Pulling Down Strongholds – An Example
By Paul Maconochie
As 3DM has been helping churches to engage with discipleship, community and mission over the last few years, we have often been asked by church leaders if we can equip them to engage with the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit without becoming weird, manipulative, undisciplined or unbiblical. For this reason, we have begun to develop a ministry called Naturally Supernatural. In this series of blogs I want to share some of the things we discuss at Naturally Supernatural Workshops.
‘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 my last blog we talked about the biblical picture of strongholds – walled cities like the ones facing the people of Israel when they were trying to move into Canaan – that are made up of ways of thinking designed by the Enemy to stop us engaging fully with God’s purposes for our lives.
Jesus told us a way to pull these strongholds down in Mark 1:15. He said we are to repent and believe the good news. To change the way we think and step out in faith. Jesus also told us in Luke 11: 5-13 that we must persevere when we pray, confident that God is a good Father who wants to give us good gifts, and that they way to do this is to keep on asking, to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking.
My experience is that if we do this, which is effectively a process of going to the cross; of learning to rely on God instead of our own skills and strength; then after a struggle and a period of ‘dying to self’, we can begin to see resurrection power working in our lives.
An example of this for my wife Elly and me is a journey of faith we went on a few years ago. I was the Senior Leader of a large church and for the first time in our lives we had a good family income. We were living in a nice house that the church had provided for us. However, we began to feel that we were becoming a little too comfortable, and that this had the potential to undermine our strong sense of calling to be missionaries, living by faith in God.
I came home from work one day and Elly had been at home with our youngest daughter Hannah. She had been praying and thinking, and she said to me “Why don’t we give our money away for a season and just trust God to provide for us? That would help us to recommit ourselves to a life of faith.”
As we looked at the Bible and asked advice from older, wiser people, this seemed to be a scripturally sound thing to do. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel we told by God to live by faith for one year in seven (Leviticus 25). Jesus said that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, the food, clothes and other material needs will be provided for us too (Matthew 6:25-34).
We also looked at the examples of other saints who have gone before us. I had been reading the biographies of people such as Rees Howells, the Welsh intercessor, and George Muller, the Victorian Pastor who looked after orphans by faith. We felt inspired by the testimony their lives provided of what is possible.
So we invited some friends to move into the church house with us and together we all gave our income away and lived by faith.
We did not tell the church at the time that we were doing this, apart from a small number of people who we were directly discipling (several of whom decided to do the same thing!). As the Summer came to an end and the new school year started we went on a spiritual journey for a few months where each time we got our pay check, we gave it straight back to the church.
I would like to say that this was an easy time, but it was not. We spent a lot of time worrying about where the money was going to come from for the next meal, the next expense, the next electricity bill. All of us in the house shared any income we received and we prayed a lot together about our needs. The only people who did not worry were the children, even though they understood what we were doing. (Grace, our oldest child who was seven at the time, had agreed that we should do this faith journey and had even decided to give us her allowance money as a sign that she was ‘in’.) We learned that we needed to become more like children to enter the Kingdom of God.
We continued up until the end of the Christmas vacation, when we felt the Lord prompted us that it was time to stop. During that period of several months, we had not missed a single meal or a single bill. Some of the provision had been mysterious (money appeared in bank accounts), some had been miraculous (for example, people spontaneously volunteering to pay for things for us in stores for no obvious reason) and some had been common-place (kind folks from the church leaving a bag of vegetables hanging from our front door handle), but the net result was that we had every meal and every bill, including utilities, electricity, gas and repairs for our cars, and all our other needs, paid for. One of our friends who did this with us even found that during this period his business debts were paid off!
The stories are great to tell after the event, but at the time it was a real struggle. Every day we would wake up anxious about how things would work out. But for me, there came a point where this began to change.
I began to realize that God means what He says when He names Himself as our provider.
As we kept on asking, seeking and knocking, a stronghold was beginning to come down in my mind. My knowledge of God’s generosity and faithfulness was beginning to move from my head to my heart.
And here is the thing – I have never really worried about money very much ever since. I have a level of peace and authority in that area that comes from faith that has been forged in the fire.
Last year, still partly living as missionaries, now in the United States, we were around $30,000 short relative to our needs as a family. God provided all of it. We did not worry because in that one area, our thinking has changed.
The Apostle Paul writes:
‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ (Romans 12:2 NIV)
There really is a transformation that takes place in us when we pull down strongholds.
I have plenty of other strongholds in my mind. The next one that Elly and I have identified is an inability to engage well with sustained, prevailing prayer. It may be time for another faith journey.
Where do you need resurrection power and authority operating in your life?
Is there a stronghold to pull down? What is the faith journey that God wants you to go on?