Thinking Your Way to a Beautiful Life

by Andy Wood on February 8, 2012

in Esteem, Exploring the Possibilities, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Pleasers, Principle of Legacy

I know what you’re thinking right now.

You’re thinking, “No you don’t!”

I know… scary isn’t it?

Know what’s even scarier?  Anybody who knows you at all can follow you around for a week and know what you’ve been thinking for the past year.  That’s based, of course, on the biblical principle, “As he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

Your life today is the result of your thinking.  It may not always affect your circumstances, but it always affects your character.  Your disposition.  Your emotions.  Your perceptions.  Yes, your faith.

If you have any intention of designing a compelling future, it’s time to accept responsibility for the role your thoughts play in creating it.  After all, your thoughts have produced the person you are right now.

That’s why the Bible gives such attention to your thoughts.  Jesus said to love God with all your mind.  Paul talks about renewing your mind, and not thinking of yourself more highly than you ought, but thinking soberly.

Recently I reread a familiar old verse and it rocked my world a little. The Lord showed me that my thinking about thinking wasn’t nearly as thoughtful or thought-out as it should have been. (I just love it when that happens!)  Here’s the verse:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8).

I have always interpreted this negatively.  In other words, I looked at it as a filter for the random assortment of thoughts that wandered across my mind.

“Halt, thought! Are you true?  If yes, OK then.  If no, get out of here!”

“Hey, you sneaky little mental devil!  Okay, so you’re true.  But you sure aren’t honorable!  Begone!”

Seriously, that idea has its place.  Paul mentions taking every thought captive elsewhere.  But here’s what I had missed before.  Six times – six! – the word “whatever” appears in this verse.   Paul was not intending to limit our thinking, but to expand it.

Think about it.  If Paul’s only intention was to filter our thinking, wouldn’t he have used a word like “only?”  “Only think of what is true.  Only think of what is honorable, etc.”

“Whatever” is a completely different matter.

What if we spent our mental lives in pursuit of the “whatevers”?  What if we engaged in a relentless pursuit of all that is excellent and worthy of praise?  Yes, that means we would eliminate some kinds of thinking from our lives.  But it also means that we would broaden our search far beyond what our limited experience and narrow frameworks have allowed us to see.

More Than Just Passing Whims

What does it mean to “think on these things?”  The word means to reason.  Take account.  Weigh.  Meditate on.  Consider.

This isn’t the thinking you use to cram for a test or stare blankly at the TV.  It’s the kind of reflecting and careful study that is transformed into action.  And the fact that the verb is present tense means do it now and continually.  This is more than brain filters. It’s a positive approach to think deeply, meditate, and consider the things that all of humanity considers beautiful and praiseworthy.

Bottom line:  Take the initiative…

…to continually…

… frame your thinking…

… in order to influence your behavior…

…all with a goal…

… to positively influence others.

So what are we looking for in this relentless search of the mind?

Pursue the True

The word literally means “unhidden.”  To consider whatever is true is to pursue whatever is unknown.  “Truth” here is not the opposite of false, it’s the opposite of ignorant.  And despite what some would have you believe, there is no glory in ignorance.

Keep searching for authentic understanding.  Ask questions.  Read.  Learn new things.  Search out the hidden things – the things yet to be understood.  Yes, that means spiritual things.  It also means human and relational things.  Scientific things.  Artsy, geographic and cultural things.  (Prepare to gasp…) Mathematical and historical things.

All truth is God’s truth.  All understanding reflects God’s wisdom.  And in the fear of the Lord and the recognition that Jesus is THE truth, the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is an act of worship.  It’s the kind of thinking that leads to a beautiful life.

Meditate on the Magnificent

What if you could steer your thinking in such a way that your life evokes honor or commands respect in others?

You can – by meditating on the magnificent.

The word “honorable” means “majestic,” “splendid,” or “excellent.”  Again, it’s preceded by “whatever.”  Look for everything that is excellent and honorable.  All that reflects of beauty or majesty of character.  In art.  Music.  Conduct.  Design.  Relationships.  Talent.  Leave no stone unturned in searching out that which other people respect and honor.

No room here for the cheap, shoddy, or obnoxious. Life – including the life of your mind – is too short to waste on mediocrity.

What if you spent every day in appreciation of the finest?  What if you pursued – however imperfectly – the magnificent and excellent in your own life?  What if you served a God who makes all that possible?

You do.

Delight in the Right

When your Mama or Daddy or hero taught you to “do the right thing,” they were talking about the word used here.  But you can’t do what’s right without first pursuing a mind that thinks what’s right.

So how does that happen?  By aligning your thoughts with God’s purposes.  Meditating on whatever is right is in contrast to the wicked, who in the psalms are often referred to as “plotting wickedness” or “plotting evil against the righteous.”

This calls for an inner conspiracy to do the right thing.

It’s the same spirit that David brought to his covenant with Jonathan, long after Jonathan was dead.  “Is there any other good I can do, for Jonathan’s sake?”

Delight in the right.  Pursuit it.  Study it.  Become an expert in it – not to point out evil and error, but to inspire great behavior and relationships.  That’s where beautiful lives begin.

Ensure the Pure

You can’t understand purity without understanding pleasure.  They always go together in God’s economy.

Paul says our thinking should guide us to pursue everything this is morally pure or innocent.  Thinking about avoiding the impure is much easier – just look for sensual things to NOT think about.  Check back and let me know how that works out for you.

So if the mind can’t concentrate on the opposite of an idea, how do you pursue the pure?

Start by recognizing that all sensual pleasure – including sex, food, adventure, fun and rest – has its place.  God invented it and created you in His image to enjoy it.  He also set boundaries for a reason.

Now try this simple, yet profound question on a regular basis:  How can I glorify God and have fun with this? If you don’t think that’s possible, you have a lot to learn about God, and about pleasure.

Look for the Lovely

Some things in life just smile at you.  A cheerful sunrise or stunning sunset.  A signature song or puppies or a freshly-cleaned house or fresh-squeezed orange juice.  It arouses that part of the brain that opens up to receive with gratitude and delight.

It’s lovely.  The word literally means “friendly towards.”  More than just “acceptable” or “correct,” it fits in just the perfect spot for which it was created or for which you needed it.

Lovely things produce a response of contentment or satisfaction.  And they’re everywhere.  But so are dark things, that produce pain, fear, sorrow or rage.  So you have a choice.  What will you dwell on?  What will be the meditation of your heart?

Choose those things that are “friendly towards” you.  Notice them.  Meditate on them.  Surround your visual and auditory world with them.  Feel them… and smile.

Consider the Commendable

Sounds good.  That’s what the word means – fit or pleasant to be heard.  Unlikely to offend.  Commendable or reputable.

Paul is calling you out for a daring adventure in decency.  What would cause other people to think well of you or admire you?  And I’m not just referring to Christians.

While people are fickle and pleasing them is a trap, the world in general does have a set of virtues and values that it considers commendable.  Things like honesty, service, altruism, kindness, loyalty, and consideration of others.  As Watchman Nee once wrote, if we can’t live by the standards that the world has for Christians, how can we expect to live by God’s?

That doesn’t mean tolerating anything or avoiding all criticism.  The point is to discipline your mind, not just to play defense, but to fill them up with the things that others see as praiseworthy.

 

Living beautifully begins with thinking beautifully.  Don’t you think it’s time to go on the offensive?

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