Pulling down a Stronghold of Unbelief in Sheffield
‘For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
In a previous blog we looked at the Old Testament picture of the people of Israel coming out of Egypt into the promised land, which had already been given to them by God. Although the land belonged to them, they found many walled cities, or strongholds, which were inhabited by the enemy. In order to occupy what they already owned, they had to fight to pull these strongholds down. As we can see clearly in the story of the fall of Jericho, they had to learn to fight by faith and not just military prowess.
The Apostle Paul uses this picture to explain how Satan establishes ways of thinking in our minds to stop us from coming into the fullness of our inheritance as Christians. It is almost as if arguments and pretensions are acting as walls and towers protecting our fallen thoughts, which need to be taken captive. He tells us that we must use divinely appointed weapons to pull these strongholds down.
We experienced this in the area of supernatural healing at St. Thomas’ Church, Sheffield in the 1990’s. We already believed that God could supernaturally heal people, but we reasoned that since God is omnipotent, when people were not healed it must be His will. We did not yet have a warfare mindset. We frequently prayed for people for healing, but if we did not see breakthrough, we came up with an explanation; perhaps something like: “Maybe God does not want to heal you because your sickness is helping you to grow more mature…” We would pray once or twice and then give up and move on.
One day an American Pastor came to speak at the church, and he challenged this mindset. He said that since Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the Father, we can look at the life of Jesus in the Gospels to discover what God wants to do when people are injured or sick.
He pointed out that Jesus never once said “No” when asked for healing. Never. Not even when a non-covenant person like the Canaanite woman asked.
Jesus always said “Yes.”
The Pastor challenged us that with our explanations of why people did not get healed, we were in fact misrepresenting the character of God to our own church members.
We were pretty resistant to this idea at first, but Mike Breen, our Pastor (‘Vicar’ in the UK) led us as a staff team through a process of Bible study and reflection to see if it was correct. We wanted to show ‘Berean’ character and actually study God’s Word for wisdom when we heard something new, rather than just rejecting it out of hand. We spent many hours reading through the Gospels and discussing whether this could be true: Did Jesus always say “Yes”?
What we found was that there are several examples of when the disciples could not heal people. At the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration, for example, they were unable to heal an epileptic boy. There was also an example when even Jesus could not perform many miracles, in Nazareth when the people were offended by Him. However, we could not find any examples of Jesus saying “No” when He was asked to heal someone. He did say “Wait” with Lazarus, but then four days later He raised him from the dead…
We also found parables such as ‘the Friend and the Bread’, or ‘the Widow and the Unjust Judge’, where Jesus was specifically saying that when we pray we must persevere and not give up. He said: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) If we have to persevere, that means we are expected to sometimes pray for something within God’s will, and yet not see an immediate answer!
As Jesus always said “Yes,” we realized that we cannot say to someone “Jesus does not want to heal you” and we also cannot say “You did not get well because you did not have enough faith.” Instead, we chose to say this:
We believe Jesus wants to heal you. The answer is always “Yes.”
If you are not healed, it may be that there are things going on in the invisible realm that we cannot see. Spiritual warfare. It may be that (occasionally) the Lord says “Wait for a time.”
It may be that we as a whole church community do not yet have the faith for breakthrough in this instance. We are repenting and believing together to pull down this stronghold in our minds.
I remember Mike standing at the front of church and saying:
“Here is our commitment to you: If you keep coming for prayer, we will keep praying for you regularly until one of these things happen: You die, we die, you get healed, or Jesus comes back.”
“If you die, you will be welcomed into heaven as a hero who fell in the battle, and experience healing immediately. We will honor you and your family, just as we honor fallen veterans and their families.
If you do not get healed, at least Jesus will find us doing what He told us to when He returns.”
This was a declaration of war.
We prayed every weekday evening from 7:00-7:30pm and invited people to come. We started praying regularly for people – whenever they turned up. Do you know what happened? Not a lot, at first. No noticeable change. So we kept going. Jesus said “Persevere!”
By the time we had been praying regularly for people for a few years (yes, you heard that right!), we began to see more people getting healed. Gradually we saw healing occur more and more often. People with headaches, asthma, neurological conditions, cancer, even HIV – it became more and more a part of our every-day experience.
We still do not see people get healed every time. We have some heart breaking cases of severe illness that has not been healed. Some people have succumbed to their illness and have gone to be with the Lord. However, now we are fighting the battle. We are fighting to occupy the territory on Earth that we own in the Heavenly realms. And for me personally, it is very rare to have a week where I do not see people healed supernaturally. This week I have seen five people get healed of conditions from fibril myalgia to a leg injury, after prayer.
Is there a stronghold of unbelief that you need to pull down in your own mind? Will you change the way you think and step out in faith? (Mark 1:15) Will you fight the battle against Satan, sin and sickness and persevere? Jesus wants you to occupy what you own.