I was reminded today of how much our thoughts influence our actions and attitudes. We like to think we single handedly dictate our thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. But the outside voices we hear have a tremendous impact on our thoughts and our hearts. Have you ever had a thought that continued to replay in your mind even when you didn’t want to be thinking it? At those times our thoughts almost seem out of our control. I’m not sure about you, but for me these thoughts often revolve around my weaknesses, insecurities, and temptations. These negative thoughts weigh down my heart and weaken my spirit. When I begin to dwell on these thoughts I become isolated, which leads to anxiety or depression. This is what Paul referred to as spiritual warfare.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:11-12
We so easily forget that the devil is real. Most of us think of the devil as the caricature dressed in red with horns a tail holding a pitchfork. Surely we’d know the devil if we saw him. But that’s just the thing, this is spiritual warfare which involves things that are unseen. Satan is the father of lies, and he would love nothing more than for us to underestimate him or to believe he doesn’t exist. It makes his job a lot easier.
He whispers lies into our ears, deceiving us through our own thoughts. He whispers that we’ll never be good enough or that we’re unworthy of love. He tempts us to follow our own desires by providing justifications to make it acceptable, even if we know the truth at our core. He feeds our fears with worrisome “what-ifs” filling us with anxiety and despair. But he doesn’t stop with just tearing us down. He stokes feelings of jealousy, anger, vengeance, and intolerance leading us to use our words to destroy each other.
Once we begin to believe the lies we lose heart and we lose faith. We become weighed down by fear, shame, anger, and regret. It zaps our strength, burden our hearts, and exhausts our spirit. Defeated, we become easy prey. But we’re not alone in this fight. God has given us all we need to defend against these assaults, we just need to use them.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.Ephesians 6:14-17
To survive these spiritual attacks we need to recognize the truth. Every selfish, mean, destructive, hate-filled thought or word is a weapon of the enemy, fueled by lies. The truth is that we are dearly loved children of God, redeemed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Don’t believe the lie that you could never be good enough to be forgiven. Christ’s righteousness covers our sin, making us blameless in God’s eyes. Abiding faith in the gospel sustains us and gives us peace, protecting us from any attack Satan may unleash. No one has the power to take away our faith, but with continued attacks many will walk away. But if we know the word of God and we hold it in our hearts, he will renew our strength and drive the enemy away.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.James 4:7
So be discerning about the voice you listen to, and allow the word of God to help you separate truth from lies.
- Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
- 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. Philippians 4:8
- Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:26
- For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12