It is so easy to allow one’s mind to dwell upon the wrong things. Someone has offended you, and you meditate on such day and night until you allow a root of bitterness (cf. Hebrews 12:15) to grow within your heart. Such can be spiritually destructive and even spiritually deadly. You watch or listen to the latest news on TV, radio, paper, or internet. You become frustrated, angry, or feel hopeless. The world seems to be “going to hell in a hand basket”. Now, I am not suggesting that one should go through life uninformed of world events, shielding one’s self from the news of the day. However, should the evil of the day consume every thought? Is it worthy of being the central thing upon which our minds dwell?
The Bible says, “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” (Philippians 4:8). Let’s notice …
1. Whatever things are true.
I should be interested in truth. Ultimate truth is found in God’s word. Jesus said to the Father, “You word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus affirmed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The Psalmist wrote, “The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous together” (Psalm 19:9). I should spend time in meditation, each day, thinking upon the truth of God’s word. Such will give me a bigger picture. Such will allow me to maintain a more optimistic outlook.
I also should spend time thinking about positive things. I should think about people and things which support God’s truth.
Moreover, I should not believe every evil report that I hear. I should test things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). I should not “lay hands on anyone hastily” (1 Timothy 5:22).
2. Whatever things are noble (NKJV).
Other translations read: honest (KJV); honorable (ASV, NASB, ESV). This word is defined: “august, venerable” (Vine’s); “august, venerable, reverend” (Thayer); “honorable, worthy, venerable, holy, above reproach” (B-A-G).
I should fill my mind with what is honorable in the sight of God and in the sight of men. What if all could know what I was thinking? God certainly knows! The Psalmist wrote, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me … You understand my thoughts afar off” (Psalm 139:1-2). It is healthy for me to remind myself that God knows my thoughts. I should say, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
3. Whatever things are just (KJV, ASV, NKJV, ESV).
Other translations: “right” (NASB). This word is defined: “righteous, observing divine and human laws; one who is such as he ought to be” (Thayer); “used of things just, equitable, fair” (Perschbacher).
I should think about what is the just and the right thing to do, not simply what is convenient or momentarily advantageous. I am only going to be able to discern such by spending a great deal of time in the study of God’s word. The Psalmist wrote of God, “All your commandments are righteous” (Psalm 119:172). In fact, “Righteousness and justice is the foundation of (God’s) throne” (Psalm 89:14).
4. Whatever things are pure.
The word is defined: “pure from defilement, not contaminated (from the same root as hagios, ‘holy’) … see chaste” (Vine’s); “pure from carnality, chaste, modest … pure from every fault, immaculate” (Thayer).
The word is sometimes used of sexual purity (e.g., 2 Corinthians 11:2). I should be careful with my thoughts. “Whoever looks at a woman to lust after her (the intention of the look B. H.) has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Thomas Jefferson commented, “[Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man, erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head” (David Barton, Original Intent, p. 327). John Quincy Adams declared, “Human legislators can undertake only to prescribe the actions of man. They acknowledge their inability to govern and direct the sentiments of the heart; the very law styles it a rule of civil conduct, not internal principles … It is one of the greatest marks of divine favor … The Legislator gave them rules not only of action but for the government of the heart” (ibid). “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life (Prov. 4:23).
5. Whatever things are lovely.
The word can be literally rendered pros = toward and philes = brotherly love.
I should dwell upon things that lead me toward brotherly love. Harboring ill feelings will not lead me toward loving behavior. “When my love to Christ grows weak, when for deeper faith I seek, Then in thought I go to thee, Garden of Gethsemane… When my love for man grows weak, when for stronger faith I seek, Hill of Calvary I go to thy scenes of fear and woe” (song: When My Love to Christ Grows Weak by J.R. Wrenford).
6. Whatever things are of good report (KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV).
Other translations: “commendable” (ESV). The literal wording is eu = good and phema = sounding.
I should fill my mind with good thoughts of good people, good things, good ideas and ideals. I should not be the type who loves to hear the bad. I should get excited over good news. John wrote to the elect lady, “I rejoice greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth” (2 John 4). He wrote to Gaius, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth” (3 John 4). Some reported to Paul of the good things happening at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:8-10). I should be more like this.
I should fill my thoughts with things which sound good if repeated. I should dwell upon such things.
7. Whatever is of virtue (KJV, ASV, NKJV),
Other translations: “excellence” (NASB, ESV). The word defined: “whatever procures preeminent estimation of a person or thing, hence, ‘intrinsic eminence, moral goodness, virtue” (Vine’s); “any excellence of a person (in body or mind)’” (Thayer); “manliness (valor)” (Strong’s). Our English word, “virtue”, has to do with strength or power morally or physically.
I should appreciate moral goodness and excellent behavior. I should appreciate and commend moral strength.
8. Whatever is praiseworthy.
I should think upon things which are worthy of praise in God’s sight. Good does exist. I should look for it and meditate upon it. Life could be so much better if I would look for such things.