Friday, October 26, 2018

Strongholds- "Do you want to be healed?"

“Do You Want To Be Healed?”

This seems like a strange thing to say to someone who has been an invalid for 38 years lying beside a pool which waters could heal him. But in John 5:6 we can read such a story by the side of the pool of Bethesda. I have been meditating on this question and the concept of strongholds. Strongholds are issues, problems, burdens or illnesses in our lives that seem to hang around like parasites. They just don’t seem to go away.  Now these may be problems that are not going to leave or be healed. For example in 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul asked Jesus three times for the “thorn in his side” to be removed. The Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.”  There are times when God wants us to live with a problem. This is hard to understand. Is it because He can’t- no. Is it because He won’t- perhaps. In Paul’s case it was to cause him not to become conceited or prideful with all the benefit and spiritual visions that God had given him. God may be teaching a lesson to us or causing us to repent of something and turnaround.

What about you? Do you have an issue that just keeps troubling you? Why don’t you do something about it? Perhaps because it is a stronghold or difficult problem that you really have not faced or don’t really want gone. It might be a crutch for you. For example, perhaps you get home from a difficult and stressful day at work or with the kids and you pour yourself a glass or two or three of wine to relax. It is now a habit and maybe a stronghold if it is causing problems. Is your response to the stress the best alternative solution or help? Do you notice your so-called solution having aberrant side effects on you or others? Then perhaps it is a stronghold that needs to be broken down. Are you getting angry now? Maybe anger is a side effect, or your actual point of struggle.  Once recognized or unveiled, the challenge is to disarm, confront or heal it.

There are many places or counselors to see for help. However, the Bible has directed us to the source. In 2 Corinthians 10 Paul talks of spiritual warfare and battles of the mind. We have them because Satan is alive and well and wants us disabled and ineffective in the world. He wants us to be stuck in our anger or grief or depression.
“For though we live in the 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.  And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:3).  

He is telling us that we are in a battle and that it is the Lord’s.  He will help us overcome the struggle or stronghold and make it obedient to divine power through the Holy Spirit if we know Him. I like the word demolish as it implies complete. We don’t just want to cover over it or weaken it. I am reminded of the time I was bitten by a deer tick and had classic symptoms. My physician prescribed an empirical dose of antibiotics that simple sent the virus subliminal. It came back and I became very ill and disabled, to the point of despair, but God healed me through His fervently prayed word.

We want to confront and demolish the offender, the fortress. This may take a lot of help from friends and counselors. It may seem insurmountable. It will not fall by worldly weapons alone, but with spiritual ones. In this “me generation” people believe they have rights to have certain things or habits even if they may be destructive to them and others. Who are we to judge them? We are not to judge, unless a Christian has fallen into sin, then Scripture says, “Brothers (or sisters), if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). 

Our family has struggled with a stronghold for generations, alcohol. I have previously written about my own mother’s alcoholism and the denial from my father that continued until her behavior was disastrous. “Wine is a mocker, and beer is a brawler” (Proverbs 20:1).  Photographs of my grandfather’s drinking clubs and several beautiful drinking mugs decorated our home. I was taught to make my parents evening cocktails when I was only eight years old. This routine of bartender weakened my own strength to not drink.  I knew there might be a problem when I won the beer chugging contest on my college campus. This was not something to be proud of or put in my resume. Our fraternity was kicked off campus after my graduation because of its drunken behavior.

Our sons are grown and married, both into families with drinking problems. They recognize now the dangers that exist. “The Lord...visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7, Deuteronomy 5:8-10).  These problems that are passed on are not unfixable curses. These issues can be confronted head on. Not doing so can make it worse and/or delay healing or release.  Habits are not easy to break, except by a new better habit. I have quoted Scripture that tells us that our weapons are spiritual. We use “weapons of righteousness” to confront our strongholds. We are to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to God.” We are to pursue righteousness or holiness. Paul told the Philippians when faced with anxieties or problems that it is the peace of God that overcomes. He tells us to think on and put into practice that which is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.”  God has given us the fruit of the Spirit, which includes self-control or discipline.  He has admonished us to put on the full armor of God to fight the wiles of the devil.

Our Declaration of Independence tells us of the “pursuit of happiness.” I believe that God wants us to pursue holiness to overcome the world. “For sin shall not be your master, for you are not under the law but grace” (Romans 6:14). Whatever our problems, the Bible has solutions for them. Walking in obedience to God’s word and will is our calling always. God will give us the strength to walk in His way. He will direct our steps in His way if we trust Him wholeheartedly. This walk is daily and for many of us a battle.  Paul told Timothy to be strong, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:6).  Keep walking.

I have overcome strongholds with God’s help and continue to need Him daily as the serenity prayer says- daily. It requires continuous prayer and God is faithful. The following is a list of practices that will help in overcoming the stronghold:
·      Confess and Repent - your stronghold as sin (Acts 3:19)- “Repent and turn to God.”
·      Seek Light- There is plenty of darkness in the world that will drag you down (1John 1:5)-“God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, Hi Son, purifies us of all sin.”
·      Helpless- As all 12 step programs realize that you are helpless to overcome (Matthew 9:36) “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
·      Prayer- (1 Thessalonians 4:18)-“Pray continuously for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”
·      Praise and Thanksgiving-  (1 Thessalonians 4:16)-“Rejoice always, give thanks in all things”
·      Hope- Keep hoping for something better (Hebrews 6:19)-“We have this hope as an anchor.”
·      Realize Patterns or Triggers- What causes you to fall or be weakened? (Proverbs 16:18)- “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
·      Seek Peace- God’s peace and presence is power (Philippians 4:8,9; John 14:27)-“Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and petition bring your requests to God, with thanksgiving and the peace of God that transcends your understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” And “Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, think about and put into practice and the God of peace will be will you.” And Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, not as the world I give unto you, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
·      Read Scriptures- There are 7,500 promises in the Bible for all things (Isaiah 55:11)-“For so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
·      Proclaim/Preach- There is power in the Word of God! (2Timothy 4:2) “Preach the Word, be prepared in and out of season…”
·      Put ON- intentionally clothe yourself with and (Ephesians 6:11-18)- put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes. All parts of the armor are essential, the buckle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of the Gospel of peace, the helmet of salvation, The shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and keep praying.
·      Clothe Yourself- Scripture tells us continually to clothe ourselves in: Jesus Christ, His splendor, strength and dignity, humility, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness. (Colossians 3:12-14, 1Peter 5:5, Psalm 45:3, Isaiah 52:1).
·      Accountability Partner/Mentor- We cannot be alone in our stronghold or Satan will win. We must find a friend, a mentor and accountability partner to keep us honest and to pray for us (Proverbs 27:6,17)- “Wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses…as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.”
·      Perseverance- We need to hang in there steadfastly (Hebrews 12:1)- “Run with perseverance the race set before us.”
·      Seek Solitude and Silence- Jesus Himself sought solitude to be alone with God (Mark 1:35)-“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where He prayed.”
·      Fear Not- Fear cancels faith. Scripture says some 365 times to fear not- (Psalms 23:4)-“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for you are with me.”
·      Journal-Write it down so that you may meditate on it (Proverbs 7:3)-“Write them on the tablet of your heart.”
·      God Control-Self control vs. God control; we are not in control of our lives (Romans 8:6)-But the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”
·      Be holy- Scripture says often, “Be holy for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:44). This is the process of sanctification through the Holy Spirit. We are purified by Christ’s death, but we must purify ourselves as well by seeking righteousness. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on it produces a harvest of righteousness, and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

This list is meant to be a set of disciplines to help us overcome strongholds. All disciplines require perseverance and steadfastness to continue in the faith. I have written them down for others and myself. Perhaps you have some of your own that you can share on this blog in response to help other fellow strugglers. Let us pray for one another.

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