What do you think about? What consumes your mind when you have time to think a bit? Does your mind fill with worry, anxiety, or details? Are you consumed with thinking about all the things that you have to get done? Perhaps your mind wanders to what others think of you. Maybe you are filled with thoughts of your favorite sports team or what you're going to to do this weekend. Are your thoughts filled with the news and everything that is happening in the world?
The Scriptures are very concerned with the state of our minds. Paul in particular. In Romans 12:2 he says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." How do we experience this "renewal of mind"? I think he gives us some direction in Philippians 4 (in this little letter he is very focused on the mind),
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9, ESV)
First, he tells us to set our minds on the right things. We need to be intentionally thinking about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Some people think this means that we ought to only think about God. I don't think that's what Paul is saying. The key here is the repeated word, "whatever." This can be the great things of our culture. The beauty of art, literature, architecture, music, and the like. It can include things like science and math and history. We can celebrate human achievement. Clearly, we also celebrate the good things that God has done in our lives and those around us too! It's not about being Pollyanna, but it's about noticing the beauty in the world and those things that reflect our Creator God.
The second thing that is important is that Paul says, "practice these things." It is far easier to focus on the negative and imperfect around us. It so much harder to choose to focus on the good and the beautiful. So, we must practice. Practice requires repetition and getting up after we fall down. We make a mistake and we brush ourselves off and try again. We keep working on a particular skill until we become good at it. To continue being good, we must continue practicing. So, we must practice at setting our minds on the right things.
Look around you. What are the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things around you?