But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…. James 1:22
Finally brothers and sisters, 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. Philippians 4:8
The first verse (James 1:22) reminds me of the role the Word ought to (but doesn’t always) have in my life. It means I hear the commands and follow them obediently. So when I read Philippians 4:8, I should take the words of Paul and actively walk them out.
I should do this. But I don’t always. Exactly how do I follow Philippians 4:8? What does it look like on a practical basis? And what impact could it have on my life?
I think it’s important to first determine what exactly these words Paul uses mean and then decide the best way to implement them into my life.
To know what to focus on—things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable—I need to know their definition. I encourage you to take the time and look up the definitions on your own but here is the gist of almost all of them: truthful and accurate, without any contamination, and worthy of praise. These seem straightforward but in reality, we have taken these words and used them to describe insignificant things, which have little or no spiritual significance.
So no wonder we get confused when we think to focus on lovely things means to look at a pretty piece of artwork. That artwork won’t have a significant impact on our becoming journey. When we misinterpret the Scripture—based on our cultural connotations—we miss the impact of it in our lives. We end up focusing on the world instead of Him Who created the world. Paul is telling us to look past the mundane and to the spiritual—to the One who is eternally an embodiment of these things.
Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:5
We should take our thoughts and hold them up to the standard Paul gives us. We should ask, “Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?” If our thoughts breach just one of these six criteria then we should toss it out and refuse to accept it in our lives. Every single thought, fleeting or lasting, should be all of these things.
What we focus on is what we become.
If we focus on true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things then we will become these things. The opposite is also true. Our journeys are all about becoming who God made us to be and we cannot afford to focus on anything but these six things. Our God-given missions, destinies, and influences are too great to surrender without giving a second thought (literally).
So, take your thoughts captive. Hold them to the standard. Toss them or keep them—depending on how they measure up. Become who God intended you to be by focusing your attention where it ought to be.