A few weeks ago I picked up Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at your Table, a book by Louie Giglio. I had never heard of Giglio, although he has written many books. I only knew it had to do with Psalm 23, which I love, and it dealt with the thought life. Two points in its favor.
Louie Giglio, it turns out, is an amazing writer. The man is a long-time pastor and minister, and he is comfortable with his theology and with explaining both the easy truths and the mysteries of the faith. I’m not sure one thing in the book was new to me, but the way he said it had me saying “Oh, I never realized…” a hundred times.
The book is based on a moment in time when he was upset with someone, and he ranted to a friend in a text. The friend texted back these words: “Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table.” Which is from Psalm 23, if you don’t recognize the reference.
The words hit deep, and Giglio understood the warning. Our thoughts are where everything starts—fear, sin, joy, faith. What we think and say becomes how we act and live, and we must guard our minds at all times, or Satan, the enemy, latches onto those stray thoughts and fans them into sinful, unsuccessful lives.
He pictures our relationship with God as a meal at a table. It’s not just any meal. It’s a special meal with the best of everything. Even better, our host is also the best of everything, and He is there to dine with us, to talk to us and be with us and enjoy us.
Unfortunately, sometimes the enemy pulls up a seat at the table, and our eyes, so transfixed by our host, can wander. This book is about that wandering, what happens when we let the enemy turn us from the perfect meal set out before us.
Okay, let’s just jump in. In true Baptist preacher form, his book has a premise and three main points, and I’m going to spoil the whole thing and give you the outline with a little flesh on it. Then go and read the book. Really, more than any other book I’ve reviewed, I want to recommend this one. Not long ago I struggled a huge, debilitating bout of anxiety, and this book helped to save my life.
First, the enemy is prowling. Louie Giglio gives four statements he might make as he settles at your table, the table God has laid out for you, the table where God wants to fellowship with you. And these statements are:
- It is better at another table.
- I am not going to get through this.
- I’m not good enough.
- Everyone is against me.
I’m not going to unpack all of these. They’re pretty self-explanatory. Anyone who has justified a sin has heard the first statement. We tell ourselves the second on all the time. (Ann Voskamp’s The Waymaker dealt with this at length, and my thoughts on that are HERE.) The third one—Giglio makes a clear distinction between humility, which is good, and the belief that God didn’t equip me, that He doesn’t love me. Giglio says “The Holy One invited you here. Booked the table. Prepared the meal. Sat down to join you. And this reservation cost Him everything.”
Yes, that. You are good enough because God made you and Jesus redeemed you, and you are now able to do anything He needs for you to do.
And finally, that last statement is used so often by those who are wounded by others. Build a wall, keep others out, and miss out on the feast.
So, we know the enemy is out there, prowling and lying to us. What now?
Now we might need to go on the defensive. Sin and fear start as thoughts, and often those thoughts are lies. Those lies are temptations to sin, to trust something other than God and to give the enemy ground. But God promises to give us a way out. Every temptation comes with a way out, and we need to find that way every single time.
He starts this process by saying we need to understand our position in Christ. We are no longer slaves to sin. Nor are we simply balls of sin who can never do better. We are children of God, and we no longer have to sin. We can fight the thoughts that lead us astray. This belief goes a long way toward making the rest possible.
And how do we do that? By taking every thought captive. This is a process I started in the midst of my recent mental meltdown, and wow… It’s exhausting and continuous and humbling, and it works. It’s simply three steps:
- Identify the lie. What is your mind pondering that isn’t from God? Think back to the four statements above if you’re not sure.
- Bind the lie in Jesus’ name. This is prayer. Let Jesus in on this process and ask for help, because our enemy is strong, and we can be deceived.
- Replace the lie with the truth. This is where knowledge of God’s Word comes in, because that’s the truth we cling to.
I read these words, spelled out so simply, and I rejoiced. This is simple and doable and Biblical, and I have seen victory!
Next, Louie Giglio suggests we would do even better to go on the offensive. Instead of constantly battling sinful thoughts, what if we could avoid them altogether? This is where Philippians 4:8 comes into play. I bet you’re familiar with it, the passage that says we are to think about things that are:
And how do I do that? Many ways, but the big way is to fill the mind with Scripture. He speaks at length about memorizing Scripture and repeating truths to ourselves until they become second nature. In true pastor form, he clearly spells out the Gospel as well as our place in God’s kingdom, all of which helps us to develop the right mindset to keep our thoughts set on Jesus, which is the true offensive posture and will keep the enemy away.
What if I fail?
Sometimes, we give the enemy a seat. He offers something that sounds great, and we pass up all the opportunities to see the truth, don’t get off the temptation bus, and we fail. Then that enemy laughs and tells us we are hopeless. Guilt and shame follow, and Satan has a lot of fun with guilt and shame.
Giglio says it is NEVER too late to kick the enemy away from the table. His chapters on guilt and shame are wonderful, and if you struggle with these, these chapters themselves are worth the price of the book. Mostly, again, the lies that God won’t forgive can be replaced with the truth of the cross and the love of Christ.
He differentiates between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation is from the enemy and makes us feel shame and hopelessness. Conviction is God showing us a way out that leads to change. Shame stems from condemnation, and that is not from God.
Finally, Louie Giglio gives one lesson that really gets to the heart of how to put the rest of the book into practice, and that is knowing God. Deeply, intimately, and more every day. It has to do with studying the character and attributes of God. He gives some examples of how to put this into play by giving a short summary of two of God’s attributes, His holiness and His glory. If we are, as Giglio puts it, staggered by the mountain—led to awe and honor God when we see the truths of his being—we have an easier time keeping the enemy from our table. Those four lie statements no longer have the allure they once had.
Memorizing the Word is important to Giglio. I’m not excellent at that, to be honest, but I have read the Bible enough that, even if I don’t quite know the exact words, I have a lot of general knowledge and can find almost anything I want in the Bible with just a few seconds with an internet concordance. The more time we spend with God and his word, the better we remember.
Also, the more time we spend with God–and with his people and avoiding places where the tempting thoughts happen–the closer our relationship with God, and that’s the big goal, that we are so close that Satan can’t possibly break into our communion.
Five truths to memorize
Giglio finishes with five statements, each accompanied by a verse, that he claims helps him to keep his thought life in check. And here they are:
- I am in God’s story. Jeremiah 29:11
- I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:1-14
- My life has purpose. Ephesians 2:10
- The cross has the final word. 2 Corinthians 5:17
- I serve at the pleasure of the King. 1 Peter 2:9
- Jesus is Lord, and he is my Lord. Philippians 2:9-11
- My God turns evil into good. Romans 8:28
This book blew me away. Louie Giglio is honest, practical, encouraging, and speaks truth boldly. He quotes the Bible all over the place, so you can feel assured by what he’s saying. I had no idea when I bought it that I would need it so much just a few weeks in the future, and I’m thankful to the Spirit for nudging me to grab it.
If you’ve read it or have questions or comments about it or the process of taking thoughts captive (which I wrote about again here), just comment below. I’d love to chat with you.