“Think on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Let’s remember the journey we began in last week’s GraceWaves. I introduced you to the idea of Thanksgiving Advent. We need more than one Sunday, or more than one devotional, to help us focus on the spiritual discipline of Thanksgiving. Last week I wrote about choosing to be thankful. Let’s explore the way we make that choice.
The partial verse I quoted above comes after a list of wonderful qualities: “things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise.” Each one of these words is worthy of a specific study, and I have often taken that approach with congregations. However, we need to spend more time on the closing imperative: think on these things.
The word for think is often used in accounting. It refers to the practice of numbering, reckoning, or occupying one’s mind with a particular topic. In this case, Paul wanted Christians to occupy their minds with all the blessings God surrounds us with.
That’s where the choice comes in. Thanksgiving is not simply an impulse, a one-time-a-year celebration, or even a segment of your daily prayers. It is a way of life developed through disciplined thinking. You must carefully determine what you will think about.
You see, your mind is very much like a magnet. You will tend to attract evidence that reinforces your convictions. An elderly friend one time confessed to me that he literally collected stories from the newspapers about topics that outraged him, and kept them in a folder. Not surprisingly my friend often was generally irritable and scowling. He had drawn to him all kinds of evidence to reinforce his conviction that the world is highly unfair and society is heading toward general disarray.
This “magnet principle” applies to people who are dissatisfied with their jobs, a spouse, politics, children, a football team, the coach, the weather etc. etc. etc. They see what they are looking for, and ignore evidence to the contrary.
The Bible teaches us that we have a remarkable degree of control over our minds through the transforming presence of Christ. The word repentance literally means a change of mind, from bad to good, or even from good to better. This renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), through Christ, means that we can choose to occupy our minds with good and noble things, like thankfulness. I know it may sound trite to you, but counting your many blessings really does make a difference. Try it and you will be surprised what you discover.
Henry Ward Beecher put it this way. “If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might be able to look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them. But let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now it would draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings, only the iron in God’s sand is gold.”
Take care to “think on thankfulness” throughout this month. Trust me, this is another battle that does not stay won. You have to fight it again and again. But keep fighting! You will one day discover the ability to see so many things that are true and honorable, just and pure, lovely and gracious, excellent and worthy of praise. Your mind will “attract” those things. And you will be thankful.
Dr. Terry Ellis
November 8, 2010