The Thinking that Leads to Spiritual Steadfastness

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Given how significantly our thought life affects our spiritual character “for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . .” (Prov 23:7), and how it contributes to our spiritual wellbeing (Phil 4:1, 8), it is important that we do not forget the key lessons from Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”. What you seek after, what you would choose, and what kind of Christian you are is the product of what has first occurred in your heart.

Think on these things. The word “think” is to reckon and count carefully. To think on the list of things Paul enumerates, we must first understand that think pertains to: 1) Depth. We must ponder, mull upon, and meditate seriously on what God wants us to think about. This requires time and is not a cursory, careless, and shallow consideration of spiritual things. We should not avoid “solid meat” in the Word because we are too lazy to concentrate on more complex doctrines. Importantly, it is not about feelings or seeking things that just stir you emotionally. 2) Details. Note details because making effort to notice details, especially so as to apply the Word to yourself. A Christian cannot be disinterested in details in the Word. This means you need to pay attention in the reading and hearing of the Word and not have a wandering mind. Taking notes for yourself to revisit is a good way of ensuring this. 3) Discipline. We must control what we allow our minds to feed on all the time, whether when we are with others or alone. We need to control what our minds want to think about when we are stressed, angry, anxious, lonely, and even when we are happy. Carelessness and flirting with sinful thoughts will eventually lead to sinful acts. God uses the picture of “gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet 1:13) i.e. tie up the parts that are loose and flutter about in the wind to enable one to move fast and not be tripped up. The right thoughts trigger love and desire for holiness. Replace any habitual sinful thoughts with the list that God provides in Phil 4:8. 4) Do it yourself. The middle voice of this Greek verb means that we must want to think in these prescribed ways out of our own personal volition. We should not need parents or the church to compel us to want to control our thought life. If we are such, we will not stand fast in Christ because it shows that we are personally uninterested in changing our own lives to be more obedient to God. We need to willingly want to guard our eye-gate and ear-gate, i.e. what we watch and listen to, and not do so only when someone tells us to. We need to personally be concerned about what thoughts our minds are occupied with during our waking moments. So, we need to naturally seek to guard what we think about, using the list that Paul gives, when we are with friends and are looking at or hearing something. Do you find that the word “think” entails something very tiresome and restrictive? But remember, God chooses His words specifically to help us know how to think. If you abide by it, you will be steadfast in Christ, instead of wavering all the time. To take your thought life lightly is to be in peril of slowly but surely backsliding because you will eventually become what you allow yourself to indulge your thoughts in.

Whatsoever things are true. True refers to all that is consistent with the unchangeable and eternal truth found in God’s Word. It means that God’s Word is the filter I use to decide what is true. It is the beginning reference point for the rest of the list of thoughts. Truth is found in God’s Word, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17). God’s truth must define everything i.e. you must be willing to reject things which the world may call true, honest, just, etc. To be stable in your Christian walk, Christians should be interested in anything that is in God’s Word. We cannot trust our own thinking at all because the world is continually trying to mould our fallen minds to conform to worldly standards. To think on whatsoever things are true is to mean that only God’s Word is the measure and authority of what is true whenever I think about something. If my feeling, my upbringing, my culture, the majority of the people (even professing Christians), or people we admire and respect impart values that are contrary to God’s principles in His Word, then I must embrace whatsoever God says about it. We need to come to such a way of thinking about whatsoever in life or we will be unstable.

Whatsoever things are honest. Honest refers to grave i.e. serious, sound, to be revered, noble and honourable in God’s eyes. We live in a world where things that are frivolous, mindless, and in fact as silly as possible, are what is considered fun to occupy our minds with. You see that in popular social media and its posts. We live in a world of entertainment where people shun things that are serious, and where concentration is needed. Many do not like to think, and we have been used to impulses and being “whacky” rather than to subject decisions through serious thought. This does not mean that there is no place for humour and that the believer must have a long and sombre face all the time. But rather than seeking to amuse our minds, God wants us to muse on weighty spiritual things that pertain meaningfully to promoting and evoking a serious perspective of our spiritual walk and endeavours. Life is short and not to be taken lightly. And sin is serious and not something to joke about. Shows like Mr Bean make fun of everything, even sin, and ridicule those who are serious. Movies often make evil to be good and good to be evil. The world uses light-heartedness (which “takes off our thinking caps”) to introduce their values into our minds and hearts. We would even defend values which may be contrary to Christian values because we have been conditioned to think it’s ok and we shouldn’t be that serious. Oh may we resolve to be like the hymn writer who well stated,

I am resolved no longer to linger,

Charmed by the world’s delight;

Things that are higher, things that are nobler,

These have allured my sight.

God willing, we will revise the other things we are to think about in order to replace what we typically allow our minds to be occupied with.

Yours in our Lord’s service,