As I was reading through Joshua and the story of the taking of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-6:27), God began to draw my attention to some insights in fighting strongholds of sin in my own life. Many of us are currently or have in the past dealt with an area of sin that seems like it just won’t let go. For many this means an addiction like pornography or masturbation (Woohoo! Here come the hits from Google!), alcohol and other drugs, or simply entertainment (the all-around favorite in America).
In an earlier post, I wrote how the first step is to understand that we are called to, created for, destined for, and going to get total holiness. It’s in our DNA, and God intends to bring us there. The same message the angel gave to Joshua needs to enter our heart as well: “This is holy ground.”
But how do we become that holy ground? How do we get to that place? How does the “supposed to be” become the “already is”?
2. Invite God into the Midst
This is the second step. We can’t hope to win on our own. Our only hope is in God, who goes with us.
We all know this. In fact, sometimes we know it so well that we practically have forgotten it. Like the Israelites, we’re not soldiers but children of former slaves. We haven’t got a clue about how to take a city. And we’re very aware of our impotence without God’s assistance.
But I’m not talking just about going into battle with God. In the story of the taking of Jericho, the men are given orders long before the battle is actually begun. Seven days before the battle, they’re called into action and told to march around the city.
Joshua 6:8-9 reads, “And it was so, that when Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward and blew the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while they continued to blow the trumpets.”
The men haven’t started fighting–they’re just marching around the city–but right in the midst of the army is the ark of God, the seat for God’s earthly presence. Seven days before the actual fighting, the men’s work is inseparable from God’s presence.
For seven days, the men are marching around this stronghold. For seven days, they’re testing its strength. For seven days, they’re dwarfed in its shadow. For seven days, they hear the taunts of the enemy. For seven days they march, and they don’t make a single move to attack.
But the whole time, they are marching with the ark of God right in their presence.
We can learn a lesson from this. As we prepare for battle against a stronghold in our lives, we must do it with the presence of God in our midst.
Let’s picture the Israelite army, for example. These guys are marching around a massive city for seven days, and that city is strong, heavily-defended, and filled with people who hate them. Each day, they get up and begin marching, and each day they are reminded afresh of how impossible their task is. If they do not approach this difficulty alongside of God but on their own, then they will quickly and permanently lose heart.
This applies to our lives as well. We see a stronghold of the enemy in our lives, and it frustrates us to no end. We see how strong and powerful the stronghold has been, how it has been able to ruin our joy and lead us into sin time and time again. With all our hearts, we want that thing to be destroyed.
But, as we think of the upcoming battle, we remember our lifetime of failures in this area. We think, “Who am I to take on that stronghold? I have tried before and failed. Why do I suppose this time will be any different? Look at its size! It’s huge. That thing has been in my life since as long as I can remember. Why should it leave now? In fact, it’s immovable. I don’t stand a chance.”
In this time when we become aware of the impossibility of victory over this sin, we must first respond in light of God’s very presence with us.
I’m not talking about simply a morale boost here. What I mean is we turn to God and ask him, “Lord, how bad has this really become in my life? What areas does it really affect me? What do you think I should do about it? What plans do you have? What are you going to do? Why, Lord?”
If we’re facing a struggle against a stronghold of the enemy in our lives, we will be tempted to feel helpless, overwhelmed. At such a time, we must turn to God and ask him what his response is to the situation. Then, instead of seeing only the enemy’s greatness and our smallness, we also see God’s strength, God’s wisdom, God’s help, God’s victory, God’s purpose, God’s destiny… We are no longer frozen in terror because of our own inability, but we are released into action because of God’s ability.
If you see a stronghold of the enemy in your life, (1) know that you are holy ground, and (2) invite God into the midst. Soon, I hope to also look at how we must (3) examine the stronghold closely and (4) declare the victory.