February 6, 2011
Choosing Our Focus
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
We are commanded to center our thoughts on things that are virtuous and praiseworthy. Living as we do in environments where there is much that lacks virtue, it is not easy to keep our thoughts filled with the kinds of things suggested by Paul. But if we are willing to pay the price required by self‑discipline, there are immensely valuable benefits that come from making these things our meditation.
Those who are careful about their thinking are much more pleased with the quality of their lives.
It is true that passing thoughts that are less than pure will present themselves to us on a fairly regular basis. As long as we live in the present world, there is no avoiding the temptation to think evil thoughts. But while we can't keep these thoughts from presenting themselves to us, we can and must refuse to let them lodge in our meditations. Passing thoughts will come and go, but we are in control of the habitual patterns of our thinking, and it is these deliberate thoughts that Paul has reference to when he says, “Meditate on these things.” That which we hold in our hearts and continue to reflect on is a matter of choice, and if we're serious about seeking God that choice must be made carefully.
The fact is, there are still many good things in the world that we can focus our thoughts on if we're willing to make the choice. The enemy has not so marred the world of God's creation that there are not many fine treasures left: wonderful things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. These we must seek out and learn to enjoy reflecting on. It's undeniable that our minds grow by what they feed on, and what we feed on right now will determine the characters that will carry us into eternity, for better or worse.
“Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bear bad fruit – and man is his own gardener” (James Allen). Much in life depends on the simple matter of “focus,” and learning wisely to focus the minds that God has given us is one of the greater challenges of the spiritual life.
“As nothing is more easy than to think, so nothing is more difficult than to think well” (Thomas Traherne).