By Cory Swinderman, Pastor Chrisman Church of the Nazarene
“Finally, brothers, 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… And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8, 9b).
What are your thoughts fixed on today? If you are like me, you might confess that your mind is fixed on about 100 things each hour: hectic schedule, pick up the kids, mow the grass, do endless work items, etc. How could I choose just a one item?
But the question is not, “what are the stream of thoughts flying through your head each day?” The question is “what are your thoughts fixed ON?”
Imagine a boat loosely tied to a dock in the middle of a storm. The boat is tossed in different directions by the wind and the waves. But the boat always returns to the dock, bumping into it again and again. It is fixed to the dock.
In the flurry of thoughts that bombard your mind, what is the thought that you return to over and over again. Perhaps it is an unresolved problem.
Perhaps it is a personal conflict or a slight someone has given to you. Perhaps it is a health concern, a financial concern, or a family crisis. Identify it. What are your thoughts fixed ON today?
I recently confessed to a friend what my own thoughts were fixed on. He patiently listened as I shared my concerns. When I was finished, he read the above verse to me.
This verse provides a biblical checklist to the kind of thoughts worth fixing our minds on. Are they true? Noble? Right? Pure? Lovely? Admirable? Excellent? Praiseworthy?
Though I believed that my fixed thought might fit a couple of these items, it certainly would not fit them all.
It might be true (at least my version of the truth), but is it lovely or praiseworthy? And I had to admit that these thoughts led me closer to a place of worry than to “the God of peace” (v. 9b).
Perhaps you are wondering what kinds of thoughts would fit such a long list of virtues.
Thoughts of gratitude are some that meet all of these criteria. Gratitude provides perspective to our thoughts. It reminds us that this is not the first problem God has seen us through. It reminds us that God is Lord over this situation. Gratitude reminds us of how big God is and how much He loves us.
Thoughts of gratitude do not mean that we are no longer concerned or have no problems. It does not mean that we never think about things that concern us. Instead, gratitude gives us something to fix our thoughts ON other than our problems.
Imagine again our boat loosely tied to the dock in the middle of a storm. The boat knocks against the dock again and again. With each knock, another thought comes to mind: “you should worry,” “be afraid,” “this could turn out horribly,” or endlessly knock against the dock of gratitude “thank you,” “God is good all the time,” “I am blessed.” One option brings you closer to “the God of peace,” and the other isolates you from Him.
Once a man stumbled upon a barn where Satan kept the seeds he planted in human hearts.
The man was amazed at the number of seeds Satan had marked “discouragement.” When asked, Satan smiled and boasted that these seeds were his favorite because they will grow nearly everywhere.
“Everywhere?” the man questioned. “Well almost everywhere,”
Satan confessed. It seemed that seeds of discouragement didn’t grow very well in the heart of a grateful person (Springs in the Valley).