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        Enemy Strongholds

 

All the passages below are taken from Max Lucado’s book “Facing Your Giants” published in 2006.

          http://www.maxlucado.com/

 

     PETE SITS on the street and leans his head against a building. He'd like to beat his head against it. He just messed up again. Everyone misspeaks occasionally. Pete does so daily. He blurts wrong words like a whale spouts salt water, spraying folly everywhere. He always hurts someone, but tonight he hurt his dear friend. Oh, Pete and his quick-triggered tongue.

     Then there's Joe and his failures. The poor guy can't hold a job. His career rivals the Rocky Mountains---up, down; cold, hot; lush, barren. He tried his hand at the family business. They fired him. Tried his skills as a manager. Got canned and jailed. Now he sits in prison, future as bleak as the Mojave Desert. No one could fault him for feeling insecure; he's flopped at each opportunity.

     So has she---not at work but at marriage. Her first one failed. So did her second. By the collapse of the third, she knew the names of the court clerk's grandkids. If her fourth trip to divorce court didn't convince her, the fifth removed all doubt. She is destined for marital flops.

     People and their proverbial hang-ups. Pete always speaks before he thinks. Joe always fails where he should succeed. This dear woman wins at marriage as often as a burro wins at Churchill Downs.

     And you. Does one prevailing problem leech your life?

     Some are prone to cheat. Others quick to doubt. Maybe you worry. Yes, everyone worries some, but you own the national distributorship of anxiety. Perhaps you are judgmental. Sure, everybody can be critical, but you pass more judgments than a federal judge.

     What is that one weakness, bad habit, rotten attitude? Where does Satan have a stronghold within you? Ahh, there is the fitting word---stronghold: a fortress, citadel, thick walls, tall gates. It's as if the devil staked a claim on one weakness and constructed a rampart around it. "You ain't touching this flaw," he defies heaven, placing himself squarely between God's help and your

 

 

     Seasons come and go, and this Loch Ness monster still lurks in the water-bottom of your soul. He won't go away. He lives up to both sides of his compound name: strong enough to grip like a vise and stubborn enough to hold on. He clamps like a bear trap---the harder you shake, the more it hurts.

     Strongholds: old, difficult, discouraging challenges.

     That's what David faced when he looked at Jerusalem. When you and I think of the city, we envision temples and prophets. We picture Jesus teaching, a New Testament church growing. We imagine a thriving, hub-of-history capital.

     When David sees Jerusalem in 1000 BC, he sees something else. He sees a millennium-old, cheerless fortress, squatting defiantly on the spine of a ridge of hills. A rugged outcropping elevates her. Tall walls protect her. Jebusites indwell her. No one bothers them. Philistines fight the Amalekites. Amalekites fight the Hebrews. But the Jebusites? They are a coiled rattlesnake in the desert. Everyone leaves them alone.

     Everyone, that is, except David. The just-crowned king of Israel has his eye on Jerusalem. He's inherited a divided kingdom. The people need, not just a strong leader, but strong headquarters. David's present base of Hebron sits too far south to enlist the loyalties of the northern tribes. But if he moves north, he'll isolate the south. He seeks a neutral, centralized city.

     He wants Jerusalem. We can only wonder how many times he's stared at her walls. He grew up in Bethlehem, only a day's walk to the south. He hid in the caves in the region of En Gedi, not far south. Surely he noticed Jerusalem. Somewhere he pegged the place as the perfect capital. The crown had scarcely been resized for his head when he set his eyes on his newest Goliath.

 

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, "You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you," ... Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David). Now David said on that day, "Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites .. he shall be chief and captain."... Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David. (2, Samuel 5:6-9)

 

     This regrettably brief story tantalizes us with the twofold appearance of the term stronghold. In verse 7, "David took the stronghold," and in verse 9, "David dwelt in the stronghold."

Jerusalem meets the qualifications of one: an old, difficult, and discouraging fortress. From atop the turrets, Jebusite soldiers have ample time to direct arrows at any would-be wall climbers. And discouraging? Just listen to the way the city-dwellers taunt David. "You'll never get in here.... Even the blind and lame could keep you out!" (5:6 NLT).

     The Jebusites pour scorn on David like Satan dumps buckets of discouragement on you:

 

 

     If you've heard the mocking David heard, your story needs the word David's has. Did you see it? Most hurry past it. Let's not. Pull out a pen and underline this twelve-letter masterpiece.

     Nevertheless.

     "Nevertheless David took the stronghold. . ."

     Granted, the city was old. The walls were difficult. The voices were discouraging ... Nevertheless David took the stronghold. Wouldn't you love God to write a nevertheless in your biography?

Born to alcoholics, nevertheless she led a sober life. Never went to college,

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     Wouldn't you love God to write a nevertheless in your biography?

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nevertheless he mastered a trade. Didn't read the Bible until retirement age, nevertheless he came to a deep and abiding faith.

     We all need a nevertheless. And God has plenty to go around. Strongholds mean nothing to him. Remember Paul's words? "We use God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4 NLT).

     You and I fight with toothpicks; God comes with battering rams and cannons. What he did for David, he can do for us. The question is, will we do what David did? The king models much here.

     David turns a deaf ear to old voices. Those mockers strutting on the wall tops? David ignores them. He dismisses their words and goes about his work.

    Nehemiah, on these same walls, took an identical approach. In his case, however, he was atop the stones, and the mockers stood at the base. Fast-forward five hundred years from David's time, and you will see that the bulwarks of Jerusalem are in ruins, and many of her people are in captivity. Nehemiah heads up a building program to restore the fortifications. Critics tell him to stop. They plan to interfere with his work. They list all the reasons the stones can't and shouldn't be restacked. But Nehemiah won't listen to them. "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" (Nehemiah 6:3). Nehemiah knew how to press the mute button on his dissenters.

     Jesus did too. He responded to Satan's temptations with three terse sentences and three Bible verses. He didn't dialogue with the devil. When Peter told Christ to sidestep the cross, Jesus wouldn't entertain the thought. "Get behind Me, Satan!" (Matthew 16:23). A crowd of people ridiculed what he said about a young girl: "`The girl is not dead, only asleep.' But the people laughed at him" (Matthew 9:24 NCV). You know what Jesus did with the naysayers? He silenced them. `After the crowd had been thrown out of the house, Jesus went into the girl's room and took hold of her hand, and she stood Up" (9:25 NCV).

     David, Nehemiah, and Jesus practiced selective listening. Can't we do the same?

     Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention. One says, "Yes you can." The other says, "No you can't." One says, "God

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Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention.

One proclaims God's strengths; the other lists your failures.

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will help you." The other lies, "God has left you." One speaks the language of heaven; the other deceives in the vernacular of the Jebusites. One proclaims God's strengths; the other lists your failures. One longs to build you up; the other seeks to tear you down.

And here's the great news: you select the voice you hear. Why listen to the mockers? Why heed their voices? Why give ear to pea-brains

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Why listen to the mockers ... when you can,

with the same ear, listen to the voice of God?

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and scoffers when you can, with the same ear, listen to the voice of God?

     Do what David did. Turn a deaf ear to old voices. And, as you do, open your eyes to new choices. When everyone else saw walls, David saw tunnels. Others focused on the obvious. David searched for the unusual. Since he did what no one expected, he achieved what no one imagined. Get creative with your problem solving.

     I know a young couple who battled the stronghold of sexual temptation. They wanted to save sex for the honeymoon but didn't know if they could. So they did what David did. They tried a different approach. They enlisted the support of an understanding married couple. They put the older couple's phone number on speed dial and asked their permission to call them, regardless of the hour, when the temptation was severe. The wall was tall, so they took the tunnel.

     I had a friend who battled the stronghold of alcohol. He tried a fresh tactic. He gave me and a few others permission to slug him in the nose if we ever saw him drinking. The wall was too tall, so he tried the tunnel.

     One woman counters her anxiety by memorizing long sections of Scripture. A traveling sales rep asks hotels to remove the television from his room so he won't be tempted to watch adult movies. Another man grew so weary of his prejudice that he moved into a minority neighborhood, made new friends, and changed his attitude.

     If the wall is too tall, try a tunnel.

     David found fresh hope in a hole outside the Jerusalem walls. So can you. Not far from David's tunnel lies the purported tomb of Christ. What David's tunnel did for him, the tomb of Jesus can do for you. "God's power is very great for us who believe. That power is the same as the great strength God used to raise Christ from the dead and put him at his right side in the heavenly world" (Ephesians 1:19-20 NCV).

     Do what David did.

     Turn a deaf ear to the old voices.

     Open a wide eye to the new choices.

     Who knows, you may be a prayer away from a nevertheless. God loves to give them.

     He gave one to Pete. Remember him? Speak-now-and-think-later Pete? God released Satan's stronghold on his tongue. For proof, read Peter's Pentecost sermon in Acts 2. God turned impetuous Peter into the apostle Peter (Luke 22:54-62).

     And Joe, the failure? Fired by his family. Jailed by his employer ... Can Jobless Joe ever amount to anything? Joseph did. He became prime minister of Egypt (Genesis 37-50).

     What about the five-time divorcee? The woman whom men discarded, Jesus discipled. Last report had her introducing her entire village to Christ. The Samaritan woman was Jesus's first missionary (John 4:1-42). Further proof that "God's mighty weapons ... knock down the Devil's strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4 NLT).

Peter stuck his foot in his mouth.

Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt.

The Samaritan woman had been married five times.

Jesus was dead in the grave ...

Nevertheless, Peter preached, Joseph ruled, the woman shared,

Jesus rose---and you?

     You fill in the blank. Your nevertheless awaits you. [101-109]

 

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