I was thinking.... What does it mean to 'think'? The dictionary definition of the word is 'to have a certain thing as the subject of one's thoughts.'. What is the subject of YOUR thoughts?
We think of countless things in a day...in an hour...even a minute. What do we choose to think of? Many times it is our day's activities, or projects we are working on. We think of our loved ones and remember times we have had with them. At times our thoughts are so intense that they keep us up at night...ruminating around in our brain, until sleep is impossible.
At times our thoughts are not so nice. We remember individuals that have hurt us...deep wounds that will not heal. We think of situations in which we didn't make the best choices, and fret about what may have happened had we not made them...the dreaded what if's. What if I hadn't said this, or done that? Would the outcome be different if I had done this or that? You can be overcome by your rationalizing...even to the point of addiction.
God knew that we would have a tendency to be controlled by our thoughts. What do we do when our brainwaves are consuming our lives? He gave us a solution, right in His Word.
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.
He tells us to think on things that are true and honest. Things that are factual and real. This can be a problem, as at times our perception of reality can become warped. We need to look at the facts of a situation and not embellish or add onto the reality with our imagination.
God tells us to think of things that are just. That means to be guided by truth, reason and fairness. To look at all sides of a situation...not just one. If too much pressure is applied to one side of a straight board it can become warped. In the same way, when we lean too heavy on one perspective, at times our thinking can become distorted.
Think on things that are pure and lovely. Things that are untainted with evil, free of contamination. Are my meditations contaminated with ugliness? It only takes a small amount of poison to contaminate a lake or river. It only takes a tiny distorted notion to contaminate one's thinking pattern. If something is lovely, it is free from unpleasantness or hatefulness. That can be a very hard area to stay away from. Bitter thoughts can tend to grow like crabgrass in our brains. They can overtake us, as weeds do to a garden. We have to be vigilant in snatching them up and out of our thought patterns as soon as they begin to creep in.
Whatsoever things are of good report refers to admirable, positive things. This statement probes us to focus on the good things that are happening in our lives and the lives of our friends and loved ones. Very few people have NO positive things that happen to them. Sometimes you may have to look a little closer, but when you do, you can usually find something in your life that will bring you joy. Speaking of joy, many people have a misconception about what joy is. It is not being giddily happy all of the time, and ignoring the tragedy and strife that comes our way. To be joyful means that you know that despite the outward appearance of your circumstances, you have peace and contentment in Who holds the answer to your difficulty.
If there be any virture and if there be any praise, think on these things. I believe this section encourages us to look for the good aspects of a situation or person. Look for something to praise someone for. It is so easy to see the wrong that people do, what they didn't do right. Look how easy it is for us to see the negative parts of ourselves and what we could have done better. I believe God wants us to focus on the 'right' things that others do. To look at the good possibilities of unexpected situations. Now obviously, there are some incidents that are devastating and beyond comprehension. I'm not talking about those situations. I'm speaking of the day to day occurances and interactions with people.
Is all of this possible? From personal experience, I believe it is. People have called me Pollyanna...as if I don't see the bad part of circumstances or people. That's not true at all. I DO see the negative side of people and things...but I CHOOSE not to make that my focus. For the most part, I CHOOSE to look for the positive aspect of a situation, and the good in people. It isn't always easy, and I do fail on occasion, but I keep trying. Some people may find that strange, but for the most part, that outlook has made me a happy person. It is a habit that I've gotten into, and now it is an automatic response. If someone says something a little 'off' to me, I don't automatically take it personally, thinking they are secretly trying to hurt me. I just ignore it. If someone is having a bad day and wants to start an argument, I keep my mouth shut. They can't argue by themselves...and it saves future hurt from someone saying something they shouldn't. Does that mean that I let people run over me? No. I stick up for myself, but will not stand and argue endlessly with someone who has a different opinion or idea. Their opinion is just as important to them, as mine is to me. It's more of a matter of respect. All scripture is present for a reason. I think God placed these verses there to help us learn how to be joyful and happy Christians despite our outward circumstances.