“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.” (Philippians 4:8)
We have been talking about how life is a matter of focus. About how the things that capture our attention can dominate (and determine) our direction in life.
This is why the apostle is most concerned with what we “think about.” Our thought patterns, our mindset, what we focus our thoughts on, shapes our attitudes, influences our actions… and, eventually, determines the course of our lives.
This is no small thing. No trivial detail. This is foundational to our Christian lives.
And also one of the most difficult things to do.
This world bombards us with every reason to think negatively, to make us angry, to keep us in worry, anxiety, and turmoil. Which leads us to believe that if we get angry enough, or frustrated enough, or provoked enough… we can do something drastic to change what is going on around us – the things that make us so angry, frustrated, or provoked.
But this is a dead end street.
As we have all noticed… anger and frustration are unleashed all around us (with upheaval and protests galore) but everything seems to be getting worse – more angry, more frustrated, etc.
Unrest never leads us to peace – it only leads us to more unrest.
I find the apostle’s solution to the world’s problems quite fascinating.
He seeks to encourage us to lift our eyes away from all that is false, vile, wrong, unholy, ugly, shameful, broken, and “newsworthy” and fix our focus on better things – godly things, beautiful things, true things…
What we really need is peace in the midst of the storm. Hope in the midst of the onslaught of hopelessness. Calm in the midst of the crisis.
And it only comes when we focus our thoughts on things that make us mindful of the beauty, majesty, integrity, and goodness of God. Things that are…
True = in accord with how God sees things… as taught through Scripture, by Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Noble = what is wondrous/majestic; whatever inspires awe in us (things like the ocean, or a mountain range, or a rainbow, etc.)
Right = in accord with how God does things (actions based in unconditional love)
Pure = uncontaminated/undefiled; things that are holy (this is drawn from a reference to cleansing/preparation for worship of God)
Lovely = that which causes us to extend our affection (like friends, loved ones…)
Admirable = of good reputation/character
Excellent = virtuous, morally upright (a model of what we desire to be)
Praiseworthy = worthy of God’s commendation, recognition, and approval – things that are in accord with (and reflect) His will and character.
When we center our thoughts on these types of things, it is amazing what we find in return. We find peace (God’s kind of peace – that fills us from the inside, out). We find perspective (God’s view of things – that gives us a constant awareness that God has a purpose in all things). We find power (God’s inner strength and confidence to believe all things, endure all things, hope in all things).
There is a good reason why we are commended to “Set (our) minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Minds that are focused on heaven, and heaven’s perspective, can have the greatest influence over things on this earth.