Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected (Philippians 4:8, NCV).
I was absolutely pathetic as I moaned and groaned my way up the stairs. My back was killing me! I had just spent four long hours taking down Christmas decorations, packing them in boxes, hauling each box down three flights of stairs to the basement and hoisting every one of those heavy, packed-to-the-brim boxes up on shelves that are taller than I am. Do you get the painful picture?
I was working up a stellar case of self-pity when my husband came home from work and asked what I had been doing all day. “I did two loads of laundry, wrote two devotions, took care of Justus (our grandson), answered email and then it took me four hours to take down all of the Christmas decorations,” I declared in my best “poor me” voice. Dan did not seem impressed. “It really took you that long? I didn’t think you had that many decorations out this year. Why didn’t you wait until I got home so I could help you? ” he asked. I didn’t want to wait. I was not happy … and more than a little upset with him for not being more sympathetic. But my sweet husband was not done.
“Your problem is not in your back, honey. Your problem is in your mind,” he patiently explained. I could see the conversation going down the tube fast but managed to muster up just enough self-control that kept me from saying what I really wanted to say. Instead, I sweetly asked, “What do you mean?”
Sidebar: Several months ago, I was in a car wreck that caused some fierce muscle spasms in my back and resulted in several visits to the chiropractor. Two months ago I had a stomach virus that lasted a week followed by the Thanksgiving holidays during which we had our kids and grandkids for a week … which was incredibly wonderful and deliciously chaotic. The day they left, I went to the doctor with a respiratory infection that turned into bronchitis that soon blossomed into walking pneumonia from which I am still recovering. Do you feel my pain?
“Honey, you have been so sick – not to mention being rear-ended by a car going 70 miles an hour. Why did you feel like you had to decorate the entire house in the first place?” Dan asked. I know. I could not believe it either! “It was Christmas!” I sputtered in frustration. And then I saw it. The problem really is in my mind. I had allowed wrong thinking to dictate wrong priorities.
The mind is a great battlefield. The Bible tells us that we have the mind of Christ because we have a personal relationship with Him, but we still have to allow or choose to “let” the mind of Christ be in control. Every day we are at war for the control of the mind. Who wins that war is up to us and the choices that we make.
Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (NASB). In other words, what we think about powerfully influences who and what we will become. Our actions, our attitudes and habits are born in the mind, an offspring of the thought life we entertain.
We can literally change our life by changing how we think – but we cannot do it alone. God’s standard and guideline for our thought life is very clear and demanding. In fact, it’s completely impossible without God’s power at work in our life.
“Think about the things that are good and worthy of praise; think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected” (Philippians 4:8, NCV).
We choose what we watch and read, the conversations we have and the time we spend in the Word. If the mind is not filled with good, trust me, the enemy will fill it with bad. The human mind will always set itself on something. Paul is challenging us to wisely choose that setting, taking charge of our thoughts by inviting the Holy Spirit to empower God’s standard for the mind.
My husband often says, “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair.” Now stay with me. Impure and wrong thoughts will come but we do not have to entertain them and invite them to “come on in and stay awhile.” When we choose to surrender the control of our mind to God, He will honor that choice and give us the strength and power to think right. And when we think right – we will live right.