This morning, sitting at my kitchen table, I find the ribbon that marks my place in a new devotional by Max Lucado called “Live Loved.” There I read about strongholds and how God likes to give us a “nevertheless.” Mr. Lucado describes a stronghold as an “old, difficult, discouraging challenge.” You know, an area of weakness in your life that hounds you day after day, week after week and year after year. Then he writes about how God’s weapons destroy strongholds in our lives…God’s weapons (prayer, His Word, His Spirit…) give us the nevertheless of life. An example was “born to alcoholics, nevertheless she lived a sober life.”
As I finished reading this excerpt I paused to ponder what my nevertheless is. It came quickly to mind and heart…I know what condition I could be in…I know my marriage could have died…I know what baggage and history I brought with me….nevertheless I will leave my children a legacy of what a healthy marriage and Jesus-love and power looks like in real life. And I love the reminder this morning that nevertheless comes because of God’s power…His weapons that fight the battle…that tear down the strongholds we could never conquer in our own strength.
But wait. After finishing my Max Lucado devotion I reached for my “Jesus Calling” devotion by Sarah Young. It speaks of spending time alone with God and how when we do so we are “…participating in battles going on within spiritual realms. You are waging war — not with the weapons of the world, but with heavenly weapons, which have divine power to demolish strongholds.”
The parched places of my heart drink in moments like this. I clearly understood God’s sovereign hand on my life today…on my mind…my heart. I have to stop and ask God what strongholds need to be demolished in my life? What issues or weaknesses have perhaps reared their ugly heads? See, I know freedom. I have lived to the joyous tune of broken chains falling loudly to the floor from my heart and mind. I know the fit of freedom when the love of Jesus breaks your pride and builds your faith. I know the sound of His voice and because I have learned to listen, silence can be deafening. Oh, He doesn’t leave nor does He stop speaking, but we let our strongholds block out the sweet whisper of His Spirit. We let our loud protesting and attempts to break the chains with our own strength resound most loudly in our lives.
I know what is probably my greatest weakness or potential stronghold. I say potential because I have experienced the demolition. Yet, in time we can find ourselves fighting the same internal fight…I know so deeply in my heart that there is no comforter, no nurturer, no provider, no definer of purpose or giver of fulfillment besides Jesus. When I look elsewhere, no matter where, for unconditional love or worth I will begin to rebuild my stronghold. And the more I grasp at what only God can give from other sources, the taller and thicker my tower becomes. Eventually I find myself suffocating on the inside of walls that had once been rubble around my feet. I cry out for relief…for Jesus…and in His great mercy and love He calls out to me through the cracks and crevices…He reminds me there is no One like Him. Only He can fill me and heal me…only He can love without condition…only He can see and understand what I cannot. And in those sweetest of moments the tears flow freely, carrying with them the hot dust and residue from all my striving.
I sit. I listen. He is speaking and my stronghold stands no chance.
2Corinthians 10:3-6 (the message)
The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight out battles that way — never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entirely massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.