Our sinful words and actions all start out from what is going on in our mind. And that is why it is so key to do what the Bible says:
'Bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ' 2 Cor 10:5
The idea of taking every thought captive is not always that easy to do though. Thoughts are like little clouds in our minds, and it can be difficult to pin them down and imprison them! That is especially true when our sinful or foolish thoughts are pleasurable.
Even negative thought trains like self pity can be enjoyable, because we like feeling sorry for ourselves. So it can be difficult to even want to change our thinking, let alone actually change it. Or maybe they have become an ingrained habit.
But there is a clue that comes right before that scripture, to help us. It says:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ 2 Cor 10:3-5
The weapons of our warfare against these thoughts are spiritual. And it is through God that we can get victory over them.
Here are three important and very effective ways of gaining immediate control of our thoughts. While they can all be used in every situation, I think from experience that some are more effective than others as our first port of call for different issues.
1. Pray and commit them to God
One of the best situations to straight away turn to prayer in is worry. We are told to ‘be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’ Phil 4:6,7
When I catch myself starting to worry or fear about something I try to turn the situation into prayer. I ask for God’s help and just tell Him about all of it, committing my burden to Him. It really does stop me worrying, because I know that it is in the hands of the King of the Universe and He will work everything for the good of those who love Him.
2. Replace them with Biblical thoughts
Sometimes our thoughts can be plainly and simply wrong! Like if we are thinking to ourselves in the middle of stress and trials, ‘I can’t cope’. That just isn’t true because the Bible says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ Phil 4:13. And if you catch yourself thinking this then you should replace the thought with this scriptural truth along with praying about the circumstances you are in.
It can require a bit of Bible study or godly counsel from people or books (some of my favourite counsellors!) to find what is the right Biblical thought to replace it with. But if you often struggle in this area then it is well worth it because the more often you replace it, the more the right thinking will become a habit.
This happened for me with the whole issue of lack of confidence and insecurity. After having being continually bullied and left out at school I was left with some real issues. I am not clear of all that yet, but with God’s help I have made a lot of headway just through replacing my wrong thoughts with the right ones. My husband helped a lot by reminders such as that I am a daughter of the King :)
3. Meditate on Scripture
One of the worst kind of thought trains to be on is one that we know is bad for us or wrong but is also really enjoyable, as it can be extremely hard to take captive.
With some kinds of thinking we can go into a whole fantasy world. I know of people who have gone into fantasies about killing someone, or there could be a romantic attraction to someone who is not good for you or forbidden territory. Meditating on scripture is good for all kinds of wrong thoughts because the sword of the Spirit is the word of God so we can really fight with it. But I think it is especially effective here.
The reason for that is because praying about our thoughts still keeps us on the wrong train of mind, as does trying to figure out how to think Biblically about it. Of course we do need to do both of those at some point, but sometimes we just need to get the thought out of our head before it starts going off on its little trail that can be so dangerous.
And then to start reciting and meditating on scripture – it doesn’t even matter which one – is really effective. It is hard to do, because we have to wrench ourselves away, but it is truly taking our thoughts captive.
If you have memorised scripture then you can just recite and think about any of them. If you haven’t memorised anything and are struggling with these kind of thoughts then I would recommend that you either start memorising something, or write down a verse or passage on a card and carry it with you. Then you can take it out of your pocket and look at it when these thoughts start to attack.
I hope that helps a little. It is a big battle, and I think many of our spiritual battles are fought and won in the mind and then affect our words and actions as a result. It is ongoing throughout life too - I continually struggle to take my thoughts captive - and one of the biggest reasons I look forward to heaven is that there won't be any sin and temptation to fight any more!
‘For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’ Rom 8:6