There can be a thousand things right in the world, but if there’s one thing wrong, you can count on me to notice it. I want to be more cup-half-full, though, so I’ve been praying for a while that God would teach me to see things from His perspective. And I think He gave me a clue to that today.
It came from a verse that’s very familiar to me. After telling the Philippians not to worry about anything but to pray about everything (with thanksgiving!), Paul offers some practical advice: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (4:8, NLT).
Usually when I read that passage I sum it up in two words—“think positive”—and move on. But frankly, that approach to Philippians 4:8 hasn’t brought much transformation.
However, when I read that verse today, a brand-new thought came to me: Instead of summing it all up into one impossible-seeming command—think positive—what if I were to do exactly what it said? What if I were to fix my thoughts, even fixate on, everything I can think of that is true—what if I were to list these things, meditate on them, enjoy them, and thank God for them? And then move onto things that are honorable, and so on? It would take a while, but just think about how much good stuff would fill my mind?
So I tried it. I wrote down all the attributes Paul mentioned, then asked God, “What have I experienced or who have I been with this recently that demonstrates this quality?
“Who or what has been true, faithful, sincere, or genuine?
“Who or what has been honorable, deserving of respect?
“Who or what has been right, just, moral, or ethical?
“Who or what has been pure, single-minded, untainted?
“Who or what has been lovely, beautiful, delightful, inspiring love and affection?
“Who or what has been admirable, worthy of esteem or approval?”
As I spent a half-hour or so reflecting and praying on these questions, memories of recent encounters, events, and experiences started to surface. I thought of a friend who has gone through a string of difficulties, but who remains solid and steady as a rock. I remembered the snow-glazed ponderosa pine trees in my front yard, the rosy-pink sunrise on Pikes Peak this morning, the beautiful music I heard at a chamber orchestra concert Sunday. I recalled an article I read recently about a Christian newly elected as head of state in a Latin American country. I smiled at the recollection of a friend’s daughter who, for her own birthday, did as many random acts of kindness as she was years old.
I thought of a woman I don’t know very well who wrote me a sweet email of encouragement earlier this week. A guy I work with who is utterly dependable and always goes the extra mile. I remembered a difficult situation that had been handled with grace and truth and savored the good fruit that is coming from it. I thought of a ministry that is on the frontlines offering hope and tangible help to the people of the Philippines who lost everything in the typhoon. I thought of friends who could be thinking of retiring but instead have sold their house and are about to move to India to plant churches among unreached people there. I thought of a recent worship service that brought hundreds of people into God’s presence. Of the Compassion student I sponsor who is studying social work so she can offer hope to the poorest of the poor in her country.
Gradually, the stream of memories slowed down to a trickle, and I was left awash in a feeling of peace and thankfulness. Are there still things that are broken in the world? Sure there are. But God is here. He, who embodies everything true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, fills our world. In the wisdom and beauty of creation, in the kindness and generosity of His people, there are plenty of things that are excellent and worthy of praise. So, Father, indeed, help me to think on these things!