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Consider the words that apostle Paul wrote to his friends to encourage them in their faith in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, bretheren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are pure, whatever things are holy, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
In this verse, Paul issues a command to us to think on what is true and real. He is not making a suggestion, and he’s not offering a piece of advice that we can take or leave. No, Philippians 4:8 is God’s command to us to focus our thoughts on the truth of His Word and on the things in life that are real. It is also an indication from Paul that this will take effort to go against the sinful bent of our flesh and our worldly culture.
So how can we obey this command from Scripture? If I want my thoughts to measure up to God’s standard of true and real, then I have to accept that my thinking is either based on God’s truth or it isn’t. My thinking is either right or wrong. It’s either acceptable or sinful. I feel that I have to shine a light on this strong distinction if I am to give up of my destructive thought patterns and obey God by thinking on what is true and real.
Next, I began asking, “How can I limit my thinking to what is true and real?” Soon I found a clue from Paul himself in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. Here he writes,
For the weapons of our warfare are…mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Thoughts that are not true or real are mere “arguments” or, as the New American Standard Bible says, “speculations.” They are not truth. They are “high things” raised up against the knowledge of God and the truth of His Word. And such “things” and thoughts have to be brought “into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
As I considered what “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” means, I immediately thought of something from my childhood. While growing up in a tiny Oklahoma town (population 2,000), it was a grand occasion each year when our family attended the local rodeo. And the calf roping was my favorite event.
Here’s the scene — The cowboy, ready on his horse, with lasso in hand, waited for a calf to be released from its chute. Then came the chase as the cowboy raced his horse after the bucking, twisting, running animal, lassoed it, brought it in, jumped off his horse, threw the calf down, tied three legs together, stood up, and raised his hands in victory. The timer stopped, and everyone cheered. The cowboy had successfully roped the calf!
It hit me that to handle my thoughts that were not true or real, I needed to be like that cowboy! You see, my inaccurate thoughts about God and His Word — along with my “what if” fears about the future, “if only” regret about the past — were like that calf! They were untamed and rebellious, bucking, jumping, and running wild in my mind.
So, like the cowboy — and with God’s strength and help! — I needed to chase after my wrong thoughts, rope them, bring them in, throw them down, and tie them up. That’s how I could experience a victory in my thought-life.
Taking our thoughts captive to Christ — to the Word of God, to what is true and real — calls for energy, effort, and a heart commitment to obey God. It is a battle — a battle fought in the mind and a battle for the mind. And it is a battle fought one thought at a time…for victory over one thought at a time. It is warfare! And the truth of Philippians 4:8 is a weapon we simply must have in our arsenal. Praise God, this is a battle we can ﬁght — and win! — by His grace.
And now for the glorious blessings! What are some of the fantastic beneﬁts that you and I enjoy when we obey God’s command to think on what is true and real? When we begin “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ?” Here’s a short list of what we will experience.
But there is one other beneﬁt that every person I know needs and desires, especially in our day and age, and that is greater energy! Greater spiritual energy, physical energy, mental energy, and emotional energy—greater energy of every kind for handling life’s demands, challenges, and opportunities. It’s amazing that as we spend less time in melancholy introspection and more time thinking thoughts that are true and real, we have more energy for positive uses and constructive purposes.
For a moment, think of your Christian life as a bucket that God wants to ﬁll so that you can enjoy Him and enjoy life. He wants to ﬁll your life with Himself so He can use it to glorify Him, to bless you, and to enrich the lives of others.
Now, how do you ﬁll the bucket with the things of God? Reading the Bible every day is one way. You can also memorize and meditate on Scripture. And you can pray and worship. But you must also realize that every wrong thought you think — thoughts that are not true and real — is like a hole in your spiritual bucket. Every time you think inaccurately about God, about God’s Word, and about people, you are draining your bucket. Every time you dwell on “what if” and “if only” and “this isn’t the way it was supposed to be” scenarios, you can be sure your energy is leaking out!
My friend, it’s a fact: Thinking about things that are untrue and unreal drain your energy, your life, and your strength for dealing with today’s issues! Obeying the command of Philippians 4:8, however, helps keep your bucket ﬁlled and overﬂowing! and your energy available to serve God, to take care of your responsibilities, and to move toward accomplishing your dreams.
For more information on this topic,
read Loving God With All Your Mind.