Facing the Strongholds Unafraid

Nobody doesn’t have them. ‘Bad English, but still a real truth. There’s not a soul without its strongholds. And this morning, we’re called to face OUR strongholds UNafraid! David can teach us. Jesus, too. O, let me tell ya about these strongholds. They come in various shapes, sizes and descriptions. “David took the stronghold of Zion,” Scripture says. “David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David.” This is the place that’s the last to give in and give up. ‘The hardest to take; to claim as our own. It’s the place with a grip-like-a-vice. It latches onto our souls! It’s the 1 thing with a clamp-on-us-like-a-trap, a bear trap. If you respond to devil-talk, it’s where the Devil says, “You’re not getting’ over or around this! I’ve got ‘dibs’ on this place in you. I’m standin’ up and standin’ square between you and God on this one…so don’t be expectin’ even God to come to your rescue!”

Early in his reign, King David had his Jerusalem. But you and I have our own, interior places with a strong hold on our souls. What’s that place called in your life? Your temper, or your poor self-image? Or worse, you’re such a perfectionist you get on everybody’s last nerve, including your own. Or it’s just the lousy attitude you just can’t shake. Have you got an appetite the size of your fridge? Or you always speak first and think later (especially on email)! Maybe you’re the expert on self-defeating behavior. You ‘been practicing for years. Some adults just never figure out relationships. ‘Bad choices, bad behaviors, bad habits rule. And who here doesn’t know the child or teen who’s an expert on the interior design of the principal’s office, the time-out corner or the guidance room before school’s first week is done? And you just can’t seem to overcome. It’s immm-possible! If you know what I’m talkin’ about, listen up! (If you don’t, could we trade places? ‘Cause you’re way-better’n me… body and soul.)

Lord, help us. Help us anyway. The Devil notwithstanding. Cue David. He can help us. ‘David, runt of the family litter, but still chosen-of-heaven because of his heart for God. David has defeated Goliath. He’s endured and overcome King Saul’s jealousy. How? By focusing on the bigness of God, not the brawniness of his giants. There’s a lesson here for us. David’s known what it’s like to feel defeated and depleted. ‘To just wanna crawl into a cave and hide, like you and I. But he’s found his refuge in God alone. He’s recovered his strength in the Company of Believers. (We call that Church today.) These are lessons for us, too. David’s been declared king. But he rules a cranky kingdom. North and South don’t get along. Conservatives call liberals names. Liberals think conservatives are Cretans/creeps. Compromise confounds ‘em. (Sound familiar?) David needs a new capital on neutral ground to bring harmony. Jerusalem is perfect. The stronghold of Jerusalem. Only, it belongs to the Jebusites. And nobody messes with them! Well, David does. Up to the city he goes with a motley army, compared to those strong gates and high walls. They look like a VW Beetle pulling up at the circus with all those clowns inside piling out. These clowns could never take the stronghold of the Jebusites! “You haven’t got a chance,” the bad guys call down from the towers. “We’ll whup ya with our blind and our lame will ward you off!” Surely it looks so. BUT… right here appears one of the Bible’s holiest words. NEVERTHELESS!

“Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion.” No details. Just, NEVERTHELESS. And this, “David said on that day, ‘Whoever would smite the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack those lame and those blind!” Don’t miss this. (To borrow on Max Lucado), “Do what David does. Turn from the old voices and open your eyes to new choices. When everyone else sees walls, David sees tunnels. Let everybody else focus on the obvious. You search out the unusual. David does the unexpected and achieves the unimagined. O, be a disciple of nevertheless. It may be nothing less than to be a disciple of Jesus. Think and pray on this…. Listen and look for God’s nevertheless in your life. God’s got yours at the ready as we speak. It is Christ-prepared! Both Jesus and his great grandpa David know what we know. Two voices echo in every head, “Yes you can; no you can’t.” Only God’s nevertheless bridges the gap for us. Listen and look for it! You were born to weak parents, nevertheless you can be strong. Your genes call you an alcoholic, a smoker or a substance abuser. Nevertheless you can be sober, unhooked and clean. Neither you nor your own can call some college home; nevertheless you can master a trade and muster a noble and notable career. Your family is doubt-soaked and Bible-dry, nevertheless you can attain to great faith and a Biblical life. (You get the idea!) Two messages compete for your heart. “God will help you; God has left you.” God’s nevertheless moves from one to the other. David gets his nevertheless at the mouth of the tunnel, not the top of the wall. Paul sees the cross as a wall for wailing, but the tomb as a tunnel to triumph. “We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly ones, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds.” (II Cor. 10: 4) Why try to scale the heights of our personal strongholds with toothpick ladders and confetti-firing cannons? Do as David, Jesus, Paul! Receive God’s nevertheless. Listen for the Word he whispers (or shouts) from the mouth of an opening already made ready for you!

Do as David, Jesus, Paul! First, turn a deaf ear to false voices. Hit the mute button. Listen for the Holy Voice. David mutes the mouthings of the Jebusites. 500 yrs. later, Nehemiah will try to rebuild the City’s walls and the scoffers will say, “You can’t. And God won’t help.” He turns a deaf ear. Click mute! “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down. Why should the work cease so I can come down to you?” When Peter bids Jesus avoid the cross, Christ hits the mute button. “Get thee behind me!” Paul pens a mighty list of “You can’ts” before citing Christ as God’s nevertheless, saying, “Nothing in all creation shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I bid you, beg you, be active on your mute button. Why give no your ear when yes speaks to your heart in Jesus Christ? Now second, keep a sharp eye, a wide eye, on the new choices God opens in plain sight. Get creative. If the wall’s too tall, try a tunnel. (ML) If the web tempts you with porn, the library has none. If cheating chatters in your mind, spy out a classmate to grade your quiz. If your tiptoes don’t make you tall enough to see an answer for your problem, look down at your knees. Bending them in prayer buckles many a mystery into an opportunity. Listen, look and pray for God’s nevertheless: and you can face your strongholds unafraid. Why, just remember. David took a city! Nehemiah rebuilt it. Peter got his foot out his mouth and preached for the ages! The 5-husband well-woman converted her village! Jesus in the grave got up! Don’t be afraid. ‘No secret what God can do. What He’s done for others, he’ll do for you!

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