Getting Free from the Grip of a Spiritual Stronghold-

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness- Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

One definition of a stronghold is: fortress. A fortress is defined as a place of safety, shelter and protection. A spiritual stronghold is a place of safety (a fortress) in our lives where sin has shelter to grow and flourish. If left unchecked a spiritual stronghold will eventually control much of our lives, destroy our spiritual effectiveness and steal the joy of our salvation (Psalm 51:1-12).  Just about any sin can become a spiritual stronghold. Some of the more common strongholds are unforgiveness, lust, jealously, dishonesty, pride, greed, covetousness, insecurity, control and sexually immorality. 

 Christians are susceptible to spiritual strongholds because Christians live life in a place of tension. We are saved (redeemed by Jesus) but also at the same time still very much in the process of being saved. Jesus is our Lord, heaven is our home and the Holy Spirit lives in us. Nonetheless, all Christians still possess a sin nature and are therefore capable of becoming entangled in all sorts of sin (Hebrews 12:1). 

Prior to salvation people are literally powerless over the impulse to sin (Romans 7:21-24). The Bible calls our sinful compulsions “being a slave to sin”. Once a person puts their faith in Jesus they are no longer slaves to sin and do not have to sin (Romans 6:6, Romans 7:25, Romans 8:1-2). Nonetheless, because our sin nature is still a part of our operating system Satan is able to set up shop in particular areas of our life and run the show. The Bible calls this “giving the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:27). 

Sometimes a person is very cognizant of the spiritual strongholds in their lives. Other times they are almost entirely clueless to their existence.  For example: a Christian who is addicted to pornography is likely very aware they have a stronghold of lust impacting their life in a significant way. However, a person who has a problem with control, fear, pride or insecurity might not even see these spiritual strongholds as problems. We can be so deceived by sin we actually begin to believe our sinful stronghold is somehow a healthy and beneficial part of our personality. Many a control freak has convinced themselves their efforts to control others are “helpful” rather than sinful and harmful to themselves and others. Those who have sinful strongholds of insecurity, covetousness or fear can easily deceive themselves into believing they are watchful, cautious or wise rather than fearful, greedy or jealous. 


The roots of the strongholds can run deep, often going back to our childhood or early adult years.  Sometimes strongholds take root because we were sinned against in some way. Abusive or neglectful parents can sow the seeds in a child’s life for strongholds of insecurity, mistrust, control and fear. Exposure to pornography and sexually abuse often help form a stronghold of lust. Being sexually abused, neglected or exposed to pornography is not a sin—we are not responsible before God for the evil or stupid choices other people make. However, most people rarely turn to God to deal with hurt or trauma. Instead we turn to sin in an effort to numb our pain and help us cope with life without God. We are very much responsible for those choices.

Strongholds can also be a consequence of sinful choices we make all on our own. A person can have an idyllic childhood and still have a myriad of sinful strongholds in their life. Anytime we willfully chose to do wrong instead of right we harden our hearts, give the devil a foothold and make space for Satan to construct a stronghold in our lives. 

Any stronghold can be broken. 

Christians are never condemned to live a life of sin. John 8:36 is clear: those who the son sets free are free indeed. This verse means no one who knows Jesus as Lord has to be a slave to sin. 

That being said.

 It is critical we understand Satan’s number one goal for all people is to keep them from entering a relationship with Jesus Christ. If he cannot meet that goal, he will do his best to keep Christians bound up in sinful behaviors that limit their effectiveness and steal their joy. Once Satan has been given space to build a stronghold he does not give up that ground easily. All that to say: it is never easy to break a stronghold but it is one-hundred-percent possible (Matthew 19:36). 

In order to get free from a stronghold we must first acknowledge strongholds for what they are. We cannot make excuses for our sinful behaviors or attitudes by saying or thinking things like:

 “I was born this way” 

“This is just a part of my personality” 

“All abuse victims do this”

 “Everyone in my family acts like this”

Instead we must confess our sin as sin. It does not matter how our stronghold got its start. All that matters is what we do now. Once a sin is confessed to God we must invite God into our struggles through prayer.  We should pray first thing and throughout the day the Holy Spirit gives us the power needed to overcome our strongholds.  Inviting the God of the universe into our battle against sin deepens our relationship with Him and gives us the super natural power to overcome our struggles with sin. 

And finally, if we really want to break a stronghold, we must make no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:12-14). Instead we must do whatever needs to be done to obey God in everything (John 3:36, Romans 6:16), then freedom will be ours. 

How Does God use Persecution Suffering and Trouble for Good?

We celebrate in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope- Romans 5:2b-4 NASB

Suffering is ubiquitous in this life (John 16:33, 1st Peter 4:12).   Every human irrespective of race, socio-economic status or religious affiliation will suffer in some way


The Bible tells us humans suffer because we live in a world that was broken by sin, rebellion and evil. When Adam and Eve chose to blow off God, go their own way and do their own thing they did way more than become free moral agents, they opened the door wide for sin, evil and suffering to enter the world (Genesis 3:1-24). Misery, pain and difficulty have been hard-baked into the human condition ever since. For people who don’t know Jesus suffering just sucks. This life is a whole lot of pain with no real promise of hope or gain. In a good many cases life just sucks and then you die (Ecclesiastes 2:17).  Christians have hope beyond the hardness of this life. God does not cause suffering but He will (if we let Him) use it as a force for good in our lives (Romans 8:28, Romans 8:38-39).  

Here’s how it works:

God uses suffering to take us from one place to another- 

Oftentimes God uses suffering, persecution and trouble to take His people out of a less-than-productive but comfortable spiritual situation into a far less comfortable but much-more-productive spiritual situation.   Such was the case with the early church. The early days of Christianity were in many ways idyllic. The early Christians love for Jesus and each other enabled them to create a beautiful little faith community where everyone was loved and cared for (Acts 2:42-47). Nonetheless, early Christians did little (like no) evangelizing outside of the Jewish community (Acts 2-7).  If it hadn’t been for some really nasty persecution Christianity would likely have remained a small sect of Judaism. It would have likely died out by the end of the first century. The stoning of Stephan and the persecution that followed changed the trajectory of Christianity forever. That awful event forced Christians out of their idyllic existence (Acts 8:1) and as a direct result of their suffering the gospel spread all over the world. If you are a gentile Christian you have directly benefitted from their hardship. God does the same thing today. Oftentimes, persecution, personal tragedy or job loss is a catalyst for change that brings about a whole new level of spiritual usefulness in our lives.

God uses sinful behavior to reveal spiritual truth to the sinner-

 God does not make anyone treat anyone else badly. However, the way people behave reveals a lot about who they really are and what they’re all about. Such was the case with Saul. Saul was rejected by God as King (1st Samuel 15), then over the course of the next ten to fifteen years Saul caused David to suffer horribly by treating him very badly. When it was all said and done everyone (including Saul) knew he one-hundred-percent deserved to be rejected as King.  God uses bad behavior as mirror to help individuals see their sin. What they do with that knowledge is entirely up to them. All we are responsible for in these situations is our own response. We can respond like David did and allow difficult situations to refine us and prepare us for the next big blessing or we can become just like the jerks who hurt us (Ephesians 4:26, Hebrews 12:15, Ephesians 4:30-31). 

Suffering produces wisdom-

Suffering and hardship cuts through the noise of life and makes us aware of all the things that really matter in life.  Suffering, pain and hardship cause us to cry out to God for help and wisdom in a way we just don’t in times of prosperity and ease. Anytime we ask God for wisdom two things happen: He gives it in abundance without finding fault and we grow closer to Him (Psalm 57:1-3, James 1:5, Proverbs 2:3-6)

Our suffering has the power to make us like Jesus- 

Suffering is hard. There is literally nothing fun about it. That being said, suffering is what makes us more like Jesus. In fact, suffering even made Jesus better (Hebrews 2:9-10, Hebrews 2:18, Hebrews 5:7-9) Suffering made Jesus more obedient, more able to sympathize with the pain of others, and more able to comfort the hurting (2ndCorinthians 1:5). Ultimately, it was Jesus’ suffering that gave Him glory in His resurrection (Luke 24:25-26, Romans 8:17) If we let it suffering does the same things for us that it did for Jesus. Suffering makes us better, kinder, more sympathetic and it gives us a better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35-38, Philippians 3:10-11, Revelation 20:6). 

We control how we respond to suffering.

We can shake our fists at God. We can let our personal pain transform us into harsh, angry, haters. Or we can allow God to take our suffering and transform us into something beautiful and precious. Faith is the key to becoming something beautiful in the midst of hardship. Hebrews eleven tells of those who lived by faith. All suffered. All were confused by their circumstances. Some were flogged and tortured. Some were imprisoned. Some even died for their faith. 

In spite of their circumstances the heroes of Hebrews eleven held tenaciously to the belief God is good. God’s assessment of these people is that they were so good and pure and beautiful this world was  literally not worthy of their presence. They trusted God with their suffering and He transformed them into spiritual gold. 

God is still in the business of doing beautiful things with hard situations.

Staying Hopeful in a World of Injustice-

  There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground- Amos 5:7 NIV

  I have be listening to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. The podcast chronicles the events that led to the fall of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It tells the story of Mark Driscoll as well as other leaders within the mega-church movement. The first-hand accounts of the pride, questionable doctrine and longing for celebrity endemic within the movement left me grieving for the body of Christ. The unjust and sometimes even evil actions of a few have forever sullied the name of Jesus and caused many to leave the church.  

This morning when I turned on the news the first story was about a mother whose son was killed in the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The woman is angry about the death of her son and frustrated with how the government has handled every sordid detail of the withdrawal. So, she did what many of us do in 2021 when we are angry and frustrated. She went to a social media platform and vented her anger. Her thoughts were immediately censored on social media and shoved down the memory hole. The whole thing was wrong on a million different levels. A grief-stricken mother should be allowed to openly vent her anger. The people in charge should own their mistakes and the memory hole should be forever left on the pages of George Orwell’s book 1984.  

These are just two small examples of injustice and evil in our world. There are at least a million more out there. Injustice and evil have become ubiquitous. Truth is routinely twisted and lies have become so routine that in some situations it is really hard to know what’s actually true. We live in a time where good is called evil and evil is called good (Isaiah 5:20). 

The state of our world can leave even mature Christians feeling angry and bitter about bad leadership and lack of justice. Christ-followers are instructed to avoid the sin of bitterness at all costs (Hebrews 12:15, Ephesians 4:31), because it inevitably leads to attitudes and actions that have the power to defile every person in our circle of influence.  

There is no easy way to avoid feeling bitter towards unjust leaders.  However, there are four things we can do that will help us stay free of bitterness if we do them routinely: 

Remember nothing escapes God’- 

Because God is merciful, kind and eager for everyone to repent He does not punish every sin or sinner in real time (2nd Peter 3:9). This can sometimes make it look and feel as if God is unaware of injustice or that He doesn’t care about evil. If we believe the lie that God does not care we will either become bitter towards God and the world or we will join in with the sinners and sin our heads off. Both responses will cause us to lose our spiritual light and saltiness (Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 3:10). If enough Christians lose their ability to be salt and light the brokenness and evil in this world will win. The key to staying holy and hopeful in these times is to hold onto the Bible promise that there will come a day when God will deal decisively with sin and those who have caused other people to sin (Mark 9:42, Romans 2:9-10, Revelation 20:11-15). 

Be the person this world needs right now- 

Seriously. Just do it. Choose to be the person who stands up for the oppressed and hurting, who fights obvious injustice and loves without limits. Love and righteousness are transformative. Acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God is the key to a living a life God blesses (Psalm 11:7, Proverbs 21:15, Micah 6:8). Furthermore, choosing to enter the battle brings with it a sense of purpose that produces hope even in the toughest of times.

Don’t give into the temptation to be vengeful- 

Vengeance can take many forms that don’t include acts of physical violence. It can take the form of rude verbal or written retaliation (my biggest personal issue, sigh.). Vengeance can also include things like refusing to pray for or do good things for people we view as our enemies (Matthew 5: 38-41, Matthew 5:44).  Jesus directly commands us to pray for and do good to those who do us wrong. Refusing to obey Jesus always leads to hardness of heart that leads to both more sin and more personal misery. 


Okay, I get it, encouraging people to pray while the world goes to hell in a hand cart sounds trite and feels like a copout. However, prayer is anything but a copout. Prayer is the most transformative act on earth. I do not know or understand all the particulars on how prayer works. But it does. Prayer doesn’t just transform situations it also transforms the heart of the person praying. Prayer, done consistently and in faith gives the person praying an awareness of God’s presence.  Awareness of God’s presence always leads to a love for others and a sense of hope for the future. 

There is no sense sugar coating the situation: life sucks on a bunch of different levels right now. Righteousness, justice and good leadership are in short supply. The one good thing about dark times is it does give us almost unlimited opportunities to shine our light in the darkness. When we choose to shine Jesus’ light we become a part of the solution.