I’m working on a series called “The Power of Praise in the Darkness.” This is post #4, and it’s really important that you understand what praise and worship actually are in order to fully understand what I’m talking about here. So please make sure you didn’t miss the last post! The list of all the posts in the series is here.
The word “power” indicates a struggle of some sort. Someone is powerful because his or her decisions and influence affect people, and the more people they affect, the more powerful we say they are. A saw is powerful when it can cut through various materials, and the tougher the material being cut is, the more powerful we say the saw is. We say lightning and tornadoes and hurricanes are powerful because almost anything they hit is destroyed.
And so we see that the word “power” is always referring to two or more opposing forces and an arena or situation in which those forces interact. A battlefield.
When we think of humanity and all the things that affect our lives, it’s easy to try to separate our world up into battle zones. Politics. Racial issues. Wars in areas of the world. The pandemic. The business world. Our families (unfortunately). But these battlefields are just a facade for a single battlefield that spans the globe and determines the outcome of every other battle.
The real battlefield is always in the mind.
Your mind. My mind. The minds of our spouses and friends and family. The minds of our leaders. The minds of those who invent evil plans. The minds of those who come up with brilliant business ideas. The minds of those who write and publish news articles and the minds of those who read those articles and immediately choose to believe or disbelieve them. The mind of every person who posts something on Facebook or Instagram and the mind of every person who sees it and immediately decides whether to re-post it or delete it or get angry about it.
The mind is the battlefield, because that is where each human decides which thoughts to reject and which thoughts to dwell on and make part of their heart. Our actions and words and lives reflect the thoughts that we allow into our heart, but they do not reflect the thoughts that we reject.
Every thing we’ve ever done started with a thought in our mind that we then accepted and acted on. And every temptation we’ve ever resisted was a thought we rejected and refused to allow any further into our heart.
Every thing ever done to us that harmed us started with a thought in someone else’s mind that they then accepted and acted upon. To a certain degree, how much that action harms us is determined by the thoughts related to that action that we allow into our heart and which thoughts we reject. (Whether to forgive or not, for example.)
Every good or bad decision by any democratic-style government started with a thought in someone’s mind that they allowed into their heart enough to share with others, which then took hold in other people’s minds, until enough people agreed to carry it out.
Computers and cell phones and GPS — and every other technological advance — started with a thought in someone’s mind. Every app that keeps us hooked to our phones and every movie or TV show that keeps us riveted to the TV started with someone’s thought — a thought that was shared with others, who then thought about it enough to add their own thoughts and decisions which then resulted in these things… which are then presented as something for us to think about and either reject or accept as a part of our lives.
But we cannot always blame the thoughts in other people’s minds (or the actions that resulted from their thoughts) for all of our own struggles and pain, for how we perceive and handle the things that happen in our lives is largely dependent upon the thoughts we have about those things. My daughter works with the elderly, and she often remarks on how the happiest people are the ones who have had the most difficult lives.
Do you see how everything that happens in our world is the result of how one or several or a hundred or maybe even millions of battles in people’s minds went? Ephesians 6:12 says this:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
The mind is where these spiritual battles happen.
When the devil tempts us, he tries to plant a thought in our minds. We then have the choice to accept it into our heart or reject it. Regardless of whether that temptation is to do something we know we shouldn’t, to ignore something that God is calling us to do, or to hold an offense against someone, that spiritual battle is won or lost in our minds. When the battle is lost, those thoughts take root in our heart, and then our actions and words reflect our heart.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 15:18-20: “But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you.”
The Bible has a lot more to say about the thoughts in our mind!
It’s so important to realize that pride is one of the biggest weapons the devil uses in this battlefield of the mind. In Isaiah 55:8, God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways.”
This verse is a challenge to us. Do we want to cling to our thoughts? Our ways? Our perceptions of how things should be handled and fixed?
Do we really think that we can rely on our own analysis or feelings to accurately identify which thoughts are the good ones and which aren’t? It’s often easy for us to look at a situation and immediately think we know what is good and bad in the situation… but do we really know as much as we think we do?
The world is messed up, and each of us is facing some degree of it in our own personal lives. God chose to address the state of the world by sending Jesus. Then He made us part of His body. Part of His solution.
But how do we get there?
How do we actually become part of His will happening on earth as it is in heaven? How do we become part of the solution instead of just one more person mired in the struggles of life?
The answer is in how we fight in this battlefield of the mind!
Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Another translation puts it this way, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”
What happens when fix our minds on His truths? According to Romans 8:6, “Letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
Do you see it?
What we focus our mind on determines the course of our lives!
Hebrews 8:10 says that the state of our mind is a sign of the new covenant! It says, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds.”
Worship is a part of this new covenant as well, as we see in 2 Kings 17:38 where God says, “Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and … worship the LORD your God; it is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”
What we allow to happen in our minds is vitally important!
Phil 3:17-20 says this: “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven.”
I used to read this and think that “setting my mind on earthy things” meant having earthly goals like wanting to be rich and powerful and so forth. But I now realize that this verse is actually saying that these enemies of the cross of Christ are those “who keep their focus on the natural things happening around them.” This is in direct opposition to God’s instruction in Colossians 3:2 which says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” I like the Passion translation which puts it this way: “Fill your thoughts with heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm.”
So let’s break it down a little bit further. What instructions are we given in how to fight this battle in our minds?
Philippians 4:6-7 has an instruction for how we are to direct our thoughts, and then it provides a promise of what will happen in this battlefield of the mind: “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Here is my translation of this verse: “Reject those thoughts tempting you to worry and be anxious about things. It doesn’t matter whether they are big things or small things, reject all of those thoughts that tempt you to worry! Instead, focus your mind on God by entering into conversation with Him. Focus your thoughts on the things He has done for you and who He is for you, and thank Him for all of it! And in return, a peace that you cannot comprehend will replace those worrying thoughts that you rejected. That peace will guard both your heart and your mind, because you are in Christ Jesus and can partake of everything that He lived and died to bring you!” It’s a promise, that when we thank Him in the midst of trying circumstances, His peace will guard our mind!
We talked about David in my last post. David often found himself in situations so bad that anyone would excuse him for being anxious. This verse had not yet been written yet, but yet the truth of this verse is what his life demonstrated.
Sooo… how important is it that we obey this instruction to exchange our anxious and worrisome thoughts for His peace?
From what I see in the Bible, the alternative is dangerous!
Ephesians 4:17-24 commands us to “walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding…” In other words, because they do not have the light of God, their thoughts are not right. They are constantly losing the battle of the mind.
The verse goes on to say that they are “excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” Those lost battles in their mind have resulted in their heart becoming hard. And then, just as Jesus says happens, the verse continues with the result: “and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
Then these verses offer the contrast for those who have received Christ Jesus! “If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him… lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted… be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
There it is again! Our mind being renewed is the bridge between the old self and the new self!
Let’s go back to Ephesians 6:12 which I quoted above, and let’s look at how it continues. I’m going to use the NLT translation this time:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore…”
That “Therefore” means, “because our struggle is really spiritual, here’s what you need to do to fight these battles.”
“…put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth…”
What is Truth? What we think or what God thinks? Do you see how we have to be willing to seek and accept God’s higher thoughts in every circumstance in order to wear this belt of truth?
“…and the body armor of God’s righteousness.”
This is all about the righteousness that Jesus walked in and how that righteousness has been gifted to us. There is a whole, huge, wonderfully life-changing message in that!
“For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.”
This to has to do with our mind, for we cannot put on shoes or fully prepare to go anywhere with the good news of Jesus without that decision in our minds to do so!
“…In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.”
These fiery arrows are all these thoughts that we’ve been talking about. We’ll talk more in the next post about how praise and worship are part of raising our shield!
“Put on salvation as your helmet,”
The helmet covers our head and our mind. So this too refers back to Romans 12:2 which says our lives are transformed as our mind is renewed! This also refers to 1 Corinthians 2:16, which says that we have received the mind of Christ when we receive salvation.
“…and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Winning the battle of the mind — and therefore being transformed into His likeness — is all about knowing His Word. And praise and worship is the most powerful way that we translate His Word into action. That’s what the next post will be about! We’ll talk about how praise and worship is so powerful in this battlefield!
Next post: How we decide who has the highest ground in our battles
Entire list of posts: The Power of Praise in the Darkness