Strongholds of the Mind
Have you ever had behaviours that you want to change but no matter how hard you try, you keep doing them over and over again? Or perhaps your emotional life seems out of control – anxiety or anger that controls you instead of the other way around. You know what God’s Word says, you read it, you declare it – and yet it just doesn’t seem to take hold? You may be dealing with a “stronghold of the mind”.
Christians in this situation often take the view that it must be the devil and feel that they lack the power to defeat him. A stronghold in itself is not demonic, it’s simply a pattern of thought that is deeply ingrained. It is a mindset that has been formed. Neil T Anderson calls it a “mental habit pattern”. Strongholds can be formed through traumatic events or over time through repetition. For example, if I was continually told as a child that I am useless, that belief may become a stronghold and I will then find it very difficult to receive the positive things that people or God say about me.
God has designed our minds with the capacity to learn and remember, which enables us to be capable of complex tasks and thinking. There is a development phase through childhood where we learn and store information, much of it on an unconscious level.
For instance, the first time you tied your shoelaces, you had to think about every element of that task; it required your full concentration as you thought about each step and how to perform it. However, after tying your shoes about twenty or so times, you no longer have to think through the process at all. It now seems to happen automatically – you simply have the thought, “I need to do up my laces,” and it’s almost as though your hands just know what to do. A mental habit pattern has been formed and it becomes a subconscious process of thought. This ability enables us to perform complex tasks as well as to multi-task.
When our minds are programmed with truth, everything works well. However, because we live in a world where there are many negative influences and have been raised by imperfect parents, our minds are also programmed with many things which are not truth according to the Word of God. Through childhood we have learned coping mechanisms for difficult situations which may not actually the best way of doing things. For example, a boy who was raised in a home where his older brothers used force to control him may learn that violence is an appropriate way of protecting himself. As an adult threatening situations may cause an immediate violent reaction over which he believes he has no control.
Strongholds of the mind often manifest as strong negative emotional responses or behaviours which we feel powerless to control such as addictions, anger problem, fear etc. The good news is that God has given us all that we need to dismantle these strongholds.
Jesus tells us in John 8:32
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
The difficulty that we have is that because the beliefs which are causing our unwanted behaviour or emotions are beneath our conscious thinking, we usually aren’t aware of the lies we have learned or the thought patterns that are causing that behaviour and we don’t know what truth we need in order to change it. Fortunately God does know and Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Asking the right questions helps immensely in this process.
Some questions that I regularly ask God are:
“What lie am I believing that is producing this behaviour/emotion?”
“What truth do I need to know?”
“Holy Spirit, how do I get back to peace?”
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
2 Corinthians 10:4,5
The word “stronghold’ means a fortress, castle or prison. It is a fortified building. It’s a picture of those mindsets and beliefs which we have that are not founded on God’s truth. Revelation comes as a grenade that is thrown inside that fortress and it blasts away portions of the fortress. There may be parts still standing that we need to clear away through meditation and declaration but now we see the error of our belief and the truth is starting to penetrate.
Revelation can come to us in many ways, through reading the Word of God, through prophecy, preaching, prayer and a myriad of other ways. The truth of God’s Word is incredibly powerful but we must remember that we need to receive this truth not merely in our intellect but in our hearts as well. There are many times in the scripture where believing is referred to as an action of the heart. Simply knowing the truth as information in our brains is very different from the “knowing” that the bible speaks of. The word “know” biblically means to know because of experience, it means we have a relationship with the truth and we believe it in our inner being.
We are told in Romans 12:1:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.
And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Here, Paul is talking about our behaviour as Christians – that we are to live a holy life that is acceptable to God – and he goes on to tell us how to do it. We are to be “transformed (changed) by the renewing of our mind.”
We are indeed a new creation, with the potential to live in freedom and victory; however, we must renew our minds in order to change from our old ways to the new ways of the Spirit of God. Our old patterns of thinking and believing produced a particular type of behaviour in us. We need our minds to be renewed with Kingdom truth, and that truth will then produce a new, godly kind of behaviour in us.