A great missionary told us before we arrived here, “The church has not grown as quickly because the strongholds have never been broken.” Those are intimidating words to hear from giants of faith who have seen countless churches planted and millions of lives reborn across Africa. But as much as we could hope her words are an overstatement they ring painfully true.
Driving through the streets of Dakar we see an absence of churches. We see an absence of Christ-centered influence in the marketplace, the business world, the daily lives of men, women and children. Just the other day driving around with two plumbers the tension of a placating peace staled the gospel-driven conversation. We listened together to gospel music from Equatorial Guinea as I translated the lyrics for them from Spanish into Wolof and the conversation stalled. A shroud of a dark stronghold seemed to cloud over their eyes.
In the past few months we have seen more destabilizing efforts worked out from the hands of wicked men who seek to establish a chaotic reign against “the slaves of the cross.” As I read those words in the news I couldn’t think of a higher compliment we could be paid by blind men than to be called slaves of the cross; people anchored before the world to the cross, the strong tower where we are made new, freed, forgiven.
Living in a post-monarchy society we lose a lot from our biblical understanding. Things that the psalmist assumed in common day experience are lost in our democracies and modern day figurehead crowns. In their place we have images of bipartisan politics powered by special interests or heartless dictatorships that rule by fear and oppression. This makes it difficult for us to grasp the Kingship of Christ in our everyday lives. We are muddied with disinterested despots, or worse, malicious ones.
Jesus is our King, but as is always the case with Christ, He is more. He is our stronghold. He is our place of safety, our means of protection. He is our refuge from the bedlam of our lives and tumult of our world. He is our Sovereign King in whose Kingdom we dwell, and with His glorious compassion He Himself is our fortress. Jesus is our indestructible citadel of comfort. Jesus is our abiding presidio of peace. He has placed our joy within His incorruptible arms.
Jesus the stronghold has placed our lives within Himself. He is our light in the dark night of the soul. He is our salvation from the burnout and brokenness that seeks to find us all. Jesus is our assurance in the face of life’s fears. Jesus in our confidence in the chaos. Even in the heat of battle we can take rest in that. Jesus is our stronghold!
And this truth remains: no other stronghold can stand in His presence. All other strongholds must fall. They may take 50 years, they may appear insurmountable, but they will fall. They will crumble before Jesus the Messiah because locked behind those human constructs and demonic fabrications are people. There are men, women and children who have been made to worship Jesus. He is calling them home, and He has called us to be His voice crying in the wilderness, to be the personal link from the local church to the unreached.