And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. (Phil 4:8a)
As a wife and mother, one of my greatest determinations each week is to make time and room for the Family Table. On a typical Sunday afternoon, you’ll find me sitting on our living room sofa, or even better, on the patio with sun drenching from a cloudless sky, checking the family’s schedule for the upcoming week. Part of that review requires feedback from the family: What days are you going to work after school this week? Anybody have any tests? How early do you need to be at church on Wednesday evening? But the greater part of that review formulates post-feedback as I make the menu for the week, crafting the grocery list from each meal’s ingredients, in hopes to set a well-dressed table for as many nights as possible with as many of us as possible. We have found it to be key to our family’s overall health and relationship-building.
I’ll never profess to be a gourmet chef as I’m far too finicky of an eater to get too creative or boujee in the kitchen. But I have a few homestyle favorites that I’ve cooked for many a year and attempt to throw in a new recipe now and again–something that resembles something else I know everybody (or most everybody) already likes but has a fresh spin on it. The ingredients make the grocery list, then the grocery cart, hopefully the car’s trunk, and finally to their rightful place in the pantry, awaiting their use. I can appreciate a good bulleted set of instructions in a new recipe as it keeps me on track. The most unfortunate, and often detrimental, results come, however, when I become distracted, or even worse, jump ahead with false confidence and skip over crucial steps. Inevitably, the finished product may look good but taste not-so-great, or it may look so un-appetizing that no one really wants to take the risk and dive in.
There’s something to a good order, following the step-by-step protocol for optimum results. Much like a gourmet chef, an intentional parent or passionate teacher would, the apostle Paul spent the first several verses of chapter four in his letter to the Philippians to provide dictation, with special attention to the order of instructions. Over the past few weeks, we’ve discovered the power of his initial steps to mind-blowing peace:
- Don’t worry about anything.
- Pray about everything.
- Tell God what you need.
- Thank Him for what He has already done.
Then came that beautiful THEN following the IF: Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7) And like a tenured game show host, it’s almost as though Paul was writing, “But wait, there’s more!” He continues on in verse 8 of Philippians 4, “One. Final. Thing.”
This final thing deserved its own moment in the spotlight as it is, admittedly, the mountain most of mankind stumbles over. “Fix your thoughts…”
Have you ever gotten yourself worked up over how things appeared or allowed your emotions to take over as you drown in the abyss of the unreasonable? At that point, reason is no longer reasonable, nor is it even welcomed. You’re lost in the irrational and the anchor of truth seems miles from your drifted destination. We’ve all done it, but it never serves us well. Paul challenges the reader to fix on–attach to, latch onto, chain our thought life to–only what we know to be true.
Why is this so important? The wisdom of Proverbs 23, verse 7, reminds us that “as (someone) thinks in his heart, so is he.” (NKJV) When you come at Paul’s directive from this angle, you might want to just throw the order of prompts out the window and come at it from the end, moving backward.
What kind of human being do you want to be? One that is continually writhing with fear or exploding with anger? How about one who is perpetually in the fetal position, paralyzed with anxiety? Is it alluring to consider you could be perpetually sick because of the emotional injuries brought upon by the actions of others, holding forgiveness hostage in exchange for freedom in your soul?
Or is it possible that you’d prefer to feel the sun on your shoulders each morning, reminding you of the goodness of God? Wouldn’t it be the ultimate delight to be able to move freely about your daily obligations without fear of the government, an evil agenda, or the disappointment of man’s mistakes? What if you could be free of decades of emotional trauma?
Scripture reminds us, through Paul’s urging, to fix our thoughts, bringing it all full circle from the effect to the cause. Fix your thoughts on uncertainties, and you’ll be uncertain. But fix your thoughts on what you know to be true, and you’ll be grounded in Truth. Fix your thoughts on dishonorable and evil acts all about you, and you’ll become dishonorable and engage in evil. Focus only on what is wrong with the world, and you shall become an active contributor to the wrong. But focus on that which is right and holy, and you’re headed down the road to becoming right and holy in Christ. The list continues with lovely and admirable thoughts. What an incredible mental exercise that could eradicate fear, anxiety, worry, sickness, and so much more!
Paul’s “one final thing” is much like the final step in the recipe, which leads to the beautifully delicious presentation at the family table. Leave off all that doesn’t belong and add in only that which will enhance the flavor of the dish. Fix your thoughts on that which leads to emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health.
Directing my thoughts to Truth,
Looking for more? Here’s some homework!
- Take a few moments each day over the coming week to list the thoughts you could fixate on within the following categories:
- Share those thoughts with the people that come to mind with each attribute.
- Ask God each morning to prompt you throughout the day when your thoughts wander astray from the attributes listed above and intentionally exchange the negative thought for the truer thought.