When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man’s life) to employ them in the siege: Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued. – Deuteronomy 20:19-20.
This text is very practical in terms of warfare, how to treat the environment in which one is seeking to overcome. Why would you “cut your own nose off to spite your face” when seeking to take a stronghold? Why would you cut down the fruit bearing trees in the making of bulwarks or other devices to take down the city? Even if you overcome it, what will you then eat afterwards? How will you then survive?
The same holds true today. In seeking to overcome, say, an addiction- no matter to what substance or behavior, or any kind of bondage to sin, there are strongholds involved within the person:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations [reasonings, rationalizations], and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. – 2 Cor 10:3-6.
The city which we’re trying to overcome is a particular area of our life, which we may have been struggling with for some time. The high walls of a stronghold that prevent us from taking this city are the very reasoning or rationalizations that are an excuse which ‘justify’ it’s existence. The high-towers of this stronghold are the points of pride, obstinacy, and stubbornness which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Carnal thinking, or the fleshly mind in conjunction with an impenitent or prideful heart comprise a soulical stronghold. Not until this stronghold can be overcome will there be victory over this sin or addictive behavior.
Consider how long one has besieged a certain area of their life, how long one has struggled against a certain stronghold, or more, in one’s life. There may be a particular level of frustration, or a sense of hopelessness, or helplessness in seeking to defeat it. Maybe we’ve fallen for the thousandth time, or have struggled with the same issue for over a decade… it may be tempting to grab anything to fight against it. What is being forbidden here in our text is using fruit bearing trees in attacking a stronghold. What does this mean? Simply put, it is destroying what is good, prosperous, beneficial, or wholesome about oneself in order to destroy the stronghold. It is the proverbial, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”
What often accompanies a lapse in recovery, or a moral failure, is what’s called ‘toxic shame’- which is an undue amount of self-loathing, and even self-hatred in lieu of the failure. This is part of a cycle of addiction is the shame and subsequent promises of “never doing this again!” – Though this is not to say that we shouldn’t feel a certain degree of healthy shame, or guiltiness when we sin, or selfishly indulge- but this good kind of shame should lead us to confession of our sins, and repentance. The toxic kind of shame simply leads us back to the indulgent behavior eventually, as it sets the stage for the re-commission of it.
Consider then the time factor involved, “a long time” as our text says. This can compound the toxic-shame factor, the self-loathing and self-hatred that only feed into the addiction/habit. One can readily see how something can spiral out of control, and lead one to despair or worse. What is one to do?
Don’t lose touch with the fruitful aspects of yourself. You are not your addiction, and there is more to you than your sin. In fact, it’s not “your sin”- it’s the law of sin at work within us (Rom 7:17, 20- etc). Consider all the good qualities that make up who you are: your talents, abilities, skills, natural and/or learned. Think of all who love you, or depend on you to be the best ‘you’ possible.
As Christians, we are to develop- or rather, allow the development of the fruits of the Holy Spirit within us:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – Ga 5:22-23.
As we walk in the Spirit, these fruits, these traits- which are the very characteristics of Christ- will be developed in and through us. Whatever then, good thing God has done in you over the years- don’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater” in combating sin or an addictive behavior.
Finally, we’re to fight- not as one who only expects defeat, or to always be the same, with no hope for change or victory. God forbid! We must keep in mind the verse that says,
He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. – Rev 21:7.
We must ever strive by faith to be overcomers- that we will subdue this city, this area of our lives. We will forcibly cast down this stronghold in our lives, and we will be victorious. We’re not seeking to make some kind of peace-treaty, or some pact with this sin in order to have peace. We’re not seeking to have a strategy of containment, but seek total and utter eradication of this deadly sin out of our lives, so that we may be wholly pleasing to our God- and that the enemy has nothing in us which he could use to bring us to despair.
So- take courage. Seek for things that you can use as battlements, as bulwarks against this stronghold- study how others overcame, gather testimonies, seek godly counsel, ask others to pray or otherwise support you- but keep in mind that your enemy is not all the good things in your life, but rather the lies which one has believed these many years.
Be blessed and encouraged as you resist the enemy, and submit yourselves wholly unto God.Invite Leon to Speak