walk in the word
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8, ESV).
You have to fight for your peace.
Every day, negative, hurtful, harmful thoughts come all by themselves, unbidden. You don’t wake up and think, I will have an awful day today. I will dig up the worst, most terrible, painful things to think about. No, the bad thoughts just come. You’ll be in the middle of your day, just doing your thing, when all of a sudden a negative thought stabs you. Where did that come from? you might wonder. I don’t want to think about that. I thought I was past that, but it’s back to haunt me again.
Because bad thoughts bombard us, we have to fight for our peace of mind. We must become disciplined in our thoughts. The bad thoughts come on their own; the good thoughts have to be chosen, selected, embraced, pursued. They have to be fought for.
Out with the bad—in with the good. Out with unresolved conflict, negativity, ungratefulness, dividing cares, past hurts, disappointments, anxieties—you do not have to think about those. But after you’ve emptied your head of so many rotten things, what will fill your mind? Paul gives us eight categories of positive thoughts: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (emphasis added). In with the good:
1. True thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this objectively, factually true?” You preach to yourself constantly. You tell yourself how to view, think about, and handle something, what to do with it, why it matters (or doesn’t), how to respond.
2. Honorable thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this the highest possible opinion?” The word honorable means worthy of respect. How do you think about others—your family, extended family, co-workers, the people who are least like you, the people who don’t like you, those who have hurt you? Honorable thoughts are neither foolish nor naïve; they are just the highest possible opinion, charitably seeing potential for change in someone, praying God will grab hold of that person. Dishonorable thoughts are the lowest opinion of a person, the worst conclusion, and there is no peace in that.
3. Just thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this the right thing to do?” The word just means righteous. Peace is forfeited in the contemplation of wrong action. When you’re wronged, do you fixate on how to retaliate, get even, and set the record straight? If you entertain thoughts about doing something wrong because of something wrong done to you, you automatically forfeit your peace.
4. Pure thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this morally faithful?” Peace is lost in a dirty mind. The word pure primarily refers to sexual propriety consistent with God’s design for healthy sexuality: one man with one woman for life. Anything in your mind outside God’s design—places to go, websites to visit, pictures to ogle, flirtations to entertain—is to your own ruin.
5. Lovely thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this attractive?” The word lovely means that which attracts through its acceptable, pleasing quality. Cultivate the vision to see past the outward, perishable shells of the people around you to the growing, increasing beauty of Jesus within them. Look at your spouse and see in the wrinkles of the years the beauty of an enduring love. Revisit a treasured portion of God’s Word, and notice the beauty in its construction: how perfect, helpful, and lovely the words are to you. Peace flees the fault-finding mind. Peace finds, feeds, and focuses upon true beauty.
6. Commendable thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this friendly?” The word commendable is translated in the NKJV as whatever is “of good report” and refers to words of kindness. This ties to the concept of friendliness: are these the thoughts of a true friend?
7. Excellent thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this majority thinking?” The excellence refers to virtue, that which the human race consistently regards as good. If those in your family and church family who are in their right minds would chorus together and recommend something to you as good and virtuous—think on that.
8. Praiseworthy thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this vertical?” Does this thought honor God? Fuel worship? Elevate His name? Think about these praiseworthy things—God’s Word, God’s Son, God’s people.
After giving us eight categories of positive thoughts with which to fill our minds, Paul tells us to “think about these things.” The word think means to ruminate—to chew the cud, like animals that eat and then regurgitate so they can chew the food over and over and over again. That’s what our minds should do with good thoughts.
Out with the contaminants and dividing cares—in with peace and thoughts that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Because the battle for your mind continues today.
Lord God, thank You that Your Son is the Lovely One, the True, Honorable, Just, Pure, Commendable, Excellent, and Praiseworthy One. He is my peace. Please teach me the discipline of turning my mind from dividing cares to fixing my thoughts on my Savior, Jesus Christ, whom to know and love is eternal life. Be the consuming focus of my mind, Jesus, I pray in Your precious name, amen.
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