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What is a Stronghold?
is Christian-talk for a typically bad lifestyle that is hard to change. It is hard to change because there are a number of habitual thought processes, life states, and modes of operation that one is accustomed to, and which reinforce each other. As a result, real change is difficult to adhere. To change all of these things takes a lot of discipline, will power, and in some cases, fasting
. While it is true that such changes are indeed challenging to enact, they are not impossible. The Holy Spirit makes this change possible, and faith in God is a necessary part of getting free. In Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus tells us,
21 “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
If we believe Jesus to be speaking truthfully, then we cannot admit the possibility of our powerlessness in the hands of “fate”. So then why do Jesus’ words seem so ethereal, as if it were all a fairy tale?
Examples of Strongholds
Some examples of strongholds include the following…
Most people work really hard, just to make a buck. Payday comes, then the bills are paid, and we’re wondering where the money went. Then we’re looking forward to the next weekend, or the next payday. We aren’t living extravagantly, in our own opinion, but after working our whole lives, we’ve only saved enough money for a modest retirement.
In contrast, you may have read articles about people who win the lottery, and then they lose all the money within the next few years. You probably said to yourself, “That idiot! How could they lose millions of dollars in just a few years like that?” I thought the same thing the first few times I heard about it.
Then I heard about a TV show on the subject, and read articles about the topic. It turns out that it happens a lot more than you’d think. I’ve even heard estimates that said that MOST people who win the lottery lose all the money within the first five years after winning.
In fact, ANY type of financial change turns out to be extremely stressful on anyone – rich or poor! So why is that?
2. Life Purpose
Another example might include people who develop crime-ridden lifestyles as a youth and wind up in jail for a good part of their lives. They never seem to change. Once they get out of jail, they go right back to stealing cars, doing drugs, and their other violent behaviors. They know it’s wrong. They know they’ll eventually go to jail if they continue. So why do they continue? Why are they throwing their lives away?
Then again, we all know of someone who just seems to get all the lucky breaks, all the time. Every day is a picnic for them, because their life is so smooth and happy. They couldn’t screw something up, even if they tried. You may have thought to yourself, “I wish I had it as good as him!” Or perhaps more critically, “What’s he got, that I don’t?”
Anytime you meet a very famous or popular person, something touches your heart and you get this feeling inside that this person is special and exciting, or maybe they make a strong impression of merely being “real”. You get this notion that you’ve got to see more of them. They actually have some control over you! But it’s not because they’re popular. No, they are popular because they can naturally make people feel the same magic that you felt. Maybe they don’t even know it. But they do know how to deal with all the people whom they attract.
On the other hand, there are other people who are continually greeted by, “Oh, sh*t… Here comes George!” (or whoever) Every person in the general population takes small pains to avoid these people, and no one really knows why, except that there is something very peculiar about them. They might go to back-breaking efforts to improve their social interactions, but all their efforts are always interpreted as childish, insipid or comical. If we were to make a checklist of personal qualities, they might seem to have what it takes, but for some reason, they just can’t make it work. Compared to the average person, they are more polite and sincere, they work harder, they’re more loving and loyal, but invariably, they are continually rejected, and someone else is chosen over them.
So what is going on here? Let’s take a deeper look at what is involved with change.
There are three parts of a stronghold that all need to be dealt with, before a lasting change can be achieved. These three parts, I’ll call out here.
- The Mind – having basic knowledge, proper (or poor) education, the lessons of experience, coherent thought processes, resourcefulness and the imagination.
- The Heart – Our self-image, faith, our notions of what is true, good or right, the objects of our hope, our desires, our love for life, and the things that make us joyful or passionate.
- The Flesh – Our natural “bent”, our gender and all its’ characteristics, the personality, temperament, and habits.
There is a fourth element, which is an operant of these three.
- The Will – what we choose to do, say, or feel, as much as is within our control.
The will is very influential towards our experience of any particular matter. For example, if there is something that we want to happen in life, but we cannot seem to make it happen, then we are likely to feel very frustrated and unhappy. We might even feel out of control, or as if things happen against our will, which confuses the ego. Over time, this experience becomes detrimental to our self-esteem and produces feelings of resentment.
On the other hand, if things go the way we wish, we are likely to feel joy and elation, and with repetition, self-confidence and proficiency can be developed.
A lot of psychologists and spiritual counselors frequently talk about the need to “accept one’s self” or “embrace change” or “face difficulties”. They are merely saying, in personal language, that we should change our will to match the reality of life – not because it is “right” to focus on the grit, but instead, by doing so, we bring our attention to the place where we touch other people, the outside existence, and thereby, eternity and God.
Most religions address this transcendentally, by focusing on the goal of becoming “one” with God and nature, or “the indwelling of the Holy Spirit”, etc. But in the real-time execution, it doesn’t appear to have any glory at all. We are faced with day-to-day mundane tasks, such as long hours of reading and tedious study, the trouble of making mistakes, learning from those mistakes and trying again and again (The Mind); experiencing the trials of love, faithfulness, failure and death, finding that we are imperfect and incomplete, and struggling to rectify our wants with the needs of others around us (The Heart); learning skills in using our body, our personality, talents and inclinations, as tools to produce a profitable outcome in our life, as opposed to a wasteful or destructive existence (The Flesh). The will is where we engage all these things.
In overcoming strongholds, I believe that a LOT of it has to do with changing one’s SELF-IMAGE, because this can address all four of these points. But it’s incredibly difficult for people to change the way they think of themselves. It would be easier for them to donate organs than it would be to accept themselves.
Take the example of the people who won the lottery.
In their minds, they don’t know what to DO with all that money. They never learned how to manage finances. They don’t know anything about how to use money, about the value of a dollar, or the cost of opportunity, and they are certainly not able to seek out or even recognize a good investment when it appears.
In their hearts, they still see rich people as being strange and extravagant or even cold and greedy, even though they are rich themselves. So, they don’t have any friends who could teach them something about money, even if they should happen to be teachable! Furthermore, they cannot see themselves as someone who has achieved anything, nor as someone who is a trusted steward, administering a supply to others.
In the flesh, these people typically have unconstrained habits of chasing after many whims and petty desires, which have little real value but lots of enjoyable dissipation. They have no source of discipline, nor have they developed a character that can make them stable and effective as a rich person.
In totality, they have the self-image of being a poor person, and that image is stronger and more powerful than the REALITY that they’re living – the reality of winning the lottery and having the money. The picture in their minds is so powerful that they subconsciously MAKE IT REAL. They continue in their old ways, living a consumptive lifestyle, only on a larger scale, made possible by their enlarged fortunes. On a more basic level, they don’t know how to act with so much money, and this leads them to make all kinds of mistakes and fiscal blunders, and they ruin any further chance of success for themselves.
In fact, THAT is faith in action – but it’s faith in the wrong concepts. Even if they have a conscious will to be responsible with their new found riches, the inadequacies in those other three areas, the mind, heart and flesh, will eventually prove to be their downfall. So in the final, they lose all they have gained. Their real poverty is not in being fiscally poor, but in never realizing the higher quality of life that they could have had. So we could say, in literatively powerful terms, that such a person is in bondage to a stronghold of poverty.
Similar examples could be had for our life purpose and our relationships, as well as many other applications to our lives.
OK… so now what?
Perhaps now you’ve got some ideas in your head about your own situation, and you’re thinking maybe this is the time to try something new and different. But you’re wondering how much you should expect from yourself, from others, or from God.
Give your self and your faith a chance to grow! Rome wasn’t built in a day!
We’ll see gradual changes, day by day. But sooner, rather than later, we should see the kinds of things happening in our lives that we have been waiting and hoping for, deep in our hearts.
Now you’re asking, “What can I do? I’m so insignificant.”
Maybe… or maybe not!
I suggest, for the time being, that you do the best with whatever is in your hands at the present time. We all play a small part in the grand scheme of things. Those “mountains” might require some time to move!
But from reading the Bible, we see that, within three years, the disciples had developed the ability to work many of the same miracles that Jesus himself did.
If we consider the passage from Matthew 17:14-21
, we see that several of the disciples were frustrated in the will because they could not cure a boy’s epilepsy. They obviously had the knowledge and training, because they had done this before. Jesus pointed out the problem in their “lack of belief”, which is an insufficiency, or an insincerity of their faith in God – essentially a failure of the heart.
He did not say that their mind or flesh was weak. However, He added that prayer and fasting
is necessary to gain a mastery over this certain point.
So we find there is a fifth element to consider in overcoming a stronghold.
- The Spirit – This includes: (1) God the Father, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, and His army of believers. (2) Satan and his minions, the principalities and powers of this world.
These are two spiritual entities at war against each other. How do we fit into this battle?
In some queues of life, we need something outside ourselves to ascend into the “heavenly realms”. We need the Power of God to become someone who is in control of our lives, independent of circumstances, instead of one who is “controlled”. People have realized this for millennia, and have approached it in a multitude of ways. It’s why we need the Gospel.
22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Jesus basically gives us a blank check! Do we believe it and use it? Or are we saving it for a theoretical “rainy day”. If so, then what qualifies as a rainy day? Shouldn’t we be practicing instead?
Perhaps there are those who might even rationalize this promise as being a mere admonishment to pray. Or worse yet, we could label it as being “not realistic” or even “heresy”, and say to ourselves, very self-righteously, that we should not “stretch the scriptures”.
If so, then what is the value of these scriptures? Would you rather wait until you meet God face-to-face, before you give it a try, so that you can confirm it as being true before you invest any effort on it?
Generally speaking, most people never deviate very far from the life they were “born into”. Most people have this idea of “fate”, or the attitude of “this is just my lot in life”, which is rather hopeless and souless. People who are a little more spiritually colorful may say, “It must be God’s will for my life!” or “I should bloom where I’m planted.” But the idea, and the effect, is the same.
They really don’t believe it possible to realize any true, lasting changes, either for the better or the worse. New Year’s resolutions are pointless. There are even some people who sincerely believe in a “miraculous Savior”, but they can’t even stop smoking or wasting time on the internet.
The real pity is that no one questions it! We consider it a small miracle if we can get out of bed on time, and we praise the grace of God for it!
It’s nice, and even necessary, to have a thankful attitude, but the bottom line is, you’re a buffoon if you can’t devise and enact even a simple plan of action and carry it through to a successful completion. So then, should the thankfulness of a sloppy, bungling buffoon be worthy of admiration?
Is God really pleased with that kind of “faith”?
I suspect that such people are intoxicated with sins of complacency. Or perhaps they are comfortable enough to believe they are “waiting on God”.
If this is you, I urge you to WAKE UP, stop clowning around, and take some actions to improve your life. This is your life – the one and only! For your own sake, make it count!
Time is ticking… people are searching for life… and you’re still sitting there with a pleasant smile and starry eyes…