Whatever you focus on expands.
If you’ve ever purchased a new car you’ve seen that principle in action. Before you bought your car you didn’t really see your make and model of car on the road. But once you signed on the dotted line for your car it seemed like every fifth car on the road was one like yours.
Did tons of people suddenly go out and buy the same car you did?
Nope. But now your brain is focused on that make and model so it notices every single one that drives by.
The apostle Paul understood this principle. He gave us a list of things we should focus our time and energy thinking about.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.– Philippians 4:8
Basically Paul said to focus on good stuff rather than filling our minds with all the junk that life throws at us and spending time worrying.
Let’s break that down and take a closer look at the things Paul said we should focus our attention on.
This is Where We Should Focus
Whatever things are– To be true means to be in line with what actually is – as in a true story; real, genuine, authentic – true feelings; sincere, firm in allegiance, loyal, faithful, steadfast – a true friend; being or reflecting the essential or genuine character of something – i.e. the true meaning of his statement.
So many times when we speculate we are thinking about things that are simply not true. Because we don’t have all the information our brains try to fill in the gaps with something. When we do that we are sucking into lies.
Which kingdom is full of lies? Certainly not God’s.
Whatever things are– Something is noble when it is of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence: a noble thought. Synonyms: lofty, elevated, high-minded, principled; magnanimous; honorable, estimable, worthy, meritorious. Antonyms: ignoble, base; vulgar, common.
How much of what we spend our mental energy is vulgar or common? I think about most of the comedians I know these days. Or movies. The vulgarity we routinely expose our minds to today would shock folks from just a few generations ago.
Whatever things are– The word just means upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God, innocent, faultless, guiltless, used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life (i.e. Jesus), approved of or acceptable of God.
So much in our culture seems to be turning things upside down when it comes to justice. Yet we do the same things when we condemn ourselves and worry about our future. The truth is that we are approved of and acceptable by God. Whenever we worry and lose sight of that we are loosing sight of what is just.
Whatever things are– A pure thing is innocent, modest, perfect, chaste, clean. free from anything of a different, inferior, or contaminating kind; free from extraneous matter.
Our worry throws in all sorts of contaminates and mixes them into what God says about us and who we truly are in Christ. We need to catch ourselves when we mix in those impurities, take it back to God’s Word and see what He says about the other person, about us, and about our situation.
Whatever things are– The word lovely means acceptable, pleasing, charmingly or exquisitely beautiful, having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye, as a person or a face, delightful, highly pleasing.
It’s good for us to appreciate things around us just because they are beautiful. We are three part beings – body, soul, and spirit. So we need to feed our souls with things that are lovely just like we feed our bodies with good physical food and we should be feeding our spirits on the word of God.
Whatever things are– A good report is one that sounds well, utters words of good omen, speaks auspiciously.
How many times do we get hit with a bad report and then worry about it? Paul says we should be on the look out for the good reports instead. Fixate on them.
Paul doesn’t say to ignore the bad reports. In the verses just before the one above he tells us to let our requests be known to God. (Philippians 4:6-7) Pass the bad reports on to Him. The bad reports are above our pay grade. We need to kick them upstairs and let God handle them.
Whatever things are of good report, those are the ones we’re supposed to work with.
If there is any– The word virtue refers to any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity.
Paul says, “if there is any virtue.” There may not be. Either way we we focus on whatever virtue there is and let whatever is not virtuous go from our minds without dwelling on it. How do we “let it go” when it comes to non-virtuous stuff? We pass on any lack of virtue up the chain to God in prayer.
If there is anything– When something is praiseworthy it is a commendable thing, worthy of regard, confidence, kindness, etc.
When we see something that stands out as being good or exceptional then it’s worth our time to think about that instead of murmuring or complaining about the things that aren’t quite right. Nor are we to get envious or jealous because someone got an award or achieved a milestone that we did not. It is good to celebrate the victories of our friends.
For me the take away from all this is that we can truly adjust a lot in our own lives simply by changing our focus. Focusing on the positive in all situations strengthens our belief which leads to increased faith. (No, those two are not the same thing. If you think they are check out the difference between faith and belief.)
On the flip side, when we focus on negative things it weakens our belief, or gets us believing stuff that isn’t true. And that not only erodes our faith, it actually will increase fear in our lives. A life lived in bondage to fear is a life being destroyed.
Fortunately God has given us control over that by putting a choice in front of us. So I ask you, what are you choosing to focus on?