By April Motl, Crosswalk.com
Scripturally, a stronghold is exactly what it sounds like: anything that has a strong hold on you or someone else. It is often also used as a military term, like an outpost in a foreign territory.
When the enemy of our souls sets up camp against us, he often uses something that is very human-nature to twist into an addiction or other form of hold on us. But the good news is that when he does this, he doesn’t have a home court advantage. He has no rightful place in our midst and our Lord has already made clear at the end of all our stories, the victory belongs to Him alone!
These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful. – Revelation 17:14
Because anything can become a stronghold in our lives, we are wise to be watchful in the areas Scripture warns us about in particular.
Here are five areas of potential stronghold to diligently watch for, and suggested prayers for deliverance.
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1. The Stronghold of Anger
Anger is a natural human emotion. It can spring up when we see an injustice to us or someone else. But it can also spring from anything ranging from embarrassment, exhausted patience, or unprocessed past hurts. While God has given us the capacity to feel anger, we were never meant to be given over to it.
Scripture warns us:
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. – Ephesians 4:26-27
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20
Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself.
– Proverbs 22:23-24
Anger might be easy and natural, but it can quickly become a stronghold in our lives. It allows Satan a foothold (a military term for an enemy outpost). It never achieves the righteousness God desires for us. And when we hang out with angry people, Scripture warns that it will end up becoming a snare (or trap) for us.
When I was working hard to root out the triggers for anger in my life, I realized I wasn’t following God’s instructions, because I had people in my life I knew were really angry. They were professing Christians who clung to their anger. After years of finding myself in snares like Scripture warned, I realized this area of my life needed realignment.
Check your heart and also the relationships you tend. Make sure to the best of your ability your life is freed up from the traps of anger.
Lord, You are slow to anger and abounding in love. In the places in my heart where anger resides, grace me to become aware of them, to repent of the ways I have clung to anger, and grow Your love and patience there instead.
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2. The Stronghold of Comparison
Comparing is so natural and easy, just like anger. But Scripture strongly warns against allowing this attitude to have a place in our hearts:
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. – James 3:14-16
Every. Evil. Thing. That right there freaks me out. When we walk through life with eyes that compare, we get jealous of others or we get ambitious. And haven’t we all been taught that ambition is a good quality? Working diligently or giving your best effort is godly (and different from ambition), but when we work not just to honor God, but with our hearts wrapped around a certain goal—that is when we become ambitious.
God wants His children to work hard in life, but to depend totally on Him for the results.
I grew up so saturated in phrases like “Fail to plan, plan to fail!” and all manner of ambitious goal-setting rhetoric. It has taken me a long time to fully agree with God on this point. But over and over I have seen ambition and jealousy rob people’s lives. It makes us crazy! It breaks us! It hurts our loved ones. It bankrupts ministries.
It is so stealthy and natural to us, we have to pray constantly for the Lord’s grace to even be aware of it in our hearts.
Lord, show me the earthly, natural, and demonic stronghold of comparing in my heart. Cleanse my perspective from anything that leads to jealousy or ambition. Grow me to look to you for all I need and to truly celebrate the blessings of others without the slightest twinge of impurity toward them. Change my heart so that I crave you, Lord, above all.
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3. The Stronghold of Unforgiveness and Bitterness
…You should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. – 2 Corinthians 2:7-11
The back story on this passage has to do with some difficult church discipline. But after the individual repented and changed, Paul urged everyone to quickly affirm their love toward him and forgive him. Their forgiveness was crucial to the spiritual protection of their hearts as individuals and as a group, because Satan looks for unforgiveness as a weak point where he can take advantage.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean the other person changes (although in this passage, the person had indeed changed). It is a vertical transaction that changes your heart and takes place between you and God. Reconciliation is often what we wish for, and that may or may not take place, but forgiveness can always take place.
Ask the Lord to highlight the places in your heart that need forgiveness. Colossians 3:13 tells us to forgive one another just as Christ has forgiven us. If you need a fresh dose of forgiveness, ask the Lord to remind you how He has forgiven you and to help you forgive others.
Lord, help me see the unhealed places in my soul that need forgiveness. Enlighten my perspective so I can see my unforgiveness the same way You do and to desire to give forgiveness with the same passion You do. Help me forgive others just like You have forgiven me!
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4. The Stronghold of Anxiety
…Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. – 1 Peter 5:7-9
Stress and anxiety are cited by doctors as leading causes of health issues. For some of us, we can’t remember a time we weren’t stressed or anxious.
It might not be obvious at first glance that anxiety has anything to do with the enemy getting some kind of advantage in our lives. But Peter warns us not to be anxious (and to give our anxieties to God) because the enemy is on the lookout.
Carrying anxiety is like wearing a giant target on our backs.
Our worries weaken us and predators look for the weaklings in a group to pick off first. That is exactly what we do to ourselves when we carry our concerns. We weaken ourselves.
God never meant for us to carry around our worries the way we do! Just like all the other strongholds we’ve covered, anxiety is so natural and normal for us. We have to be in constant prayer to combat this knee-jerk response to life.
Lord, give me eyes to see the ways I am carrying my worries. Lead me into the trust and peace you have for me. Teach me how to cast my anxiety on You. Protect my heart from the enemy’s entanglement where I have carried my anxieties.
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5. The Stronghold of Pride
Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:6-8
Ezekiel 28 gives us a prophetic glimpse into what happened between God and Satan. In verse 17 we are told that pride led to his downfall. From the James passage, we see one of the best ways to align our life to receive help from God is to assume a position of humility.
We also see in other Scripture passages that Satan feeds on pride. Humility starves him out and connects us to the unfolding of more grace in our lives.
As we wrestle with our natural predispositions toward certain types of strongholds, humility will always be a protection for us. There’s not a single moment we don’t need grace. And there’s not a single moment more pride would help us out.
Lord, cause me to see pride and arrogance the same way You do. Help me see it in myself and to repent of it. Give me the grace to grow in humility. Help me resist the devil by clinging to humility. Teach me to be humble, just like You were when you walked this earth.
We often think of strongholds as substance addictions or destructive behaviors. And those things are most definitely strongholds. But usually, before the outward behavior, there was a pattern of thought or a perspective that allowed that stronghold to grow into those actions.
Especially for those of us who have been part of the church for a long time, we can get complacent on the inward matters. But this is actually where the battle is happening. It’s the space Jesus came, suffered and died for. And it’s the same space the enemy of our souls tries to get his strongholds.
But that place inside you was designed already for the purpose of victory.
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. – 2 Corinthians 2:14
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, being a wife, and serving at church, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here.
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