Several years ago, I was dealing with a particular sin in my life that I just couldn’t get rid of. It was a mindset, a thought process, that always led me down the wrong path, and I knew it was wrong. The Holy Spirit convicted me often enough, and I would purpose in my heart to stop allowing those thoughts, but they were comfortable and familiar to me.
Foothold to Stronghold
I always say, don’t give the devil a foothold in your life, because if he can get a foothold, he will take a stronghold. And strongholds aren’t easily broken. But they can be.
At some point in my past, I had allowed the devil to get a toe in the door. I should have slammed it shut, but I didn’t. Once he got his foot in, he set up a stronghold, and this one had about a five-year hold on me.
How do we give the devil a foothold? One good example of this is in Ephesians:
“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (4:25-29, NIV 84).
Did you notice in this passage how the devil gets a foothold? When we don’t close the door on sin. That word foothold literally means “place, position, possibility, opportunity.” If we don’t want to give the devil a place of opportunity in our lives, we have to deal with sin immediately.
Put off falsehood and speak the truth; deal with your anger before the day ends; stop stealing and do something useful with your hands; stop unwholesome speech and start building others up.
Stop thinking those thoughts and think something else that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). But I didn’t. And that foothold became a stronghold.
So what is a stronghold?
Both the Hebrew and Greek word for stronghold can mean a man-made pit or a prison. Oftentimes, we blame the devil for pits we jumped into ourselves. Other times, we are set up by the enemy, much as Joseph was when his brothers threw him into the pit.
When the enemy has a stronghold in our lives, it’s like being chained in a prison. It could be a bad habit, an addiction, or negative thought patterns that keep us from walking in victory. We may repent and ask God for help, but the next day or week, we are sliding right back into that pit.
The Hebrew word for stronghold can also mean “strength, power, might, strong-willed, stubborn, greatly emboldened.” Do you see how the enemy gains strength and becomes emboldened when we give in to sin? But get this: Paul addressed this issue of strongholds and gave us the secret for breaking their power.
“For though we live in this world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
God has given us weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds–a power more powerful! Yes! We have the power to demolish arguments (“reasoning”) and every pretension (“claim, assertion, allegation, effort to establish a claim, pretending they are more important than they really are“). Did you get that?
Do you ever say you are not going back down that same path of sin, but then when you are faced with the decision, you begin to reason with yourself that it’s not so bad, or just this one last time? That is a demonic reasoning that is trying to establish the right to tell you what to do. But we have to see the enemy for who he is–a pretender.
I asked a friend of mine who struggled with debilitating fear for many years how she was finally able to break that stronghold in her life. She said through desperate prayer, fasting, and worship. She also said that asking others who understood the principle of spiritual warfare to pray with and for her made a huge difference.
I thought today about how that breakthrough came for me. I was praying, fasting, worshiping, confessing the Word, and seeking to obey. I would get free for a little while, but then those thought patterns would creep right back into my mind. But I never asked anyone else to pray with me because I was ashamed of my struggle.
Desperate and Determined
I finally became desperate and determined when I was publishing my first book. I so wanted that Bible study to be anointed and to change lives. I didn’t want sin in my life to keep God from being able to use me. Because Jesus had done so much for me, I wanted to love and serve Him back with integrity. So I began to think of myself as a Christian leader who needed to walk the walk.
I became emboldened in my effort to seek Him and trust Him to make me holy. I stopped the reasoning with myself that sin was okay and instead told myself that I had ministry to do, and I didn’t have time to play around with sin. I was desperate for God to use me and determined to be what He wanted.
And God set me free! I was delivered from a sin that had gripped my mind for all those years. There have been a couple of times since then that those ugly thoughts tried to get a toehold again, but I slammed that door shut, taking captive those thoughts and making them obedient to Christ.
You know what else the word stronghold means? It means “refuge, fortress, place of protection, head, strength.”
“Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me” (Psalm 144:1-2).
I had to realize that God loved me and wanted to use me. He didn’t want me to be in a stronghold, He wanted to be my stronghold.
If you are struggling with a stronghold you can’t seem to break, continue to pray, worship, confess God’s Word, and fast for a period of time as God leads you.
Then I would seek out a close, trusted friend with whom you can share your struggle and ask for prayer.
And last, I know it sounds cliche, but you have to want to be free more than you want to be bound. Habits, addictions, worries, and fears can be a source of comfort because of their familiarity, even while they are causing us pain. You have to be so desperate and determined, that you are willing to take captive wrong thoughts and think of yourself as God sees you–a blood-bought, Spirit-filled, child of the Living God!
You can break free from any hold that sin has on your life. Just get desperate and determined to live free. And let the love of God get a strong hold on your heart.