For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
“We’ve never seen anything like this.” That’s what we’re hearing again and again in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak. As cases of COVID-19 spread around the world, we are witnessing the unprecedented responses of governments, schools, and businesses. Even the sports world, which often provides a diversion in the midst of pain and tragedy, has sent most players home. We all feel it in different ways. Over 100,000 people around the world are feeling the reality of testing positive for the virus, and many more are fearful about contracting it. Medical professionals prepare for a scenario that no health care system could handle. Investors despair over the market crashing. Employees wonder how they will pay the bills and put food on the table. Parents rack their brains for activities to fill a spring break that appears to be indefinite. An unprecedented crisis leads to unprecedented levels of anxiety and fear. But must it? How should the children of God respond?
Every Thought Captive is a devotional that our church began sending out nearly 10 years ago. Whether you’re a new or old subscriber, perhaps it’s helpful to remember the origin of the phrase. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, the apostle Paul shares his perspective on the war of life. If we question Paul’s credentials to speak into this kind of moment in history, we can just reread 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, and “often near death”, and that’s just a brief summary. Paul reminds us that we’re not “waging war” the same way the world does. “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Worldly weapons can take out walls and buildings and people, but they are powerless against fear, anxiety, and unbelief. Instead, the Lord calls us to a more subversive spiritual campaign: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” The sinful mind is a factory of unbelief, and every rogue thought that refuses to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ threatens to enslave us. The battle begins with our minds, and the call is to take every thought captive to Christ.
In the weeks ahead, we plan to share a devotional every day. We hope that the Holy Spirit will use these entries to equip us for the fight. When fearful thoughts rise as we think about COVID-19 in our own city, we want to take that thought captive. We remember that He is the sovereign King who loves us, and that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When selfish thoughts rise as we go to the store and are tempted to buy more than we need, we want to take that thought captive. We remember that we are not the only person in the community, and Jesus is the Bread of Life who is faithful to give us our daily bread (John 6:35; Matthew 6:11). When bitter thoughts rise as we think about giving up our freedoms to protect our neighbors from the spread of the disease, we want to take that thought captive. We remember that He gave up the freedom and comfort of heaven to come to earth, to deny Himself, and to die on a cross to save us (John 10:10-11). In His life, death, and resurrection, we have more than enough resources for a little self-isolation or social distancing (Philippians 2:3-11).
Finally, when anxious thoughts rise and turn us inward, we want to take that thought captive to obey Christ. We remember that the church is not a building, but a people. We are the light of Christ and the body of Christ on earth (Matthew 5:14; 1 Corinthians 12:27). Though we may not be gathering together physically on Sundays, the Lord is with us, and He is calling us and keeping us at home. In a world that never slows down, COVID-19 is grinding everything to a halt. We can fuss and fret, or we can fight with all the power the Spirit supplies. Who needs our prayers? Who needs a phone call? Which neighbors are vulnerable and need our help? As people look out for themselves, how can we demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus? It’s true: we’ve never seen anything like this, but imagine what the Lord sees. What a beautiful opportunity for us to take every thought captive and to be the church of Jesus Christ!