The Battlefield Of The Mind
What do you think?
It’s a common question that demands, these days, an urgent response to our feelings or faith. Social media, for example, constantly alerts us to messages and posts, and we feel compelled to answer by clicking an emoji or typing the first thought that comes to mind. But what do we, as Christians, really think about? More important, how do we think?
In the second chapter of Luke, we read about shepherds who encounter the angel of the Lord and hear an astonishing message. Besides Mary and Joseph, these shepherds would be the first ones to see Jesus, the Son of the living God. Afterward, they made known the saying they heard earlier in the fields: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” The Bible says all who heard it wondered. But Mary—she kept all these things and “pondered them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19).
Mary pondered—a word we don’t hear much anymore. It means to weigh in the mind; to think or consider quietly, soberly, and deeply.
The things that Mary thought on surely included her own miraculous experience that started with the Angel Gabriel announcing, “Fear not, Mary, for you have found favor with God,” included Elisabeth calling her “the mother of my Lord,” Simeon saying, “My eyes have seen Your salvation,” and Anna, who spoke of Jesus “to all them who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
Mary marveled at these sayings regarding the Son of God, and she pondered them in her heart.
Likewise, what believers think on—good or bad—most certainly affects the heart, which is what man uses to “believe unto righteousness” (Rom. 10:10). That’s why Satan fights so hard to gain ground in our minds, because what he wants to steal, kill, and destroy most of all is our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—faith kept in our hearts.
Therefore, the mind—gateway to the heart—is the perfect battlefield for the Devil to engage us. As the accuser of the brethren, he is armed with our past sins and failures, and at the first sign of weakness, he’s ready to fire rounds of remembrance that detonate anger, jealousy, and fear.
Foolishly, we add to his arsenal by what we take into our heads through television, the Internet, books, video games, and music. After watching or listening, we think we’re done with that movie or game. But the enemy of men’s souls also heard the same dialogue we heard and saw the same images we saw. And when he finds a strategic advantage, the Devil launches his attack.
An example: A middle-aged woman notices a young mother in the park playing sweetly with her baby. The woman finds herself thinking how beautiful the child is and smiles when she hears the baby laugh. Suddenly, like an ambush, the woman is mentally hit with painful memories of the abortion she had 30 years ago. Like shots from a rifle, one accusation after another rings out in her mind: You killed your baby. God will never forgive you. Your soul is forever damned. A fresh wave of guilt washes over her, and an old wound begins to ache. She walks away, too heartbroken to believe in God’s forgiveness.
Just like in war, some battles are bloodier than others.
You may recall an email I shared on air from a precious man born with a birth defect—a cleft lip and palette. He loved the Lord, but while suffering the laughter and ridicule of others, the Devil took careful aim and shot this Scripture into his mind: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee” (Jer. 1:5). Even though the truth of this verse deals with God’s general creation of human life, the Devil twisted it for this man’s ear to mean, “God made you this way.” Day after day and year after year, the man pondered this lie until it settled into his heart, and he believed it.
Since the garden of Eden, the enemy has weaponized Scripture, adding and subtracting from what God actually said. In Genesis 3:1, the serpent asked Eve, “Hath God said…?” Remember, the Word of God always builds faith—never destroys it.
God did not cause this dear brother to have a cleft lip, but the father of lies had convinced him otherwise. The poor man wrote, “My mind is messed up between loving Jesus and resenting God the Father. I’m depressed, I’m worried—I’m not really saved.”
That man just unfolded Satan’s battle plan. In this fight where the ultimate objective is your faith, the Devil’s first maneuver is to steal your joy, which the Bible calls your strength (Neh. 8:10). Without strength, a believer can no longer carry his shield of faith and begins to retreat. He starts backing up from Bible reading, prayer, church, and fellowship with other Christians. Isolated—and often wounded—the believer begins a downward spiral of doubt in his own salvation.
Every Christian, at one time or another, has found himself alone in a spiritual fox hole, low on ammunition and listening to cold threats of the enemy: You’re going to die. Your children will never come back to the Lord. God doesn’t love you. You’re going to lose your job and everything you’ve worked for.
Once he occupies your thought life, the Devil will do everything He can to make you defect from the faith and turn against God using lies and threats to convince you that total destruction is headed your way.
That brings to mind my letter from Amanda.
This sweet lady wrote to me her account of what happened in Hawaii on January 13, when the Emergency Alert System issued a ballistic missile warning. It was a Saturday morning, and Amanda and her family had just finished breakfast. Their son was outside playing with friends, and she and her husband were sitting on the sofa. Suddenly, both of their phones lit up with this message: “EMERGENCY ALERT: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Amanda wrote, “I’m sure you can imagine our initial reactions: Disbelief. Fear. Was this a joke? What are we going to do? My husband and I looked at each other. We immediately went to look for our son and brought him inside. We didn’t tell him anything that was going on, but we all three sat down on our sofa and began to pray. We prayed in our heads, and we prayed out loud in a way that wouldn’t tip off our son to the danger. I called my parents—they were 4,000 miles away. I told my mother that we loved her, and she broke down crying in the middle of a store. Then I texted my dad, and I told him, ‘I know that you’re not a praying man, but please pray for us now, and I love you so much.’ My dad immediately called and said, ‘I am praying.’ We prepared ourselves and waited. We were scared, but somehow God washed an amazing peace over us. Regardless of what happened, we were ready.”
Thirty-eight long minutes later, the people of Hawaii learned that there was no ballistic missile racing toward them. Somebody had pushed a wrong button. It was a false alarm.
That’s exactly how the Devil operates in your mind. He’s constantly firing thoughts and threats your way—some bullets and some missiles—but all are lies and false alarms.
Is the fear and doubt they cause real? Yes. But on the battlefield of the mind, how we react to these threats is critical. Going back to Amanda’s story, I think it’s beautiful that in the midst of thinking that this missile was coming at them, her family experienced peace. There was calm. “We were ready,” she said. Folks, that’s faith overcoming the strongest kind of fear.
Satan is determined to destroy us. He doesn’t want you thinking on good things. Why? Because what you think about is really what you are, and Satan knows that.
So what weapons do we use to prevail against him?
II Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us:
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (carnal weapons consist of those which are man devised), but mighty through God (the Cross of Christ [I Cor. 1:18]) to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations (philosophic strongholds; every effort man makes outside of the Cross of Christ), and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (all the pride of the human heart), and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
In battles of old, they used to have color bearers. These were courageous soldiers armed only with a flag—the colors of their regiment. In the chaos of the fight, through the dust, smoke and terrors of war, his comrades would look for their flag to see where the rest of the unit was, to regain formation, and hold the line.
For believers, when fear and confusion grip our minds, we need only to look to the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ—where all victory is found.
That treasured hymn says it exactly right:
Onward, Christian soldiers,
marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master,
leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
At the sign of triumph
Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers,
on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
at the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
loud your anthems raise.
Keeping the Cross as the object of our faith gives the Holy Spirit latitude to help us in every area, including our thought life.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Everything the Lord has done for us is honest, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. His deeds should cause our minds to wonder, like those who heard the heavenly announcement proclaimed by shepherds long ago. As well, we should meditate on His promises until they drop down into our hearts, and we believe them.
Just a word of caution: as new Christians, we start out like Mary, pondering all these things about the Lord. But as time goes on, if we move our faith away from the Cross, we can separate from Christ and find ourselves, like Mary, suddenly searching for Him.
On their way back to Nazareth, Mary and Joseph noticed that Jesus wasn’t with them. After angelic visitations, His miraculous birth, and the prophecies they heard, somehow they were still surprised to find the boy Jesus in the temple. Despite what they had initially experienced with Him, after 12 years of routine family life, they seemed to have forgotten who Jesus really was because when they saw Him—astonishing Bible scholars with His questions and answers—they were amazed.
“And He said unto them, How is it that you sought Me? (He gently reminded them that they should have known who He was, and His mission) wist you not that I must be about My Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which He spoke unto them” (Lk. 2:49-50).
Something to think about, isn’t it?