Have you ever deeply held onto a belief only to later realize you were completely wrong? I definitely have. Growing up, I thought having a steak anything less than well done was disgusting. The amount of pink inside of the steak equaled the level of nasty that it contained. And then one fateful day when a waiter accidentally gave me another, much wiser, person’s steak that was cooked medium rare instead of well done. Being the trusting person that I am, I cut out a bite and dove in without checking. Other than salvation and marriage, that might have been one of the most life-changing moments in all my days on this earth. Now, if it is an option, I will always choose medium rare over well done. I had a deep-seated thought, a mental stronghold, that when it comes to steak, like my Christian life, I should strive for “Well Done.”
That is obviously a silly example, but this principle plays out in the minds of every person on a regular basis. Whether it be a lack of knowledge, a misconception, or believing in the lies of the world, our flesh, and the Devil, it can be easy to allow a negative stronghold to develop in our minds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 helps us understand this principle.
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Those imaginations that verse 5 talks about are not so much the daydreams of a child like we would use the word, but are more so a calculated thought or a devised plan. RB Ouellette in his book Rewired describes this well. He makes the case that a fleeting thought, when dwelt upon and mulled over, grows, and as more thoughts are added and more lies believed, that a thought turns into a thought process or, in other words, a stronghold. Basically, it’s a thought pattern that is engrained in our minds and causes us to act in a certain way. There are many examples we could point to, and in his book Bro. Ouellette uses the “man after God’s own heart,” David as an example for each.
- Lust: David did not sin in his initial sight of Bathsheba. Had he turned his head around and walked away, he would have been just fine. But instead, David continued looking and thinking. He began rationalizing, plotting, excusing, and that led him to take sinful action. In a similar way, many have fallen prey to this stronghold. When a person believes the lies, “I deserve it,” “No one will know,” “It doesn’t actually hurt anyone,” or “I can’t stop now”, they are allowing the Devil to gently lead them down the path of destruction. With every time they give in, every lie they believe, and every wicked thought left unchecked, they are allowing the stronghold of lust to grow.
- Pride: In 1 Chronicles 21, we see David choose to ignore the good counsel of Joab and number the people under him because of pride. He had built himself up in his own mind with a number of arrogant thoughts, listened to the lies of the Devil, and had ceased to view his success as directly tied to God. We can allow this stronghold to develop as well when we allow prideful thoughts to compound in our minds. Eventually those fleeting thoughts become strongholds that cause to act in sinful ways.
- Bitterness: David’s family imploded after his sin with Bathsheba and one of the results of this was a broken relationship with his son Absalom. Absalom lashed out at his brother Amnon, who had raped his half sister, and killed him. Absalom was then banished but later in 2 Samuel 14:24, he is brought back and we read that David doesn’t even want to see his face. After Absalom leads a rebellion and eventually dies, we see David crying out in sheer anguish (18:33) and heartbroken. He wished then that he would have gotten things right with his son. The Devil loves to build up bitterness and anger in our lives and if he can get us to keep thinking bitter thoughts about people, it will build into a stronghold. I know people that see the absolute worst in everyone. They see normal things as evil and assume everyone is out to get them.
These are just three examples, but there are countless more examples of strongholds designed to destroy you, hold you back, and prevent you from enjoying the abundant victorious life that God has for you. So what can be done? Thankfully, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 gives us that answer as well. Dealing with a stronghold can seem hopeless. But God promises that the weapons He provides are more than capable of tearing them down. You can control your thoughts, and consequently your actions, with the help of God. When you pray, read your Bible, and listen to Godly counsel, you are allowing God to rewire your thoughts to the obedience of Christ.
When thoughts that go against everything we know to be true of God and His character (every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God), we need to stop that train of thought right then and there. Don’t let the stronghold even start. Look away, forgive quickly, remember humility, run to God, and do whatever it takes to not let that stronghold build up. Choose to make use of God’s weapons a daily habit so that strongholds never have a place to grow. You can control your mind, but only with God’s help. Tear down the strongholds of your mind and allow the truth of God’s Word to take root.
Ouellette, RB. Rewired Recognizing and Retraining Wrong Thinking. Striving Together Publications, 2017.