16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. 19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.
We all develop methods of surviving in a harsh world. Divination should not be one of them, and I am not just speaking to Christians. As you can see from the above paragraph, divination comes only by one source and that is Satanic. You might have great powers but they are not yours and any power of this sort is usually got by illegal means (God’s law not man’s). Satan’s power was given to him by God but he fell and now uses that power to attempt to destroy the church. The whole world might be under the sway of the evil one, but he does what he does in his own name, not God’s. Therefore, his authority is illegitimate, and so is anything he gives human beings. It will not be blessed by God, the righteous One.
Astrology and tea-leaf reading aside, we all have means to ‘predict’ the future, but unless God gives us a prophetic word we are engaging in divination. Divination is witchcraft which is rebellion which is sin. Scripture does not get any clearer on this. Divination can be described as the premeditated choice to seek out means to know the future which are empowered by demonic forces. It is the fleshly desire to know the future which opens the door to the demonic. I should just point out that praying and asking God for clarity on a situation is not divination. He is the legitimate authority, and James tells us if we need wisdom He will give liberally to all men and without reproach. That is a very important verse. It means God knows we need help to live our lives and will give it to us. It’s depending on anything other than God which is the problem. However, the means by which we can engage in divination can be fuzzy especially if we are well-meaning. Let me explain.
I grew up in an abusive household. Every one of my siblings has the same problems because we had one parent who was a narcissist and the other who was an enabler. Some of us grew up more like our parents than others, but all of us developed habitually crooked ways of coping. When I became a Christian, I continued using these coping methods because I had not developed my relationship with Lord enough to learn that this was not only unacceptable to Him, but was also sinful. Some things aren’t obvious as I said, other things we keep doing because we just don’t know how to stop. In my case, I kept doing them because my need to feel safe and in control was more important than trusting God.
God is trustworthy, men are not, and sometimes women in particular tend to conflate the two. We put our trust in men; our husbands, our pastors, other Christian leaders and speakers. And it can be a snare and a downfall to our relationship with God. If you put men in the place of God you will inevitably stumble, and in fact this is idol worship by another name. So it is one thing to talk about trusting God, but being able to trust God alone is something else. I needed a revelation of the love of God and His trustworthiness.
I developed in my childhood the habit of predicting what would happen that day and finding ways of dealing with it. I was bullied a lot at school because I was a weird little kid and didn’t know how to relate to other little kids. I knew how to relate to adults (pull forelock and act like a suck-up) but I didn’t know about peer groups. Therefore, going to school was a scary prospect. I spent most of the first half an hour in bed in the mornings working out ways to deal with the various kids who I knew were going to pick on me the moment I got to school. Sometimes all I could tell myself was ‘at least I can have marmalade on my toast this morning’. Marmalade on toast was my favourite breakfast. I learned ways to comfort myself, and food was one of them.
As an adult this translated into mentally preparing myself for what I thought might have been coming the next day, or far into the future. For the most part it didn’t work, but for most of my life, I figured if I knew how to imagine myself getting it right then I would be better at getting it right when it actually happened. This, in my experience, disproves all of the ‘name it and claim it’ messages that psychologists and life coaches like Tony Robbins have worked on for years. You do not create your own future. If you did, then my whole life should have looked like a Hollywood movie. I certainly was good at directing them in my head. “They will say this, then I will say that. Then they will do this and then I will do that, and it will all end thusly”. It never did. Inevitably, I forgot the script, or they just didn’t do what I thought they would.
I was trying to predict the future. It was not entirely accurate. OK, it was not accurate at all, but the fact that I was trying to work out what was going to happen based on what I knew of the situation was still prediction.
You might say, ‘but wait a minute didn’t you just define divination as using methods which are empowered by satanic forces? Imagining what would happen is not satanic is it?”. I know right? It doesn’t come across as evil or wicked or engaging in witchcraft. But wait…
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. (2 Corinthians)
Paul is talking here about not warring in the flesh. In Ephesians 6 he talks about the fact that we war against spiritual forces.
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand
I might also add here my favouritest verse of all time Romans 12:1-2
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God
All of this tells me that our minds need to be transformed so that we can deal with the flesh and also the spiritual battle which comes against us. If Satan is encouraging us to mentally prepare for the future by rehearsing events which may or may not happen then we are not walking in faith. Scripture tells us to take every thought captive. It means every sinful thought. It is impossible to take every thought captive per se. So spending hours (and I did) mentally rehearsing events, conversations and outcomes is not taking every thought captive to God. If our minds need to be renewed its because our minds are the place where sin is conceived. If we sin habitually through mentally trying to control what happens, which is witchcraft, then we need to repent and deal with life a different way, God’s way.
When you come from an abusive background, whether that is from a family of origin or from another source such as marrying a psychopath (and I say this with respect, the internet is full of testimonies from partners of deranged humans), or from being exposed long-term to abuse from pastors or bosses or others, the thing you want the most is to ensure that this NEVER happens again. So you do what you need to do in order to avoid it. For many of us, it is controlling the outcome. Of everything.
We PREDICT our futures, in order to PREPARE for any future abuse or pain and thereby PROTECT ourselves and stay safe. It makes perfect sense when you are in there. But living like this is walking in the flesh, it is NOT trusting in God, it is trusting in your own ability to prepare for the next onslaught even if there isn’t one. You think you are doing yourself a favour, but all you are doing is setting yourself up for failure. Nobody ever gets divination right every time. You only have to fail half of the time in a situation like this and you make yourself crazy. WHY, you ask yourself, did I not see that coming? You end up getting more and more and more distressed which in turn gives you even more energy to try that much harder next time to prepare for the next crazy turn of events.
Let’s face it. Life is unpredictable, it is getting even more unpredictable as the world turns. Or not, I personally believe we live in a geocentric universe. Finding that out actually changed my life, I am not kidding. Have you ever seen or felt the earth spinning? I won’t go on, that would be a whole blog post on its own. Anyway, even realising that God made the earth first because of His great plans for us and His great love for His people and that He will also make a new heaven and earth for our future enjoyment didn’t stop me from trying to plot for my own success.
Look, it doesn’t matter why we do it. You don’t have to have come from an abusive background. Every human being wants to know the future. It’s why we talk about time travel. The thought that this might actually be scientifically possible (it isn’t and will never be) gets us all excited. Knowing the future is not the answer. Preparing for possible difficulty pain or trauma is not the answer either. As anyone who has ever paid for insurance for years and then found out that the insurance company won’t pay up because the fine print said that this particular disaster wasn’t applicable finds out….you can’t cover every eventuality and the odds are that the thing you never even imagined is the thing that eventually happens.
Having said that, we still need to deal with that very human need for preparation and protection right? Look at Noah. He prepared as God told him to and was protected from God’s wrath. God knows the end from the beginning and He will tell us what to do in every eventuality. We do not need to run around as the rest of the world does as though we have no God, and as though God isn’t in control but expects us to somehow know what to do because we have intelligence. I actually heard a very young pastor say that once. He said where scripture doesn’t tell us what to do specifically, then we ‘have the freedom’ to do whatever seems to be good to us at the time because that is why God gave us brains. Somebody needs to tell this young guy that stuff not specifically covered in scripture leaves out about 50% of the issues of modern life. That is NOT the gospel. We have been given the Holy Spirit who is our GUIDE, counselor, comforter and teacher and will lead us and help us as Jesus helped his disciples when He was on earth. Added to this, while scripture may not specifically address issues such as, say, birth control, scripture still gives us the markers for our spiritual and moral compass. God loves children, children are a blessing, some people can’t have children, God heals barrenness etc. You get where I am going with this. I hope. The generalities are there even if the specifics are not. God wants us to know what His will is for our lives (Romans 12:2) and therefore it is not up to us to determine our futures.
It’s when we act as though this is not the case, or simply forget that this is the case, that we end up getting ourselves tangled up in knots literally and figuratively. If you are suffering constant headaches and anxiety or even panic attacks because your stress levels are through the roof, you might consider that you may actually be trying to manipulate and control your life, and other people’s, for their own good of course. This may well be a common problem for women, but it is NOT a godly response to life. We walk by faith, NOT by hook or by crook.
Next post, I will talk about the antidote to this PREDICT, PREPARE and PROTECT problem.