“Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
It’s not an easy task but try thinking about what you’re thinking. What do you normally think about? What are the patterns of your thoughts? What are the habits of your mind?
Occasionally when I was a pastor looking out over a congregation on a Sunday morning I would think “I wonder what they’re thinking about?” I’d guess that about half were thinking about lunch. Then it would hit me. I’m thinking about what they’re thinking. I’m thinking about what they’re thinking about me, or the anthem, or the hymn selection, etc. God gets lost in the weeds of the undisciplined mind.
The mind is a restless creature, and it likes to play. That’s why dreams can be so vividly ludicrous.
The mind is also very powerful. In fact, the mind is to the soul as the brain is to the body. The brain essentially is a survival organ. It monitors and adjusts countless processes without your conscious thought. It is also the source of decisions you make that result in all sorts of consequences that can improve your life. The physical brain with all its neurochemical processes “shapes” the physical body.
In a similar fashion the mind “shapes” the soul. The patterns of your thoughts, your highest commitments, your ability to sense and form meaning, all create a soul-trajectory. The mind can usher you into the presence of God and make you aware of Him in every moment.
However, if the mind is oriented toward criticism (of yourself or others), fear, doubt, cynicism, anger, resentment, etc., then that orientation also creates a soul-trajectory. But it’s not one that is oriented to the lavish graces of God.
The orientation of the mind is especially important today, for we have many more sources of input than ever before. There are a lot of ideas out there, and not all of them are wise or godly or helpful. And most of them are loud, clamoring for attention.
When Paul was in a prison cell he wrote, “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, or worthy of praise; think on these things.” Again, Paul was in a prison cell, facing a very uncertain future. He was surrounded by hopelessness, injustice, threats, cold and heat, false accusers, bad food, perhaps even a smelly guard. All of those were realities too. Yet Paul chose to fix his mind on the eight graces he listed.
We can make the same choice too. I’ve watched many people lose hope and grow in their frustrations over the last five months. I’m not sure when circumstances are going to change. The power of the presence of Christ means that we don’t wait for circumstances to become more pleasing. We simply fix our minds to be attuned to the thoughts of God, and that lifts us closer to heaven.
All the wonderful qualities Paul wrote about surround us every moment. So carefully consider what you’re thinking about. Consciously choose to orient your mind to God’s grace. Over the next few weeks I’ll write about the graces Paul listed. But this week, I want you to reclaim your right to choose what is deeply spiritual, uplifting, and ennobling.
Dr. Terry Ellis
July 20, 2020