“Finally brothers, 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
This familiar passage from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Christian church in Philippi hold within its few words a volume of profound and practical instruction regarding the way we manage our minds. Living out these instructions will revolutionize the way we look at the world, our families, our churches and our town. For the next couple of weeks, I would like to take a look at this passage and what it means for our daily lives.
First, the big picture. The city of Philippi was a busy place with tradesmen and merchants selling their wares, women washing clothes by the riverside, side-show spectacles being performed in the public square. In the rush of everyday excitement, and out of a pagan culture, God began to call out a group of people for his own. The apostle Paul came to preach the gospel, and many heard and responded to his message in belief and surrender. They were touched to hear that a holy God would so love them that He would come to offer them forgiveness and grace. Their hearts warmed to the call of Jesus to come out from the darkness of their pagan practices and the hustle and bustle of secular life, and they began a new experience following the ways of Jesus.
As you can imagine, this must have been quite a challenging experience. Their priorities, their list of friends, acceptable behaviors and attitudes…all of it began to change as God graciously showed them how to live in a way that was pleasing to Him. Sometimes, outward behaviors can be easier to change for the better. They are easier to recognize when they are wrong, and easier to see when they have been corrected. More challenging, however, are internal struggles and attitudes that plague our minds and hearts. So it was with these Philippian believers. The transformation of their hearts and minds would require self-discipline.
The first half of Philippians chapter 4 is devoted to Paul’s coaching about how we manage our thought life. He speaks of “rejoicing in the Lord”, giving thanks, about bringing our concerns to the Lord, and more. Then in verse eight he lays it on the line. Paul instructs us to park our minds on things that will bring life to our existence. Not only are are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable things nice to think about, they are necessary to keep a healthy perspective on the challenges of life. More about this in the weeks to come.
For now, here is what we need to know. Our thought lives are NOT outside of our control. God has granted us an ability and opportunity to assertively take the reigns of our thoughts and cause them to run on a positive path. We do this not just for our benefit or to bless those around us, we do it to honor the creator God who gave us creative and intuitive minds- minds that are capable of great beauty, great ingenuity, great care and love. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!