I aimed towards the beer and soda bottles stacked against the backdrop of the dirt slop. The sun shined through the green, brown, and clear glass I’d collected in the ditch banks along our rural road. My brother, Brandon, received a .22 rifle for Christmas, so he’d lost interest in his BB gun. By accident, I discovered a pathway to make some pocket change with his BB gun.
I shot each bottle in the heart before running to collect my tiny pieces of art. I spit-shined the bobble before holding them up to the sun, admiring the way the light reflected off the facets. The next morning, I sold my “glass gems” to my classmates. They handed over a dime or a quarter each, depending on how much lunch money they had left over. I came home with my zip-up purse clutched in my palm.
I thought about that gun, and how it had created something beautiful from discarded trash.
God is in the business of making something beautiful from trash as well.
In the temple, Jesus unrolled the scrolls and read Isaiah 61 and declared, prophesy that day was fulfilled.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Isaiah 61: 1-3 (ESV)
What is a Spiritual Stronghold?
The enemy uses so many things in our life to keep us stuck and to imprison us: addictions—those bad habits we self-medicate with to keep us from truly feeling that loss or anxiety; unforgiveness—that ex that broke the marital vows you held sacred; sadness—that child that died before he or she was supposed to, leaving you left with only memories; fears—that dream God’s put on your heart, but you obsess over failing before you’ve begun; guilt and shame—it’s my fault my husband left me, my son became addicted, my infidelity destroyed my family; self-love—duck lips, click another selfie; pride—it’s because of my hard work ethic I have this house, car, great job, etc.
I could continue. So many things trap us in this life.
But One person can set us free…
Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem to do just that…set us free.
Who Overcomes a Stronghold?
It’s hard to wrap our human minds around what occurred when Jesus sprawled Himself on the cross willingly to be nailed to it, die on it, and overcome it by His miraculous resurrection. We often only see this as a means to our eternal salvation, and yes, that is the ultimate reason for His sacrifice, but He didn’t die a criminal’s death just to pave a path to heaven. Jesus’s death and resurrection contains the power to free us from our bindings in this life. We are invited to enter His kingdom right here on earth.
His Grace is Sufficient
Recently, on the drive to pick up my daughter, Bella, from school, I berated myself for not getting it all done or even part of it done. In fact, while my husband and eldest son hunted in Spain, I seemed to be running in circles. I forgot to dress Bella in her “spirit wear” that morning, and imagined her crestfallen face entering her classroom full of tacky tourists while she stood there in her uniform. I recalled every room of my house seemed as if a storm blew through; clean laundry spilled over the baskets, my website sat vacant of readers and material, and I had no idea what to cook for dinner. Everything I saw as my responsibility seemed to be falling apart that day.
My daughter’s alive, I shrugged—so check! There’s an accomplishment.
At that moment, mentally I saw Jesus on the cross. I felt struck by how dirty I am, and unworthy and asked aloud why would you do that for me? Me? I have more deficits than positives. My mind is a hot mess filled with possibilities that rarely make it onto paper. I’m like that dog you walk that won’t do his business because… “Trash Truck! Squirrel! Mosquito!” Someone else may be better equipped for this Kingdom work.
And then, His “still small voice” reminded me. The power is in His grace. His grace is sufficient for even a hot mess like me. The truth is, I wasn’t created to shine on my own, but to reflect His glory. He carves those facets in me, so that others can see His something out of my grimy, flat, surface.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” II Corinthians 12:9a (ESV)
Could it be He sees the sparkling gems in the dirty, discarded souls? He desires to shoot His love into our hearts to free us from the filth, so His light radiates from us. He presents us before His father as redeemed gems, where He transforms us into something truly valuable and tucks us into the palm of His hand where no one shall pluck us out.
See how the BB gun story all fits? That was God.
How Does an Action Become a Stronghold?
Dr. Charles Stanley, founder and President of In Touch Ministries, describes the birth of a stronghold in this way:
- Begins with a thought
- The thought becomes a consideration
- Which leads that person to action
- An action repeated becomes a habit
- A habit establishes a power base for the enemy.
Are we giving Satan the upper hand? The only tools capable of taking down strongholds are spiritual weapons backed by the power of God.
The same power that resurrected Christ from death to life, tears down those strongholds. Christ overcame death, therefore through Him, we become overcomers. When we are truly born again, we become heirs of this power as the Holy Spirit indwells us. Are we accessing our birthright? Or keeping it dormant because we’ve allowed the enemy to make us comfortable within our cells?
The Deceptive Arguments that Keep Strongholds in Place
In Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Discipline, Elliot points out that becoming comfortable in our strongholds relies on one or more of the following deceptive arguments:
- Pragmatism: It’s right if it works for me.
- Technical Feasibility: Science has found a way to do it so let’s do it.
- Relevance: I can relate to this.
- Comfort: This gives me comfort so it must be okay.
- Happiness: This makes me happy, and God wants me to be happy.
- Moderation: I don’t want to be extreme in my thinking.
- Obligation: I owe this to myself.
- Responsibility: It’s my life.
(Recognize any of these arguments today? The same arguments today are used to justify abortion, adultery, addictions, and other self-indulgences.)
The Tools We Use to Overcome a Stronghold
The good news is, we have access to freedom due to Christ’s victory over the grave, but what does this look like, practically, for someone who’s prison is addiction?
Utilizing our Superpowers to Freedom:
- We must make Jesus Christ Lord of our life and accept His gift of grace by believing in the power of the risen Savior.
- Confess our sins to God.
- Understand we are then empowered by the Holy Spirit.
- Stop treating faith as a feeling but know true belief requires practical obedience.
- Abide in Him. (For more on Abiding, you can access our 12 session podcast study Abiding in the Vine.)
- Read and meditate on the Word of God daily.
- Remain in Prayer.
- Utilize Fasting.
- Employ accountability partners who are believers.
If we live in bondage to something, it is because we’ve agreed with the enemy that our bondage is more important than God. We’ve elevated it above Yahweh—the idol we’ve forged with our heart.
“He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:20 (ESV)
What is the lie we hold on to? We must allow God to pry it from our hearts, by first recognizing it’s a lie. The longer we allow ourselves to remain in bondage, the longer we grant the enemy access to all areas of our lives—including members of our households.
It’s time we break free, and step into the abundant life God’s promised. A life filled with peace, joy, and purpose. We must stop finding comfort in a tiny cell when a vast green pasture awaits.
Meditate on these Truths
“In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear and from terror for it shall not come near you.” Isaiah 54:14 (ESV)
“For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15 (ESV)
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
If you or someone you know struggles with addiction, I recommend Jason Umidi’s book, Jesus and Seltzer. Jason shared his struggle with addiction previously as a contributing writer to The Hallelujah House. He has now gone on to become an author and develop his own platform. His book is available for purchase on Amazon. Soon, we will be discussing his book on a our podcast. Hope you’ll tune in to his incredible story of hope and healing.
A Bible study I highly recommend on this topic is Breaking Free by Beth Moore.
Photo Credit: istockphoto/franz12
Book Credit: Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot
Sermon Notes by Dr. Charles Stanley.
Tammy Carter Adams is the founder of The Hallelujah House and co-host of The Hallelujah House podcast. Tammy resides with her husband Jay and four children in Orlando, Florida. When she’s not creating content for THH, she enjoys painting and spending time with her family at their farmhouse in the sticks of Georgia. You can contact Tammy directly by finding her bio on the “About Us” tab on the Homepage.