Have you ever felt enslaved to a behavior or habit from which you desperately wanted to be free? Maybe you know someone who is constantly overcome with temptation and is unable to get free of a specific sin. If transformation is our goal and our desire, it is helpful to understand what holds us back and keeps us from living free from sin. Sometimes it’s as simple as gaining new understanding or having a revelation that changes what we think and believe. However, what if that only gets us started and there seems to be something more that grips us with such force that we cannot seem to break free of its devastating influence?
Paul alludes to these powerful forces in 2 Corinthians. He calls them strongholds: “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” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4 NIV).
We don’t think any of us fully understand how or why some sins are harder to break than others. We get glimpses throughout the Bible, yet what we do know is that we need God’s supernatural power for “breaking free.” Even the disciples, who walked with Jesus and wielded the supernatural power to heal and remove demons, came against situations that seemed to have a greater power than what they had experienced. In Mark 9:14–29, we are told a father brought his son to the disciples and asked them to cast out the tormenting demon that caused his son to be deaf and mute. They couldn’t do it. When Jesus arrived, He publicly reminded the father and the onlookers that faith was needed. Then privately He went even further. When the disciples asked why they couldn’t cast the demon out, Jesus made it clear there was more that was needed to break the stronghold the demon had on the boy—prayer and fasting.
This power to break strongholds is not just for the disciples—we are told we are given the same power when we believe. Jesus told His disciples to expect the power soon, and even to wait to minister until then. When we are providing spiritual growth coaching, we have found it valuable to ask questions of discovery, such as “What do you believe might be causing the overwhelming temptation?” or “Are there other areas of your life that are similarly intense forces that you find impossible to overcome?” Depending on the responses, we may have an opportunity to explore more deeply. The goal is to open someone up to the love and power of God that can set them free just like we are promised.
When our son was in college, he had a particularly difficult breakup. It was the first girl to whom he really opened up his heart. Months after the breakup, he was still gripped with anger, pain, and hurt. We were riding in the car and he was sharing how sometimes he became overwhelmed with such a crushing force, he felt powerless to resist it. Something rose up in my (Lea) heart and mind that this was more than just natural pain and hurt, but rather was being energized by spiritual forces in such a way, my son needed extra warfare to break through to freedom. I reminded him about strongholds and spiritual warfare and asked him if we could pray specifically for breaking these controlling strongholds. We prayed a simple prayer starting with Scriptures, called on the power of the Holy Spirit, and proclaimed our trust in God to set our son free. What happened next was something neither of us have ever forgotten. He immediately felt a lightening in his heart and mind. It was like a pressure had lifted and it changed everything.
Depending on our experience, teaching or background, we will have varying degrees of understanding about spiritual warfare. No matter your background or belief, it is clear that the Lord and the Holy Spirit are necessary for the work of breaking free. Lean into the work of the Lord as you seek transformation for yourself and for others.
Lea Carawan, MA, is the founder of Transformed Living, a ministry that provides Bible-based resources and services designed to make disciples who love God, walk in freedom, and build life-giving relationships at home, work, and play. She and her husband, Rolfe, built a successful speaking, coaching, and consulting firm serving organizations ranging from Fortune 500 and high-tech companies to healthcare and nonprofits. For nearly 20 years, they helped leaders implement winning strategies that brought out the best in people. Lea was the cofounder and served as the Executive Director for the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation. For over a decade, she led the effort to equip and mobilize the largest network of federal and state elected leaders—nearly 100 sitting members of Congress and 900 state legislators—who are committed to standing for faith and implementing proactive strategies to advance religious freedom, prayer, and America’s Judeo-Christian heritage. She is a speaker, consultant, ordained minister, and multi-certified life, relationship, and spiritual formation coach and trainer. With a career spanning three decades, Lea has transitioned seamlessly between entrepreneurship, fashion, consulting, ministry, and motherhood. Lea has been a frequent speaker at women’s meetings, conferences, and marriage retreats around the world, including countries such as Brazil, Ukraine, and the United Arab Emirates. Lea is currently on the Board of Reference for the International Christian Coaching Institute (ICCI) and a Certified Transformed Living Coach Trainer. See more at: www.transformedliving.org