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Magazine > Content

Taking Thoughts Captive

What the story of David and Goliath can teach us about winning battles of the mind.


Your mind is beautiful. In fact, Oswald Chambers called it “the greatest gift God has given you.” Long ago, a shepherd boy named David understood this was true, and that’s why no “uncircumcised Philistine” was going to mock, tempt, or discourage him.

The giant may have strutted and scoffed before King Saul’s troops and left them mentally beaten before the battle began. But Goliath’s taunts didn’t intimidate David in the slightest.

Does this sound like your thought life? Do you feel as if you’re up against an army of giants: you wrestle with and win against one stronghold, yet a new one takes its place? . . . you conquer an old hang-up only to find a bigger one looming in your mind, more twisted and torturous than the last? No wonder scientists say the brain looks like a pitted, cratered minefield. It is a battleground, indeed. 

Yet in one of the Bible’s greatest accounts of combat, we see spiritual strategies to “tak[e] every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) and come forth victorious. In fact, many theologians say David “represents” Christ in this glorious battle— winning the mental and mortal freedom for others that they could never secure on their own.

READ 1 Samuel 17:1-53

What we must first understand is that David didn’t fight unarmed. Like Christ, he came to the encounter anointed. And we do, too (1 John 2:27). This is the reason we don’t have to wage wars of the mind by ourselves, using the weapons of the world. We can let God fight our battles when we rightly understand who He is and who we are in Him (Col. 2:9-10).

This same insight prepared David for battle. Goliath ridiculed the Israelites, but the future king rebuked such mental tricks. He asked, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sam. 17:26 NLT). In this way, David made it clear that any mocking giant—any mental trap or hang-up—dishonors God. Instead of bowing to that thought, we call it what it is: Not true. Not holy. Not wise. Not helpful.

Stepping back to examine our “thought giants” cuts them down to 
size. For example, we might be grappling with an old enemy like envy and become disheartened. Does it defy God? Absolutely. But rather than give in, we can replace that thought with His conquering truth and say, “I am God’s anointed child. I have no reason or time to be jealous.” Then, as David did, we give that enemy to Christ: “For the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands” (1 Sam. 17:47). 

David’s story teaches us that we shouldn’t play around with attacking thoughts. We can’t even afford to give them a toehold in our minds. Instead, we should face them bravely, using a volley of praise to God. 

The apostle Paul gives us another alternative in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” When we do, at first we’ll find our giants weakened, and then eventually dead and gone.



Reflect on these insights from supporting scriptures. If you have time, explore the passages and journal your responses.

• In the battle for Jericho, Joshua relied on faith to destroy both his mortal and his mental enemies.

Read Joshua 6:1-5. Why do you think faith and obedience make us battle-ready for attacks against our minds?

• What if your faith is weak? The prophetess Deborah called for war against the ruthless Canaanite general Sisera but appointed Barak—a fearful, reluctant leader—to wage it.

Read Judges 4:4-16. Even if you’re only half sure you that are fit for mental battle, why should you go to war anyway?

• The wise king Jehoshaphat went into battle, led only by praise singers.

Read 2 Chronicles 20:20-24. Why does praising God dilute and defeat tricks against the mind?

• Gideon defeated hordes of Midianites with just 300 warriors, each one carrying only a trumpet and a clay jar containing a lighted torch. 

Read Judges 7:16-21. Picture yourself as a clay vessel for God (Isaiah 64:8); what sources of light need to shine in your life in order for the Lord to drive away your mind’s worst torments?



Answer the following questions, journaling your thoughts if possible.

• What is God saying to you through your study today?

• What questions do you have about what you’ve learned? Ask the Lord to reveal greater truth through prayer and further study—and to help you pay attention to what He shows you in the coming days.

• Write a prayer of response to God.



Illustration by Jeff Gregory

Copyright 2015 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.

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  • August 30, 2013 09:00 AM


    It's amazing that such battles are worn not with one's might but His grace. I need prayers to have such strong faith and courage.God bless.
  • July 25, 2013 09:18 AM


    I have a problem with trusting other people and as a result it is affecting my important relationships. I know that I trust God but I refuse to share my life with others on a deep level. As a result I find myself very lonely at times. The Holy Spirit is still working with me in this area and I am trying very hard to yield to ALL of his instructions. Pray for me please, Dr. Stanley.
  • July 15, 2013 06:08 PM


    I am facing the hardest battle of my life It has seemed to me that I am facing giants. After listening to Dr. Stanley`s message about courage and reading
    This article, I now realize that nothing good impossible when God is on my side.
  • July 15, 2013 02:35 PM


    Been diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. Have panic attacks when have doctor apptmts. Have had problem surrendering but that is my heart's desire and goal. Asking for prayer. Believe have received much healing and more to come.
  • July 09, 2013 10:35 AM


    I must release all fears, doubts, and anxieties and turn them over to God! He wants all of us to not try to fight battles on our own! All He ask is for us to trust him. I believe that with much prayer and supplication God will truly help us to loose strong holds of our minds!
  • July 01, 2013 11:43 AM


    very useful for today as we have a problem with my daughter's car and need the directions to where we will get the right part. Trust God with all things keep focused on Him, fear not!

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