Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
March will be here in less than a week. Spring is coming. Crocus and daffodils will begin to peak through the snow, hinting the glories of summer’s gardens. Though I do not have a green thumb, I love the beauty of a colorful garden. However, what I picture in my mind each spring is seldom what my garden looks like when the heat of July rolls around, when weeds crop up and the garden looks overgrown and unkempt.
I confess that my mind can be just like an overgrown garden. I will frequently lose myself in the thousand thoughts that flit with butterfly wings from one budding reflection to an idea in full bloom, hoovering over sweet memories and growing dreams. At times the maze of colors and fragrances blurs my senses, and rootless emotions overwhelm me. At times unwanted plants of anxiety, fear, and doubt take root and crowd out carefully planted perennials with relentless persistence, jumbling and twisting my thoughts like bindweed. At times beautiful flowers wither from lack of watering and attention.
Though I am an introvert who is happy to spend most of my time in my mind’s garden, it is often difficult for me to pin my thoughts down and to obey Paul’s admonition in 2Corinthians 10:5 to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” My garden often resembles a wild jungle and not a cultivated oasis of rest and tranquility. But I find comfort knowing that God has a solution for taming this overgrown wilderness and bringing order to its chaos.
God’s Word comprises the perennials that will bloom year after year and provide symmetry and balance to our mind’s garden. As we plant His Word through Scripture memory, order replaces chaos, bindweed cannot take root, and a peacefulness settles our turbulent thoughts. Recently, I prioritized memorizing Philippians 4:8, a verse that has eluded past efforts to plant it permanently in my mind. A friend suggested that I break the verse down and spend time looking at each “whatever” to help me better understand what Paul is saying. This is a practice I regularly employ with Bible study but have never used it before with Scripture memory, and it works! Finally, this verse is rooted in my mind, and I realize that these “whatever” statements are the fundamental perennials God wants to use to define the gardens of our thoughts. Here’s what I learned:
- Whatever is true – This first “whatever” is crucial and absolute and foundational. There are so many voices speaking into our minds based on feelings or perceptions and not on truth. Hidden and concealed information designed to twist our understanding of events and situations can color facts. I need to take everything back to Scripture. God’s Word is absolute truth; His promises and character are absolutely trustworthy. His Word is the filter of accuracy for all the information that floods our minds through countless media sources today.
- Whatever is honorable – This word speaks to those thoughts and word pictures that inspire reverence and awe. There is an important sense of respect for others captured in this word. Thoughts that malign others also malign their Creator and should have no place in our mind.
- Whatever is just –God’s justice is the perfect harmony between His character and His actions. Our right thinking promotes our right action. The word implies a straight way, not a twisted path.
- Whatever is pure – “Judged by the sunlight” is one definition of the Greek word for pure, “hagnes.” Our thoughts should be clear, not clouded by indecisiveness or doubt, heaven-focusing instead of gutter-wallowing.
- Whatever is commendable – Pleasant thoughts of kindness and graciousness are those thoughts we would not be ashamed to have known. Admirable thoughts flow first with love for God and then desire for the goodwill of others.
- Whatever is excellent – Excellent thoughts begin in faith and lead to a faith-walk instead of a walk of fear.
- Whatever is praiseworthy – Praiseworthy thoughts exalt God’s character and bring Him glory.
As I spend focused time daily dwelling on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, I find my mind settling down in a restful posture of trust. The news will still bombard the world’s catastrophes, my personal circumstances may remain difficult, relationships may struggle; but having God’s Word planted in the garden of my mind replaces fretting with praying, fear with faith, and doubt with trust. The fragrance is pleasant, the flowers bloom in their season, and everything is well-tended by the Master Gardener, even in the heat of July!
Questions for Reflection: Choose one for extended time of reflection and journaling.
- Are your thoughts about God based on His revealed truth or on your own interpretations and impressions? What untrue thoughts have you allowed to take root in your mind?
- In what areas have you allowed dishonorable thoughts towards others to take hold? How can you deliberately choose to honor God and others with your mind?
- What negative behavior or actions have you experienced from unjust thinking? How do your thoughts about yourself reflect God’s thoughts about you?
- What imprints do you allow in your mind that you would not want judged in the sunlight? What tends to cloud your thoughts or cause you to be indecisive?
- What is one way God is asking you to change your mind’s focus from self to others?
- How are your thoughts directing your actions towards either faith or fear and how can you change that?
- What is one thing you will do this week to give God glory with your thoughts and mind?
- How will you purposefully allow God to transform you by renewing your mind? (Romans 12:2)