Philippians -- the Book of Joy
Chapter 4 THE SECURE MIND or WORRY ROBS YOUR JOY
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 an virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
I have been anxiously awaiting getting to this verse in our study! This is one of my favorite verses in Philippians and perhaps the whole Bible. It might look like just another list of do's and don't's but it is RICH!
Paul has been talking about how to have this secure mind. He besought his yokefellow to "help" others. Then he made a very clear point of telling them to rejoice...always. His instructions not to fret about things came with the redirection to pray. He described not just any prayer but a prayer of supplication (really begging God and mentioning it over and over) and being thankful. We are to be thankful for whatever comes about, whatever answer we receive. He does instruct us to "let our requests be made known unto God" which has the idea of asking Him for exactly what it is we want.
God has preserved every word in the Bible. He inspired the writers and He guided the translators. Every word matters and is used for a specific purpose. So let's look at this list carefully and glean everything we can from it. His final instruction about how to have a secure mind is a progressive list. It starts with a broad term and gets progressively more specific. We MUST govern our thoughts and this is a formula, if you will, for us to follow. Start at the top and if your thoughts meet the first qualification, move to the next one. If you have a thought that can pass every part of this list or test then you may think on it. When you find a description that your thoughts cannot "pass" you will understand how to change your thoughts and maintain your secure mind.
Whatsoever things are . . .
True -- the first thing we should check is whether a thing is truthful or not. The most direct way to discern if your thoughts meet this checkpoint is to weed out the parts you know for a fact from the parts you assume, or "guess", or just heard. You cannot say "Well, Suzie Q said..." or "then I heard...." The very first step is to stop and figure out exactly what you know for a fact. Things are either truth or not truth and details you don't know for sure have to go into the not truth category for now.
Honest -- look a little closer and determine if there is any part of your thought or issue that is honest. This is where you strip away opinions. Do not let your opinion of someone lead your thoughts. You cannot assume or connect the dots here. You can see that we are whittling alot away from most of our thoughts just in these first two steps.
Just -- Justice is "according to the law." God's law is the highest so use that as your measuring mark at this step. Let's say the situation you are fretting over involves something like "she didn't speak to me." Consider "was she required by any verse in the Bible to do so? There are many things that we should do or that we would like others to do, but ask yourself if any rules have been broken.
Pure -- Is the situation without prejudgment? Are you looking at things with a certain bent? Are you demanding your own personal expectations be met or some personal "script" of what you think others should say and do be followed? Another way to hold the lens of purity in our thoughts is to discern "would Christ approve of this thought?" Sometimes we let our minds wander and we don't realize how crooked and naughty we are being.
Lovely -- Does your thought look pretty? Or is this a dark thought that you would be ashamed to have Jesus repeat out loud? Are you looking for the loveliness in others or just waiting to point out their sins. Is is something that everyone would want to look at or is it ugly?
Are of Good Report -- Do you want to hear the bad things about people? Do you ever dwell on the failures of others. There is an old quartet song "Keep On The Sunny Side" and it makes me think of choosing to look for the positive side of everything. We all know people who are like Eoyore and "live in the gloomy place." We all remember Tigger, too, right? When my daughter was little and I woke her up for the day I would ask her if she wanted to be Tigger or Eoyore. She learned to choose Tigger much more often because it is the good choice.
So, how is your little thought doing? Is it passing the test? Is it ok to keep your mind going in this direction? Many times our thoughts will fail the first or second test. And if we are honest in our hearts, the things that cause us to worry and fret almost never make it through this whole list of tests. So, now what? If you have examined your thought from every angle listed above then what?
Here comes another IF / THEN section! IF there be . . .
Any Virtue -- Look at your situation or thought and determine if there what is the good part of it. Virtues are the good character traits we have. It's definitely not about your feelings anymore. It's about deciding if there are things that will build you up and make you stronger. It's about godly character. At this point, focus yourself on the uprightness. Choose to think about how this person or situation follows the pattern of Christ.
Any PRAISE -- Simple. The thought or situation should not be anything that drags your heart down. Disappointing this do not have praise as a part of them. The words of others toward you may be meant as hurtful but you can find a way to turn them around and see the good side of it. Think about the part that deserves to be applauded.
It's all a choice. Having a secure mind is a choice. You either choose to worry and fret or you choose to rest in the Lord. Use this list as a filtration system to sift through your thoughts and get the imaginary ghosts out. When you get your thoughts broken down to the real issue you will have much more peace. Things won't disturb you and gnaw at you anymore. But we must CHOOSE to use this formula each and every time.
People ask me "How are you?" as a greeting all day long. I usually answer them "Fabulous!" When I get that quizzical look I just let them know "I choose." I get caught in the snare of worry and fret and trying to figure out other people. But I choose to catch myself and pick the sunny side. "Great peace have they that love Thy law, and NOTHING shall offend them." You must allow things to get you down. Remember "The Devil cannot steal your joy . . . you have to hand it to him." The joy of the Lord is my strength!