“Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report. If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
From reading this verse, I’d say that God is into positive thinking!
Our thoughts dramatically affect our daily life. According to recent research by Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, complaining and negativity actually rewires your brain to make you become even more negative.
That’s pretty scary and perhaps is the reason God gives us this warning here in Philippians to control our thoughts by aligning them with certain criteria.
Is it true?
There are so many lies floating around today that it’s hard to know what to believe. The nightly news is usually slanted towards a particular political viewpoint or the anchors leave out pertinent information that completely changes the real truth of the story.
Journalists don’t like being called out for producing fake news, arguing that they are an essential part of democracy. That’s Absolutely true! That’s all the more reason they should make sure every story is unbiased, accurate and complete. We need the journalists to tell us the truth and the whole truth. When they don’t, they are the ones abandoning their post and making their profession untrustworthy.
There are other half-truths that can get our attention, if we are not careful. Gossip can be very damaging and false accusations can destroy a person. Lies are always harmful. The “Is it true?” filter is a good one to always keep top of mind.
Is it pure?
There are several definitions of pure in the dictionary, but I think the one that Paul could be referring to here is free from what vitiates, weakens or pollutes. While we don’t want to entertain thoughts that weaken others, self-destructive talk is not okay either.
We says things in our head to ourselves that we would never say to another person, thereby weakening ourself with our own thoughts! This can be an extremely hard habit to break, but being aware of self defeating thoughts is a good place to start. Once negative thoughts come into mind, ask yourself if you say that to another person and, if not, what would you say to that person instead to encourage them and tell that to yourself.
Is it Noble?
Noble means excellence. An excellent thought would be one that you are proud of and wouldn’t mind sharing with some else. It’s not slander, envy or hatred of another person. Someone once said “Imagine your thoughts being posted on the large screen at church.” Yep, that would clean mine up for sure.
Is it lovely? Lovely can mean charming, beautiful, high pleasing, enjoyable, loving attentive of great moral or spiritual beauty, pleasing, highly satisfying. Just saying these words makes me happy. How wonderful is it that God actually wants us to think on such things!
Is it a good report? We hear a lot of bad reports today. Good news doesn’t sell, so the media fills our homes with all the bad that’s happening around the world.
It’s much harder to find the good reports. They don’t make the news headlines. Yet they are out there. Stories of heroism and people doing amazing things for others that go on every day, But we have to seek them out.
Today we’re able to hear about all the bad everywhere in the world almost instantaneously. No other generation has had to deal with news on this scale. Perhaps we are not meant to take in so much gloom and doom. To counteract we have to make the extra effort to search out the good that is happening in our world, praise God for it and share it with others.
Is it virtuous and just? Is this thought highly moral?
Is it praiseworthy? How many wonderful things do we have in our life to be thankful for? Probably plenty, but if you’re not feeling it, give thanks anyway. The Bible tells us that it is the will of God that we give thanks in everything. (I Thessalonians 5:18.). No matter how dark the day, stopping to give thanks to God always makes it brighter.
What can we do?
If it’s not true, don’t continue to listen. Walk away, turn the channel or stop reading it. No one should allow themselves to be lied to over and over again. If it doesn’t align with the Word of God, it’s not true. If it’s supposed to be a news story but it contains the phrase “unnamed sources” it’s probably an editorial masquerading as news to try to lead you to believe something false.
When impure thoughts come into our head, we can dismiss them and think of something lovely. And when we find ourselves engaged in negative self talk, stop! If you wouldn’t talk to your friend that way, don’t belittle yourself in that way either. Train your mind to entertain thoughts that are virtuous and practice being thankful.
On thing this verse makes clear is that we can control our thoughts. It’s not an easy discipline but we can work to get better at it day by day and that will lead to a much happier life.
Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5