).

That which Mark writes and records concerning this man is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for Mark writes how the unclean spirit within this man kept this man isolated and secluded within and among the tombs. IN the second verse of this chapter we find Mark writing concerning this man that he had his dwelling among the tombs. What’s more, is that Mark goes on to write concerning this man how no man could bind him, no, not with chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces. What’s more, is that Mark goes on to write and record how no man could tame this man, and he spent his days and nights in the mountains and in the tombs crying and cutting himself with stones. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which Mark wrote concerning this man, for what we find concerning and regarding this man was a sense of loneliness, isolation and seclusion. Not only did Mark write and record concerning this man that he had his dwelling among the tombs, but also that he was always in the mountains day and night crying and cutting himself. Within this passage of Scripture we find concerning this man that he was either in the tombs or he was in the mountains, and it was in those places separated and cut off from others that he would spend his time crying out and cutting himself with stones. Please don’t miss what is being written within this passage, for Mark writes and records a powerful sense of isolation, seclusion and separation within the life of this man. Mark writes and records concerning this man that he spent his time walking and living among the dead, and even spent his time in the mountains separated and apart from those within the region from where he was from. This is actually quite remarkable and astonishing when you take the time to consider it, for not only was this man found among the tombs and essentially living among the dead, but so also was this man found to be in the mountains away from men. I would dare state that we dare not, we must not, we cannot miss the tremendous significance and importance of what is found within this passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture we find this man truly separated and isolated—not only from the living, but also from fellowship and community with those around him. We do note within this passage of Scripture that no man could tame this one with the unclean spirits, and that regardless of how many times he was bound with chains and fetters, he tore them asunder with his bare hands. It is quite obvious that this man had an incredibly difficult time as he constantly engaged these unclean spirits which were present within his physical body and form. There is not a doubt in my mind that this man had an overwhelming struggle and battle with something that was so much greater than he himself could have ever pictured or imagined. I do not believe for one moment that this man grew up thinking and believing that he would be home and host to a legion of unclean spirits. I do not believe for one moment that this man grew up thinking and believing that he would one day be living and dwelling among the tombs and in the mountains crying and cutting himself with stones.

This passage of Scripture which brings us face to face with the tremendous and intense struggle this man faced within his life is absolutely remarkable and astonishing, for within the passage we find the man having his dwelling among the tombs. I feel it absolutely necessary that we pause for a moment and consider this particular reality, for this is something that is worth noting and mentioning concerning how this man spent his days and his nights. I find it absolutely tragic and heartbreaking that this man would be relegated to the tombs, for when we think of the tombs we think of graveyards, we think of tombstones, and we think of the bodies of the dead which are buried in the midst of the graveyard. I can’t help but think about this man and how this man was forced to remain among the tombs and to remain among the dead rather than among the living. What’s even more interesting about this is that this man did in fact spend his days and his nights living and dwelling among the tombs, and yet even though he lived among the tombs he did not and could not experience resurrection power as did Lazarus, and even as Jesus. I can’t help but be reminded of the words the angel spoke unto the women and disciples who came unto the tomb when he asked them why they looked for the living among the dead. When those who loved Jesus visited the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid, they were not only met with a stone that had been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, but they were also met with an empty grave, grave clothes still present within the tomb, and an empty tomb. What’s more, is that they were met with a very powerful question concerning their search for the living among the dead. They had come to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid in order to grieve and mourn, and yet when they came to the tomb on that third day they found that the stone had been rolled away and removed, and that Jesus’ physical body was no longer present within the tomb. There is a vast and fundamental difference between this man’s time among the tombs and that which Lazarus and Jesus experienced, for although this man spent his days and his nights among the tombs, he had not and did not witness and experience any type of resurrection power taking place within and among the tombs. There is not a doubt in my mind that this unclean spirit which was present among this man sought to keep him dwelling among the tombs and in that place of death as a reflection of what this man’s life was like. This man could not walk among the living because of the tremendous struggle he faced with the unclean spirit which so tormented and oppressed him. What an incredibly tragic thought it is to consider how this man could not walk among the living because of the intense struggle he faced, and was forced to not only walk among the tombs, but also live among the tombs. Pause for a moment and consider that which is written and recorded in the twenty-fourth and final chapter of the New Testament gospel which the beloved physician Luke wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ:

“Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulcher, bringing the pieces which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed there about, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things unto the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. Then arose Peter, and run unto the sepulcher; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in Himself at that which was come to pass” (Luke 24:1-12).

WHY SEEK YE THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD? What an incredibly powerful question this truly is when you take the time to think about it, for when the women visited the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid, they fully expected the tomb to still have the stone rolled before the entrance, and Jesus’ body to still be present within the tomb. It is normal practice when you journey unto a tomb—particularly and especially one where you knew the body of one you loved had been laid—to find the physical body of that particular individual still present within the tomb. You would normally expect to find the dead among the dead, and not to be met with a message of why you are seeking and searching the living among the dead. When the women came to this particular tomb, they fully expected the physical body of Jesus to be present within the tomb, and they expected to continue in their place of mourning and grieving over the one whom their souls loved. Instead of coming to the tomb on this third day and being met with that particular reality, they were met with a powerful message of why they sought for the living among the dead. I am completely and utterly convinced that we need to pay close attention to these words, for these words shine a great deal of light on to the reality of this man who was possessed, tormented and oppressed by this unclean spirit. Mark writes and records concerning this man how he spent his days and his nights living among the tombs—essentially living among the dead. The question then becomes why. Why would this unclean spirit confine and relegate this man to a life among the tombs, and a life among the dead? Why would this unclean spirit keep and prevent this man from walking among the living, and instead to make his dwelling and live among the dead? What was it about the dead that was so appealing and so attractive to this unclean spirit that he would choose to confine and relegate this man to the tombs? I can’t help but be utterly and completely heartbroken when I read this passage of scripture, for as if it wasn’t enough that this man had to wrestle and contend with this unclean spirit, he was also forced to spend his days and his nights living among the tombs—living among the dead rather than the living. This man could not walk among the living because of the unclean spirit which had so tormented and oppressed him, and instead had to make his dwelling and his abode among the tombs which were present in that region. What an incredibly tragic thought it is to think about and consider the fact that this man could not walk among the living, and instead had to dwell among the dead. I can’t help but be gripped with and by the fact that this man was forced to live and dwell among the tombs for there is something about having your dwelling among the tombs, and something about having your dwelling among the dead that creates an additional measure of bondage and captivity within one’s life.

LIVING AMONG THE TOMBS! ENJOYING A FALSE SENSE OF FREEDOM! As I sit here and read the account of this man with the unclean spirit, I can’t help but think and consider the fact that not only was this man confined to a life living among the tombs and dwelling among the dead, but so also was this man completely and totally cut off from fellowship and relationship. This actually brings me to a tremendous truth that I can’t help but feel compelled to share within this particular writing, for within his passage of Scripture we find one of the greatest tactics and strategies of the adversary within our lives being in full swing and in full motion in this man’s life. There is not a doubt in my mind that this man was not only forced to live among the dead, but this man was also prevented from living and dwelling in fellowship, in community and in relationship with others. So incredibly violent was the oppression of the unclean spirit within the life of this man that he couldn’t even walk among the living, and couldn’t even experience lasting fellowship, relationship, fellowship and communion. Because the oppression of this unclean spirit was so violent and so terrible within this man’s life, he could not walk in and experience fellowship and relationship with those around him. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if this man found himself missing and yearning for fellowship and relationship with others. I can’t help but wonder if this particular individual found himself looking back over his life and thinking to those moments when he could walk among the living, and when he could walk in fellowship and relationship with others before and around him. LIVING AMONG THE DEAD AND REMOVED FROM RELATIONSHIP! Oh, I can’t help but think of how many men and women the devil has in this very same place and position—not oppressed, tormented and possessed by unclean and evil spirits, but living among the dead rather than walking among the living, and completely and totally isolated from fellowship, relationships and communion with others. I can’t help but wonder how many men and women the adversary has living and dwelling among the tombs (figuratively speaking), for rather than being able to walk among the living, they are forced to live and dwell among the dead. How many men and women does the enemy and adversary have living among the dead right now within their lives rather than living among the living? Rather than spending their time among those who have experienced resurrection power and life afresh and anew, such individuals are forced to live and dwell among those who are dead inside—those who are still walking in complete and utter darkness and death within their lives. Oh I can’t help but be reminded of the passage found in the thirty-seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Ezekiel when Ezekiel was taken by the Holy Spirit and placed in the midst of the valley filled with dry bones. Consider if you will the words and the account which is found in this particular passage:

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones lives? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore physic and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall your know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Within this passage of Scripture the Spirit of the Lord took Ezekiel and placed him in the midst of a valley filled with dry bones as a picture, as a symbol and as a type of Israel which believed themselves to be dry and completely dead in the land of their captivity. The entire promise and premise of this particular passage is that the Lord placed Ezekiel among that which was dead, and that which had not the breath of life within it in order that he might bring forth life according to the word of the Lord. I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Ezekiel to have found himself present in the midst of a valley that was full of dry bones which had been completely and utterly dead and dry with absolutely no life within it. The Lord took and placed Ezekiel in the midst of this place of death and dryness, and yet the Lord caused him to prophesy according to the word of the Lord in order that life might be manifested in the midst of this valley. REVIVAL IN A GRAVEYARD! Oh, I absolutely love what I find and what I read within this passage for although Ezekiel was found in the valley of dry bones, and although Ezekiel was taken and placed in the midst of what was essentially a graveyard, he would witness and experience resurrection and revival power according to the word of the Lord, according to the power of God, and according to the breath of the living God. This is noticeably and markedly different from that which this man during Jesus’ day experienced, for this man was forced to live and dwell among the tombs—completely cut off and isolated from fellowship, relationship and communion with others. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are men and women present among us in this generation, and even within our churches whom the enemy and adversary has living in this very same place. There are men and women among us in this generation and in our churches whom the enemy and adversary has living and dwelling among the dead, and completely cut off and isolated from fellowship and relationship in order that he might keep them bound and captive. It’s worth noting that not only was this man with the unclean spirit forced to live and dwell among the tombs, and not only was this man forced to live among the tombs, but he also spent a considerable amount of time living and dwelling in chains, in shackles and in fetters. Mark goes on to write and record concerning this man that in addition to his being found within and among the tombs, he was also found to be bound with chains and fetters, thus keeping him completely and totally bound. Of course we know and understand that the unclean spirit gave this man superior strength with which to completely tear and break apart the chains and fetters, but the principle and reality is the same. This man was forced by the unclean spirit to be isolated from fellowship, to live and walk among the dead, and to be continually in chains and fetters. ISOLATED, DEAD AND BOUND! Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that these words perfectly describe countless men and women among us within this generation—men and women whom the enemy and adversary has not only forced to be separated and isolated from fellowship and relationship, but also walking and living among the dead and completely and utterly bound and held captive.

One of the realities that most strikes me about this particular passage of Scripture is that it comes directly on the heels of a storm which Jesus and His disciples had just passed through and experienced. When you read the latter and final portion of the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark you will find that Jesus and His disciples entered into a ship in order to cross over to the other side. While in the ship and upon the sea, however, a great storm and tempest arose in the midst of the sea and threatened to drown them beneath the waves and in the midst of the sea. The disciples themselves cried out in fear before Jesus, for although He was in the boat with them, He was sleeping on a pillow. Imagine that—being in a ship in the midst of the sea in the midst of a storm, and Jesus is sound asleep in the boat you are in. Upon hearing the voice of the disciples crying out in fear, Jesus immediately rose up in the midst of the ship, rebuked the wind and the waves, and called the storm to be calm. Now, this is actually quite interesting, for we would expect that after the disciples came out of the storm with Jesus they would enter into and walk in a period of peace and calm. Jesus had just calmed the wind, the waves, and the storm itself, and yet what we find in this particular passage of Scripture is that instead of coming out of the storm and coming to the other side of the sea to a period of rest and peace, they instead found themselves among the trenches. Oh, there are many of us who come through storms within our lives—storms which threaten our very existence—and when we come out of those storms we fully expect to enter into a period of rest and peace. What happens, however, when instead of coming to the other side of the storm we find ourselves entering into the trenches engaged in a conflict that is beyond ourselves? What happens when instead of entering into a place of rest, a place of quietness, and a place of peace, we find ourselves entering into the trenches engaged in an all out spiritual warfare and battle? There are many of us who tend to think that just because we come out of the various storms in our lives we are entitled to a period of peace, a period of rest, and a period of quietness and trust, and yet that simply isn’t the case. Just because you have been brought through a storm doesn’t mean that your next step and the next part of your life is peace and calm, quietness and rest. Just because you found yourself crossing over the other side of the sea having just come through a storm, doesn’t mean that you will enter into a period of rest, peace and calm. In fact, I would dare say that it is a sense of entitlement that causes us to think that when we come out of the storms we face within our lives we are supposed to now walk and live in a period of peace, quietness, rest and calm.

If there is one thing this particular passage proves and reveals, it’s that this simply isn’t the case. Just because we have come out out of the storms within our lives doesn’t mean that we are intended to now experience peace, quietness, rest and calm. There are times when we come through and come out of the storms within our lives, and we are called to then get right down in the trenches where we will engage ourselves in spiritual warfare and battle. There are times within our lives when we are brought through various storms we face—not so we can walk in and experience quietness, peace and rest, but so we can march straight into the trenches and engage ourselves in spiritual warfare. Oh that we would do away with the thinking within our hearts and minds that just because we have been brought through, and just because we have come through storms within our lives that we are now entitled to walk in a period of peace, and quietness, and calm. Away with the teaching and preaching that declares that when we come through the storms of life we are immediately ushered into a period of calm, rest, quietness and rest. It is very easy to find ourselves growing and getting offended with the living God when we come out of the storms within our lives, and instead of now walking in peace and quietness, we find ourselves entering into the trenches of warfare and conflict. FROM THE STORM TO THE TRENCHES! I am convinced that there are times when the storms we face in life are preparation for the trenches we will find ourselves in where we actively engage ourselves in spiritual warfare, conflict and battle. We tend to think that the peace we find in the midst of the storm, and coming to the other side of the storm means that we are now somehow entitled to rest, calm and quietness, and yet that simply isn’t the case. Oh that we would recognize and understand that there are times within our lives when the storms we face are merely preparation for the trenches we are about to go, and in the conflict we are about to find ourselves in the midst of. Oh that we would recognize and understand that the storms which we face within our lives don’t always signify a period of rest and calm, but rather a further place of warfare, conflict and struggle. TRADING THE STORM FOR THE STRUGGLE! Oh that we would recognize and understand that there are times within our lives when although we have come out of the storms which we face within our lives, we come out of the storm only to find that we have traded the storm for the struggle. The question is whether or not we will take that place of peace, take that place of rest, take that place of quietness, take the place of strength, take that place of authority we found in the midst of the storm, and bring it into the trenches where we find ourselves engaging in spiritual warfare and conflict- What’s more, is that it might not even be a conflict and struggle within our own lives, but the conflict and struggle which another faces. TRADING OUR STORMS FOR THE STRUGGLES OF OTHERS! The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are ready, willing and able to trade our storms for the struggles of others in order that we might bring them deliverance and freedom according to the authority, the power, and the dominion of the word and presence of Jesus Christ who dwells and abides within us.

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