Yesterday, we looked a little at the corrosive power of fretful thinking - how it wears us down and brings us into a place of paralysis in our faith. Paul goes on in this same chapter to explain the things we are supposed to be thinking on. In the realm of helping people make change a reality in their lives, there is a concept of the "put off - put on" dynamic. You have to put off a bad or less desirable habit, and in turn, you put on a better one. You can pretty well follow this concept throughout Scripture. When God tells us to have no other gods before him, he also says to honor him with our entire hearts, minds and souls. When we are told to stop stealing, there is the follow-up command to get a job. The idea is that we MUST replace one behavior with another or there will be a "gap" that is open to being filled - if not purposefully, then by whatever comes along that we embrace with any actual thinking!
Paul tells us to do two things here - fill our minds and then meditate on what we put in there. Our minds are amazing "tools" - they can be used to do such tremendous things. With the mind, we can begin the visionary work of creating or inventing. With the mind, we can think through a scenario, step-by-step, until we see what we envisioned take hold. It can be like a "steal trap" or a "leaky sieve". When someone has an uncanny ability to remember all kinds of facts or details, we say they have a mind like a steal trap. If the opposite occurs, and the individual cannot seem to recall facts, we say they have a mind like a leaky sieve. It always amazes me to see the sports enthusiast that can recount the entire career of some ball player, complete with every stat of their season right on the tip of their tongue. That same individual could be challenged to "hide the Word" in his heart and find it nearly impossible to recount chapter and verse! What's up with that?
The mind is certainly an amazing component of who we are as human beings. It controls every function in our body, every action of day, and every inaction, as well. With it, we make choice, interpret input, and "feel" with what we call emotion. It is our mind that gives us the ability to resist temptation, or plunge full force ahead into disaster. That is why Paul spent the time telling us what to put into our mind. In two short verses, he asks us to center our thought life on things that will build up, give a foundation, and provide a safe course for our Christian walk. Let's briefly see what he poses as the type of thought we are to fill our minds with:
- Things that are true - that which conforms to reality or fact. He reminds us that our minds can indeed come up with any conclusion they want - we need to remember to center on what is fact.
- Things that are noble - that which is of the highest quality. The idea is that we should not accept mediocrity in our thought life - strive for the best.
- Things that reputable - thinking on that which is worthy of honorable or is respectable is sometimes one of the most difficult parts of our thought. We do a lot of damage in our thought life with both the reputation of others and of ourselves. Paul reminds us that reputation, even God's, can be broken or built up in our minds.
- Things that are authentic - genuine and supported by indisputable evidence. Surprising, isn't it, just how much of our thought life could be discounted when put to the test! We need to be cautious here - we can find almost any evidence to support our belief - therefore, we need to go the evidence that has "born up" throughout the ages (The Word of God).
- Things that are compelling - this is the type of thought that drives an individual into action. It has a powerful and irresistible effect on us. It is important to see what is compelling us to move - does it line up with what God outlines in his Word?
- Things that are gracious - the thought that immediately moves to compassion and mercy - not judgment and guilt.
- The best, not the worst - how many times am I guilty of "jumping to conclusions" - immediately drifting into negative thought about a person, situation, or perceived threat? I almost never go to the "best" first, but find myself having to "reign in" my thoughts, taking control of them through active choice, and "shifting" to the best way to see that person, situation, or threat.
- The beautiful, not the ugly - okay, don't get me wrong here, but there is some pretty ugly stuff out there just waiting to get into our brains! Whatever we allow in will have an affect.
- Things to praise, not to curse - if we keep all the rest in perspective, it easy to allow things in that we want to speak well of vs. those things that we can only formulate negative talk about.
In concluding this instruction, Paul says we are not just to fill our minds with the right thoughts, but we are to meditate upon them. Think of this as "chewing on them" - sometimes we'd do well to take a little more time in thought before we actually speak or act upon the thought we are entertaining! There is a place of safety in learning to meditate on the right stuff. What are you "chewing on" today? If it something that is really "chewing on you", then maybe it is time for some fresh thought about the situation. Gotta love it!