Friday, April 13, 2007

The battle against temptation is in the mind

by Mary Southerland
source: Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox

"Be careful what you thinkg becaure your thoughts run your life." Prov. 4:23 ICB

Several years ago, we moved into a house with a huge back yard, which our children immediately proclaimed as "the perfect spot for a trampoline." Since they had worked so hard helping us move, we rewarded them by buying the trampoline they wanted for so long.

As we unpacked and assembled the trampoline, I also unpacked memories from my college years. One of my physical education courses included six weeks of instruction on the trampoline. My class couldn't wait to get started! However, before anyone set foot on that trampoline, the professor spent several class periods going over the safety rules. We didn't need rules! How hard could it be? You get on the thing and jump! Not so, according to our teacher. With great persistence, she detailed rule after rule, especially the one about making sure you led your body with your head ... or something like that ... I really wasn't listening. She persisted, even though it was obvious that we were ready for her to be quiet, move out of the way, and let us jump! I guess she thought desperate measures were called for as she began sharing every injury of every student in every class she had ever taught over the years – injuries that happened, she said, because the students were impatient and ignored the rules.

Finally, the teacher ended the class by saying, "Good gymnasts know that where their head goes, the rest of their body will eventually follow." To this day, every time I see a trampoline, those words pop into my mind. And they are just as true when applied to temptation.

In the war with temptation and sin, our greatest battlefield is the mind. We are constantly at war for its control! To live right, must think right. Proverbs 23:7 (NASB) says it well, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is." Everything we do or say originates with a single thought. Filling our minds with truth will fill our lives with truth. Isaiah teaches, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you." (Isa. 26:3 NLT) In this verse, "fixed" literally means "loyal or faithful" and refers to the same kind of faithfulness found in marriage. In order to discipline and guard our thoughts, we must make the commitment of being married to the truth of God.

If, however, our mind is not filled with truth, the enemy will pollute it with lies, tilling fertile soil where temptation and sin can flourish. Polluted minds produce polluted lives but mind pollution can only happen with our permission. I am amazed at how many men and women in ministry rarely have a fresh word from God or a new truth found in a daily quiet time with him. God's Word is a powerful purification system for the mind, reprogramming and training thoughts to line up according to God's standards. Depositing God's Word into the mind results in a holy discernment and God-given strength to recognize and turn away from sin. It is the idea of placing a sentry or guard at the entrance of the mind, giving him the authority to determine what does or does not come in. We are quick to give the custody of our mind away to lesser things, to unworthy goals, or desires and thoughts, and to sin. Understand that if it is going on in the mind, it is reality and often the first step toward the edge of a very dangerous cliff.

The story is told of an eagle perched on a block of ice just above Niagara Falls. As the swift current carried the ice and the great eagle closer to the edge of the falls, the eagle ignored the warning cries of other birds and animals. "I have great and powerful wings," he boasted. "I can fly from my perch at any time. I can handle it." Suddenly the edge of the falls was only a few feet away, the torrent of water carrying the block of ice over the powerful cascade. The eagle spread his massive wings to mount up over the impending doom only to discover that it was too late. His claws were frozen to the cake of ice. Sin is like that.

When we allow our minds to "perch" on sinful thought patterns, we entertain destruction. Our arrogance blinds us to the ramifications of sinful behavior and soon, we find ourselves on the brink of disaster, wondering how we got there. How many men and women in ministry are destroyed by a habit that began with one sinful thought.

Temptation first targets the mind, knowing that thoughts determine direction. We can literally change our lives by changing our thought habits, by choosing to discipline our minds. As men and women in ministry, we should have thought lives worth recommending to others. What a haunting thought! Vulgar language, raunchy movies, questionable books, negative conversations, destructive thought patterns, ugly gossip, and disparaging criticism have no place in the life of a believer and certainly not in the heart of anyone in ministry.

Mary Southerland is a pastor's wife, mother of two, author of Coming Out of the Dark, Experiencing God's Power in Your Ministry, Escaping the Stress Trap, Sandpaper People, and Hope in the Midst of Depression (Harvest House) and a conference speaker. She is also the founder of Journey Ministry, a teaching ministry dedicated to equipping every woman for her unique journey. Mary is available to speak for conferences, retreats, and women's events. You may contact Mary at For more information, visit Mary's Web site at .

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