Sure, there's a better world coming In the future, but how can you stay positive in this evil age? The Bible tells! Terrorism! Murder! Financial crises! War! Family breakups! Weather upsets! Famine! Pollution!
Every day, terrifying tragedies jump out at us in startling headlines from the front pages of our newspapers.
Just hearing the morning news is enough to make anyone start the day gloomy and pessimistic. Thinking only of today's difficult times and the even more traumatic times to come can lead us into discouragement and despondency. While Jesus Christ tells us to watch world events (Luke 21:36), He also expects us to think and act in a positive manner. We should not become overwhelmed or dismayed by what we see happening or what we know is prophesied to strike the earth.
Paul, in Colossians 3:15, says, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."
God's peace should reign supreme in our minds. We as God's people are called to peace. Those whom God has called and chosen to be in His Family have the assurance that nothing can force them to fall prey to Satan.
Consider John 6:37 and 39: "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.... This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day."
Most people are in bondage to the uncertainty, fear, worry and anxiety of the times in which we live. The Christian is different. He has tranquility and peace of mind. Romans 8:15 explains, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption [sonship] by which we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'"
Formula for a right attitude But does God simply tell us to have peace of mind, without telling us how? No indeed. In Philippians 4:8, God gives us a formula that, if followed, will guarantee that we stay in a positive frame of mind: "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" (Authorized Version).
In other words, God wants us to focus our minds not on the negative side of this life, but on the positive.
Let's examine this verse phrase by phrase, noting some examples in each area where Paul said we should direct our thoughts.
Focus on truth "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true..."
God's promises are true and sure. In Psalms 119:160 we read that God's Word is true in its entirety. God has revealed the purpose of life, that He is reproducing Himself and desires that every human being enter His Family (Romans 8:14-17).
In spite of the appalling conditions now prevalent in this world, God will soon restore health and well-being to humanity and make the earth a sparkling, magnificent gem (Isaiah 35). That is what is true!
It's also true that humanity's greatest enemy — death — will be abolished, and that all our loved ones will see God (I Corinthians 15:26).
One of Jesus Christ's names, in fact, is True: "Then I saw heaven opened, and, behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11).
When we read the Bible we can know absolutely that whatever God has promised, He will do, because He speaks truth and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19). This should be a great comfort to us. There is never any need to doubt what God says.
"Whatsoever things are honest [or honorable]..."
Dishonesty is everywhere. People write checks knowing that they will bounce. Advertising is notorious for its exaggerated claims and outright falsehoods. Theft has reached into every person's pocket.
But occasionally, when a little honesty comes to light — taxi driver returns a watch left by a passenger, for instance, or a dry cleaning worker hands in money found in a pocket — we see a little light in the darkness. Think what the world tomorrow will be like when similar examples will be the norm, not rare exceptions.
Now let's turn to the other meaning of this phrase — "honorable." What can you think of that is honorable?
Hebrews 13:4 tells us that the marriage union is honorable. If you are married, think of the ways you can honor your spouse and your marriage by giving of yourself.
The Bible tells us that anyone who fears God should be honored (Psalm 15:4).
The elderly couple who have reared fine children or led lives of service to others are worthy of honor (Proverbs 16:31). So is the young man or woman who shows character and clings to high values. Even the child who strives diligently to master long division is worthy of honor.
"Whatsoever things are just..."
In the Bible, the word just means far more than fair or equitable. It also refers to righteousness. God's commandments are just (Romans 7:12), and are an excellent subject for meditation. David said that God's law is perfect, sure, right and pure (Psalm 19:7-8), and that meditation on it made him wiser than his teachers. God's laws and statutes are excellent subjects to think on, for God's commandments reveal just what a righteous and just God He is.
In God's Kingdom, Jesus Christ will rule justly. We can look forward to disputes being settled justly, whether among nations or individuals, for God can read the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Notice the attitude of the world's coming ruler , Jesus Christ: "His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth" (Isaiah 11:3-4).
Under God's rule, humanity will receive the benefits of its labor. No human or government will take away that which rightfully belongs to any individual. Imagine how wonderful the world will be when everyone can rest assured that his problem will be resolved justly.
"Whatsoever things are pure..."
Purity means clarity or freedom from anything that weakens or pollutes. And what is the most important thing of all for anyone to keep pure? Character.
Developing pure character — the courage and conviction to find out what is right and the will and ability to do what is right, despite temptations to compromise — is the very purpose for which man was put on the earth.
Pure love and friendship are hard to find in this era of me-first attitudes. But we can learn to love with purity, without reservation or deceit.
I Peter 1:22 states, "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart."
I Timothy 1:5 reads, "Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart." Keeping God's commandments leads to being able to love with pure motives.
"Whatsoever things are lovely..."
God's creation is the quintessence of loveliness. The majesty of the Rocky Mountains of North America, the Alps of Europe and New Zealand, the fjords of Scandinavia, lift the spirit. Think of the spectacularly or subtly beautiful places you have seen, either in person or in pictures.
Many of humanity's highest works and achievements can also be called truly beautiful. Learn to admire and enjoy beauty and loveliness in art, literature, poetry, dress, ornament and music. Enjoy what is lovely now, anticipating the time when God will make the earth a lovely place to live, a place where beauty will be perfected.
"Whatsoever things are of good report..."
Remember what God said about His Son Jesus when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River? "And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'" (Matthew 3:17). Words of praise and appreciation from a parent or respected person are like music to a son's or a daughter's ears.
Rejoice when others succeed, not when they fail. And don't forget that there's potential for success in all people. God likes to hear good reports of His people. He has planned for everyone to receive a good report at Jesus' return if they accept His way.
What else is of good report? The work of God is growing all over the world. The true Gospel of God's Kingdom is reaching more people now than ever before, adding hope and happiness to these people's lives every day. That's definitely a good report.
How encouraging to think of what God is accomplishing!
"If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise..."
How often do we count our blessings? Do we praise God for what we have? We may not have perfect health, but we can be encouraged by the strength and hope that others, with even more serious problems, show. Remember the man who complained that he had no shoes? He changed his attitude when he saw a man who had no feet.
God is to be praised for all He has done for us. Read the Psalms, for instance. They are full of words of praise for the great God who made heaven and earth.
As a person thinks... Philippians 4:8 ends with the admonition, "Think on these things."
Thought leads to action. Dwelling upon sinful pleasures leads to sin, but a positive approach to life leads to success.
David had a positive approach toward his battle with Goliath. He understood what Proverbs 23:7 explains: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." David knew that he could beat the Philistine giant because he had faith God was on his side. He didn't let negative thoughts about Goliath's size and power deter him.
In his match with Goliath, David was battling for his physical life. We are in a similar battle, but our eternal life is at stake.
Satan would like to have us feel it is useless to go on. He would like us to think only on the hopelessness of this world. If he can get us into a negative frame of mind, he can destroy us!
But God is on our side with a full arsenal of spiritual weapons!
As Christians we are to be lights to the world (Matthew 5:14-16). We must stand positive about the future and the ultimate destiny of humankind. A negative Christian cannot inspire others to follow God's way.
We need to keep our thinking positive and work on qualifying for God's Kingdom with the assurance that the greatest power — in the universe is behind us, waiting to share His glory and character for eternity.