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.
Consider what is a common failure in many of our lives, but that we seldom recognize. It’s the problem of a pessimistic outlook, of negative imagination. How often do you find your whole attitude is set in a wrong direction by your imagining what could or would or might happen in a situation, so that when you actually come to it you are so frustrated and flustered by what you have been thinking that you are unable to handle the problem. I know this is the subject on which many books on the power of positive thinking are written. There is a place for positive thinking, but only after you have first discovered a positive life, the life of Christ.
I remember a story about a man who had a flat tire on the way home, and found he had no jack in his car. He set out to borrow one in the wee small hours of the night, and he began to worry about the reaction he might get when he requested his neighbor for a jack and had to waken him and get him out of bed in the middle of the night. He began to think about how that neighbor would feel, how angry and resentful he would be, and how he wouldn’t want to get up and give him the jack, that he probably couldn’t find it in the garage anyway and he’d have to dig around and maybe get a flashlight and go to an awful lot of trouble. The longer he thought about it the madder he got. Finally he arrived at the neighbor’s house, went up and thundered on the door and when the man showed up he said, Well, you can keep your lousy jack if that’s the way you feel about it.
That unfortunately illustrates a problem that too frequently occurs in our lives. It’s because we give no heed to the apostle’s exhortation, whatever is true. That’s the first reality. Things as they are, not as they might be or could be. Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise. Think about these things. This is a deliberate choice of the will to refuse to think about the negative, but to think about the positive in any situation, or about any person. Then the God of peace will be with you. If you set your mind to that, the God who dwells within will express himself in terms of peace rather than strife and confusion.
Christianity was meant for life. I am impressed by the fact that when our Lord Jesus came he didn’t talk to people about religion. He talked to them about life. About their work in the kitchen or shop, about how they lived and thought and acted, about what they said to their children, to each other, and how they got along with their neighbors. He didn’t come and talk to them about theological problems, about existential relations and interpersonal demands and epistemological confusion. He came to talk to them about the way they were living, and to show them what life is. He showed them that the secret is a person who dwells within, whose life may be manifested in terms of our personalities, and that everything is designed to drive us back to that.
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Father, teach me that faith-filled optimism is not rooted in my own strength but in the knowledge that you are in control and you are adequate to meet any need or challenge that I face.
Are we prayerfully aligning our thinking to be based on the reality of Christ alive within us, and confident in the good and perfect outcome of God at work in all of life’s circumstances?