Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Battle Plan

It's funny how songs can get stuck in my head. I don't know why or how it happens, but sometimes one line of melody, one lyric that I happen to hear, gets caught up in my brain and plays on loop for a while. Has that ever happened to you?

It happened to me a couple weeks ago. I was reliving my high school days by looking up some 80s Russian pop music. "Luckily" I found the album and played all the songs. Unfortunately, one of those songs stuck around for a while and overstayed its welcome in my head. I'd just be sitting there and this nonsense Russian lyric kept repeating, round and round. I wanted to scream!

Fast forward to yesterday, and I was searching YouTube for a new concept I saw on the news called "literal videos." Apparently, people take wacky old music videos and redo the vocals to make the lyrics reflect the visuals exactly. A pretty humorous concept on the surface. I had a good time with some of the more innocent videos, giggling at some clever lines. But because the music is secular and the videos are sometimes dark and creepy, a few of the lyrics verged on unpleasant. No big deal right? Just some harmless fun. Well, it wasn't until I was lying in bed and the melody of one of those off-color lyrics started cycling through my head that I realized I'd relaxed my standards too far. So frustrating!

Ever since the adversity in my life has increased, I've noticed I have a lower and lower threshold to tolerate negative (anti-God) stuff. It's almost physically painful for me to hear or see anything that goes against God's Word. I literally cringe internally. I didn't use to feel like this, so one of my old childhood friends was really confused one day when I asked her to turn her music off in my car. It wasn't because I didn't want to be tolerant, open-minded, or kind. I just couldn't take the dark and negative lyrics that permeated her entire CD. She didn't understand and was offended. I realized that my struggles had fundamentally changed me.

About 10 years ago, I made a very important discovery: I choose what I put in my mind. I control my thoughts. Whatever I see, experience, listen to, or work on affects me deeply. When I see a disturbing scene in a movie, that scene can often pop up in my dreams later that night. When I spend a lot of time with people who are negative, I begin to feel and talk negatively. Conversely, memorizing a scripture verse will lift my mood and keep me grounded in truth. There's no room to be passive when it comes to my thoughts because my thoughts directly affect who I am and what I do.

When you're feeling stressed out about adversity in your life, do you ever have days where you feel like you've "been through the war"? I think that's a pretty accurate description for what most of us face when we are struggling with a major problem. The problem is discouraging. It threatens to bring us down. We think about the problem. We focus on everything that isn't going right. We see everything physically that is against us, and it's so tempting to give in to all the worry, the fear, the negative messages swirling in our minds, and give up.

But we have a choice! Our battle is not fought physically with real swords and shields. It is fought spiritually, in our souls and minds. That is why Paul said:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Ephesians 6:12

How do we fight in a spiritual war? We have to fight the enemy's weapons of discouragement, hopelessness, fear, and doubt with encouragement, hope, confidence, and faith! All of those things require us to be purposeful about what we put into our minds, what we experience, what we listen to, what we watch, who we spend time with. If I want to purpose to be encouraged, I need to think encouraging thoughts, listen to encouraging songs, and be uplifted by God's truth. Being in a battle gives me no choice. I either suit up in God's armor, or I will be a quick and easy casualty.

We're instructed to fight this way:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
2 Corinthians 10:5

Taking each thought captive and making it obedient means having control over my mind and directing my thoughts constantly to obey God's teaching. It's the only way to win the battle on a moment by moment basis. Not doing this would be as silly as sending an army into battle with no training, no battle plan, and no weapons. That kind of disorganized chaos wouldn't survive a war. Similarly, I don't survive very well spiritually when I don't control what goes on in my mind. I'm easily attacked by doubt and naturally become disheartened.

In order to win the battle, I must have this goal:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

This command isn't to make us into boring goodie-goodies. It's to make us powerful spiritual warriors! It's a battle plan for facing the hardships of life. If I strive to place the truth of God's word in my mind, worship songs in my heart, uplifting relationships around me, and positive images in front of me, I will train my mind like a commander trains an army. I don't want to be a casualty of discouragement, fear, doubt, or hopelessness. I can defeat all of these through continually focusing on my King and Commander Jesus - the one who gives me strength.

(I included a new song in my playlist to the right which contains lyrics straight from Psalm 36:5-6. What better song to get stuck in my head today than one that will remind me of scripture - over and over again!)

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