Resist the devil.
There are many times when negative thoughts will pop into your head and cause you to feel as if you’re not loved by anyone and you’re all alone. Recently Robin Williams committed suicide. He had depression. You know, this whole problem had to start with a negative thought. One negative thought is not a big deal until it builds into a mountain of negative thoughts.
It is essential we learn to differentiate between good and evil thoughts. As Jesus put it, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV). If a destructive thought enters your mind and tries to steal the hope, faith, love, and peace you have in Jesus Christ, why would you even consider letting it be okay? Well, the truth is you probably wouldn’t think much of it because one negative thought isn’t a big deal unless you allow it to take root. Then other negative thoughts creep in and build on it, and destruction takes hold.
We must learn to recognize that those stealing thoughts are from the enemy. They are from the devil. James wrote, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). It sounds simple, right? It is simple, but it also requires hard work. We need to be active in our resistance. This mental effort is part of submitting ourselves to God. When we’re not resisting those negative thoughts, we’re actually submitting to the devil.
There is no gray area, no middle ground, no in-between. You can’t accept a destructive thought and claim you’re submitting to God. When we submit to God, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). If we are fully surrendered to God, we actually want to rid our minds of every harmful thought. We don’t want to keep those thoughts because we know they are not His.
I have noticed many Christians struggle with determining whether the thoughts and influences peppering our minds are from God or from the enemy. We have trouble sorting through everything. Many of us are living in a constant state of confusion. The uncertainty provides a foothold for negativity. We start to recall all of our sins. We know we’re guilty. We know the punishment our sin deserves. We start to believe the destructive thoughts are God’s way of punishing us.
I can assure you with 100 percent certainty that God is not looking for opportunities to bring you down. He is full of compassion towards you. He is not trying to find reasons to be mad at you (Isaiah 54:9–10 NIV). The devil, on the other hand, stands ready to leap into every gap in our faith. The enemy wants to deceive you. He wants you to believe the damaging thoughts are from God because then you will receive them.
Once you allow negative thoughts to take hold, they will poison your mind. They will shackle you and prevent you from moving forward in the work God has for you to do. Pessimism will hold you in captivity. You will be a slave, and you will remain in bondage so long as you allow the negative thoughts to consume you. You won’t be living in the fullness of the freedom Jesus paid dearly for you to experience.
The good news is God provides us with everything we need to resist destructive thoughts. If we “take up the shield of faith,” we “can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16 NIV). We possess the equipment; what we need is a battle plan.
Step one: Pay attention to what you are thinking. We need to be aware of all our thoughts, and we need to learn how to distinguish between thoughts in step with God’s truth and God’s ways and thoughts from the enemy or our own flesh. The best way to learn the difference is to study the Bible. God will speak to you and teach you as you read His Word. You will learn to recognize His voice.
Step two: Resist the devil. Isolate destructive thoughts and refuse to accept them. When you feel tempted to view pornography, when you notice an attractive man and start wanting him more than your husband, when you are shopping and covet clothes you can’t afford, when you envy someone who seems to be more successful than you are, when you view your reflection in the mirror and start criticizing the way God formed you—those are the times when you need to surrender your thoughts to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Turn to God’s Word. Keep it nearby, in your heart and on a notepad or on your phone. Seek God’s truth and rely on His promises. Put your full faith in Him. Be sure to replace the sinful thoughts immediately with the truth because, as Jesus warned, if you kick evil out and don’t replace it with anything, it will return seven times as strong (Luke 11:24–26 NIV).