Smashing Strongholds

Sometimes spiritual growth can get a bit messy.

And to some degree, it’s supposed to. Like a toddler who learns to walk by falling forward, we learn to “walk” with Christ through trial and error. In fact, that’s often how we learn best.

Yet when an area of difficulty persists over time, it’s possible we might be dealing with a spiritual stronghold.


A few years ago, pastor Steve Berger taught an invaluable sermon series on this very subject called Winning the Mind Wars.

Based on what I learned, here’s my own definition of a stronghold:



A hellish pattern of thinking – based on lies, distortions, and half truths – that’s become so deeply imbedded in your thoughts, attitudes, and emotions, it actually hinders your ability to believe God and live from your true identity in Christ.

Basically, it’s allowing the devil’s perspective to rule your thoughts in a given area – by simply “going with the flow.” 



Strongholds are the direct result of NOT taking our thoughts captive to Christ. Sometimes they develop gradually over time, like the proverbial frog in the pot. Other times they develop instantly, through a traumatic circumstance the enemy exploits so he can sneak a lie or half-truth into our hearts.

Once a stronghold is in place,

Satan uses it to attack our view of God

and ourselves from the inside out.

Any time we allow unfiltered thoughts to rattle around inside our heads, the devil seizes the opportunity to slip in ideas that sound harmless but are actually quite destructive. Soon we’re believing and acting on lies instead of truth, without even realizing it.


If spiritual strongholds are constructed of lies that get woven into the very fabric of how we think, how in heaven’s name do you get rid of them?

You simply reverse the process.

You smash a stronghold

by replacing its foundational lie

with an infinitely more powerful truth.

 Exposing a stronghold to the light of God’s Word causes it to crumble to the ground as the hellish illusion it always was. Depending on how long that deception has been there, and how deeply it’s been entrenched in your life, it may take some persistence to keep exposing that lie to the truth until it finally succumbs. It takes practice to learn the difference between God’s truth and the devil’s deceptions. Yet no matter how short or long the process—take heart.

God’s truth always triumphs over deception!

Your part is simply to align your thinking (and eventually your actions) with His Word—and thus renounce the lying logic of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

If you suspect you have a stronghold in your life, don’t panic. Just start taking small deliberate steps of obedience forward, and God will be faithful to free you, as you allow the light of His truth to shine into the dark places of your heart.

  1. Start by memorizing this verse: “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 10:5
  2. Then write down these three words: Post these steps to smashing strongholds somewhere you’ll notice them regularly.
  • Recognize

  • Renounce

  • Renew


To recognize a hellish thought pattern in your life will require you to learn a new skill: thinking about what you think about.

How do you do that? You spend time in God’s Word and compare your thoughts to His thoughts. It’s that basic—and that amazing.

It can also be very helpful to talk over these comparisons with a trusted friend or mentor, since the relational enzymes of empathy and accountability help speed up the process.

The Bible tells us that as disciples of Jesus we’ve been given the mind of Christ. Sit back and soak that in for a minute. Do you realize you have access to the mind of Christ at this very moment? Whether you feel like it or not, you do!

It’s as if you’ve been emailed a file that connects you with all the truth, love, and wisdom of Christ—but you only reap the benefits if you download it! Downloading God’s Word regularly is a must for recognizing and smashing strongholds. Otherwise, the file does you very little good just sitting there in your inbox.

In the same way that bank tellers learn to recognize counterfeit bills by studying the real thing, we learn to recognize Satan’s lies by becoming so familiar with the cold hard cash of God’s truth that the enemy’s lies look like cheap Monopoly money in comparison!

The next time you encounter a possible stronghold, ponder this question prayerfully before God.

Do my thoughts about this situation line up with the truth and love of Christ?

If not, what about those thoughts smells fishy or counterfeit?

One thing that can be helpful in identifying strongholds is learning to recognize the enemy’s tells. In a poker game, most players have an unconscious mannerism (or “tell”) that lets their opponents know they have a good hand or are bluffing.

In your own life, you can become skilled at recognizing the enemy’s tells. Start by working your way backward, and remembering what sort of tricks he’s played on you before. Sometimes the devil gets cocky and overplays his hand, and if you pay attention, you can catch him in the act!

If a certain sin tempts you beyond all reason, that’s an area to keep an eye on. If you’re flooded with unworthiness whenever you try to pray, there’s a good chance the devil has something to do with it. Bear in mind, Satan is a big fat liar.

As Steve Berger often said, “If Satan’s lips are moving, he’s lying!”

Once the recognizing phase is complete, you’re ready to move on to the next stronghold smashing step. 


Imagine you’re a detective who’s captured a suspect for a serious crime. What do you do?

  • First you arrest them…
  • Then you question them…
  • If the evidence stacks up against them…
  • You bring them to a higher authority for judgment…
  • And if they’re convicted, you lock ’em up!

The same drill applies for suspected strongholds.

  • If they don’t hold up against God’s Word…
  • If they prove themselves to be lies and enemies of God’s truth…
  • If they’re potentially harmful to everyone they encounter…

We arrest suspicious thoughts, question them, submit them to Christ for judgment—and say a firm NO to every thought He declares a lie!  

Here’s a simple one-two punch for “taking thoughts captive.”

Grab a thought—and give it to God.

It will also be helpful to ask…

  • Lord, what do You think?
  • Do any of my thoughts not line up with Yours?
  • What does Your Word say about this situation?
  • What thoughts, beliefs, or patterns need to be rerouted?
  • How can I actively trust You where I’ve been believing a lie? 


Once God confirms that the pattern of thought is a lie, the next step is to replace it with a life-giving truth.

The Bible calls this taking thoughts captive process “renewing your mind.”

So how do you renew your mind?

One of the best ways is to steep your mind in God’s thoughts, like a teabag in a cup. Dislodging and destroying a deeply entrenched stronghold requires far more than a passing glance at truth. Full immersion in God’s Word is your best weapon.

(and the longer you leave the teabag in the water, the stronger the tea!)

Of course, reading a verse a day is still a valuable habit. Any day we ingest God’s Word is a good day. Yet if you suddenly discovered a tumor growing in your body, to the point that it was threatening your current and future health—you’d probably want to apply more than just a few seconds of treatment a day!

The PreScriptures at the end of each blog post in this series  are designed to help you with this immersion process. I encourage you to keep praying these Scripture-based prayers as long as necessary to break a particular stronghold!

In other words, keep persevering to address the root lie of your stronghold until that lie no longer has a (strong) hold on your daily life.


At first blush, dealing with spiritual strongholds may sound intimidating.

Yet the more you understand about how your thoughts work and how God works, you’ll see that you have much more control over which thoughts stay and which thoughts go than you realized. To quote an old saying: You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair!

On the other hand, keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for a stronghold that took years or even decades to build to take more than a day or two to demolish. Some fall quickly, while others take a while. Dealing with a deeply entrenched stronghold can sometimes feel like a journey of a thousand miles—and it’s easy to become discouraged.

If that’s your situation, don’t lose heart.

Your perseverance WILL pay off!

Ultimately, the enemy’s evil works will come to nothing, and God’s good work in your life will stand the test of eternity.

Here’s a helpful phrase to remember when dealing with strongholds…

Six inches to freedom.

The battle to stay stronghold-free is largely a battle for our minds. And the width of the average human brain is (you guessed it) six inches.

So you don’t have a thousand miles to go.

You only have to travel

six inches to freedom!

But what a huge difference those six inches make.

Many people who attempt to break through strongholds stop short about two inches. They don’t realize how close they are to victory. Imagine the misery of living your whole life only TWO inches from your promised land?

Don’t be that person!

Persevere a little longer. Lean into God’s strength a little longer. Immerse yourself in the Word, surround yourself with godly supporters, believe you are who God says you are, and press through those last two inches to victory.

Six. Inches. To. Freedom.

Years from now, you’ll be oh-so-grateful you did!


by Frank Outlaw

Watch your THOUGHTS,

for they become words.

Watch your WORDS,

for they become actions.

Watch your ACTIONS,

for they become habits.

Watch your HABITS,

for they become character.

Watch your CHARACTER,

for it becomes your DESTINY.






Here’s the full PreScripture list…with free downloads for pdf & audio!

(click here for PreScripture blogs #1-6)

  1. IDENTITY IN CHRIST PreScripture 
  2. “MASTERING” THE DAILY PreScripture 
  3. WISH-I-KNEW BASICS PreScripture 
  4. KING’S DAUGHTER PreScripture 
  5. RELATIONSHIPS PreScripture 

I’ll be sharing about the remaining 2 PreScripture audios in future individual blogs, so be sure to join the DiscipleSips email list for notices of future posts!

And if you share my passion to equip more women for relational discipleship, click here to learn about becoming a DiscipleSips Pour-Out Partner



  1. Virginia Duckworth on October 30, 2023 at 7:51 am

    What a wonderful post! The six inches to freedom so resonates with me. Thank you for this “roadmap’ to freedom! God bless!

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