Tearing Down Strongholds
By Sammy Tippit
Personality traits are neutral. If they come under the control of God’s Spirit, they become incredibly wonderful character qualities. A strong will – under the influence of the "flesh" – is stubbornness. However, when that same will comes under the control of the Holy Spirit, it becomes resoluteness. Yet, outside of God’s control, they keep us from becoming the kind of people God created us. We often hear, "He is just like his father," or "She is exactly like her mother." That could be good, or it could indicate a deep need in the life of the person. Over time, some of those negative characteristics can become spiritual strongholds.
The Bible speaks of such strongholds in a Christian’s life when Paul wrote to the church in Corinth saying, "...we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
When Paul wrote that passage, he used imagery that was familiar to his background. The Romans often needed to attack Cilician forts built by pirates. The word used for fortresses was the same word used for the forts constructed by the pirates when they were stealing and plundering from people (Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament). A spiritual stronghold is a pattern of thought, emotion, or action that enables the great thief "Satan" to rob, steal, and plunder our lives. It keeps us from an intimate knowledge of God and prevents us from doing His will. When we see such a pattern in our lives or the lives of our families, we must realize we are in a spiritual battle. We must learn then to pray accordingly.
Types of Strongholds
We often allow strongholds built in three areas of our lives. When we dwell on wrong thoughts for an extended time, mental strongholds build up. When we consistently practice wrong behavior, then bad habits grow into spiritual strongholds. When we harbor unhealthy feelings, they form emotional strongholds. Whether we allow unhealthy emotions, bad habits, or bad thoughts to become strongholds, the result is the same. They rob us from an intimate relationship with God.
As we rear our children, we often see strongholds in their lives. In fact, it is normally much easier to spot the fortress that the spiritual "pirates" have built in their hearts than it is to recognize the strongholds in our lives. God gives us a responsibility to pray for our children when we become aware of strongholds in them. However, we have an even greater responsibility to identify and tear down the strongholds in our lives. We must learn to discern when a stronghold is under construction in our hearts and minds. It often takes years for one to be built. Therefore, the stronghold gradually becomes a normal part of our everyday lives and, thus, very difficult to recognize.
Development of Strongholds
If we plan to identify strongholds in our lives, then we need to know how and where they originate. Strongholds normally begin in one of three ways. First, they are inherited as flaws are passed down from parents, grandparents and preceding generations. Second, we allow the construction of strongholds when we conform to the thought patterns of the world rather than allowing our minds to be "conformed into the image of Christ." Third, we allow the building of strongholds by the choices we make.
We often see inherited strongholds in early childhood. That is the season of life when we are most capable of discerning this kind of spiritual fortress in our children’s and grandchildren’s lives. We must learn to pray for them and guide them to overcome those patterns established in opposition to the knowledge of God. If we never deal with the construction of those fortresses, then we will one day reap the full harvest of fortresses that the spiritual pirates have built.
We were all born with the nature of Adam. Therefore, each of us inherited a natural bent toward things that are wrong. The longer we allow them to remain a part of our personalities, the larger the stronghold becomes in our lives. Adam passed his nature of disobedience to his son Cain. The fruit of that fortress resulted in Cain killing his brother Abel. As humanity spread throughout the world, the fruit of Adam’s sin spread just as rapidly. We can easily see that fruit in our lives and the lives of our children. That is the reason we must pray for them to come to Christ. He is the Strong One with the ability to tear down the strongholds established in our hearts.
In addition to inherited strongholds in our children, there is a second place where we allow strongholds – the world. We live in a world system whose philosophy stands contrary to the Word of God. The Bible tells us, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Rom. 12:2).
We are most susceptible to this kind of fortress being built in our lives during the teen years. During childhood, family is the most important entity of our lives. However, friends begin to replace the importance of family during the teen years. That is an extremely difficult time for young people. One of the reasons it is so difficult is that it is a transition season. Young people begin to discover what they really believe during those years. Peers often pressure them to conform to standards that are contrary to biblical principles.
When our children went away to the university, we watched them try to discover their faith. We had taught them biblical truth as they were growing up. However, they went through a time of being enticed by the "world’s" way of thinking. It was a delicate season of life for them. My wife and I watched them attempt to find their way during this critical season of life. We knew prayer was not an option; it was an absolute necessity. They strayed, but I am convinced God used our prayers to bring them back to safe shores.
Every period of history produces a new system of thought that conflicts with God’s principles of life. The natural inclination of youth is to taste the "new fruit" that their parents know have the same "old root" of thought – the one that is contrary to biblical thinking. That is why Paul told the church at Corinth to take "...every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). Thus, we must first make sure we have not clung to any thought process or philosophy that differs from God’s Word. Then we must pray for our children and grandchildren that God would give wisdom and insight to discern right from wrong and truth from lies.
There is a final manner in which we allow Satan to build strongholds in our lives – by our choices. Inherited strongholds are most easily seen and built during childhood, while the strongholds of the "age" are normally built during youth. However, Satan builds strongholds in our lives most often by the decisions we make. Most fortresses are built over a long period. They are constructed day by day, week by week, and year by year. We make daily choices that determine what kind of people we become.
Every time we make a wrong moral choice, it is as though we are permitting a pirate to put one more stone on the fortress. These strongholds are normally built during the adult years. No one has to live with the pirates. We all have choices to make. We can choose to obey the Word of God and bring captive every thought to the obedience of God’s Word, or we can choose to allow the fortress to continue to build in our hearts.
Weapons to Demolish Strongholds
We all have important life decisions to make. Those decisions determine our effectiveness in pulling down the strongholds of which the Bible speaks. God has given us the ability to destroy any fortress that the most powerful pirate has built in our lives. He gives us weapons that "have divine power to demolish strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4). The first weapon is perhaps the greatest weapon you will ever utilize – prayer. Prayer is the great work to which every Christian has been called. Oswald Chambers once wrote, "Prayer does not equip us for greater works. It is the greater work."
The Bible clearly states God’s eternal purpose for our lives: "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son..." (Rom. 8:29). The longing of God’s heart is that we become like Jesus. When the passion of our lives lines up with the passion of His heart, then we will stand back and watch God do extraordinary things. He turns negatives into positives, wrongs into rights, and fortresses occupied by pirates into temples filled with His Spirit.
That leads us to the second weapon of our warfare – the Holy Spirit. Prayer gives us access to God’s throne where He holds all power and authority. The Holy Spirit is the part of the Trinitarian nature of God who dwells within each believer. He transports the power of heaven to our hearts to conform us into the image of Christ. The Apostle John wrote, "You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Many years ago, a great preacher proclaimed the Gospel and a young girl gave her heart to Christ. After the worship service ended, the preacher asked the young girl, "What are you going to do when the devil knocks at the door of your heart?" The young girl paused and thought before responding, "I guess that I’ll just send Jesus to the door."
She understood a great biblical truth. Our victory does not rest in our power but in the power of the One who lives within us. He is our Strength. He is our Fortress. He is the Rock of our Salvation. He is the One who enables us to overcome.
Prayer gives us access to the throne of God and enables us to appropriate the power and authority of Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and empowers us to tear down strongholds. Prayer releases the Holy Spirit to make us like Christ.
Bring Every Thought Captive
Paul, the great apostle, wrote, "...do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Rom. 12:2). We have access to everything we need to tear down every stronghold. However, we still have a choice to make. We must bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
When we choose to place our lives at God’s disposal through prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit, He renews our minds and revives our hearts. We become more like Christ. As we see victory in our lives, faith will blow across our hearts like a gentle breeze on a blistering, hot day, renewing our hearts and lives. The revived heart then will pray for those around them. Husbands and wives, children and parents, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles will feel the impact of strongholds being torn down and fortresses being destroyed. We will begin to know that God is able to dismantle the fortresses in our lives, and that gives us faith to trust Him to do the same in the hearts of those we love so dearly. When we turn to God in prayer, we discover His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9) and the walls of the fortresses come tumbling down.
– Edited and used by permission from Praying for Your Family: An Eternal Legacy by Sammy Tippit. Copyright ©2006.