This week I have been fascinated by the US election results. One phrase that has been used repeatedly is "battleground states". These are a small number of areas that play a significant role in determining the overall result of the poll. Whoever wins in these regions stands a better chance of complete victory.
Interestingly, most of these "battleground states" aren't the best known, or most prominent, states in the nation. (How many of you plan a holiday in Pennsylvania?) Yet, they have a disproportionate influence in determining the direction of the entire country.
In this fragile and fractured world, we each have our own personal "battleground states". These are the areas of our lives where we feel unusual pressure and significant struggle.
Our enemy, the devil, knows that, if he can win in these areas, he will be able to exert significant influence over the direction of our entire lives.
Most of these heated battles take place in our minds in the form of shame, stress, anxiety, fear and hopelessness. When we allow these emotions to rule our thinking, they can begin to run our lives. Proverbs 23:7 puts it like this: "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."
What are we to do about these "battleground states" in our lives? Again, if we look at the political realm, the candidates give these areas increased attention in an attempt to influence their decisions and direction.
Similarly, in our own "battleground states", we must intentionally fill our minds with what we desire to see produced there. We choose to fix our focus on the attitudes, thoughts and outlook that we want to direct our feelings and actions.
The Apostle Paul understood this well. In Philippians 4:6-8, he says: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God ... 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."
The antidote for anxiety is not found in trying to avoid worry. Rather, it is leaving our negative thoughts at the feet of God in prayer and then filling our minds with good, helpful, pure and constructive thoughts.
What is the result?: "... the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds ...". (v7). In other words, when we change our thinking, we will win a decisive victory in those "battleground states" and our lives move in the direction we want them to go - towards faith, flourishing and fulfilment.
What are the "battleground states" in your life today? Fill them with thoughts that honour God and direct your life towards hope, joy, peace and Christ-likeness.