Let me ask you a question: Do you have any habits?
When I asked that question did you feel it was a positive or negative inquiry? Oh, I know there are habits that hinder and need to be broken – but habits can be a blessing as well.
This morning when I put my shirt on I didn’t have to stop and think – let’s see – do I button my shirt from the top to the bottom or from the bottom to the top? When I put my jacket on I didn’t stop to ask – do I put my left arm in first and then my right – or do I put my right arm in first and then my left? If I had to ask those questions every morning I’d be two hours just getting ready for the day. I do not consciously think about how I button my shirt or which arm I put into my jacket first. I’ve done it so much it is just a habit…a habit that saves me considerable time.
In Philippians 4:8 Paul says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things.” Paul is talking about disciplining the way we think. He’s telling us to develop the habit of thinking on the kind of thoughts God would have us think.
Look how The Message puts this passage:
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Paul is telling us as believers that we must take responsibility for our thoughts… “fill your mind, meditate on such things.”
“Think on these things”(4:8). The Greek word here is logizomai, which implies concentrated, focused effort. It doesn’t happen by chance, it happens on purpose. And the more it happens on purpose the more it becomes a habit.
Why would Paul have us put such effort into the way we think? Because he knows it is not just a mental issue, but a heart issue. Proverbs 23:7 (Amp.) says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he [in behavior].” I don’t often picture my heart as a place I think…but the Scriptures do. And more than that, as a result, my thinking actually impacts my heart.
Like me, you probably heard this phrase years ago: “You may not be what you think you are, but what you think, you are.” The years have only gone on to prove how true that is…guard your thoughts and you guard your heart.
The last four words of that verse are illuminating to my heart – for the Greek indicates that when Paul said, “think about such things” – he was saying get in the habit of thinking about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praise worthy. What kind of thoughts are you thinking these days?
Have you met people who you sense to be genuine and consistent in their Christian walk, who seem to always have something constructive and positive to say…even in trying situations? Mark it down – they have developed a habit, the very habit Paul talked about and a habit we all need to cultivate.
All of us are developing habits each and every day. Be sure the habits you make you can live with for a lifetime…because you will.
P.S. Paul wrote Philippians while under house arrest as a prisoner in Rome. He was “practicing” what he “preached.”
Copyright © 2016 Dr. Lenny Wisehart. All rights reserved.
Lenny Wisehart loves to preach the gospel. He is a sought-after evangelist and his enthusiasm is contagious. He currently serves as a pastor at South Lake Church of the Nazarene in Indiana. He spent many years as a traveling evangelist, preaching and singing the gospel.