For example, 19 years ago in our Presbyterian church, we elders held a religious position. But when a congregation member came and asked for healing prayer and deliverance, none of us knew how to apply James 5 (which tells us how to pray for healing). We couldn’t wield the spiritual authority that Jesus had already delegated.
After holding a meeting wherein half of the elders voted against praying for her because of the legal implications, the other half of us decided to go to her house. We may not have known what we were doing, but we believed Scripture and were at least going to try to wield the authority Jesus had delegated to us.
It took us a while to experiment with it (we prayed at her house about 12 hours in all), but we finally cast out the demons that were bothering her and causing her to talk like Linda Blair. Whereas she was constantly sick and the family was bedeviled by poltergeists, years later they are still healthy.
It’s a good illustration of how we grow in our spiritual authority
. We don’t grow in it when we’re named elders in the church. That just makes us candidates to be the most visible hypocrites in the church to those looking at us from the outside.
We advance in our ability to exercise spiritual authority by
experimenting – by practicing the sorts of activities that seem far beyond our native capacity, but which Jesus nevertheless assigned to us: preach the gospel, cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead just for starters.
These experiments may take the form
of journeys like the one that Jesus sent his disciples on in Luke 10. In fact, I’ve seen that going on spiritual journeys can be a great way to accelerate the growing
process. This is why short-term missions are so important as a part of discipleship – they afford us a venue for trying out new things in the spiritual realm.
understood that we have to practice taking authority. If you’ve not
wielded authority before, it may not feel natural. You may feel awkward –
all of us need practice. When Jesus sent his disciples two by two, he gave them authority. But he knew that in order to gain confidence in wielding it, they needed small-scale journeys to
experiment. And we need to do the same today.