By: Amy Dalke
What are you thinking about?
What if I told you that your enjoyment of life is directly tied to your thoughts? You might think that sounds a little hokey, and dismiss me as some wacko proponent of positive thinking.
But what if I’m right? What if your JOY in life really is directly correlated to what goes on in your head? I believe joy is the deep, resounding tune of a heart that chooses to believe God is good, no matter what.
Maybe you’ve lived your whole life without considering that you really do have control of your thoughts. Like me, perhaps your mind is so geared toward what happens next, that you aren’t aware of the thoughts driving you in this moment.
I’m so tired of talking about how tired I am. I’m tired of living for tomorrow, when in reality, my LIFE is happening right now.
What if our thoughts have everything to do with our ability to enjoy life in the present? If there is anything I have learned, it’s this: if we want to grow in godliness, and live with the joy and peace Christ died to give us, we must win the battle over our thoughts.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Phil. 4:8 MSG)
In Philippians 4:8, Paul exhorts us to develop a Christian thought life.
Practicing verse 8 is essential if we want to develop and maintain healthy relationships (Phil. 4:2-5). A Christian thought life is also integral to a life of joy (Phil. 4:4) and peace (Phil. 4:6-7) in every situation. Since our thoughts form the basis for our behavior, a godly thought life is also essential for the obedience to which Paul exhorts us in Phil. 4:9. Clearly, Paul’s thought life was at the heart of the contentment he had learned in every situation (Phil. 4:10-12). So Paul is telling us the way to be whole people in our relationships with God, with one another, and within ourselves.*
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 NASB)
IS IT TRUE? Truth is that which conforms to reality. The litmus test for truth is how a thing lines up to God’s word. If it doesn’t reflect God’s heart, then you need to toss that thought. (Note, truth might not feel good, but it ultimately is good.)
IS IT NOBLE? Noble is a word that means something is worthy of respect or entitled to honor. If your thoughts don’t reflect those things that are worthy of special respect, cut it out off your mind.
IS IT RIGHT? The Greek word represented as “right” is dikaios, which describes whatever is in harmony with God’s eternal, unchanging standards revealed in Scripture. Are you giving your mind to thoughts that are righteous, or are your thoughts a little tainted and shady?
IS IT PURE? Pure thoughts are those which are free from defilement. They aren’t contaminated. They are morally and inwardly stainless. Is your mind set on things that will ultimately corrupt you?
IS IT LOVELY? Check this out: the word lovely is best translated as winsome. Isn’t that awesome?
The Greek word is prosphile, and it might be paraphrased as that which calls forth love. There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others. The mind of the Christian is set on the lovely things—kindness, sympathy, forbearance—so he is a winsome person, whom to see is to love.**
IS IT PRAISEWORTHY? Praiseworthy…highly regarded. This concept describes someone who deservedly enjoys a good reputation. So are you concentrating on the good in others – or do you dwell on all that is wrong and faulty in your neighbor?
IS IT EXCELLENT? Excellence can be described as active virtue. We demonstrate excellence by living into our potential in Christ. We have all we need to live a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3-5), so are we actively living out the Christ-life within us? Are your thoughts rich with Christ’s potential…or do you choose instead to think about all you lack?
What would it look like for you to purposefully close the door on all your thoughts that don’t fit into these 7 categories? Can you visualize a trash can, where you toss the thoughts that are not true, compelling, and gracious? Could you do that for a whole 24 hours? Could you do it for an entire week?
CHALLENGE: Here’s where TRUE CHANGE is the difference between KNOWING & DOING: I challenge you to 7 DAYS of intentionally practicing Philippians 4:8. It won’t be easy to discipline your thoughts like this, but what if your joy is at stake? Wouldn’t it be worth it? I promise that I’m in this with you. Let’s win the battle for joy, by taking our minds back to all that is true and excellent and praiseworthy.
If you’re accepting the challenge…leave a comment here, or on Facebook. Then print out this graphic and carry it around with you for the next 7 days. (Or, you can write it out on a notecard if this is too girly for you.) This is going to be AWESOME. I promise.
*Jonathan Edwards, preceptaustin.org/philippians
**William Barclay, preceptaustin.org/philippians