For much of my life I had this pathological fear of snakes. Where I live they’re totally harmless, but just the same if one was sunning itself on the deck, I could no longer use that exit, and we should probably just tear the whole deck off before burning the house down and moving across the country.
I was perfectly content to remain in my (dis) comfort zone for the rest of my life, but one day God woke me up in the middle of the night and said, Do you trust me? I want to talk to you about the snakes. It was terror, pure panic at 3 AM, but I managed to say “okay,” surrender in my spirit, and in that moment, that instant, I was healed. Just like that. Gone.
No more snakephobia. I have since walked right by snakes, had one slither across my shoe, and got to pet an anaconda. It’s kind of hard to explain how miraculous that is, but I actually did those things calmly, while still conscious, which would not have been possible before.
God is good, but it wasn’t just about healing my snakephobia, actually He wanted to show me something I had done wrong long ago, something that is likely quite common. I had decided to simply avoid snakes in the natural, but also to avoid them in the supernatural. I figured the best way to avoid evil was to just refuse to look at it, to stay away from snakes, snaky behavior, snaky people. Poof, problem solved. No more evil in my world.
I completely missed the whole part about how the enemy was once an angel of light. Evil is not always ugly and snake-like, often it is quite beautiful, desirable, seductive even. Evil doesn’t just lurk in the “bad” people and it’s not easily spotted and discerned by outside appearances and behavior. It is often disguised very well and must be discerned with the heart and spirit, not the eyes. Evil doesn’t look like evil should.
Evil is not really “a people,” either. It is a spirit.
Because I was relying on my own eyes so much, because I relied on appearance, resume, my own reason, I was frequently deceived, betrayed, multiple times, all through my life. It’s a dreadful thing to be looking at someone or something with complete trust and then to suddenly see things as they really are and to realize you’ve been completely deceived.
From the time I was about 6 yrs old until my mid 30’s, I was busy fleeing harmless garden snakes…… while walking face first into various evil things I could not even see. Over and over and over again. And I’m a really good judge of character! That’s the problem though, evil isn’t about people’s character, and it isn’t really even about people at all.
Consider Peter, very, very close to Jesus Christ, one of His favored sons even. Peter is not evil at all, but that anti-Christ spirit passes through him anyway. Jesus spots it right away and says, “Get thee behind me, satan….” Matthew 16:23
I spent much of my life pretending that evil didn’t exist, falsely believing it was people themselves who were evil, and falsely believing I could keep evil at bay by just staying away from it and avoiding it completely.
I missed another really important part of scripture while trapped in that deception, The Great Commission, as told in Mark 16,
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
I hated snakes, so I just completely ignored all that. Besides, I’m not the kind of Christian who is going to go test it all out by becoming a literal snake handler. But what are “snakes” really? In the bible they are symbolic of the enemy, of evil, of deception that can get into our spirits, often without our permission or even our knowledge. We are easily deceived and sometimes used.
Genesis 3:1 speaks of snakes as, “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field…” Subtle, as in he sure don’t look like a snake. Subtle actually means, “so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyze or describe.”
We are not called to just ignore evil, or to just dismiss people themselves as evil, we are called to actually heal people. We are called to take up serpents. A better way of translating that would be, “to take off” serpents.
That’s what God did for me that one night, he took off a serpent, one that was ironically giving me a pathological fear of snakes in the natural. I have had other serpents taken off too, an evil spirit of cynicism that once jaded my eyes. I did not even know it was there.. …until someone spoke to it.
Since then I’ve talked to a whole lot of Christian people who don’t even believe in evil, some more who believe it is really just people themselves who are evil, still others who believe that some stuff in the bible doesn’t apply anymore, and on and on it goes.
Well, that is a big part of what ails the Western church at the moment. We’re doing just what I did for so long, denying the existence of evil, while fleeing harmless garden snakes and failing to take off serpents.
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.- Mark 16:20