Out with the Bad—In with the Good
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 plague our minds. 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 on their own. There you are in the middle of your day, just doing your thing, when all of a sudden a negative thought invades your mind. Where did that come from? you might wonder. I don’t want to think about that. I thought I was past that, but out of nowhere it shows up to haunt me again.
Because bad thoughts bombard us, we have to fight for our peace of mind. We must become disciplined in consciously choosing 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. But after you’ve emptied the trash we often travail over, what will fill your mind? Paul gives us eight categories: “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.” In with the good:
1. True thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this objectively, factually true?” Preach to yourself constantly. 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?” Honorable means worthy of respect. How do you think about others—your family, co-workers, people who are least 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 God to change someone. 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?” Just means righteous. Peace is forfeited when we contemplate doing wrong. When you’re wronged, do you fixate on how to get even or set the record straight? If you entertain thoughts about doing wrong because of wrong done to you, you forfeit peace.
4. Pure thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this morally faithful?” Peace is lost in a dirty mind. 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?” Lovely is 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 Christ within. Look at your spouse and see in the wrinkles of the years the beauty of an enduring love. Peace flees the fault-finding mind. Peace finds, feeds, and focuses upon true beauty.
6. Commendable thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this friendly?” The word commendableis translated in the NKJV as whatever is “of good report” and refers to kindness. It’s 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? Focus your thoughts on praiseworthy things—God’s Word, God’s Son, God’s people.
After giving us eight categories of good thoughts to fill our minds, Paul tells us to “think about these things.”
Peace of mind is not passivity. It is actively replacing contaminants and dividing cares with peace and thoughts that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Because the battle for your mind rages today.