The Bible explicitly tells us that God blesses the righteous and surrounds them with “favor as with a shield” (Ps. 5:12).1 During this strange and surreal time in history, can you testify that you’re experiencing God’s grace or favor? If so, you’re in good scriptural company. If not, you can choose to realign and get in the flow of God’s favor.

Favor Recipients: It helps to keep in mind that the Bible speaks of God’s grace, often translated “favor,” His energizing approbation and approval, as something that’s within the realm of all diligent, seeking believers. Biblical examples of “favor recipients” are numerous: Noah (Gen. 6:8); Joseph (Gen. 39:2-4); David (Acts 7:45-47); Daniel (Dan. 1:9; 6:1-3); Esther (Esther 2:17; 5:2); Mary (Luke 1:28); Paul (2 Tim. 4:7, 8).

In each case the favor recipient had a vital connection with God, a passion to be used, was responding to a need, and was courageous to take the initiative with God to do something that needed to be done. It wasn’t about glory, politics, or fame: it was about service. And they were willing to experience God’s favor even if it meant pain, suffering, ostracism, or even death.

Favor Opportunity: God’s grace has saved us, but He always has more blessing awaiting us as we choose to go deeper with Him. This happens when in love and intimacy we (1) pray and partner with God, (2) assess a situational need (minor or major) in light of Scriptural principles, (3) courageously step out in obedience to meet that need, and (4) unselfishly serve and do good. God’s favor may result in peace and contentment, or alternately it may involve sacrifice, pain, and possibly even death (Job 13:15). The beauty is that by this favor pathway we enter into the fellowship of His suffering and have the promise of eternal reward (Phil. 3:10-14).

Favor Illustration: There’s an ancient story of a king who placed a huge boulder to block a thoroughfare. He then hid himself to see which of his citizens would exercise initiative to remove the stone. Many merchants and public leaders simply walked around it; others loudly complained and blamed the king for not keeping the road clear, but they did nothing to move the stone out of the way. Then a peasant loaded with vegetables came along. He determined to try to solve the problem. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded in moving the stone. After picking up his vegetables to leave, the peasant noticed a purse filled with gold coins under where the stone previously had been. It had a note from the king stating his thanks and that it was for whoever invested the effort to remove this obstacle to progress.

Favor Lesson: This story illustrates favor. Receiving favor happens in a relationship and is a cooperative divine-human partnership. As Ellen White reminds us, God gives opportunity; success depends upon the use we make of it.2 While God extends His grace to all His children, He always has more blessings for those who initiate personal effort, faithful obedience, Scriptural fidelity, and unselfish service to place themselves in the center of His will. “Let love and faith- fulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (Prov. 3:3, 4; also see verses 1, 2).

1All Bible texts are from the New International Version.

2See Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1917), pp. 486, 487.

Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama.

Life may be messy, times hard, and conditions unfair. Got it. What’s new? More important, what now? What if you could develop a simple biblical formula for creating joy during chaos and confusion, joy under any conditions? That would be a good thing. The word is: you can. It’s called the Joy Challenge.

Consider this. Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always”—literally, under any and all situations. Then he repeats for emphasis that we should remain in a joyful state— always (Phil. 4:4). Jesus talked about having full joy amid deep sorrow, a joy that no one can take away (John 15:11; 16:22). The Bible consistently maintains we can habituate joy.

When referring to joy, the Bible doesn’t mean a brief, emotional, ecstatic, fleeting feeling—that’s not true joy. Instead, the believer’s joy refers to a deliberate state of mind that has a robust confidence and lasting contentment. This joy results in a conscious sense of well-being , despite external circumstances. How does this happen? It’s triangular. It rests in a relationship with Jesus Christ and confidence in His Word, a conscious act of the will that implicitly trusts in divine Providence and cooperates with the empowering agency of the Holy Spirit. This combination results in a calm, peaceful joy that passes human comprehension (Phil. 4:7). Many who talk about it may not experience it. When this peaceful joy is present, you will know it.

In Ezra 3:9-13, at the triumphal laying of the foundation of the temple, part of the congregation was joyfully singing praises to God for this monumental moment of progress. Simultaneously, another part of the gathering was weeping and bemoaning how it was so inferior to the former Solomonic temple. The difference between the expression of joy and despair was dramatic. Why? It had to do with attitudes, personal choices, and where one put their focus and confidence.

A believer can meet the Joy Challenge by positively responding in the following five ways:

1. Considering the context or circumstances for what they are: difficult, painful, unpleasant, etc. (2 Tim. 3:12-17).

2. Contemplating the promises and inherent power of the Word of God that speak to the current situation (John 6:63).

3. Constructing or visioning the outcome from the onset and knowing that “all things work together for good” (Rom. 8:28-39).

4. Choosing to do the right thing , knowing character growth is the result (James 1:4-8).

5. Cooperating with and accepting the righteous peace, joy, and yes, sometimes even serenity that result (Phil. 4:6, 7).

The resulting outcome of passing the Joy Challenge will be as Ellen White describes it: “It is His [Christ’s] purpose that every Christian shall be surrounded with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace. He desires that we shall reveal His own joy in our lives. The indwelling of the Spirit will be shown by the outflow- ing of heavenly love. The divine fullness will flow through the consecrated human agent, to be given forth to others. . . . There is peace in believing, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Believing brings peace, and trusting in God brings joy.”*

Let 2022 be the year you successfully face the Joy Challenge in the various dimensions of your life.

*Ellen G. White, Reflecting Christ (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1985), p. 134.

Delbert W. Baker, Ph.D., is the director of research and development for the Office of Regional Conference Ministries/Retirement Plan based in Huntsville, Alabama.

A meme recently read: “Can we uninstall 2020 and install it again? This version has a virus.”

If life were only that easy. Uninstall, redo, go back and correct, or just download a new version. But life is not that simple.

Mistakes, misstatements, crises, and yes, sin, are all tough taskmasters. They make violators pay. In fact, they seldom take captives. They make one pay, if possible, the full extent of the penalty of missing the mark. What would we do without grace and mercy?

But what about surviving and thriving in the midst of this indiscriminate and unusual coronavirus? How can we cope with it on a practical basis?

I write while serving at the Adventist University of Africa, a General Conference institution in Nairobi, Kenya. We are on lockdown, delivering all graduate instruction online. We, like you, are praying, trusting, avoiding large gatherings, and working from home. We are using good hygiene, social distancing, dispensing good where possible, seeking to be proactive (versus reactive), and daily practicing the natural remedies to build our immune systems.

Can we do more? Are there attitudes and actions we can implement to enable us to thrive in the midst of the crisis, rather than just survive?

The Bible depicts a series of crises that literally shook the foundation of people and nations during the times in which they lived. It portrays common men and women who rose to crisis occasions by assuming the attitudes and actions of conquerors rather than of those conquered.

What about surviving and thriving in the midst of this indiscriminate, strange, and unusual coronavirus?

Let’s look at five inspiring examples from the Old Testament.

Noah chose careful preparation over crisis chaos (Gen. 6:13-22; 7:4-12). Noah was a master crisis mover. People can choose to lose their calm, or they can calmly assess the situation, follow truth, and implement best practices.

Lesson: Spend your time methodically preparing to better the crisis.

Job maintained persistent commitment over understandable capitulation (Job 13:1-16). Job knew that he had done nothing to deserve the massive crisis that affected his family, fortune, and physical frame (the coronavirus of his day). But he didn’t cowardly capitulate.

Lesson: Even if you personally suffer, don’t cave-in and lose faith.

Joseph planned proactively over passive compliance (Gen. 41:25-36). The Joseph story has multiple lessons for maximizing crises. Joseph maximized crisis at every turn (pit, slavery, Potiphar’s house, prison, palace, power), resulting in the saving of his entire society.

Lesson: Don’t just endure a crisis; under God, maximize it.

Habakkuk practiced persistent praise over passive pessimism (Hab. 1:2; 2:2, 3; 3:17-19). Habakkuk argued with God in the midst of a crisis about what he perceived to be divine inconsistency. He lost the argument, but resolved to praise rather than protest.

Lesson: Exercise discipline to praise God in the midst of a seemingly unfair, unfathomable crisis.

Esther championed justice over personal security (Esther 4:10-13). Esther, the favored Jewish princess, had every motive to preserve her own life as opposed to risking her position for the preservation of her people. She heroically chose to aid others.

Lesson: In the midst of a crisis, risk all for the greater good of serving and saving others.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of the Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

In this 2020 calendar year, one is reminded of the value of 20/20 eyesight. Visually we get it. But spiritually, how can Christians have the right vision for the days ahead? One of the most effective ways is to seek out and model best practices.

To illustrate, let’s revert to the 1961 Bobo doll experiment by psychologist Albert Bandura. A pioneer in the field of social psychology and self-efficacy, Bandura conducted a famous controlled experiment in which he demonstrated the power of modeling. He used the Bobo doll, a toy clown with a rounded bottom and low center of mass that rocks back and forth but always bounces back to an upright position.

Bandura demonstrated that children who saw adults beating up the Bobo doll were more likely to beat on Bobo when given opportunity. Their behavior contrasted with children who didn’t witness the violence against the clown and seemed disinclined to act aggressively toward it.

Bandura’s findings demonstrated that people are influenced by observing and modeling the behavior of others, either for good or ill. It illustrated that effective modeling can affect behavior change and accelerate the learning process.

When believers select worthy models and imitate their behavior in a spiritual context, we can observe this same principle working for good. Here are five biblical scenarios in which the modeling principle can work.

Leadership. Those who identify as Christian should be leaders of integrity, morality, and spirituality. By modeling best behavior in either personal or professional settings, believers can and do initiate positive behavior in others. And by avoiding negative behaviors, we can avoid being examples of what not to do (1 Cor. 8:9).

People are influenced by observing and modeling the behavior of others, either for good or ill.

Role Modeling. Whether we like it or not, our lives as Christians are both examples of what to embrace and what to avoid. From its beginning the Bible displays the characters, beliefs, and practices of those who demonstrated both good and evil traits. Discerning readers choose characteristics based on the most positive outcome (1 Cor. 11:1).

Trials. Trials and temptations are a fact of life—we will be affected by them. Believers can demonstrate strength and perseverance when struggling with life issues. They demonstrate how to successfully endure tribulation, trials, temptations, and tests as Christ and other heroes of faith did. While others may be tempted to give up, Spirit-led role models demonstrate exemplary growth.

Nature. The wise man wrote, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (Prov. 6:6). By observing nature and the creatures of creation, sensitive Christians can gather lessons about ethics, wisdom, learning strategies, industry, and stewardship. Transformative truths and exemplary habits can be learned from the natural world around us.

Purpose. What is our calling and purpose? What is our place and role in life? The Holy Spirt uses God’s Word, prayer, and chosen illustrious models to teach us best practices, so that we can grow in grace and purpose.

With 20/20 vision we can learn from Bobo and choose well in 2020.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, some party and drink as if there’s no tomorrow. Some weave intoxicatedly through traffic behind the wheel of a potential killing machine. Some seek the thrills of sensual pleasure. Some set off fireworks or exchange kisses. Others sit at home, envy the masses at New York’s Times Square, and wish they were there.

But another group of people scattered throughout the world won’t be drinking, driving, shooting off fireworks; they won’t be sitting at home wishing they were somewhere else with someone else. Instead, they will intuitively follow the counsel: “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). Without condemning innocent rituals, this group will usher in New Year’s Day, as any other, by seeking God’s kingdom first.

Let’s declare New Year’s Day, and every day in 2020, to be a time of growth and advancement.

Let’s not get caught up in the attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Instead, let’s declare New Year’s Day, and every day in 2020, to be a time of growth and advancement, to declare our PRAISES to God.

Here are a few declarations for your consideration:

Peacemaking: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18).

In a world of antagonism, grudges, and revenge, peacemakers are at a premium. Let’s take the high road of peace and spread love, acceptance, and forgiveness.

Rejoicing: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).

Whatever the situation, let’s declare that God is our rock, joy, and inspiration. We will not give up, give in, or give way. In all things let’s rejoice and declare that the Lord is near and in charge.

Aspiring: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).

Set a target and pursue it. Take one step at a time. Focusing on targets consistent with our life mission is the key to success.

Initiating and completing: “My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me” (Acts 20:24).

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” But why stop there? Let’s go beyond, further, and higher. Initiative is the self-starter that keeps us advancing.

Sanctifcation: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Sanctification is never for its own sake. Seeking sanctification is our path to fulfillment and productivity.

Energized living: “I pray that you may enjoy good health” (3 John 2).

Good health is foundational to our energy and vitality. Since the body is the medium for the mind, and the mind is the facilitator of character, health is essential for a rich and fulfilling life.

Sharing faith: “It is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved” (Rom. 10:10).

Genuine Christians live in two dimensions. They believe in Christ and the gospel, and they live their beliefs through consistent practice and honest witness.

Declare your convictions for 2020: Make peace. Celebrate in the Lord. Aspire toward your ideals. Stick with Jesus and never give up. Grow in grace. Live abundantly. Share your faith.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

M. Scott Peck wrote in his book The Road Less Traveled: “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.”

David knew that reality when he wrote Psalm 23. Evidence? These words: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (verse 4).

Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. Let’s focus on eight formulaic truths in its masterful verse 4 that may provide RAMPWAYS to a fresh way of connecting and cooperating with God’s providence.

Any problem—despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death—we can successfully survive.

Any problem—despondency, discouragement, darkness, even death—we can successfully navigate. These principles and affirmations provide RAMPWAYS to the better future God has for us.

REALITY: “Even though I . . .” The world has been horribly blighted by sin and evil. Unfortunately, this evil resides in us as well. Sin is with us at birth, and often, because of our lusts, it is inside us by invitation. We all have our valleys (see 2 Tim. 3:12). We will experience sin’s impact!

ABILITY: “. . . walk . . .” We all can keep walking, persevering physically or spiritually (see Phil. 4:13). We are not admonished to skip, run, or jog; no heroics, just walk. When darkness falls and we can barely walk, we will. We will keep walking!

MIND-SET: “. . . through . . .” By God’s grace and His staying power, we will survive our trials, whatever they are. “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). We will endure this!

PROBLEM: “. . . the darkest valley . . .” Again, there will be valleys, shadows, and death in this vale of tears. No one is exempt. Our character and stamina are shown by how we handle our valleys (see 2 Tim. 2:3). We accept this valley!

WEATHERED: “. . . I will fear no evil, . . .”Since God is with us, we can choose not to fear. Why? Because we’re His children, and “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). In fact, we already know, as we enter the valley, that though there will be pain and suffering, “God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We will be encouraged!

ASSURANCE: “. . . for you are with me . . .” This is our anchor. God is with us always, everywhere (see Matt. 28:20). Through water and fire He is by our side (see Isa. 43:2). Lord, we embrace Your partnership!

YIELDEDNESS: “. . . your rod and your staff, . . .” We need much character work. God’s discipline may often be difficult, but it is for our good (see Heb. 12:6). Lord, we accept your providence!

SPIRIT: “. . . they comfort me.” God’s rod and staff are controlled by the Holy Spirit. He is our friend and comforter (John 14:26). What to some may be bruising, we accept as a blessing. We accept what God allows!

By God’s grace we will emerge from this valley.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

"Were not our hearts burning within us?” are the seven memorable words of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:32). The narrative begins with their hearts aching with grief and gloom. It ends with their hearts burning with gladness and glory. A complete change in a few hours. What happened?

We have to be conscious of whatever causes us to have burning hearts. We have to note what causes us to churn with intense feelings and emotions. Pay attention to whatever causes us to react, be it a person, place, thought, event, or circumstance. Don’t let it slip by, because it is a valuable learning moment. Trace the where, what, and why of that burning sensation.

A constant danger to our spiritual progress is to be unaware of our emotions and what triggers them.

A constant danger to our spiritual progress is to be unaware of our emotions and what triggers them. This is further complicated by being ignorant of our unawareness—being unaware of our unawareness. The antidote? Be self-aware, pay attention, manage our emotions. But it takes humility and hard work.

Consider, in four steps, how the Emmaus-bound disciples teach us this practical truth.

1. Emotions Examination (Luke 24:13-18). First, the disciples were morose and melancholic. This was the time for them, and for us, to do an emotion check. Why are we so emotional (Ps. 42:5; 43:5)? Discover the origins and motivations by asking yourself questions about these emergent emotions.

2. Alacrity Acceleration (Luke 24:18-24). The disciples’ emotions were creating havoc, taking them to dangerous destinations. They forgot the previous words of Jesus because of their overpowering emotions. When emotions intensify, use emotional alacrity and bring them under control. We need to quickly ask ourselves three questions: (a) Where do these emotions come from (fear, anger, defense, lust, etc.)? (b) What attitudes and actions are they causing right now (faith, nobility, fight, flight, etc.)? (c) If we give in to these emotions, where will they lead (a better place, a worse place, a place where God would want me, etc.)?

3. Spiritual Submission (verses 25-29). A transformation of the disciples’ emotional state took place between verses 25 and 29, when Christ, through the Holy Spirit, reasoned with them through Scriptures. That caused them to do an emotion check. They calmed down, collected themselves, and tamed their emotions. By the time they reached Emmaus they were in control. Instead of hopelessness they exhibited hope, hospitality, and a hunger for more truth.

4. Valuation of Engagement (verses 30-34). With emotions under control, the disciples were able to evaluate and replace their irrationality with reason. A new emotional burning took over; they cast off their blindness, and with joy they recognized Christ right in their midst. In that state of spiritual rationality they redirected their burning hearts from doom to delight and were able to rightly evaluate their situation in God’s presence.

Next time our hearts burn, let’s be intelligent about our emotions. Let’s recognize, understand, and manage them. Let’s resolve to do it for God’s glory, for our own good, and for the good of all with whom we interact.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

Longfellow wrote: “The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” Therefore, we can say that multitudinous things are all around us that are just not visible.

Life may be broadly divided into that which is visible and that which is invisible. We have reality, that which we can see, feel, and touch. Then there is what I will call “invisiality,” things not seen but nonetheless real. The apostle Paul wrote about this reality: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Invisiality is the ability to remain conscious of and cooperate with the vast invisible world in which God operates. In this realm God governs the universe, guides His church, and prepares His people for their entrance into eternity. So one of our great objectives is to be aware of this unseen world.

God governs the universe, guides His church, and prepares His people.

I serve in Africa, where the night sky is stunning with its clear, crisp, starry displays. Being fascinated with astronomy, I seek to identify the various constellations. Recently, after installing the Sky Guide app, the heavens instantaneously came alive with shadowy shapes that identified hundreds of constellations. From seeing stars only, with access to the app I was bedazzled with hundreds of luminaries. My reality figuratively changed to invisiality.

In the Bible Elisha and his servant were surrounded with a menacing Syrian army that offered apparently no way of escape. Operating in earth reality the terrified servant confronted Elisha with the question: “What shall we do?”

Elisha, operating in heavenly invisiality, confidently responded, “Don’t be afraid.” Elisha prayed that his servant might see the unseen, reality to invisiality. Immediately his servant saw protecting angels, now visible, and was at peace (2 Kings 6:15-17).

How can we live in the invisiality of heaven? Ellen White wrote: “With eternal realities in view we will habitually cultivate thoughts of the presence of God. This will be a shield against the incoming of the enemy; it will give strength and assurance, and lift the soul above fear. Breathing in the atmosphere of heaven, we will not be breathing the malaria of the world.”*

The challenge is to MATCH ourselves with God’s invisible divine agencies. Check yourself on the following:

M — Mind-set Required: Fully commit to God each day (1 Cor. 15:31).

A — Activation Enabled: Seek God, resist Satan, use spiritual armor (Jer. 29:13; Eph. 6:10-18).

T — Tools Utilized: Practice effectual prayer, godly wisdom, loving deeds, and pure life (James 3:17, 18; Isa. 11:2).

C — Craving Satisfied: Obtain secret of righteous, divine intimacy, life purpose (Ps. 25:14; 91:1).

H — Hedges Protected: Consciously enter protective circle of providence; be hearers and doers of the Word (Job 1:8, 10; Ps. 34:7).

The more we cooperate with heaven, the deeper will be our love and commitment to Christ and the Word of God.

As outlined in Psalm 91, this connection with God’s invisiality brings with it a partnership with the Holy Spirit, and the love, care, and protection of heaven. This dynamic interrelationship results in victorious living. Invisiality will blossom into face-to-face communion with heavenly inhabitants in the new earth.

* Ellen G. White, Our High Calling (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1961), p. 285.

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa near Nairobi, Kenya.

Each morning a mother would relax in the living room reading her Bible. After observing this habit for several years, her 7-year-old daughter finally asked, “Are you ever going to finish reading that book?”

The uninitiated may ask the same question of all Bible students: “Will you ever stop studying the Bible?”

The answer: “No, I’ll never stop reading the Word, just as I will never stop eating and drinking.” Bible study is essential to successful living.

Unlike any book ever written, the Bible is limitless in its truth, depthless in its revelations, and endless in sharing its life principles. David shared a deep insight when he said, “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Ps. 119:130).

The Bible illumines and enhances every aspect of our existence. Its study expands our mental faculties, imparts supernatural energy, facilitates life wisdom, increases moral discernment, heightens love for righteousness, and gives us power against sin.

The more we read the Bible, the more our understanding and grasp of temporal and eternal truths and life skills are increased.*

Following are 25 study tips to help you achieve new levels in the study of God’s Word. They are organized as an acronym of the phrase: REAL STUDY SPEAKS and WIDENS LIFE.

REAL (study approach)

A systematic approach to Bible study is crucial to providing a foundation for a lasting love of God’s Word.

R—Read (Hear)

STUDY (characteristics)

Essential characteristics of Bible study are valued and nurtured as they are highlighted and habituated.

S—Supplication (prayer)

SPEAKS (pillars)

Principles that empower and undergird personal study.

S—Spiritual guidance

WIDENS (benefits)

Bible study is not an end, but a means to knowing and trusting Jesus as we navigate life.

N—Network with divinity

LIFE (outcomes)

Bible study has a continuous, transforming, sanctifying impact on one’s life and legacy.

E—Eternal life

Perhaps you’ll find some or all of these concepts useful in enriching your experience in studying the Bible. Accept the challenge to study God’s Word daily.

* See Ellen G. White, Mind, Character, and Personality (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1977), vol. 1, chap. 11, “Bible Study and the Mind.”

Delbert W. Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.

The resurgence of demonic activity has taken a new turn. A woman in England recently claimed to have a relationship with a ghost. She says she has gone on a hike with him; now she loves him and wants to marry him. Preposterous? Perhaps. Nevertheless, Bristol resident Amethyst Realm says it’s real and she wants to go through with the marriage.1

The absurdity of this incident is undeniable. But the pervasiveness of cavorting with demonic influences isn’t. Demonic activity started in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-5); emerged in the post-Flood period (Gen. 10; 11); and had a consistent presence throughout the Old Testament (Lev. 19:31; Isa. 8:19). Devilish activity assumed a new intensity during the time of Christ (Mark 5:1-20) and the early church (Acts 5:1-11; 19:11-20).

Demonic activity continues today. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).

The apostle Paul encountered demonic power on his second missionary journey when he was confronted with a demon-possessed woman (Acts 16:16-18). She was doubly enslaved, to her human master and to a demon master. The original language conveys that she had a python spirit (verse 16), a spirit of divination. It had its origin in Greek mythology: a python serpent guarded the Delphic oracle. The python, and the snake in general, symbolize the varied techniques and activities of evil spirits. This woman persistently followed Paul and his team claiming to support their gospel message, while simultaneously bringing attention to herself. Two helpful truths emerge.

First, whenever God’s work progresses it will be countered by satanic resistance. Though demonic activity may take various forms, it is evident in every habitable corner of the world.

Second, this evil spirit continues today but takes different forms, as when the devil uses people, especially professed believers, to impersonate those who apparently believe and support the gospel and its truth but are actually agents of unrighteousness through their allegiances, practices, or influences. They can be aware of their hypocrisy, or they may be deceived and unconscious that they are being used as mediums for darkness.

Today’s python agents, in or out of the church, often assume a benign and supportive posture. Ellen White wrote: “Satan has many in his employ, but is most successful when he can use professed Christians for his satanic work. And the greater their influence, the more elevated their position, the more knowledge they profess of God and His service, the more successfully can he use them.”

But the divine solution for lurking pythons is not complicated. Three suggestions:

  1. We need light and power to resist this demonic foe, and the Bible gives that power (Ps. 119). So study the Bible consistently.
  2. Submit to Jesus in everything and claim the power of God. God is greater than Satan (1 John 4:4).
  3. Put on the spiritual armor (Eph. 6), all of it, every day. Through prayer (alone and with others), combined with your will, stand until Jesus comes, or until you die standing.

  1. HuffPost,
  2. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 5, p. 137.

Delbert W Baker is vice chancellor of Adventist University of Africa, near Nairobi, Kenya.