How do I take every thought captive?
I was excited when I saw this question on Facebook, because I realized someone understood they needed to think differently. She realized that her thoughts were problematic.
So what do we do?
Let’s go to God’s Word. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV tells us to do that. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
This is one of my husband’s favorite stories and it happened while he was serving our country in Vietnam. I think he loves to tell it because it gives everybody the heebie jeebies! He was working long, hard 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. He was repairing airplanes in boiling hot open-ended Quonset huts and the glaring heat on runways. Sleep was precious.
At the end of a long day, Wayne climbed into his top bunk and pulled up the sheet. As he pulled up the sheet, he felt something begin at his ankles and run along the outside of his leg. When it got to his waist he grabbed it.
The room was dark but he could feel it wriggling and writhing frantically in his hand. With one swift move, Wayne flung the lizard to the other side of the room, rolled over and went to sleep.
Just an inconvenience?
While it is true the very thing that is one person’s inconvenience is another person’s nightmare. How we deal or don’t deal with situations makes all the difference in the world.
What happens to you is less important than what you do with what happens.
What you do with what happens can make you strong or destroy you.
Oh, by the way, that little minor distraction never bothered Wayne again. He dealt with it and it was over. He didn’t worry about it crawling up his leg again or if there was another one on the mattress. Wayne just went to sleep.
Take every thought captive.
We need to take every thought that contradicts the word of God captive, like a policeman takes a thief captive. The Voice (VOICE) version of 2 Cor. 10:5 articulately explain our role in taking captive every thought. “We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.”
Wayne didn’t even look at that lizard. He wasn’t going to fight with it. It didn’t belong on him. End of story. There are some thoughts that don’t need analysis. You just need to replace it with truth.
As I was studying and meditating on Scripture I thought to myself, “in order to correct wrong thinking I need to surrender my opinion to God.” Then I took that thought to Scripture to discover if that was really what God wanted me to do. I was so confident that my thinking was correct.
But, when I searched the Bible I realized that surrender was used in the context of what a person does when they lose a battle and they have lost all hope. They choose to surrender because it is the only choice they have. Instead, God wants us to submit our thinking to Him and embrace His better, broader and more perfect thoughts. Let me explain what He taught me.
When we were touring some of the national parks out West, especially Yosemite, we stood in beautiful meadows and looked up in awe at tall, tall walls of solid granite. We saw peaks of mountains poking into heavy clouds and the dazzling gleam of sunlight dancing off the face of wet granite. We saw blue lakes, like mirrors, reflecting wavy green trees, golden leaves and gleaming, white mountains.
A hand hewn Sanctuary
Honestly, I felt like I was standing in one of God’s hand carved sanctuaries. It was magnificent.
As I humbled my heart in HIS presence, I began to worship Him, the creator of it all. It was more than beauty that wowed me…it was God that designed and fashioned it all.
In His great wisdom, He put processes in place that would be perpetual!
And from that place of worship, recognizing that His ways are higher than my ways and that He knows way more than I know, I simply submitted my thinking to embrace His. From that place of submission I make room to receive what He had for me.
I exchanged my human reasoning for His Truth.
Do you see the process?
- Embrace or Exchange.
Philippians 4:8 NLT And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Like a Spat
Your mind is like the tiny oyster larva called spat. They float freely in the water until they find a suitable permanent home, then it produces a very strong cement to attach itself to another oyster shell or a pylon standing in the water. But, sometimes it cements itself to wrong things like a bottle that washes ashore killing the oyster. (God’s amazing creations never cease to amaze me!)
If spat survives, it matures into a soft mollusk that lives inside a hinged shell. When the mollusk opens its shell, its gills filter food and oxygen from the water. The oyster eats whatever is in the water that comes through its open shell and it can become polluted in the process.
NOAA, What is spat?, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/spat.html , 6/25/18.
Your mind is a filter feeder and like the saying goes, “Garbage in. Garbage out.” (GIGO) Your mind processes what it gets, often with unintended results. It will process a lie the same way it processes truth. Lies, hatred, frustration and anger are toxic to your brain, but that’s the only choice your mind has. If you want it to work right, then give your mind truth, pure input and excellent information.
Focus your thoughts or like the spat, cement yourself to the right thing. Because Jesus is truth, establish His Words as absolute truth and base your life on that truth.
The fence surrounding a playground does more than establish boundaries. It gives children a place to play safely. When you establish boundaries tied to your values of what you will watch on TV, of what you will and will not read, of what you will and will not listen to, then you are well on your way to thinking right. Establishing boundaries include what you say to yourself. Just because you are an adult doesn’t mean you can fill the precious real estate of your mind with garbage.
Because you enjoy something doesn’t mean it is good for you. Toxic thoughts will sabotage your best efforts. Fear, self-doubt, negative self-talk and abusive name-calling will stop you in your tracks. They are thieves that rob your energy and productivity.
Use a filter.
After I boil a chicken for my gumbo, I remove the chicken and pour the broth through a sieve, which filters any little pieces of bone or fat that would ruin the texture and taste of my gumbo.
Become responsible for what you think, hear, see and say by paying attention to your thoughts. Paul established a filter for thoughts in Philippians 4:8 (https://biblehub.com/philippians/4-8.htm)
Is this thought…
- honorable; to others, to me, to God?
If it won’t go thru this filter, then it doesn’t get to stay in my mind. It gets replaced with a healthy, life giving thought.
Have you ever felt sad and thought to yourself, “What’s wrong with me?” If you answered yes, you’re not alone. The writer of Psalm 43:5 did that exact same thing.
Psalm 43:5 NLT – Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again–my Savior and my God.
This verse shows us how the psalmist redirected his thoughts from discouraging, sad thoughts into questions.
Why am I sad? Then he refocused his thoughts and words to reflect the goodness of God.
What thought troubles you?
- Examine it in the light of Scripture and prayer.
- What does Scripture say?
- Do you have peace in your heart?
- Ask Holy Spirit to guide you to truth.
- Seek God’s wisdom.