Philippians 4:8 is the verse that tells us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, right, etc.” we are to dwell on those things, or think about those things. I looked up in the Greek what that word, “dwell”, means and it’s an accounting term. It means to take something into account, to face something as a fact; something that deals with reality rather than fiction. The example that it gave in the definitions was that if I think/dwell that there is $25 in my bank account, than there IS $25 in my bank account!
While I was studying this I considered the fact that I’ve heard this verse used as an excuse for Christians not to engage in the hurt and pain of the world. You know how it goes, “If it's not beautiful or lovely or reputable I’m not even going to look at that.” But, the reality is that this world is a very broken place and there isn’t a whole lot, if anything, that we see on a day to day basis that is pure and right and true and noble and excellent. There’s just not a lot of it around us, but I think that’s the point.
What IS true and excellent and right and noble and praiseworthy? Jesus! This verse comes after we’re told about the humility of Christ and His willingness to be broken and to be made low, and we read in Hebrews that He was able to do those things for the joy set before Him. So the beautiful things we’re to think on don't exist in this world because nothing that we see, even though it feels it at times, is reality! How do I come to that? Because this world is currently under the masterful deception of the Father of Lies. Of course, our human minds have a sense of reality here. Sure, we have five senses to tell us what is in front of us and around us. I’m talking about a deeper reality. The reality that kept Jesus in obedience to His Father, despite incredible opposition and the threat of death; the reality that kept Him silent in the most excruciating moments of pain He had ever imagined.
As we follow in His footsteps, we have to train our minds and hearts to understand that reality, what is REAL, is found not in what is seen, but what is unseen. That’s a big leap of faith! But what is unseen is our future hope, what is unseen with our eyes is what we know with our hearts and that is our relationship with Christ and the reality of the Holy Spirit working through us. What is reality is that we know the end of the story, God wins. All that we see will be changed, all that we perceive will be taken care of, all that we struggle through will be made right again because He is coming to restore all things as they were intended to be. That is reality, that is what we are to fix our minds on.
I’ve also heard this verse in Philippians used in Christian circles as a guideline for choosing television shows, reading material, friendships, etc. Of course, there is boundary and guideline in choosing those things because we are to be holy as God is holy, but that’s not the point in what Paul is saying either! To give an example, it doesn’t matter much whether you watch Netflix or Pureflix. It’s not that we take our minds off of one broken thing and put it on another, even though it might look nicer, it’s still broken. The excellent, praiseworthy thing we are to be putting our minds on and telling our minds, “THIS is real!” is Jesus and the hope that we share of having the whole of our lives restored once we see Him face to face! This is what Philippians 4:8 means, THIS is what we are to do!
I have been learning so much recently of how our minds need to be trained in truth, told truth, because we believe deception so easily and it becomes ingrained in us and part of us. It’s like brainwashing! We are brainwashed to listen to deception but even if the deception looks pretty, it’s still deception. We have to train our minds in truth.
How about you? As you study God’s Word, how do you train your mind in truth? What are obstacles from allowing you to hold on to hope, to run the race with JOY set before you?