Recently I’ve been pondering some text that was presented at our Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer meeting a week or so ago. Our Pastor was on vacation so our Sunday School teacher presented the Bible Study. He spoke out of a text that is so familiar that I can pretty much recite it. And much to my chagrin I almost tuned him out. I’m so thankful that I didn’t because it has had a lasting (so far) impact on my daily life.
The text was Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” I’d always equated this verse with the idea that I should always try to think good things and that was that, and I would go about my day, often stumbling and not even realizing it.
Our teacher asked us if we knew how many thoughts we had each day. I can’t even fathom the number of thoughts I have that I remember, let alone the fleeting thoughts that I think have no effect on my actions. That makes me wonder, how many of those thoughts are pure, just, or a good testimony? How many are unjust, unkind, or a poor testimony? If there were some sort of mind reading machine would I be willing to let my mind be read for 24 hours and have my thoughts published on Facebook or my blog? Yeah, I’m not thinking so. I’m ashamed to say that the majority probably belong in the negative categories rather than the positive.
In the Bible Jesus goes beyond the 10 Commandments and says that simply thinking hateful thoughts is like killing the person you had the hateful thoughts about. While I don’t admit to having frequent hateful thoughts (that I can remember) I can think of numerous occasions where I’ve had unkind thoughts about people or their ideas, things of that nature. In the past I’ve prided myself on not actually saying the thoughts out loud and just keeping them in my mind. But God says that’s not good enough. My mind should be so focused on the things of God that I don’t have those thoughts. But because I’m an imperfect and sinful human I will likely have them, so when I do, I should replace them with something that fits within the Philippians 4:8 categories.
This aspect of replacing your negative thoughts with something pure, honest, lovely, etc really resonated with me as it's something I now realize I've been doing the past month or so. And it's something I've really been working on in the past week. But it’s easier said than done for sure and for certain. I especially fall prey to this at work where I often deal with clients who have complex needs and often express feelings of entitlement with which I do not agree. I’ve printed out this verse and put it above my desk so it’s right in my line of sight whether I’m working on the computer or talking on the phone. This in and of itself has been a great help and encouragement to me. Just being aware of my thoughts and knowing what I’m really thinking about has helped significantly. I’ve also noticed that “thinking on these things”, whether it be by memorizing scripture, listening to music, or spending time in prayer, has caused me to become more content and peaceful in my daily life.