Most of us have at times when we seem to be daydreaming been asked the question, “What are you thinking about?” A common answer is “nothing,” but my sense is that thinking about nothing is probably rare.
I just finished a book by Hannah Anderson entitled ALL THAT’S GOOD: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment. While she does write about discernment, six of the eleven chapters are about the six things the Apostle Paul suggests Christians should think about in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV).
The New Living Translation renders Paul’s challenge “Fix your thoughts and think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” In the Message Eugene Peterson paraphrases, “you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on . . . the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not to curse.”
Comparing these three translations gives us insight into the six specific areas Paul encourages us to focus on: what is true, what is noble (honorable), what is right (reputable), what is pure (authentic), what is lovely (compelling), and what is admirable (gracious).
Here are a few selections from Hannah Anderson’s explanations of things we are to think about: “honorable carries the idea that something has weight or gravity” (p. 81), “something is just (or right) when if fulfills what it is supposed to do” (p. 97), “being pure is the condition of being whole and untainted” (p. 114), “to describe something as lovely is to describe both the thing itself as well as the response it produces in us” (p. 128), and “seeking whatever is commendable means giving attention to both what we talk about and how we talk about it” (p.141).
The importance of what we think about should not be understated. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul gives us six suggestions for what we should consider and focus on. If as believers we give much thought to the opposite of these six, let’s be challenged to replace them with what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.
To conclude this post I share Hannah Anderson’s observation: “discernment simply means developing a taste for what is good” (p.13). Perhaps we need to work on being more discerning about what we think about and fully enjoy what we do think about.
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Bob, I find that the times that I focus on positive or good thoughts it does well for my mental health. It also makes me focus on the blessings that I receive daily from the lord. Thank you for your wise words. Gil
I was just discussing this with my sister, regarding the current state of affairs in our country. I said we must not allow satan to taint our walk with God by focusing on the negative and evil that we are surrounded by. We must pray constantly and claim the victory that is already ours through the Holy Spirit. We know how the story ends!