What we think about matters a lot, and it’s easy to have the wrong mindset OR find our heads full of things that can distract and destroy us. Too often we go through life without God’s peace, and many times that has to do with our thoughts. God’s Word gives instruction on what we should think about in Philippians 4:8. It reads:
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.
Think on these things. Our thoughts are not impossible to control; the Bible tells us what to think on because we have a choice, and that choice is critical for our daily walk. Let’s explore the eight things the Bible lists in this verse as ideal places to park our minds.
1. Whatsoever things are true
Is this thought true? Does it line up with the Word of God?
Before you spend time thinking about it, you must evaluate, is this true? Whether its roots are internal or external, is what I’m thinking on accurate and correct OR false and erroneous? The Bible lets us know our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9; cp. Jer. 14:14; 23:26), and our enemy, the devil, is described as “a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44), so we have to be extraordinarily careful to only accept and think on what is TRUE!
Despite the popular & poisonous idea of “my truth,” “your truth,” and relative truth, where can a sincere Christian find what is (actually) true? Start with focusing your mind on His Word! As Jesus (who is “the truth” – John 14:6) put it, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Fill your thoughts with what the Bible says!
2. Whatsoever things are honest
Is this thought honest? Is its intent genuine & honorable? Is it trustworthy?
The second thing the Bible says in Philippians 4:8 are the things that are honest. Honest in this verse is from a Greek word (S:4586) that is translated grave, and defined as venerable and honorable. In English, honest is defined as free from fraud or deception, and its root is honor.
While the things that are true are factually based (as outlined in God’s Word), the things that are honest also include intent! Honesty, which in English and Greek connects to honor, does NOT want to be fraudulent! Don’t receive from untrustworthy sources, or dwell on things that are deceptive. The things that are honest are genuine, real, and of unquestioned authenticity, and that is where our thoughts should be.
3. Whatsoever things are just
Is this thought just? Is it right in God’s eyes? Is it righteous, innocent, and holy?
The Greek word “just” is from (S:1342) is often translated righteous or right, and is defined as “equitable (in character or act); by implication, innocent, holy.” God wants us to think about what is just, righteous, and right in His eyes!
Imagine trying to live right, but your ears, eyes, and mind are always full of wrong? It would be impossible! You end up following what you’re focused on. If we’re going to seek first “the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33) and walk right before Him, then the things that are just and holy in God’s mind should remain in our minds too.
4. Whatsoever things are pure
Is this thought pure? Is it clean, chaste, innocent, and clear?
If we look around it is easy to find and fill ourselves with things that are the opposite of pure. In this verse, pure (S:53) means clean, innocent, modest, and perfect. It’s a word that’s translated chaste and clear. Though thoughts may come to mind, those words should describe what we choose to continue to think on.
In an impure world, that may seem impossible but when God saves us, He washes and renews us (Titus 3:5). After that, when we pray to God for His help, fill ourselves with the RIGHT things, surround ourselves with the RIGHT influences, and REFUSE to feed ourselves things that are unclean, unholy, and impure, our thoughts can be pure and our walk pleasing in God’s sight.
5. Whatsoever things are lovely
Is this thought lovely? Is it acceptable and pleasing to God?
Lovely in this verse is from a Greek word prosphilēs (S:4375), which is defined as friendly towards, i.e. acceptable. Things that are lovely are pleasing in God’s eyes. This goes right along with the categories already listed – things that are true, honest, just, and pure are all acceptable to God.
Our thoughts matter, not only because they affect our emotions and actions, but also because God cares about what our minds are on. Most of us would not want our thoughts played publicly on a screen for all to see, but we have to remember God is constantly aware of what we’re thinking about. David wrote, “…thou understandest my thought afar off” (Psa. 139:2). He knows, and our thought life is important to God! This is not to make us afraid, but to motivate us to seek God and apply His Word so the details of our mind are pleasing and lovely to Him.
6. Whatsoever things are of good report
Is this thought of good report? Does it include the gospel (good news) and the promises of God?
The Greek word translated “of good report” is euphēmos (S:2163), which means well spoken of, or reputable. Euphēmos is interestingly enough the root of the English word, euphemism which is a less harsh way of saying something.
Sometimes our brains can go to the worst-case scenarios or the harshest judgment, and sometimes reality is legitimately troubling, but repeating and rehearsing distressing details over and over again never helps (and just makes us feel worse). What we choose to think on and put the most focus on mentally should be “of good report.” Where do we find that? You don’t have to make it up with wishful thinking, or deny what’s going on; instead keep in memory the gospel (good news) of what Jesus did (1 Cor. 15:1-2) and remind yourself of His promises to the believers! We have to face our imaginations and circumstances, but His unchanging truth arms us with what we need for life.
7. If there be any virtue
Is there any virtue in this thought? Is it good? Is it excellent? Does it have value?
We should think on things that have virtue, which speaks in English and Greek of moral excellence or goodness. This builds on the topics we’ve already delved into.
God called us to glory and virtue, according to 2 Peter 1:3, so if something has virtue, it is worth thinking on! And the wording of scripture lets us know there are things that do NOT have any virtue, and those are the things we should avoid. Things that have virtue, have value – just think of the virtuous woman (Prov. 31:10-31), and how much of a blessing she is to all around her! If we’re going to spend limited time and finite thought on it, it should have virtue and value.
8. If there be any praise
Is there any praise in this thought? Is it commendable? Is it remembering the God who is worthy?
Finally, the scripture lists the things that have any praise. Praise in this verse is from a word (S:1868) defined as a commendable thing. The One (Jesus) that is worthy of praise is certainly worth thinking about! Choosing to fill our thoughts (hearts, hands, etc.) with praise and thanksgiving should be a priority!
When the Bible describes the wicked it says, “God is not in all his thoughts” (Psa. 10:4). David, on the other hand, set an example for us, saying, “…my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches” (Psa. 63:5-6). Don’t fill your thoughts with everything EXCEPT God. Night or day, a praise on our lips can start with remembering, meditating on, thinking on the true God who is worthy of praise.
Starting today, check your thoughts, compare them with the Word, and think on these things! You won’t regret it.
What did you learn from Philippians 4:8? What stands out to you? Share your comments below!
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There is SO MUCH in this book to the saints – the gospel, priorities, ministry, prayer, humility, suffering, contentment – that can help us live for Christ RIGHT NOW! Let’s dig in!