And give no foothold to the devil. Eph. 4:27
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 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 10:3-5
Why are thousands of Christian congregations in North America locked in spiritual stalemate with boring services and barren altars? It is not due to the lack of sound doctrine, sincere preaching, adequate facilities and friendly worshipers. We have to look beyond the visible for the answers.
Many Christian leaders are so bound to tradition (cultural, denominational, congregational) that they are blind to the nature of the tragedies they face in their ministries. With all their knowledge and training, they remain ignorant of Christ’s provision to turn their tragedies into triumphs. The average pastor prays to become a better leader, wants to deliver God’s Word to the people, hopes for renewal in the church body and seeks to be open to divine direction for a more effective ministry.
Believe me, it is this great majority that Satan has set out to deceive. He calls their attention to some wild preacher who has a strange fascination with evil spirits, who sees a demon behind every bush or pew or pulpit, and who seeks to identify the unclean spirit attached to every bad cold or sinus infection. With this distraction, skepticism of the supernatural is deepened and it is easier to conclude that the actual work of evil spirits was limited to the times of Jesus and His apostles. Satan will do almost anything to keep pastors, teachers and evangelists from discovering the need for true spiritual warfare. One of his most effective strategies is to simply keep them preoccupied with administration, counseling, meetings, visitation, and putting out fires of opposition so that every week is pretty much a prayerless one. These otherwise intelligent leaders would never dream that they themselves have become casualties in a spiritual war.
Satan recognized that the coming of Jesus Christ into the world represented a challenge to him and his kingdom. He knew that with Christ’s entrance on planet earth his domain was being invaded and he knew that the stakes were high. Therefore, Satan attacked Jesus in every way. When he could not buy Jesus, he decided to kill Him. But the enemy never knew until it was too late that his plot to kill our Lord played right into the preordained purpose of the Sovereign God to give His One and Only Son as a ransom for sinners and to destroy the works of the devil. Satan did not know that the voluntary, self-sacrificing death of Jesus Christ on the cross decisively and eternally defeated him and his hierarchy of evil.
Our Risen Christ now calls on His Spirit-filled church to enforce the mighty victory over Satan and evil that He won at Calvary. Until the Lord Jesus returns to actually and finally destroy Satan, we who are filled with the Holy Spirit, we who are clad in His armor, we who are obedient to His commands, are called to resist the evil one, to tear down his strongholds, to order his retreat, to unmask his intentions and to release his captives. Otherwise, it is the nature of Satan to impose, intrude, usurp until confronted by true representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ who know they have the authority to invoke His strong name and see victory replace defeat.
A “stronghold” is any condition in the believer or in the congregation or in the ministry that gives Satan an advantage in seeking to defeat the Kingdom of God. It might be an act of disobedience, a mindset contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit or a state of compromise. Before seeking to identify strongholds in others, we should ask the Lord to show us how to look for the strongholds in our own lives. We should pray earnestly with the psalmist, “Examine me, O God, and know my thoughts; test me, and understand my misgivings. Watch lest I follow any path that grieves tee; guide me in the ancient ways” (139:23-24, The New English Bible). Let us consider some of the common strongholds that grieve the Holy Spirit and hold back revival from individuals and congregations today.
The writer of the book of Hebrews informs us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him (God), for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6). If we are not diligently, passionately, fervently, intensely, confidently seeking God for revival, it means either that we don’t think we need it or we don’t believe God will give it. No one ever conveniently or accidentally staggered onto the outpouring of revival power. Now this does not mean that God is capricious or whimsical in measuring out the revivals He gives. He will stir us to an awareness of our need for revival when we pray, and as we keep on praying, He will increase and purify our faith. The more desperate we grow in pleading for revival, the more certain we become that in asking we shall receive; the more confident we grow that in seeking we shall find; the more assured we are that in knocking, the door to the fullness and power of revival will be opened on us (Luke 11:9-10). Unless we yearn for revival with the Spirit’s burning, our souls will eventually wander off to other interests and we’ll settle for a willingness to go on without revival. And all the while, our Gracious God who wants to give us revival is grieved by our unbelief in accepting what is less than His will.
When Jesus departed for Heaven, He did not give His apostles a dozen or three steps to success for the Church. No, He gave only two: He gave a command that His followers go back into the city of Jerusalem and pray; and He gave a promise that as a result of their obedience to His command, the Holy Spirit would “clothe them in power.”
Why should we expect God to do for the modern church what He did for the Early Church when we are unwilling to meet His conditions? One hundred and twenty believers obeyed the Lord and went back into the city of Jerusalem and “continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” (Acts 1:14). Because of their obedience, we have the account of the initial, historic outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-4, with its accompanying signs and wonders and amazing results.
To my knowledge, there has never been a revival of God’s people anywhere or at any time unless it was preceded by burdened praying. I’m speaking of the kind of praying mentioned by the apostle James: “effectual, fervent praying of the righteous” (5:16). He means passionate, tearful crying out – the way Jesus prayed while He was on earth (Heb. 5:7). Such burdened praying is an overwhelming concern to see God’s glory manifested among His people. True revival is not a drawing of people to a leader or a denomination or a doctrine; it is a manifestation of divine power that attracts the Church and the world to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So let us confess our sin of prayerlessness and allow the Holy Spirit to burden our hearts for the glory of God in our midst and let us pray until it happens!
A great barrier to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the average church is the lack of unity. Do we really understand the sensitivity of the Holy Spirit to the resentments and conflicts that exist among us? It doesn’t take but one or two members in the body harboring unforgiveness and resentment to freeze up the services. Someone has to discern the Spirit’s call to unity, humble himself and take a step of reconciliation, in order for the logjam of tension to be broken and bring the Spirit of revival on the people. We are all given the responsibility of maintaining this unity (Eph. 4:2-3).
Dear church leaders,
God has committed to us certain spiritual weapons that are mighty in Him for the dismantling, dissolving, defeat, of these and all other strongholds. But they are weapons of warfare, not human (not intellectual, not physical, not emotional, not psychological). Only those cleansed, filled and led by the Spirit can wield these spiritual weapons and wage the kind of war that will set the church body free and set the stage for true revival. So, dear ones, before announcing revival meetings, why not set aside periods of prayer and fasting in preparation for a new filling of the Holy Spirit, admonishing the people to humbly pray for the Spirit’s revelation of any stronghold to be destroyed. Persevere in prayer until the strongholds are confessed and destroyed. Then the glory of God’s Presence will come and melt hearts together and wash over the body in renewal and revival power!