Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Many of us begin the day with anxious thoughts. The “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) never seems to reach us in the middle of the night or when we first open our eyes. Instead, as the morning comes we say to ourselves, “There is so much to think about. So many things are dancing around in my mind. I’ve got so many challenges.” Thoughts such as these so easily produce anxiety and stultify our commitment to prayer.
Paul helps us to overcome these draining, even crippling feelings by directing our gaze toward those virtues which will liberate our thinking. A mind that is filled with the content described in Philippians 4:8 will have little space for anxiety-producing, peace-disrupting, joy-destroying notions.
What Paul was encouraging his readers to adopt is a distinctly Christian way of thinking. A Christian mind, he taught, is not a mind that is trained to think only about “Christian topics” but one that has learned to think about everything from a Christian perspective. Ultimately, we are what we think about. It is in our minds that our affections are stirred, and it is through our minds that our wills are directed. It is in the mind that we conceive of and produce every action. It is therefore imperative that we learn to think about what is right and godly.
The Bible is not concerned with mere mental reflection for its own sake. The Christian is not called to sit on a high hill and think blessed thoughts in abstraction, removed from the routines of everyday existence. Rather, Paul provides us with a list that will establish us in our motives, our manners, and our morals. Each of us is called to live in the realm of the real, not the phony; the serious, not the frivolous; the right, not the convenient; the clean, not the dirty; the loving, not the discordant; and the helpful, not the critical. In short, we are called to think like Jesus.
Paul is not simply calling you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, though. This is not a rallying cry to try your best to perform the list. Sanctification by self-effort is not God’s agenda. The multifaceted virtue Paul speaks of is the fruit which grows on the tree of salvation. This fruit is brought forth by those whose roots are embedded in grace. So, let your heart be gripped by God’s grace, and train your mind to think on that which is truly praiseworthy. When those influences converge, your life will be one that brings glory to God. Aim to make His grace, and this fruit, the first thing you think about when you wake up tomorrow.