“What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, not those other things, are his history.” – Mark Twain
In yesterday’s devotional I talked about dealing with negative thoughts. Paul exhorts us to develop a Christian thought life in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” Let’s look at the list briefly.
Whatever is true.” Truth is the first test. Before you react. before you say something that may be harmful, ask a simple question. Am I speaking the truth? The first place to turn for truth is God’s timeless, matchless word. The psalmist wrote, “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.” (Psalm 119:160). And Jesus prayed for his disciples saying, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Is it noble? Or is it honorable? We could also ask when we are alone with our thoughts, “Is it noble? Does it aim for the highest possible moral ground? Does it bring honor to the name of Jesus?”
Is it right? Not that it is right in man’s eyes, but is it right in God’s eyes? Right means a good deal more than just being right or wrong ethically. We’re to meditate on things that God would approve, that God would call “righteous.” If we are able to run our thoughts through that filter we are well on our way to living out Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Whatever is pure. Pure is one of those words that pushes me back a step. Who could ever manage such a thing? Then I remember Paul was encouraging believers to think on such things. Fix our gaze on them. Turn our attention toward them. Make a habit of meditating on them. And then don’t panic because only God can “purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Whatever is lovely. When someone cuts you off in traffic, are your thoughts beautiful and lovely?
Whatever is admirable. That is, is it worthy of study and reflection? This question asks us to focus on the things that are positive not negative, constructive not destructive, things that build up, not the things that tear down.
All of this list from Philippians 4:8 reminds me of our teaching series Small Change Big Difference. It is a tall order to do what Paul is asking us to do in that verse. Each segment of that verse in and of itself is a large goal. But we can take small steps. We can made progress thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable.
1. What do you think most about? Are you still hanging on to thoughts that haven’t helped you very much in the past?
2. In what ways is Philippians 4:8 a reality for you? What would you have to give up to start thinking more consistently with Philippians 4:8?
3. Is it possible to change without first changing your thinking? Can you name some improvements in your life that do not first involve changed thinking?
4. If you were going to make small changes in managing your thoughts, what would they be?
5. How could you use Philippians 4:8 to help discipline your mind?