In the Bible, when Israel entered Canaan land, the first city they won a victory over was Jericho. The second one they went against was Ai but were defeated because of sin in the camp. Once Joshua and the people had repented of it and had cleansed themselves, God enabled them to overcome Ai.
God gave them a battle plan to overcome it by setting an ambush. Joshua killed all its inhabitants and its king, taking only the plunder and livestock for themselves, then set fire to the city, leaving it in ruins, just as God instructed them to. You can read an account of this incident in chapter 7 and 8 of the book of Joshua.
Ai was not just another town to overcome, but a place of defeat and shame for Israel because they disobeyed God. It was, therefore, imperative for Joshua and Israel to drastically deal with it, destroying it completely to strike fear in the hearts of all the inhabitants of Canaan who were watching these events. We read in chapter 9 that this did strike so much fear in the hearts of the kings around that they ganged up together to fight against Israel and in the battle that followed, were soundly defeated.
Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus warns them to put on the whole armour of God since our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of darkness in heavenly places. Our enemies today are not physical, but those that war against the soul and hold us captive by influencing our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle in ch 10 tells the church that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (not physical), but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
Strongholds are imaginations and high thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God, resulting in unbelief and birthing rebellion against His rulership and authority in our lives.
The way Joshua dealt with the stronghold of Ai gives us clues and pointers as to how to deal with strongholds today.
Strongholds come when we allow wrong patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour to crystallize in our lives. Strongholds begin when we allow Satan, self and sin to gain a toehold in us. From being a toehold it progresses to a foothold, a threshold, an anchor-hold (rooted in you), becomes a household (part of you), then a stranglehold (doesn’t let go) and finally a stronghold (holds you captive).
Strongholds develop over some time and can be acquired by genetic transfer, genealogical download, from our wrong thought processes, from rebellious orientations and stubborn natures. If we have to truly be set free and enjoy the fullness of the abundant life Jesus promised, we must deal with strongholds and destroy them.
How do you destroy strongholds and overcome deep-seated bondages? You destroy them by a truth encounter and a Spirit encounter.
Truth encounter is when you are confronted by the Word of God and you allow it to work in your heart and life. In John 8 we read of Jesus declaring that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free and in John 17:17 that His word is truth. Heb 4:12 tells us that the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it can judge the desires and thoughts of the heart. Since strongholds are found in the inner being of thoughts and intents, only the Word of God can penetrate deep enough to destroy them.
However, truth encounter can set us free from strongholds, if and only if we are humble enough to accept and acknowledge the diagnosis of sin and wrongdoing that the Word brings to us, irrespective of who brings it and no matter how it comes. When our hearts are tender and pliable, we will hear and accept the truth even from a child or a donkey (Balaam) or by hearing a cock crow (Peter)!
Acceptance of the truth about ourselves will lead us to humble ourselves and repent. Once we repent, we are in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, making us whole. Strongholds need the truth of the Word of God to be demolished and destroyed!
Spirit encounter happens when the power of God is present to heal and deliver us from all bondages. That is why we need the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the infilling of the Spirit, nor just once, but constantly in our lives. The Bible says that where the Spirit of God is there is liberty because the veil over the mind is then removed by His presence and there are openness and sensitivity to His word (II Cor 3). Hence, being filled with and being full of the Spirit and power is a mandatory need for being set free from strongholds.
If the Spirit of God is to deliver and set us free, we need to allow Him to heal our inner wounds and hurts. People may have wronged us, done evil against us or even robbed us of our opportunities and prosperity. We need to forgive each and everyone unconditionally, just as Christ has forgiven us, irrespective of what they may have done. Harbouring bitterness, malice and unforgiveness are key factors in developing strongholds in our lives.
To live a life free of strongholds, we need to:
Walk in the light as He is the light, being sensitive and responsive to His word
Renew our minds and calibrate it to the principles and precepts in the Word of God
Avoid nurturing hard feelings and wrong emotions, but allowing inner healing to happen
Forgive, let go of hurts and all kinds of negativity
Work in the habit of reconciliation, restitution and restoration, always taking care to be led by and yielded to the Holy Spirit
Grow in the knowledge of the Lord and the power of His might to deliver as well as protect us from all else
Be strong and convinced about God’s love, certain that He is always for you, never against you!
It is very important for us to be aware, identify and confront strongholds, taking care to see that they are utterly dismantled. Just as Joshua completely ruined Ai, even so, we must root out every last bit of stronghold and ensure we have removed any vestige or remnant of it. The reason for this is that if there is a root left behind, it will be easy for the stronghold to rise again to rule the roost. A vulnerability and weakness remains embedded and hidden in, giving a handle for the enemy to use it to enslave.
Every disciple and believer of Christ can themselves identify and destroy strongholds when they are yielded to the Spirit of God and sensitive to the Word of God. When you are encountering or being confronted or convicted by both, just bow down and accept humbly. Allow the Word of God to wash you and the Spirit of God to empower you with His healing anointing.
Both encounters can come to you through various circumstances and people. If you reject the message because of the messenger, you are the one who will lose out. Happy is the one who is open and sensitive to take correction and admonition even from a child, for God can use even the least to bring deliverance!
If you find certain strongholds too much for you to handle, request the help of godly strong mentors and leaders who are older and wiser than you. Don’t hesitate to open up to them, but live and walk in accountability to them, always. Do not seek help from peers, but seek out the help of mature and understanding elder men and women who themselves are walking in Spirit and in truth.
Be part of a small group and grow in relationship with the people of God. There is much protection from the forces of darkness and deliverance from inward bondages when you are actively part of a community of faith.
Do not give place nor a foothold to the devil, Eph 4:27
Strongholds are dangerous to cultivate, foster and maintain for they give room for the devil to have a place in our lives. Root them out asap, even though letting go is hard. It will be harder when you allow a stronghold take root in you, for then you are building an arsenal for the enemy to use against you!
Imitate Christ Who boldly but surely declared that the prince of this world had no hold over Him (John 14:30)!
*Pics courtesy Google Images