Picture this . . .
It was springtime, and the streets were quiet. From the king’s elevated balcony, there wasn’t much movement to be seen. No wonder, since most of the men of the city had gone out to fight in battle. He decided not to go. Maybe he was tired. He’d fought so many battles in his time. Didn’t he deserve a little rest?
On a hot day, he got up and started to pace. The sun was glaring, and as he turned his eyes away from its blaze, he noticed a glint of sunlight from a rooftop, a reflection coming from a pool of water. And then he saw her: Bathsheba. His thoughts raced, but instead of reigning them in and turning away, he called for her. He made the biggest mistake of his life.
If you’re familiar with the story above, you know that after King David saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof, he made her come to his palace, and soon after she announced that she was pregnant with the king’s child. To cover his tracks, David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to be killed in battle.
First, he saw her.
Then, he lusted in his mind.
Finally, he acted, committing adultery, which led to murder.
We can’t change history (and wouldn’t want to, since God used all of David’s mistakes in His redemptive plan), but let’s just imagine that David hadn’t given into his thought to stay home from battle. He never would have been in a situation to see Bathsheba bathing or would have had all that free time on his hands to bring her up to the palace! Even if he stayed home, what if the minute he saw her, instead of instantly lusting after her, he had turned away? What if, instead of summoning her, he went inside and prayed for God to help him resist temptation?
Have you ever thought about thoughts? Have you pondered, Wow, I have this thing in my head called a brain and it enables me to think, to weigh two decisions and come up with plans. The thoughts I think shape my whole life!
What we think about shapes who we are.
Listen to 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
We don’t have to live with impure or negative thoughts bouncing around in our head. Those thoughts don’t have to lead to action. Here are four ways to take your thoughts captive.
- Define them. Ask God to show you where your thought life is struggling (Ps. 139:23–24). Thoughts that we have to “take captive” aren’t necessarily “bad.” They may not be judgmental or unkind or lustful, but perhaps your thoughts are out of line with the truth of Scripture or God’s view of you. Sometimes it’s a “good” thought that is simply occupying too much of our time, distracting us from other, more important things. Think back over the last hour. Is there a thought that sticks out in your mind that’s been hanging around? Is it a healthy thought? Define the unwholesome thought process that led you there so you can capture it!
- Talk to yourself. In the Psalms, David often talks to himself. (Check out Psalm 103 for an awesome example of this!) Once we’ve defined our impure thoughts, we can capture them by talking to ourselves and reminding ourselves of God’s Truth. An awesome way to do that is by memorizing God’s Word. Then you always have it on hand when those thoughts start barging in again!
- Hand ’em over. We would be stranded if we had these thoughts “captured,” but had nowhere to ditch them. But instead, we have somewhere to lay them down. Jesus’ patience and kindness toward our constant thick-headedness never gives up. Lay those impure thought patterns at his feet and leave them there. How? Pray and tell the Lord you want to hand the thoughts over to Him. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut if our negative thoughts have become habitual, but with Jesus’ help we can make it out of that rut.
- Replace that space. If we don’t replace that impure thought with a pure one, there’s nothing to stop another impure one from jumping right into its place (Matt. 12:43–45). We don’t just “take every thought captive.” We also “set [our] mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). We have to revise our mindset to have a truly God-honoring thought life.
Have you struggled with your thoughts? How has God given you victory? Let’s talk in the comments!
PS: For more practical takeaways from King David’s story, check out Wednesday’s post: “Little Decisions, Big Consequences.”