Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Perhaps you have heard the expression, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." But, in truth, it is. And one of the most tragic wastes of our minds is when we allow them to be filled with negative thoughts and eaten by worry.
The Christians at Philippi had significant stress levels and could easily have allowed worry and fear to overwhelm their thoughts. But Paul gave them an alternative. There are two ways to respond to stress – negative and positive.
We can be critical of others, hide in work, expect sympathy, fall into substance abuse, have no balance or margin, or we can renew our minds!
"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." – Romans 12:2
Our thoughts can create many types of emotional and physical responses. In the United States, 5 to 10 percent of adults are currently experiencing symptoms of major depression, and 25 percent will suffer from it at some point. It is one of the most common conditions addressed by primary care physicians. At any given time, approximately 15 percent of adults are taking antidepressant medications at $13.5 billion annually. Because studies reveal that depression cuts across all religious and non-religious ties, in a church of 200 adults, around 30 are taking antidepressants right now, and 50 will experience major depression in their lifetime.
Studies show that changing your thinking is the best cure for stress and anxiety. Biblical thinking is learning to change your thoughts through the Scriptures.
So, how does God want us to think? How does He want us to meditate on life circumstances?
1. Think With Praise
"Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice." – Philippians 4:4
The word "rejoice" means "to be glad." Joy is not an emotional response to circumstances. It is a chosen response to the unchanging nature of God. Even in adverse circumstances, we can choose to rejoice when we remember God.
"And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." – Acts 5:41
What is the object of your praise? What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
"He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen." – Deuteronomy 10:21
Rejoicing in the Lord is choosing to focus on God's unchanging attributes. Circumstances change; God never changes. If our focus is on Jesus Christ and all His attributes and blessings, then rejoicing in Him is always appropriate. Paise and anxiety cannot co-exist.
"The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him." – Psalms 28:7
2. Think With Moderation
"Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand." – Philippians 4:5
The word "moderation" means "seeming, mild, gentle, sweet, reasonableness." It is contentment. Satan wants you to think you are a loser. Satan wishes to destroy our faith through suffering, and God desires to refine it. We may suffer much for the Lord's sake, but our response is to be gentle.
"Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;" – Romans 12:12
The heart's fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Moderation is the reflection of a heart resting in God.
Moderation provides rest in His security. Waiting time is not wasted time. Waiting on the Lord is when we gain the proper perspective of our circumstances concerning our position in God.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." – Hebrews 13:5-6
"Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth." – Psalms 46:10
Be still – silence increases sensitivity and decreases anxiety. Moderation provides rest in His sovereignty.
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
Your state of mind determines whether the doctrine of God's sovereignty comforts you or threatens you. The sovereignty of God is the one impregnable rock to which the suffering heart must cling.
The circumstances surrounding our lives are no accident: they may be the work of evil, but that evil is held firmly within the mighty hand of our sovereign God. All evil is subject to Him; evil cannot touch his children unless HE permits it. God is the Lord of human history and the personal history of every member of His family.
3. Think With Prayer
"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." – Philippians 4:6
There are three terms used about prayer in this verse:
Prayer – a generic term used for the action of prayer – addressing God – prayer addressed to God; a place set apart or suited for the offering of prayer.
Supplication – a seeking, asking, entreating, entreaty to God – speaks of persistence and urgency.
Request – petition, request, required.
The word "careful" means "full of care." The term "nothing" literally means "not even one thing." The illusion of control will always develop anxiety. Our natural tendency is to worry, but worry is detrimental to our growth in faith.
"What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." – Psalms 56:3
Anxiety takes thoughts captive. Anxiety is worry, sin, lack of trust, and pride. Worry is a mental state you actively or passively accept, but it is a sin to be repented of because it shows no faith. Philippians 4:6 teaches us to turn every care into prayer. Gratitude never comes from avoiding difficulty but from finding yourself sustained through it.
4. Think With Peace
"And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." – Philippians 4:7
Peace comes from God through salvation. Peace with God produces the peace of God.
"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." – Romans 5:1-2
The phrase "shall keep" in Philippians 4:7 is translated from the Greek word that means "Shall mount guard," it is a military term. God's peace guards the believer's heart
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." – Colossians 3:15
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." – 1 Corinthians 14:33
The peace of God has at its foundation the belief that God will do all things well.
5. Think With Purity
Once we establish that God is sovereign and through prayer, we gain His peace, we want to stay on track. Verse 8 is a prescription for continued peace.
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." - Philippians 4:8
What is the description of pure thoughts?
True - loving the truth, speaking the truth; true in character.
Honest - to be revered for character, honorable.
Just - righteous, upright.
Lovely - acceptable, pleasing, winsome, amiable
Good report - Sounding well, highly regarded, well thought of.
The first half of this verse describes the right kind of thoughts. How do we develop these as our regular thought patterns?
The word "think" means "to concentrate, to consider, taking into account, meditate on."
Here we switch from stressful thinking to biblical thinking.
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" – 2 Corinthians 10:5
We must avoid negative, frivolous speaking people, things that tear people down, and develop virtuous thinking. The word "virtue" means "moral goodness; any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity." Thoughts that are approved by God's criteria bring approved actions as well. We do not have to live with worry. The Lord has given us the ability to be delivered from the bondage of depression and anxiety.