Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Real victory starts in your mind. If you can control your mind, you can control almost every aspect of your life. But the good thing about that is that you CAN control your mind. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s like trying to push a boulder back up a raging river, but it CAN be done. Let’s consider a few verses, and that I’ll give you some practical examples and tips to controlling your thoughts.

Truth #1- You can control what you like, love, and desire.

I say to you, don’t think about elephants. What are you thinking about?

Elephants, most likely.

This is a pretty silly example, sure, but it does illustrate a profound truth- that you can consciously direct your mind and thoughts. And in the battle against the vast majority of our sins (if not all of them, honestly) victory starts in our mind.

Maybe it’s bitterness towards someone who did you wrong, or a lust problem with a particular coworker, racism or bigoted attitudes, or even something as strong as pornography, the battle starts in your mind. Few of us fall into sin because we lack the physical strength to overcome our sin. In fact, I can’t think of one instance of physical weakness leading to sinning.
If that were the case, Samson would have been one of the greatest men of God ever.

Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

There are two commands in these verses- seek and set. Seek the things above, set your affection on things above. What we look for and what we desire (show affection for) are choices we make. Sure, there are times you have strong, nearly overwhelming desires, sure. But you decide what your affection gets set on.

I love the cold. Anyone can enjoy a beautiful 75-degree day, but it takes a special person to love cutting winds and single-digit temperatures. I know no one who would prefer a blizzard over a sunny spring day. But you can learn to love the cold. If you tell yourself you like the cold, your brain and body will eventually follow that belief. I really do love the cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel it or enjoy warm days. It just means that I’ve bent my will and affection to enjoy it. I can’t tell you how many times I stood, shivering, on an icy morning waiting for the school bus saying “I love this. I love this. This is the weather I want” And yes, I was still cold, but I eventually grew to love the cold. I do to this day. I say all that to say this- you can decide what you like, love, and want to follow if you set your mind (affection) to it.

I think it’s interesting that the Lord commands us to desire certain things. If anything ever proved that it was a decision, I think this is it. God commands you, assuming you’re saved, to seek what is heavenly, and to desire and want it.

So you’re struggling with pornography. I would ask you if you’re setting your affections on lustful thoughts? Do you mentally desire sexual activity and pleasure when you shouldn’t? Are you thinking about a man/woman other than your spouse in a way you shouldn’t? If you’re setting your desire on those things, don’t be surprised when you have a desire to view pornography. Plant apple seeds. Get apple trees. Plant sexually inappropriate thoughts, get sexually inappropriate actions. Plant Christlike thoughts, get Christlike actions.

Truth #2- There are certain things you should (and shouldn’t) think about.

Phil 4:8 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.

This right here is your thought filter. If something doesn’t line up with these verses, don’t think about that. It’s a pretty airtight list too. We can be good at phrasing our words in a way that leaves lots of loopholes open, but I’ve yet to see one fit through here. Let’s take an example I’ve often struggled with in my personal life- “I’m a loser, a letdown, and no one really cares about me.”

We start with true. Is that true? Not really. Sure, maybe everyone on earth has forgotten I exist, but Christ is with me and is so acutely aware of me, my sufferings, trials, victories, fears, etc.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say it IS true.

Is it honest? Well again, no. I am more than a conqueror through Him that loves me.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say it IS an honest though.

Is it just? For a third time, no. I am a son of the living God, not some loser who no one cares about.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say it IS just.

Is it lovely? And for me, this is the one that filters the majority of my thoughts. No, the thought “I’m a loser, a letdown, and no one really cares about me” is not a lovely thought.

“My dad never loved us, and that’s why left” NOT a lovely thought.

“I wish I had never been born. My life is a failure” NOT a lovely thought.

“My friend/ spouse/ loved one betrayed me.” NOT a lovely thought

Keep going down the filter, but by this point, you ought to realize that there are very few thoughts that make it through the filter, and what does is sweeter than honey.

For as accurate as some of these things may be, if it’s not a true thought, don’t think it. We’re commanded to think thoughts that fall under a very strict rubric.

So maybe you have failed and looked at porn this week. Perhaps you just finished looking at it, and are trying to combat that by reading articles on how to overcome it. You know what? Don’t think about your failure.

If you’re like me, you need to beat yourself up and think “I’m an idiot, a loser and a failure” about ten thousand times before you can move on. That’s a terrible idea. Why? Because it’s not a Philippians 4:8 thought. I can’t find one place in scripture that commands us to dwell on our failures and flagellate ourselves for them.

I genuinely believe that the desire to consume pornography begins in your mind. If you’re thinking sexual thoughts that you shouldn’t be thinking it WILL lead to actions you shouldn’t be taking.

So when that sexual thought comes, and you begin to follow it, STOP! Run it through Phil 4:8, and if it doesn’t come out the other side, STOP it!

Truth #3- It’s not enough to stop, you must REPLACE

I played baseball for almost 15 years growing up. I have very few memories where I wasn’t spending several hours a week on a baseball diamond, but I had a problem. Not necessarily a talent problem (though I was never going to be a pro). I had a technique problem- I had a nasty sidearm throw. For a hurried throw now and again, it wasn’t a big deal. But over time, it would have caused major damage to my shoulder. So how did I fix it? It was embarrassing, but it worked.

While the rest of the team did a regular practice, I was on my knees in the outfield, working on an overly exaggerated “over the top” throwing motion (the correct way to throw the ball. From that position, it was nearly impossible for me to throw like I used to without falling over. I can still remember holding the ball directly behind my back, cocking my arm to throw, and then throwing. Yes, my form was finally correct, but guess what? It felt really weird at first. I was using muscles I never did before to throw, and I could tell. I had way less arm strength, and I had to intentionally make myself go through the proper steps to relearn to throw the ball. I’m not kidding when I say I threw thousands of baseballs that way. But guess what? Even to this day, I have pretty decent throwing form. It took a few months, but I relearned how to throw a ball.

It wasn’t enough to drop the sidearm throwing motion. I had to replace it with a better throwing motion. And this is exactly what Ephesians 4:25 shows us Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

We have several examples here where Paul gives us examples of how to have victory over a sin. It’s not “don’t steal,” but rather “don’t steal, and work so you can give to the needy.” There’s no command to focus on not stealing, lying, or anything else. But there is a command to replace those actions with a holy replacement.

If you sit around thinking “don’t be bitter at that person who offended me,” or “don’t look at pornography,” or “don’t think about how you’re a loser” it is only a matter of time before you fail, and fall back into your sin.

I have a few “emergency thoughts” that, much like retraining my arm to throw a ball, I have trained my mind to think in times of temptation and testing. If lust and sexual temptation are what I’m dealing with, I don’t think “Don’t do it, because that draws my mind to the fact that those things are tempting me. Instead, I think through these verses.

James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

Here, I pray and say “Lord, I am tempted right now, and want to have victory. I resist and reject these thoughts, and submit my thoughts and mind to you. Help me to think the right thought now, and have victory.”

1 Samuel 2:30 Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the LORD saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Then, having asked God for His help, I remember that if I honor God with my life, He will honor me. In this passage, He is not exactly talking about thinking right thoughts, but I believe this is a truth we see in all of scripture. Honor God now, and He will honor you later.

By this point, I usually am beginning to get the victory and direct my thoughts in a more Godly direction, but this is almost always, no matter the thoughts facing me, where I start to get victory.

I don’t know what your struggle is, but I would strongly recommend starting with these two verses, and then move on to what the Bible says about your fight. If you struggle with bitterness, for example, use the above passages to get your mind in a Biblical frame/direction, and then think on verses like Ephesians 4:32, that tells us to be kind.

Having these emergency thoughts already lined up before the battle starts will help you get victory over your sin problems. And it might be uncomfortable to think about these new truths, but it will pay dividends later on down the road. Just like I had to slowly, and intentionally, learn to rethrow a baseball, you may need to slowly, and deliberately, retrain your mind to think proper thoughts.

Stop saying “don’t don’t don’t,” and start replacing that with the truth of the Word.

So here are the three truths we’ve learned.

Truth #1- You can control what you like, love, and desire.

Truth #2- There are certain things you should (and shouldn’t) think about.

Truth #3- It’s not enough to stop, you must REPLACE

If you can put these three truths into action, you CAN and WILL have victory over your sin. Porn, stealing, bitterness, lying, anger, lust, whatever it may be, the battle starts in your mind. If you can dominate and control your mind, you’ve won the hardest part of the battle.

Control your affection, think on the right things, replace wrong thoughts with proper ones, and watch how everything about your walk with God changes.

  • Posted January 13, 2019 2:57 pm
    by Risa Canfield

    Thank-you for this truth!

  • Posted January 14, 2019 8:15 am
    by Jens Looney

    Really good stuff. Especially the part where he had to relearn/teach himself to throw the ball.

  • Posted January 15, 2019 7:52 am
    by Justus Mize

    One of the best articles on the topic of Spiritual Victory I have read. Very practical and down to earth. I 100% agree that everything is decided on the mind victory the means victory everywhere else.

  • Posted January 15, 2019 2:42 pm
    by Justus Mize

    Very good article, one of the best I’ve read. I 100% agree that the war is in the mind and the outcome is decided in the mind.

  • Posted January 16, 2019 10:45 am
    by Dustin Brown

    Great article on overcoming sin and controlling our thoughts. Controlling our thoughts is really the simple truth to overcome sin that is very hard to apply usually. Our God is good to give us control over our minds, how important it is to focus them on Him and not the things of sin and ourself.

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