A POW is a prisoner of war—a person who has been captured by the enemy and is held hostage during conflict. The opposing forces control the prisoner’s living conditions, activities, and movements. Many men live like POWs, but rather than being prisoners of war, they’re prisoners of addictive behavior. They have been captured by the enemy, and there appears to be no way of escape. They feel trapped in situations and circumstances that the world labels as addiction. Drugs, sex, pornography, alcohol, relationships, negative self-talk, work, food, gambling, spending — these things become coping mechanisms for life’s pain, disappointments, and boredom. When an action or activity begins to influence you more than you influence it, it can leave you feeling trapped.
I sometimes compare addictive behavior to quicksand. The harder you try to get out of a situation, the deeper you sink. Human methods can never set you free from a spiritual stranglehold on your life. Rather, these attempts will make you sink faster.
Another problem that arises when someone is sinking in quicksand involves focus. Remember when Peter stepped off the boat to walk to Jesus on the waves (Matt. 14:22-23)? Things were going great, then his vision for circumstances overtook his focus on Christ. Where you look matters. If a person stares only at the sand surrounding them, they will miss the stick being held out to them that they must grasp to be dragged out. We rely on human methods when only spiritual methods can deliver.
Consider Paul’s words about the conflict going on all around us:
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Something must happen first in order for us to overcome a stronghold in our life. Consider what can result when you attempt to overcome a stronghold of the flesh by using the flesh.
One reason strongholds are so powerful is that they’re so entrenched. They become entrenched when we buy into the lie that our situation is hopeless. His goal is to get you to believe that by nature you are a drug addict or a manipulator or a negative person, that you are controlled by fear or shame, that nothing will ever change. Once you adopt this line of thinking, these unhelpful patterns become entrenched fortresses that are difficult to remove. As a result, your behavior deteriorates even more because we always act according to who we believe we are.
The only solution is to tear down these fortresses by “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This means to replace your harmful and untrue thoughts with the better promises of God. Embracing this advice from Scripture reprograms your mind and releases you from spiritual strongholds. You become free yourself so then you can help other men rise to do the same.
Consider why it is important to reprogram your mind in order to break free from a spiritual or emotional stronghold? Name some common cultural influences that can be used by the enemy to keep your mind hearing, rehearsing and believing the lies of this world. Ask yourself: what are thoughts in my own life I need to take captive?
Overcoming personal strongholds is a two-part process of reprogramming your mind. First, identify Christ’s thoughts on a matter, and secondly, align your own thinking under the rule of His truth. The truth, then, will set you free (John 8:32). Let’s work through this process together.
- Reflect on a particular struggle you have
- Write out your thoughts on this struggle. Be specific.
- What promises of Christ speak to this struggle? Open your Bible and find specific Scriptures that speak to your struggle.
- Identify the ways your thinking is out of alignment with Christ’s thoughts
- Ask yourself: how must you adjust your thoughts to align under the rule of Christ’s truth?
Keep in mind that just acknowledging the truth won’t break any bonds. John 8:32 says that you “will know” the truth and then be set free. The word for “will know” in the original Greek of the New Testament is a verb that literally means both “to know” and “to be known.” The word refers not to head knowledge, but deep and intimate familiarity with a subject. It is the same word used in Matthew 1:25 (NKJV) when the Scripture says that Joseph did not know (have sexual relations with) Mary while she was pregnant. The NASB says that he “kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son.” The literal translation of in Matthew 1:25 is “and was not knowing her.”
To know the truth, in the biblical form of this word, is to make it an intrinsic part of who you are. It is to know and be known by it, in the deepest, most authentic place in you. To know ourselves in this way, we need to be in a constant relationship with the Scriptures.
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
As you seek to heal from any and every spiritual and emotional stronghold you may face, or as you seek to guide other men into healing as well, be sure to identify what Christ says on the matter, and then memorize it, meditate on it, and apply it. It is not enough to simply be aware of the truth. Just like it is not enough to simply be aware of your dinner. You must consume your dinner for it to have any positive impact on your body. Similarly, you must consume the Word of God in such a way that it becomes an intrinsic part of your nature on a regular basis.
Pray for God to inspire you to know His Word on a deeper level. Invite Him to show you ways you can discover truth in His Word beyond what you have done in the past. Ask Him to connect you with other men who have a similar hunger for His Word. In this way, you can grow together and strengthen each other as you rise together as kingdom men.
Excerpted and partially adapted from Kingdom Men Rising © 2021 Tony Evans. Published by Lifeway Press.