That’s the approximate number of thoughts we have per day*.
That’s the number that reflects how many of our thoughts are negative**.
These numbers are astounding to me. We have thousands of thoughts a day, and the vast majority of them are negative towards ourselves and others. This should not be the case for any born-again believers, but sadly, I believe it is for many of us.
We go about our days, letting our minds think about whatever it wants to. We then get frustrated with ourselves when our emotions are going haywire and our behaviors aren’t lining up with what scripture says is acceptable. Not once did we stop to take inventory of our thought life to see what we were thinking on. We continue on as if our thoughts do not influence our behavior.
“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.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
The book of Phillippians was a letter Paul wrote to the church at Phillipi. Verse 8 of chapter four was a part of his final exhortation to them. If we have such a high percentage of negative thoughts today I’m sure the saints in Phillipi struggled with it as well, hence Paul’s exhortation to think differently.
But Paul’s encouragement doesn’t begin in verse 8. It starts in verse 4.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Before we try to change our thought life to rid ourselves of negative thinking, we must first begin with training ourselves to rejoice in the Lord. God has to be our delight and the one we take joy in at all times. For you to rejoice in the Lord, your thoughts have to be towards him and what he stands for. As we begin to think about who God is and what he has done, thanksgiving should well up in us. As we let thanksgiving out and celebrate the Lord, we are rejoicing in him.
Even before Paul gets to verse 8, he teaches us how to refocus our thoughts and put them on the Lord in the form of rejoicing.
Make Your Request Known
After we train ourselves to rejoice in the Lord, whether we want to or not, then we have to rid ourselves of anxiety. We do this by making our request known to the Lord and letting his peace guard our hearts and minds. An anxious mind will struggle to think about whatever is true and pure and lovely. But a mind at peace can think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Receive God’s Peace
The Lord’s peace enables our minds to begin to think on everything listed in verse 8. A soul devoid of God’s peace will have an anxious mind bent on thinking about whatever is false, dishonorable, unjust, impure, awful, despicable, and even worthless.
It’s imperative that we make a habit of casting our cares on the Lord in prayer. When we do this, we obtain his peace in the place of our anxiousness. If we are not careful to do this, our minds will drift back to thinking negatively, and the statistic mentioned in the opening will hold true for our lives.
Once we are walking in God’s peace, we can then train our minds to think on the list of items in verse 8. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read Philippians 4:8, I tend to lump the whole list of “whatsoevers” into one group; good things. I am to think on whatsoever is good; period. But Paul was very intentional with his words and listed each of them out individually for a reason. I want us to explore each word and see if our thoughts have been geared toward them.
What Should We Think On
- Whatever is TRUE
Definition: in accordance with fact or reality.
Every thought that enters our minds about ourselves, others, and the Lord is not true. Many things we assume are not based on truth, and if we run with these assumptions, our actions will be driven by that which is false. We don’t want the things that we say, feel, and do to be based on lies, so we need to examine our thoughts to see if they are true to the facts, and true to reality.
2. Whatever is HONORABLE
Definition: deserving of respect or high regard, to be esteemed.
We are so quick to dishonor one another in our thoughts. Before we dishonor our neighbor with our words and deeds, we first do it in our thoughts. We have to strive to have thoughts that honor the Lord and our neighbor. Every person is made in the image of God and is deserving of honor. Our thoughts toward them should reflect this truth.
3. Whatever is JUST
Definition: based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
In a world full of injustice, it’s easy to get consumed with all that is unfair. Instead of being consumed with what is evil, immoral, and unjust in this world, focus on how things can be better! This is not a call to be a naive optimist but a confident realist. One day God WILL turn every injustice around; therefore, we can confidently focus on just thoughts because we know God will overcome every injustice.
4. Whatever is PURE
Definition: free of any contaminant, clean.
We all have entertained impure thoughts that we would be ashamed to tell anyone about. Paul is challenging us to do away with all impure thoughts and be intentional to think about pure things.
We must remember that our hearts and thoughts are directly connected, so if we have a pure heart, our thoughts will stem from there. God’s word can purify our hearts when we obey it and, in turn, purify our thoughts as well.
5. Whatever is LOVELY
Definition: pleasant and enjoyable
Our thoughts should be full of things that are pleasing and acceptable. They should not be full of bitterness and anger, but rather, love and admiration for our brothers and sisters. Even when we think about ourselves, we should steer clear of being so critical that our thoughts turn from lovely to ugly concerning our appearance, abilities, and character.
6. Whatever is COMMENDABLE
Definition: deserving praise
People all around us are doing commendable work for the Lord. We should think about these things and begin to praise or rejoice in the Lord for this work because it all points to him. The Lord is at work in all of our lives, doing things for us that should elicit praise from us. We have to intentionally slow down to notice these things and respond with praise to the One who provided them to us.
Think On These Things
As believers, we have to stand on the fact that the Lord has given us the mind of Christ. Our minds can be disciplined and focused on heavenly things. Negative thoughts can come to our minds, but they don’t have to stay. Instead of being passive and entertaining them, we can take them captive to ensure we are instituting the list given in Phillipians 4:8. If we want to live like Christ and do the things he did, we first have to think like Christ. May we release anxiety, receive God’s peace, and think on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is commendable.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
* The approximate number of thoughts we have per day: (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-8531913/Average-person-6-000-thoughts-day-according-study-isolated-thought-worm.html) ** The number of Negative thoughts: (https://blog.myneurogym.com/new-study-you-have-6900-thoughts-a-day…-dont-make-yours-negative)