As Thomas ‘A Kempis wrote, “No one is perfect or so holy as to be without some temptation; nor can we ever be totally free of them.” This is true because we live within flesh, that is, the very temptations that distract us from living the spiritual life in Christ we strive for, are embedded within us. Granted, we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Eph. 5.1) more and more daily—through sanctification. But how we respond to the struggles of these strongholds in our lives says a lot about our maturity. A working definition of stronghold should be established at this point; a habitual or continual temptation, trial, or act of sin.
Truth be told, we either grow to love our strongholds or despise our captivity to them. So, how does the Christian move forward—to live a life of purity and integrity—one which “eschews evil” (Job 1:1)? As many Christians before us have noted, temptations are always going to be there, the trials however, can be changed from failures to learning experiences. Here are three valuable points to help you release the stronghold in your life.
1. Seek God’s Help
As the Apostle John noted, “We can do nothing without God” (John 15.5). I find this to be the first indicator of whether or not the temptation is a stronghold. If I am unwilling to come before God with my problem, then I know it is a stronghold. For example, if I would rather “keep” my stronghold around, trying to defeat it on my own (or ‘quit’ doing what I know to be wrong), then clearly, I have marked this temptation and accepted it. It may seem like I’m fighting it, but only with flesh—the flesh cannot defeat the flesh; only the Spirit can defeat the flesh. The temptation then becomes a stronghold and will eventually take up residence, in my flesh—which is just what the flesh desires. So, the first step is to seek God’s help—ask the Lord of creation to open your eyes to the temptation’s evil and provide you strength to overcome it (1 Cor. 10:13). And even more important, ask the Lord to reveal your heart to you.
2. Seek Mature Guidance
The next step is to find a trusted and mature believer, a mentor is best. This person should be someone you can confide in, someone who will pray for you—earnestly. It seems unrealistic to find these individuals, but they’re out there. I personally belong to a pastor’s support group. Each week we examine hardships, trials, and temptations, as well as burdens. This is medicine for the soul. As James the Apostle stated, “the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (5:15-16). Confession releases the stronghold because now it is no longer a silent obsession, but a “public” profession. Confession confronts the stronghold face to face.
3. Stay Implanted in God’s Word
There is not much more than I can add to the title. God’s Word has power (Heb. 4:12). I would suggest that repeating back Scripture can be valuable in time of vulnerability. I know that I have many times recited to myself, “I’m taking this thought captive and giving it to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4). Reassure and encourage yourself by staying implanted within the pages of Scripture—a shield, refuge, and home. There is no power like Christ and He is the Word (John 1:1).