Defining Spiritual Strongholds

by Jan Shrader

 Southeast of Tucson, in the Dragoon Mountains is an Arizona State Park and campground called Cochise’s Stronghold.  Cochise was a Native American military leader of the Chiricahua Apaches in the late 1800’s.  He was a brilliant strategist who used three different strongholds to fight for and protect his people from their enemies.  He had one in the Dragoon Mountains, which is the modern day campground, one in the Chiricahua Mountains, and one in the Pinaleno Mountains where Mount Graham is located in southeastern Arizona.


The Calvary was never able to discover Cochise’s hiding places on Mount Graham or in the Chiricahuas Mountains.  From these three camps Cochise led guerrilla-style warfare against the Mexican government, the United States Calvary, ranchers, and other Native American people groups.  The raids he brilliantly orchestrated left southern Arizona in fearful chaos.  Even today after so many historic conflicts, the Apache Wars remain the longest period of war in American history.


During war his strongholds provided safe locations unknown to his enemies, where he could retreat to and live to fight another day.  One of Cochise’s strengths was his ability to escape and hide from his enemies so he could attack them on his terms. 


Like in Cochise’s war, a spiritual stronghold needs to remain hidden for it to be effective.  Your spiritual enemy, the devil, desires to keep his existence a secret.  So, by this definition you could have a stronghold in your spiritual life and not even know it.  Unfortunately, if you stay in denial, Satan can continue to harm you from this place of concealment.


Have you ever become frustrated with your lack of spiritual traction?  Do you feel like a remedial learner when it comes to biblical truths?  Do you find yourself learning the same life lessons over and over?  If you answered yes to any one of these questions, you might be experiencing what they Bible refers to as a spiritual stronghold.


One passage in the Bible that describes spiritual strongholds is 2 Cor. 10:3-5.  Two different kinds of strongholds are portrayed in these verses.   Look at 2 Cor. 10:3-5.


3) For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  4) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  5) We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.                                                                                                              ESV


All believers, whether they acknowledge it or not, are engaged in an epic spiritual struggle against the forces of darkness.  A Christian lives in this world, but must not fight as someone in the world, because worldly weapons, like thermal nuclear warheads, would be useless against a spiritual foe. The purpose of a spiritual weapon according to 2 Cor. 10:4 is to demolish strongholds, to expose ground where the enemy is trying to hide.  Then in 2 Cor. 10:5 Paul defines a spiritual stronghold as an argument or lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.


A stronghold is fashioned when you are deceived about who God really is.  You need to understand the spiritual battle being waged is for how you will think about God.  Do you believe God is for you or against you?  This is an important question to answer because argumentative and pretentious deceptions work to create dark hiding places. 


How does an argumentative lie form a stronghold?


1)   A spiritual argument seeks to refute your knowledge of God.


Have you ever thought, “God could never love me”?  This is an example of a simple, but powerful argument.  At first this lie sounds humble, but it is deadly reasoning that comes against what is true about God.  God does not love you solely because you are loveable.  God loves you because it is God’s nature to love.  No one could ever earn his affection.  God is love.  This truth is so basic to your spiritual growth it is sung as a lullaby to babies.  “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”  Unfortunately, if you repeatedly struggle to trust that God could love you, you will be ceding spiritual real estate to your enemy.


Satan has no place to hide when you accept the truth about God.  It is your knowledge of God’s heart that will protect you from these satanic strongholds.  Capturing how your think about God is your sole responsibility.


The Christian mystic, St. John of the Cross, once penned theses words about the wonders of God’s love.

“…When you regarded me your eyes imprinted grace in me, in this you loved me again.  And this my eyes merited to also love what you see in me…Let us go forth together to see ourselves in your beauty.”


Why did Paul ask God to show the church in Ephesus how massive is God’s love?  He did this because knowing the size of God’s love for you is truly transformational.  Look at Ephesians 3:18-19.


      18) may (you) have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, the length and height and depth, 19) and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.       ESV


You can experience safety and security when you meditate on how incredibly vast is God’s love for you.  Remember any argument that rises to destroy your assurance of God’s character has the potential to create secret camps.  You can abolish these lies by embracing the truth, God is in love with you.  


How does a lofty opinion give ground to Satan? 


2)   A spiritual pretention or lofty opinion also seeks to refute your knowledge of God.


Have you ever thought, “Well, if I was God I would not have done it that way”?  This is a common example of a pretentious thought.  Initially it sounds so innocent, especially when your world is upset by a life-changing event.  The reality is you are not God.  God does not have to consult you or defend his choices.  He is the Almighty.  His plans are perfect; you don’t dictate how God moves in this world.  Remember, while God loves you completely, he is working to bring an eternal plan to fruition.  You are privileged to have a part in his design, but he is the creator, originator and executor of this plan.  Lofty opinions are prideful reasoning which will invite Satan to move in and assault you. 


Humble dependence on God is the weapon which will demolish lofty opinions.  When wrestling with the “whys” of God’s choices and allowances it is especially important you remain genuine with him, while at the same time put your trust in God’s goodness.  When you don’t understand what he is doing give your confusing circumstances into his hands.  While you wait for his deliverance, ask him to use your uncertain times to strengthen you and reveal himself to you.


Satan is always looking for a tactical advantage.  He is trying to stake a claim over territory that has previously been surrendered to Jesus.  He is very smart.  Don’t be impressed with or afraid of his abilities.  You too would be good at guerrilla warfare if you had thousands of years to practice.


Your spiritual enemy builds secret hiding places in your thought life by raising arguments and pretensions against the true knowledge of God.  He needs his position to remain secret to keep bombarding you.  Choose today to trust what God reveals about himself in the Bible.  Regardless of what your current circumstances are trying to shout at you, believe God loves you and is on your side.  Rest in God’s goodness.


What might change today if you could believe God is love?


What might change if you could choose to love what God sees in you?   

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