In the OT, besides being a physical defensive structure essential for protection and survival, God is figuratively described as a stronghold – for example “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer…my stronghold…In time of trouble” (2 Sam 22:3; Ps 9:9, 18:2, 27:1, 37:39, 144:2). Do I instinctively trust and take refuge in Him during times of trouble as well as in good times? On our own, we can’t stand against the tactics of Satan, yet with Christ we are more than conquerors.
Strongholds of the mind: controlling thoughts
The NT refers to strongholds in the context of spiritual warfare. Satan has established a stronghold in humanity by implanting negative words and experiences that develop wrong beliefs, thought patterns and consequently, behaviour which is resistant to the plans and working of God. These negative attitudes and wrong beliefs develop from dramatic events and experiences that we accept into our minds (even from early childhood when we don’t know how to adequately process the information) whereby we think and believe what is contrary to the truth and to God’s Word, and they can then hold us in their grip. As a stronghold is an incorrect thinking pattern, once a wrong concept is received unless it is challenged and rejected it will consolidate and increase its power, as its message is replayed in our mind. Through his deception and lies, Satan holds people in bondage by the shame of past failures and sins, destructive addictions and injurious words through blinding their minds to the liberating power of the gospel (2 Cor 4:4). Instead, we should be listening and agreeing with the truth of God’s Word, which brings freedom and says our sins have been cleansed by the blood of Christ (Jn 8:32,36; 1 Jn 1:7).
“Don’t give the Devil a foothold” any longer, use the truth to dispel his deception and lies (Eph 4:27).
Jesus died to gain the victory for us – enforce it
determination, time, reliance on divine help, and, maybe, deliverance from demonic powers, each and every one of these negative, anti-human strongholds and ‘strong men’ can be broken.
When a person is being freed from an evil spirit, the stronghold in the mind must be torn down too for the person to experience a complete breakthrough. It is vital that, regardless of whatever negative thoughts have filled our minds and controlled us, they must be replaced with God-honouring ones (Mt 12:44; Phil 4:8). Our minds must be disciplined and reprogrammed with His thoughts (Isa 55:8; 2 Tim 1:7). Satan attacks us at our weakest and most vulnerable point. During times of pressure and stress, besides strained interpersonal relationships, he uses deception and lies, often targeting our self-esteem. He tries to trap us by deceit and temptation, holding us in bondage through ignorance of our rights and position in Christ. In the garden, Satan used words to sow doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve. Appealing to their human intellect, he suggested that they weren’t all they could be, reasoned with them, and tempted them visually so they finally gave in, with disastrous consequences (Gen 3:1-6).
Satan and his demonic helpers are opposed to all that relates to God, and these unseen evil powers reside over families, communities, cities and nations, controlling a lot of what by human understanding is unexplainable. “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
On our own we are no match for the unseen evil spiritual beings. Jesus said, “No one can enter a strongman’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strongman. Then he can rob his house” so don’t jump into the ‘lion’s den’ without dealing with the occupier who rules so many lives and communities (Mk 3:27). Get the order right – bind the ‘dangerous one’ then take down his defences.
“Though we live in the world, we do not conduct war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” and live free in Christ (2 Cor 10:3-5; Gal 5:1).
As we are in a spiritual battle we must employ weapons effective in that dimension; overcoming is not using a formula but continually utilizing the resources available. These include walking in a ‘clean’ intimate relationship with Jesus through His blood, our confession of faith and praise for Him, and using the spiritual armour (Eph 6:13-18; Rev 12:11). We are authorized to use His name, declaring to the Satanic realm that we are enforcing the will of God and taking back what the enemy has stolen (Mk 16:15-18). The Bible also says, “sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it”... “resist the devil and he will depart” (Gen 4:7; Jas 4:7).
The power of speech
The tongue is very powerful and can even control life and death (Prov 18:21). Jesus was able to command Satan “away from me”, and he told Peter that whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Mt 16:19). Our speech must be in agreement with the teaching of Scripture, and this in turn will have a huge influence on our lifestyle, so immerse yourself in the Word (Ps 119:9,11; Prov 4:4, 7:1-3).
Pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done”, speaking out the Word of God. Don’t just give lip service to the promises and words of the Scriptures but use it strategically and effectively, as Jesus did, to combat Satan (tie up the strong man) during His time on earth (Mt 4:4,7,10). Yes, pray, and ask in Jesus’ name but also take authority over the opposition. Then “the fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much” (Jas 5:16).
To effectively deal with any problem, we must deal with the root, the underlying cause. Not all strongholds in people are because of demonic (evil spirit) possession but rather they are subject to such oppression and influence from these agents of Satan.
Sort out the source
Areas of bondage and continual defeat that you can’t get victory over are the result of a strong man that is resisting your best efforts to overcome these ‘weaknesses of personality’ as the world calls them.
What ‘strong man’ is keeping me in bondage? Will I exercise the authority vested in me by Jesus to render this limiting power impotent? As Christians, we should be under the control of the real owner of our souls, the one who died on Calvary to buy us back. Am I buying in to the world’s values and philosophies, continuing in wrong attitudes and behaviour, with the result of reinforcing the power of the evil within the stronghold?
See also: addictions, armour (spiritual), authority, binding and loosing, bondage, control, declare, deliverance, evil spirits, habits, Jesus/name of, mindset, over-comer, speech, spiritual warfare, struggle, subconscious, temptation, thinking/thoughts, truth, victory.