By Rev. Doug Jones
The battle within the mind is unavoidable. No one is immune from experiencing this conflict. It’s a battle that has been and will continue to be fought by every person until Jesus returns.
This battle within our mind becomes evident early in life. If we think back for a moment, memories will begin to surface from the archives of our mind. We might remember sitting in third grade taking a test. Suddenly, the thought races through our little mind, You didn’t study for this exam, did you? Without a moment’s hesitation, we know the answer: No, I didn’t study. And in a flash, a companion thought comes: But Straight-A-Mary’s paper is well within view. Just copy off hers. Now keep your eyes down. If you try hard enough, you’ll be able to read off her paper . . . . As our reminiscing carries us into our teenage years, memories once again remind us that we have been fighting this battle within our mind for a very long time.
As in any battle, there are consequences for losing. For a five-year-old, the consequences for losing the battle within the mind and taking one too many cookies may only be getting a hand slapped and the extra cookie taken away.
As a third grader who succumbed to the thought of cheating, I discovered that consequences increased in severity with age. When I was caught, not only was I embarrassed before the entire class, but my paper was also taken away and I earned myself a failing grade. Then I was invited to spend a little time in the principal’s office, and before I knew it, I had a note pinned to my coat for my mother to read. Once she read the note, I learned that when my father got home I would know the full price for failing to properly maintain my thought life!
Hidden among our memories is a truth we must consider. As we mature in life, the price for failing to properly maintain our thought life increases in severity. The sufferings of a five-year-old are insignificant compared with the negative consequences that adults experience when they fail to properly maintain their thought life.
With this fact in mind, I encourage you to stop for a moment and consider the lives of those around you. You will soon become conscious of torn and tattered lives—lives that have been ill-affected by humanity’s failure to bridle what they allowed themselves to think on.
You will observe some who have been torn by hatred—hatred of civil authorities, employers, fellow employees, or friends. For others, hatred dominates their relationship with their parents, their spouse, and even their own children. It becomes evident that hatred allowed in our life is a destructive thing. No good can come from it. Hatred destroys relationships and will eventually separate us from others.
We must understand that such hatred begins silently within the mind and is incubated over time. As we mentally rehearse what was said or done that hurt us, we allow the offense to grow to such proportions that it soon begins to affect our attitude toward the other individual. And before we know it, that hatred moves into the realm of influencing our actions and words. And those increasingly noticeable actions and words slowly but steadily deteriorate the relationship. All of this is the sad result of our failure to properly maintain our thought life.
As we consider the lives of those around us, we can observe marriages weakened by jealousy and anger. The joy and companionship of the marriage relationship have eroded over time because husbands and wives have chosen not to properly maintain their thought life. For whether we admit it or not, the deterioration of a marriage begins with our failure to scrutinize the thoughts we allow ourselves to embrace.
Divorce has become a way of life in today’s society, with adultery being one of the primary causes. It is obvious that the sufferings of divorce when adultery is present could have been avoided if the person who committed the adulterous act would simply have properly maintained his or her thought life. There is no physical act of adultery without first having had some sort of unfaithful thoughts. Thought always precedes action.
When any divorce occurs, it reveals that one or both partners within that marriage allowed and embraced thoughts that should have been rejected. Thoughts—little thoughts—will eventually produce destructive conduct if given enough time and nurtured properly.
The failure to properly maintain our thought life has opened the door for our lives to be controlled by rebellion, worry, depression, envy, fornication, lying, unforgiveness, fear, and so forth. Ultimately, the price for failing to maintain our thoughts is a quality of life that sinks far below what our loving Heavenly Father intends for us.
But I have good news for you. God understands our plight. He understands that in and of ourselves, we lack sufficient abilities and means to adequately bridle our thought life. Therefore, our Heavenly Father has made available equipment (or “armor,” as He calls it) that we may use to win this battle within the mind.
Our only hope is to know the truth about this battle within our mind and about the armor with which we are to clothe ourselves. Without this knowledge, the casualties of humanity will continue to increase and quality of life will continue to diminish.
This armor is described clearly by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians.
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11 Put on THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you THE WHOLE ARMOUR OF GOD, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The intensity of Paul’s admonition, along with his chosen symbolism of a Roman soldier’s armor, suggests strongly that if we choose not to comply—if we choose not to put on the whole armor—defeat is inevitable.
However, before Paul’s description of each piece of armor, we find an instruction that he gives twice. Notice closely his words in verses 11 and 13: “Put on the whole armour of God . . .” and “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God . . . .”
The word “whole” is the key, for it reveals that no one piece of this suit of armor alone can ensure Christian success. Apparently, every piece must be present and working properly for us to remain victorious in the midst of this conflict. Therefore, we must not allow ourselves to focus entirely on our favorite piece of armor. For example, many have focused only on faith, thinking that it alone will ensure success. Others have convinced themselves that putting on righteousness is all they need in order to be victorious. This mindset will ultimately have devastating consequences. No single piece of armor can produce complete victory in our lives. We must put on the whole armor of God.
Because Paul did not remain loyal to his Roman soldier symbolism throughout his writings, downplaying the importance of the symbolism may allow us to turn our attention to the more important heart of his admonition. Through a simple procedure of removing most of the “soldier” words and phrases from within the Ephesians passage, the real essence of Paul’s message and some much-needed clarification, are brought to light.
For clarity, let’s remove words and phrases such as “your loins girt,” “breastplate,” “feet shod,” “shield,” “helmet,” and “the sword,” and see what is left.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having . . . truth, and having . . . righteousness;
15 And . . . with . . . the gospel of peace;
16 Above all, taking . . . faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17 And take . . . salvation, and . . . the word of God.
Once most of the soldier symbols are removed, it suddenly becomes apparent that the armor we are to put on is the armor of truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God.
This epistle was written to people who are already saved. Why would Paul admonish Christians to put on salvation? Paul also encourages us to put on righteousness. Yet righteousness by faith was the gospel that Paul preached throughout his three missionary journeys.
Paul is not instructing saints to put on salvation every day, nor is he encouraging us to put on righteousness every day. If he were, and if you forgot to put them on, then you could go around all day not being saved or not being righteous. And we know that this is not possible for Christians to do.
So then, if we are not to put on our salvation every day, what does Paul mean in this Ephesians passage when he tells us to put on salvation? He is simply instructing us to put on daily what we know about our salvation. He admonishes us to put on what we know about our righteousness. We are to put on what we know about the truth, what we know about the gospel of peace, about our faith, and about the Word of God.
Paul is informing us that if we desire to win in life, we must put on what we know about our salvation. Then we are to use what we know about our salvation against the enemy as he endeavors to destroy us.
In the same way, we are to put on what we know about truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, and faith. We are to put on what we know about our salvation and the Word of God. When we have put on what we know about these pieces of armor and when we properly use our knowledge of these things, we will not be defeated by the wiles of the devil. His fiery darts will no longer carry out their destructive work in our lives.
If we are to avoid becoming another casualty of this war of the mind, we must put on and properly use what we know. Doing so will enable us to win each conflict that we encounter throughout our day. On the other hand, Paul strongly implies that if we fail to put on and use what we know, we will experience defeat, and we will suffer the consequences of losing.
Therefore, it seems clear: The quality of our life will be determined by how much we know and how well we use what we know. How well we use what we know about our salvation, faith, righteousness, the truth, the gospel of peace, and the Word of God determines whether we win or lose in life.
With all of this in mind, why did Paul use the Roman soldier symbolism in his Ephesians passage? I believe it was to emphasize the severity of this battle, the seriousness of this conflict. Paul wanted us to see that if we choose not to put on the “whole armour of God,” we will experience defeat as quickly as a soldier without armor will experience defeat during a battle.
Paul used the image of a soldier to impress upon us that we Christians are not playing some childhood game. The consequences of not putting on the whole armor of God are real, and the quality of our life will diminish significantly should we lose this battle.
The battle within our mind is a serious one, with life or death consequences. We must learn how to fight this battle—and most importantly—how to win.
Get More on This Topic!
Mastering the Silence
A book that reveals strategies for winning the battles of the mind.
$10.95 Buy Now!