NOTE: This article discusses the biblical principle behind taking our thoughts captive. Here it’s important to distinguish that there are mental illnesses (such as anxiety, ADHD, OCD, etc.) that can make certain thoughts intrusive or uncontrollable, and note that this article does not deal with that.

Are we giving our thoughts too much power?

We use phrases like “thoughts running wild” and “overthinking” as if to say our thoughts are not within our control.

Often, our thoughts may seem like a bull in a china shop – uncontrollable and causing us distress and unease.

But how true is such a picture?


Pastor Christie Ong (HOPE Singapore) compares our thoughts to our legs.

“Have you ever noticed that when you walk, you don’t really need to think?” she writes. “Your legs are moving by the force of habit. Such is the way with our thoughts. They are constantly running by the force of habit.

“Nonetheless, we still have control over them.”

From her reflection, I realised that our thoughts have the potential to wield immense power over our lives; we need to watch our habits.

C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters also helped me realise the extent of the danger of letting our thoughts lay unsurrendered.

Letter 3 of the book reveals the Devil’s way of manipulating our thoughts, such that our hearts are turned against those closest to us.

After discovering that a man’s relationship with his mother is strained, Screwtape, the Senior Devil, advises Wormwood, the Junior Devil in-charge of the man, to “keep [the man’s] mind” on worldly things, and away from godly things.”

Consequently, the man is led to assume the worst of his own mother, and begins to develop hateful feelings towards her. 

Reading this gave me a clearer idea of how much the Devil hates us.

He will take hold of every opportunity to tear us away from God, like a prowling lion (1 Peter 5:8) with the intention to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

I can imagine the glee on the Devil’s face when doubts and tempting thoughts appear in my mind, as he has something new to work with to make me miserable.

He deceives me into dwelling on things that cause my faith to waver, and indulge in emotions that mess up my thoughts and lead my actions astray.

The seemingly harmless lies of, “It’s just one time. Just do this sinful thing once. It won’t hurt anyone,” are all from the Devil, who is the father of lies (John 8:44).

Since we face the father of lies, ​​writer Christina Fox reminds us of the need to know the Truth

“Lies lose their power in the face of truth. We need to know God’s word by heart so that it is always on the tip of our tongue, ready for us to fire at the lies we hear around us — especially those within our own hearts.

“The gospel isn’t something we respond to once in our life at the moment of salvation. Rather, it’s something we respond to and apply to our life each and every day. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves, remembering all that we have in Christ.”

In order to combat the lies that the Devil plants in our heads, we need to return to God’s truth and hold it in our hearts. 

Paul says in 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,”

Taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of God is hence a supernatural process. 

There are two parts to Paul’s statement, which Pastor John Piper breaks down to these two factors:

Firstly, Paul says that we dismantle our ideas, worldview and opinions before God, and allow Him to destroy anything that is out of sync with the Bible. 

Secondly, we take these defeated thoughts to God, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring everything into the conformity of Christ, such that our thoughts may obey God.

Living out Paul’s statement requires us to partner with the Holy Spirit. When we choose to surrender our thoughts to God, the Holy Spirit anoints us to do it.

Taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of God is hence a supernatural process. 

Sitting at God’s table: Eric* shares his story…

I wanted some real life handles, and so I spoke to a friend of mine, Eric* (not his real name), who shared his encouraging journey of what taking his thoughts captive to obey Christ looked like.

ERIC: For the past few months, ministry was quite difficult because I was exposed to certain pastoral issues that shocked me. This led to me:

  1. Spending a lot more time on ministry and meeting people than I ever did.
  2. Having less 1-1 time with God because I was distracted.

This is a formula for disaster because I began to focus on my circumstances without being renewed in God.

As time went by, there would be continual updates on the situation (the pastoral issues I mentioned).

Every time I checked my phone, I realised that I felt more and more irritated, and that there was less compassion in my heart.

That spread to my perception of God’s church too, feeling like it’s just a lot of work – laborious and joyless.

I began to notice those feelings, and it made me question why I suddenly felt and thought of God’s beloved church that way. That was when I realised that something was wrong!

…when you don’t spend time sitting at God’s table and processing thoughts with Him, you’re really sitting at someone else’s table… 

That same week, I attended a cell group meeting under one of my cell group leaders.

She shared that when you don’t spend time sitting at God’s table and processing thoughts with Him, you’re really sitting at someone else’s table exchanging thoughts – and that table is the Devil’s. 

Because of my lack of 1-1 time with God, I gave room to the Devil to turn a tough season into a warped view of God’s church.

That was when I knew that I needed time with God. More importantly, I needed the Word to renew my understanding and anchor me in the truth again.

So I spent time reading the Word and sought out godly counsel with whom I could share about my season. 

Ultimately, I was reminded once again of how God had mercy on me, and that stepping into leadership was a response I made to love Him with all my heart for what He has done for me.

Thanks for that encouraging story, Eric! Now, back to me for the home stretch…

Our thoughts and feelings deceive us sometimes, and as long as we are on earth, the Devil will never leave us alone.

However, God’s truth is unshakeable, and it is what we need to break down the strongholds in our minds. 

How can we take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ today?

Freedom and blessing await us as we do that, so let’s let God do His work in our minds today!

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how healthy is your thought life? 
  2. What stood out to you from the article? Why?
  3. Based on the article, what might taking your thoughts captive look like in your life?