8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (NIV)
Today’s passage presents us with the truth that flies in the face of modern thought. Today, we continually hear the mantra “Be You” or “Be true to yourself.” Modern philosophy would say that we are good, and we are at our best when we express and live by our intrinsic selves. To be “authentically you” is the sacred writ of secularism. The problem with this is that it renders us enslaved to our own sinful thoughts and emotions. But God has given us the power to break free and choose what we think and feel.
Whatever is pure and lovely, praiseworthy, and excellent, God says to think on these things. He does not command us to do something without also equipping us to be able to do it. The Bible says we have been given the Holy Spirit, who gives us power, love, and self-discipline. We don’t have to go along with our emotions and thoughts like a dead branch floating down a river. God has given us the power to discipline ourselves to not think about the negative and focus on the good things He has provided.
It is not easy to force ourselves upstream against the natural egocentrism that makes us victims of selfishness and self-pity. It may not be easy, but it is possible. Right now, you can change your thoughts to those of goodness, love, and grace. You have the ability to search your life and see what good there is or how God can use the bad things for your good. You get to choose the focus of your heart and mind. You are not a slave to yourself.
In counseling, I teach a simple Biblical counseling intervention. The Bible teaches us that our tongue is like the rudder of a ship that can guide us. Scripture teaches us that it is with our words that we keep our bodies in check. We cannot control our words any more than we can control our own thoughts and emotions, but the Holy Spirit gives us dominion over all of these. When we choose to continually repeat aloud those things good and lovely, we will take captive our thoughts and change how we feel.
Prayer: Lord, help me to be led by the Spirit to use my words to speak of Your blessings and Your power to use suffering for my good. And may my heart, mind, and body be moved to Your peace. Amen.