“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.”
– Philippians 4:8, HCSB –
“Dwell on these things.”
Where does your mind camp out? Where do your thoughts linger?
Often, we tend to focus on the dark, the troublesome, the wrongs, the sadness, the sinful. That’s why Paul had to remind the Philippians (and through them, remind us) to think on the beautiful things.
“In all ranks of life the human heart yearns for the beautiful; and the beautiful things that God makes are His gift to all alike.”Harriet Beecher Stowe
It seemed to me that in normal everyday life, I would have to think about many things that are not lovely, that are not just. Am I to never have a thought about ISIS, about Christian persecution, about the pain of the neighbor’s divorce? We should not hide from seeing that this world is truly evil and sometimes very ugly. It is not wrong to realize it. It is not sin to feel the weight of the world even to the core of your bones.
Here, there is good news: You do not have to walk around blindfolded to the world in order to keep lifting your gaze beyond the mire.
This is why Paul reminds us of what to dwell on. “Look at Christ!” he keeps saying in his letters. “Think about what Christ did for you!”
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus…” the author of Hebrews echoes.
This way of thinking is not denying reality–it is recognizing that reality bows it’s knee to a God who has all the world in His hand.
This is not running from the world’s need–it is being strengthened for battle.
This is not wishful thinking–this truth is “steady and sure and clear as the wind.”
I love to think. I love to ponder the things happening around me. This is good…unless I get so lost in the gusts of the world that I start to waver.
It can overwhelm me, more quickly than I realize.
We’re human, made to relate intensely to one another. We’re logical beings, made to think deeply. We’re emotional, designed to resonate with the ups and downs of life.
Crossed with the sin-curse, these gifts mean that each of us deals with relationships straining, thoughts churning, and emotions warring. Our qualities that can abound in love, wisdom, and joy bend toward chaos. The dark outside starts to creep in.
So in the daytime, our hearts begin to tremble. In the night, terrors creep into our dreams.
What is the remedy? As Paul cries, “Who can deliver us from this body of death?”
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
– Philippians 4:4-9, HCSB –
We are offered an otherworldly peace, a beyond-this-moment joy, an unshakeable conviction.
We are offered an Anchor for our thoughts, a Light that no dark can overwhelm.
Think on these things.
“When you wake up in the morning, you can listen to whatever your thoughts are telling you–maybe they are reminding you of something bad you did the day before, maybe they are making you scared of something you have to do tomorrow. You can listen and feel horrible.
Or you can talk back. You can remind yourself of what is true, and who you are, and who God is and what He has done.”
– from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, by Sally Lloyd-Jones –