Many times throughout the Bible, especially the New Testament, we read about strongholds. What is a stronghold? I’ve heard several sermons lately around this issue and I have to say that this word is so important to our understanding of spiritual warfare. So I thought we would take some time to discuss what a stronghold is.
Merriam Webster describes a stronghold as “a fortified place, a place of security or survival.” This applies in the Bible just as much as in the present day world.
In the ESV version of the Bible, the word “stronghold” is used 66 times. All but one are in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the verses are referencing forts or fortresses, buildings that are almost impenetrable that provide safety and security from warring enemies.
So every one of the people cut down his bundle and following Abimelech put it against the stronghold, and they set the stronghold on fire over them, so that all the people of the Tower of Shechem also died, about 1,000 men and women.Judges 9:49
Even when describing the Lord, they are describing him as a fortress, where one can seek refuge because he is safe and will protect.
For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,Isaiah 25:4
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.Psalm 37:39
However, in the New Testament, strongholds are being referred to in regard to spiritual warfare.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Note that in this verse, Paul is referencing warfare. Paul was not engaged in physical warfare, but spiritual warfare, and God has bestowed on believers divine power. Why would God give us divine power? In order to be victorious in spiritual warfare. Spiritual battles, spiritual weapons. (you can read more about these spiritual weapons in Ephesians 6)
Satan creates strongholds in people’s minds. Remember, a stronghold is a place to seek safety. By creating a fortress in your mind, Satan and his minions have a safe place to operate from. He can do this in believers and unbelievers alike. In a believer’s mind, Satan’s objective with the stronghold is to cause confusion spiritually. If he can’t keep you from heaven, he will do his best to keep you from glorifying God. If you are focused on whatever the stronghold is, then you won’t be very effective for God’s kingdom.
I recently listened to a sermon (Overcoming Emotional Strongholds) by Dr. Tony Evans. His definition, paraphrased, was a comparison to addictions. An addiction is a worldly term for things that you cannot overcome because you lack the ability due to physical reasons. These things control you. You are beholden to the thing you are addicted to and everything else in your life revolves around the addiction.
Strongholds also have control over you, however they manifest differently and are caused by supernatural things. Strongholds are internal, and not physical the way addictions are. These strongholds are things like pride, anxiety, fear, and other overwhelming emotions. We aren’t talking about momentary fear or a depression caused by health circumstances. These emotions are being used as an attack against God himself through a person.
A stronghold has some spiritual being wrapped up in the situation that is controlling you through something in your mind. That being has made a stronghold (fortress) in your mind. However, you can’t get rid of a stronghold by treating the symptom (usually your emotions), but by treating the source (the spiritual being). That requires spiritual warfare.
This is a little difficult to wrap our heads around, and believe me, I’ve been pondering over this for a while. Let’s take an example of a Christian with a stronghold to better illustrate.
Wanda is a Christian. She, along with her family, are attending the Sunday night services regularly. They are all leaders in the church and are respected in their community. The pastor is focusing the Sunday night services on Revelation. Many people have trouble understanding it and want to learn the different views.
The pastor has repeatedly iterated that no one can know when Jesus is coming back, so anyone who claims to know this is mistaken. Jesus himself said in the Bible that he doesn’t know, only the Father. The pastor has also repeatedly stated that there are many theories and one could be right or none could be right. We just don’t know. The point of revelation is to give hope. It is not to fight about the details when there is no way for us to know for certain.
However, when the pastor started teaching the different views of the rapture time (people think Christians will be taken from earth either before, during or after the tribulation period), Wanda couldn’t contain herself. She raised her hand and started arguing. After all, it only makes sense that Christians are raptured before the Tribulation. All other theories are incorrect and unBiblical.
The pastor tries to remind Wanda that there are many valid theories about Revelation and no one can know for certain. God could do something completely different than anyone has even thought of. He also reminds her that this is not a salvation issue. People can have differing opinions and still be Christian. A person who believes differently than her view is not being blasphemous and does not need correction of any kind.
Wanda is not satisfied. She continues to argue with the pastor about how he needs to just present the “right” way of thinking. He shouldn’t give examples of other people’s “wrong” thinking because he will lead people astray from the “true” meaning of Revelation.
Keep in mind that all of this is during the service and in a public gathering. The pastor had been allowing questions as this was a teaching event. Wanda took full advantage of this. She didn’t care about the appearance. She was trying to prove the pastor wrong and make him preach/teach her ideas. The pastor eventually had to ask Wanda to wait until he was finished and to talk with him privately. Wanda ended up leaving angry and continues to think that anyone who doesn’t believe the rapture will happen before the tribulation is not a true Christian.
This is a good example of a stronghold. It is a stronghold of pride. Satan has Wanda so wrapped up in being right all the time, that she can’t see straight. She can’t allow others to think differently. It is effecting her relationship with others and causing her to be judgmental. Her sin of pride is now causing her to sin in other places. If this stronghold builds unchecked, she will eventually be unable to hear from the Holy Spirit.
Want a Biblical example of a stronghold? Read the book of Jonah. He was controlled so much by the strongholds of anger, fear, and pride in his mind that he actually ran from God. Even when he obeyed God, he did so begrudgingly and with hatred in his heart. You’d think that someone who got thrown overboard in a furious storm, sat in the belly of a big fish (in all the stomach acids -with other food items being broken down -and in all the stink) for three days, and then was thrown up onto the land… you’d think he would have had his pride broken. No. He still argued with God, and tried to be “right” when he was arguing with God. Now that is a stronghold!!
Strongholds are fortresses. When dealing with spiritual warfare, they are fortresses in the mind that are controlled by the enemy. He has taken up residence in the mind and is blinding the person from the truth. However, God has given us divine powers to conquer strongholds, both those in our own mind and in the mind of others. But that is another post for another day!FOLLOW ME