Paul loved the believers at Philippi and felt especially close to them. He wrote them about personal issues, and asked them to put aside their petty offenses and come together in unity: “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
Paul then goes on to give instructions regarding our thought life. In Philippians 4:8 we are told to direct our mind toward that which is helpful, positive, and good. One commentator said:
The human mind will always set itself on something. And Paul wished to be quite sure that the Philippians would set their minds on the right things. This is something of the utmost importance because it is a law of life: that if a man thinks of something often enough he will come to the stage where he cannot stop thinking about it. His thoughts will be quite literally in a groove out of which he cannot jerk them.
We must consciously exercise our minds to think on the things that Paul lists for us in Philippians 4:8:
- True: Is what we are saying accurate? Is what we think about accurate? Are we sure?
- Honest: The word “honest” has a larger definition than we usually attach to it. It carries the idea of being honorable, venerable.
- Just: that which is equitable.
- Pure: that which is morally undefiled, clean, innocent, and chaste.
- Lovely: that which is winsome; that which calls for love.
- Good report: that which is well spoken of.
- Virtue: that which exemplifies manliness, valor, and excellence.
- Praise: that which is commendable.
Why don’t we apply Philippians 4:8 to people with whom we are having problems? When we are irritated and upset with our spouse, why don’t we stop to think about those things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue, and praiseworthy?
When we are unhappy with our children, why don’t we stop to think of their lives in the context of Philippians 4:8? When we get irritated with a friend, a church member, or a spiritual leader, why don’t we remember to apply Philippians 4:8 to them?
Is there anything true about this person? Is there anything honest and honorable? Have they been just? Have they been pure? Is there anything lovely and winsome about them? Is there anything of a good report; that which is well spoken of? Is there anything of virtue or praise? If so, why don’t we think on these things?
There are four observations I would like to make regarding our thought life:
1. God expects us to control our minds.
2. Every person and every situation has good and bad characteristics.
3. Our attitudes will be determined by that which we choose to think about.
4. Our happiness will be determined by our attitude.
The only way to stay happy is by focusing on the positive aspects rather than the negative aspects of any situation. This is true of the geographic area in which you live, the job at which you work, the ministry in which you serve, or your marriage.
I recently dealt with two people in my office. They had both been involved in a negative situation and yet both were good people. I said the exact same thing to both of them. I did not separate my comments between them but made one statement that applied to the two people.
I was later told that one of them said, “The preacher was mean to me today.” The other said, “The pastor was really kind and helpful to me this afternoon. He encouraged me more than anybody I talked to about this situation.” Isn’t that interesting?
If I had spoken to them at separate times, perhaps I could wonder if I were less thoughtful, less kindly, less positive in my expressions with one than with another. But I said the same words at the same time to two people and they came up with entirely different responses. Let’s apply Philippians 4:8 to our relationships with others.