It starts with a flitting thought. So quick, by the time I realize what it is, it’s gone. But when it returns, it lingers a bit. And I dwell on it a few moments longer. Then I find myself rationalizing as to why The Thought is not so bad.
In the deep recesses of my spirit, I know exactly what happened. Sin I’ve neither spoken nor acted upon has invaded my thought life yet again. And I’m guessing I’m not alone.
A little fib won’t hurt anyone.
No one will notice if you cut corners.
They’re only pictures.
It’s okay. Nobody expects you to forgive her.
It’s a small thing. God’s busy with bigger issues.
How can we battle these sneak attacks? Will we ever experience victory over our thoughts?
The Bible tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). But God doesn’t just give us the command. He also tells us how to control our thought life.
The Battle Plan
Philippians 4:4-9 gives us the battle plan for conquering our thoughts:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (NIV).
Step 1: Rejoice
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
Rejoice, even in the middle of the spiritual battle for your thoughts. Why? Because “the Lord is near.” He promised to never leave us and He keeps His promises!
Step 2: Release
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
This verse tells us to release both our anxieties and our requests. Not in a whiny way, but with thanksgiving. To be any less than thankful in all things is to say, in effect, that I could do better than God if I were in charge. Thank God for His patience: He keeps teaching us until we finally get it!
Step 3: Receive
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Trading anxiety for peace sounds like a pretty good deal. Our heavenly Father promises His peace in return for giving up our anxiety through prayerful thanksgiving. A peace applied to our hearts and minds.
He promises to use this peace to guard our minds. The Greek word for “guard,” phroureo, has a military connotation: the provision of protection against the enemy. And that’s a peace backed by the very power of God Himself through His Son.
Step 4: Replace
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
I love a clean house, but I don’t enjoy the effort needed to achieve the result. Cleaning house in our spiritual lives is also hard work. However, it’s not enough to stop there. It’s time to replace the anxieties and requests we’ve released with things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. Of course, the next question is: how?
Do you know of anything truer than God’s Word? Memorize Scripture.
Is anything purer than God, Himself? Invest time in getting to know the Father’s character and His ways. Spend time with Him in prayer.
Who is more worthy of praise than the Creator and Sustainer of all that is seen and unseen? Play praise music. Learn hymns and praise choruses. List God’s attributes using the alphabet as a memory jogger. For example:
A – Almighty
B – Beautiful
C – Compassionate…
Step 5: Repeat
“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
The apostle Paul closes this passage by telling us to follow his example. Do it whether you succeed or fail. Do it when you feel like it and when you don’t. And do it even when it’s difficult…especially when it’s difficult.
Of course, we can’t possibly succeed in our own strength. It’s God who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and each day we are being transformed into the image of the glory of the Lord by His Spirit (II Corinthians 3:18). You and I are a work in progress. And the Holy Spirit is the One doing the work and accomplishing His desired result.
The battleground for this transformation is our mind. And a measure of our progress is the development of habits to conquer our thoughts.
God’s Word is sure and His ways are proven. It’s up to us to implement what He says as we depend on His Holy Spirit.
In the battleground of the mind, thoughts can either conquer or be conquered.
Are you ready to engage in the battle for control of your thought life?