Recently I heard a man preach on living a victorious Christian life. I thought, "Oh good, because I've been feeling a little bewildered and defeated lately. I need this." I turned in my Bible to Second Corinthians 10, as directed, and asked the Lord to reveal any area in my life where I was not experiencing victory over sin.
An hour later I sat there stunned, Scripture-slapped across the face with the fact that there sat enshrined in my soul an unassailable fortress. Several of them, really, but one biggie. A stronghold of the first order. Not a cute little tower and moat with a little drawbridge, but a big, dark, some-really-nasty-Disney-villian-must-live-there kind of dwelling.
Verses 3 and 4 of II Corinthians often get sped up and read real fast, because they contain some archaic words. But there's really, really good stuff in there. I've paraphrased it here in parentheses. "For though we walk in the flesh (live a human life), we do not war after the flesh (fight using human methods): For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (human), but mighty through God (supernatural) to the pulling down of strongholds."
In other words, that besetting sin I'm dealing with? The one that springs to mind whenever I have an unguarded moment, the one that curls around the edges of my heart and sinks its ugly vulture talons in a little deeper every day, yeah, that one--it can be only defeated by supernatural means.
Here I've been "dealing with" this particular sin by impatiently saying to myself, "I have GOT to stop this."
"I really need to quit doing that."
"I wish this would just go away."
"WHY can't I get this out of my head?"
Hello, Lyssa? Earth to Blondie... you can't storm that castle on your own. You aren't ever going to defeat this giant through willpower and wishes. Every time you throw a rock at its gates, it just grows a new tower or reinforces the ramparts.
The Bible makes it clear we need spiritual support and it is ours for the asking. Weapons, MIGHTY ones, are right to hand. What are we waiting for? Let's burn this puppy down! Death to strongholds!
Wait... what's that about verse five? "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
Oh man. That's harder. Can't I just grab a sword, do away with the bad guy, and ride off into the sunset?
Nope. Strongholds aren't a one-and-done proposition. Casting down imaginations--do you think that's a one-time deal? Squashing the tendency to exalt our own thoughts against the knowlege of God is a constant battle. Bringing into captivity (submission) every thought to obedience--talk about the Hundred Years' War....
I'm not going to tell you what my stronghold is. It's probably the most painfully private thing I've ever struggled with, and you'd think less of me if you knew it. Besides, it's not going to be the same as your stronghold. Our "besetting sins," mentioned in Hebrews 12:1, our own individual "miry clay" from Psalms 42-- are all very unique to their owners. There may be similarities, but sin has endless variations on a theme. If I told you my stronghold, you could relax and think to yourself, Thank goodness that isn't MY problem," and go on your merry way.
You knew it was coming... I'm going to ask.
What's YOUR stronghold?
Chances are you've thought of it in the last two minutes. God brought that to mind; don't quench the Spirit by denying it. Where are you defeated and discouraged? In what area does sin have such a stranglehold on you that you've given up working on it, in despair of ever gaining ground?
So, I've been trying a new thing since that message. Every time I think about this particular sin, which I have since discovered I do a LOT, way more than I realized I do, I stop and say "stronghold." It's kind of like a code word for myself to stop in my tracks and examine what I just thought.
Was that truth? (No.)
Did that thought come from God? (Definitely not.)
What does the Bible say about my stronghold? (lots, actually; it seems to be a favorite topic.)
What weapons are at my disposal for defeating this stronghold? (ones that are mighty through God, not me.)
What can I do to redirect my thoughts into submission to God's Word? (pray, read Scripture, turn on God-honoring music, go talk to my accountability partner, remove myself from the proximity of the temptation, etc.)
Sometimes I say it out loud. I even yelled it at myself once. "Stronghold!" I don't do it out loud when other people are around, though. Strangers would look at me funny, and I'd have to pretend I yelled "Slugbug!" or something like that, which would just be embarassing.
Friend, our strongholds are a shameful secret that Satan would dearly love to use our whole lives long to keep us stuck in a cycle of defeat and discouragement. Defeated Christians don't do anything exciting for God. Discouraged warriors fight like little girls and easily tire and fall by the wayside. He sits and laughs at us as we chuck rocks at that castle, or, when we're really fired up, loose a puny arrow towards a tower.
He knows we don't have a prayer--literally--of storming that stronghold and claiming the victory, as long as we're fighting in our own might. He knows it... do you?
Maybe the codeword thing will be of assistance to you, too. It's helped me to correctly identify when I've slipped into that false thought pattern; to compare it to the truth of God's Word; and to consciously redirect my tendency to grab an earthly weapon to fight a supernatural battle.
"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord." II Chronicles 20:17