The Most Precious Thing You Have
Guard this more than anything else you possess.

When I turned 13, my parents gave me two gifts: a book and a gun. I was passionate about hunting and excited to receive a gun; the book, not so much. It was titled Everything Teen Boys Should Know. I don’t recall much about the book now. I’m sure I read it, but it didn’t have any impact on me at all. So why mention this book? Because aside from giving me that book, my parents played only a small role in leading, guiding and educating me about life.

It was assumed the book was to be my guide, my educator—in a sense, a de facto parent. At 13, I was at an incredibly vulnerable age. I needed Dad and Mum deeply involved in my life, leading me, guiding me, educating me in what was acceptable behaviour, and what was not; what was moral, and what was not; what was right, and what was wrong. I needed my parents, not a book, to tell me everything a teenage boy should know. They loved me, but left me to my own devices—not good for a 13 year old to navigate his way through life with little guidance and direction.

I look back on those years now with the understanding that Satan is the god of this world; that he surcharges it with his impulses, moods and attitudes; that I was tuned into that broadcast; and that I acted on it so quickly and impulsively because I hadn’t been taught this vital lesson:

“It is deeply alarming how susceptible the human mind is to such influence. Your mind is the most precious thing you have! You need to understand that, because it can be so easily damaged. Young people’s minds are often wrecked while they are still young. What a terrible tragedy” (Gerald Flurry, October 2023 Philadelphia Trumpet; emphasis added).

Was my mind damaged at 13? Was it wrecked? Yes, absolutely. With God’s help over the years, I have cleaned up a lot of that wreckage. But it has been very hard, and that kind of damage takes time to repair.

As teenagers in God’s Church, you have a wonderful opportunity to get to work on guarding—protecting—the most precious thing you have: your mind!

That leads to three questions: Why should you guard your mind? What should you guard your mind from? How do you guard your mind?

Why Should You Guard Your Mind?

Because God warns us to! “More than anything you guard, protect your mind, for life flows from it” (Provers 4:23; Common English Bible).

If an individual lunged at you with a knife, your immediate reaction would be to defend yourself, to protect your physical body, your physical life! Yet God says to “more than anything,” protect your mind! Protecting your mind is even more important than your physical protection because your mind is the more precious thing you have—“for life flows from it,” that verse reads. What does that mean?

A June 2012 True Education article reads: “You are growing up in a society that is a minefield of unbelievable danger. Satan is firing away with his perverse thinking, and he has blasted through into the minds of the vast majority of people—at every age. He has them thinking like he thinks. He wants to force you to think like he thinks. He is attacking you to infect your heart and your mind, because from there, his evil and his pain will spread throughout your whole life. If he can wound your heart and mind—without you even realizing it—he can wreak havoc on your entire future. He can rip from you the opportunity to live on into the World Tomorrow and may even destroy your eternal future. … Protect your mind, because out of it flows your future” (“Be a Sentinel,” June 2012 True Education).

Out of your mind flows your future. Satan knows that. He wants to blot out your future within the Family of God. That is why he works on your mind! He wants to infect it by tempting you to sin: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). Sin starts in the mind and ends in death.

At 13, the book Everything Teen Boys Should Know did not teach me what sin was, nor did it teach me that when sin results in death. For 17 years, the thought of protecting my mind never entered my mind! My mind was an open vessel into which Satan poured the contents of his perverse and corrupt character, and so I lived a life of bondage to sin (Proverbs 5:22). Life wasn’t flowing from my mind; death was.

The more you can protect your mind while young, the more you are setting yourself up for a wonderful, fulfilling and constructive adulthood!

What Should You Guard Your Mind From?

“This world is a battleground. Minds are clashing with minds, as Herbert W. Armstrong explained. Satan is the leader of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). He constantly bombards you with ideas, moods and attitudes. He is on the attack! He has a propaganda message he is spewing out through every form of media and communication (Ephesians 2:2). He is conducting a constant assault on your mind” (ibid).

Satan is conducting a full-scale assault on your mind through media—especially social media. In the United States, about 90 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 have a social media account, and the average time spent on social media ranges from three to nine hours per day!

What are teens looking at for three to nine hours? According to a University of Minnesota survey, 81 percent say they are following movies, TV shows, music groups or sports stars; 77 percent are looking at news and current events; 68 percent say texting; and 57 percent are watching videos, primarily on TikTok and YouTube.

What teens “say” they are looking at may appears innocuous on the surface, but Satan uses social media to desensitize young minds to the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). That broadcast can very subtle, but it’s still the same message: Follow the course of this world; develop the same mindset as them—“Among whom also we all had our conversation”—or conduct—“in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:3; emphasis mine).

Satan wants to turn you away from God’s way of life to another mindset, which Paul exposes in Romans 1. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (verse 28). What are the qualities of a reprobate mind? He continues in verses 29-31: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.”

We can deceive ourselves into believing that somehow, we are immune from these subtle thoughts and desires from Satan. Thirty-two percent of teens think social media has negatively impacted their peers—but not themselves. They have deceived themselves into thinking they are immune. Most teens do not believe social media has an impact on them at all, but it does! The images being seen, the videos being watched, what is being said and how—they infiltrate and infect the mind.

The True Education article continued: “Did you know that those images can stay in your mind for years? There are some images in movies and TV that I watched in my teen years that, to this day, I still remember and wish I had never experienced. At times when I was young, I was not diligent enough to protect my heart and mind from some of these images.” You cannot naively assume that you won’t be negatively impacted by the things you see on social media.

Another area to guard your mind is music. Seventy-three percent girls aged 8–18 years old say they listen to music “a lot.” When one analyses the top songs that teen girls are listening to, the key theme is self. These songs ooze self-centredness expressed through self-empowerment, liberation, not caring what others think, broken relationships and how it makes them
feel. Satan is really pushing this message on teen girls: It’s all about you. “Do yourself a favor. Take a very honest look at what you listen to. If it’s not wholesome, not positive, not uplifting—if you know it’s wrong—switch over to good music” (ibid).

Satan tends to target boys through gaming. Ninety-seven percent of teenage boys play videogames, and the overwhelming majority of the most played games involve elements of fantasy violence. Satan’s messaging to boys is: Absorb the sounds and the images, get deeply involved in role playing, give yourselves over to a fantasy world and never grow up! “You can’t hold the fire of Satan’s way close to you and not get burned! … Don’t battle for hours of realistic violence without realizing that you are getting destroyed on the battlefield of your mind! If you drop your guard and let the enemy have a free angle of attack on your mind, you will experience curses and very painful times in the future” (ibid).

I experienced painful curses and times in my life because I did not guard the most precious thing I have—my mind. You have such a golden opportunity now to do what I did not and learn to guard your mind. But how?

How Do You Guard Your Mind?

What tools can we pull from the spiritual tool kit to help us in guarding the most precious thing we have? Let’s revisit James 1:14: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Two things struck me about this verse: The first was the phrase “drawn away of his own lust.” The Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary states: “Each one has his own peculiar lust, arising from his own temperament and habit.” Satan knows our particular weaknesses. He will tempt you over and over again with that “peculiar lust arising from your temperament and habits.”

The second thing that struck me was that the temptation will be enticing. If we give in to that enticement and act on temptation, notice what comes next: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (verse 15). Sin comes next.

How do we guard our minds? Stop thoughts and reject temptation before they take root! 2 Corinthians 10:5 advises us: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

James stated that we are “enticed” to sin. That word can also mean to entrap. We are held captive by our sins. But,if we bring every thought into captivity before we acquiesce to that enticement, then that thought is the one held captive, not us!

We are on our way to perfecting our obedience to Christ! But the struggle to achieve that each and every time is hard. Sin is like leaven, baked into us. It is such an integrated part of us that we act on thoughts and impulses instantly. But we have to try! We have to put into practice the admonition from Paul to bring every thought into captivity. And when you do sin—and you will—repent quickly and get back into the fight! Be a fighting teen, and concentrate your energy and mind on the things that are good (Philippians 4:8).

“Instead of plopping yourself down in front of the [television] … use your leisure time to build your mind—filling it with good things that will provide ammunition in this war (Philippians 4:8). Read a good book, exercise to stay fit, or take a class to learn about something. … Fix things around the house, do some gardening or landscaping and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. Develop a hobby or two, visit the sick, write letters or cheer someone up with a phone call. Volunteer at the local library, zoo or charity” (“Protect Your Child’s Mind,” July 2005 Philadelphia Trumpet; emphasis added throughout).

In other words, keep busy—but busy doing wholesome things, things that build the mind! The more your mind is engaged in the ways that are honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous and of good report—the more you think on and do these things—the stronger your mind will become, the better disciplined it will be, and the better equipped you will be to develop this kind of mind: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). A sound mind. A balanced mind. A guarded mind.

When I look back to when I was 13, I long for things to have been different. Rather than getting a book about everything a teenage boy should know, I desperately wish that my dad or mum had taught me even a little of what Mr. Flurry wrote: “It is deeply alarming how susceptible the human mind is to such influence. Your mind is the most precious thing you have! You need to understand that, because it can be so easily damaged. Young people’s minds are often wrecked while they are still young. What a terrible tragedy. You must guard your mind.” Indeed, a terrible tragedy.

Teens, more than anything you guard, protect your mind, the most precious thing you have.