For the rest, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have honour, whatever things are upright, whatever things are holy, whatever things are beautiful, whatever things are of value, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, give thought to these things. (Philippians 4:8, Bible in Basic English)
A few years ago I saw a diagram that looked something like this:
Thoughts -> Actions -> Habits -> Character
The explanation goes something like this. Those thoughts that fill our minds often cause us to act upon them in certain ways. Being creatures of habit, we often repeat those actions. If we repeat certain actions, at some point they become habits for us. Those habits that we continue become the basis of our character. So our character, who we are, is based on our habits that are developed out of our actions that are based on our thoughts.
Whether or not you believe the Bible, it’s hard to argue with the truth in this verse. Paul must have had times where his thoughts bothered and concerned him. He realized the importance of our thoughts and encourages us to think on good things. I know it’s helped me many times.
I remember a particular religious person that just always seemed to bug the stew out of me, always seemingly creating strife, being dishonest or just not being what I thought was “real”. Not that I’m perfect, I’m not. Should have I been bothered? Probably not. But I was. And I found that as I focused on good things, on holy things, on beautiful things, then those bad thoughts would be crowded out and overcome by the good.
Even now, I struggle with my thoughts. I’m sure you do too. They often hold us prisoner and make us slaves to act upon them, which ultimately, whether seen or unseen, becomes the basis of who we are, our character. Think of the one addicted to pornography, I have heard many say how they’re tormented, held prisoner to their thoughts. Think of the one who constantly thinks the world is out to get them. They’re captives to what they think. Or how about those who just always think they’re right? They, too, are a prisoner of war.
2 Corinthians 10:5 reads, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV).
Paul was on to something. Our thoughts hold us captive. Like a prisoner of war, we’re destined to bow to the whims of what rules us, of what our thoughts tell us. We’re captive, we’re chained and we’re not free. It’s time to turn the tide on our thoughts. Instead of being held captive by our thoughts, isn’t it high time we take our thoughts captive? Shouldn’t we do as Paul suggested and take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. Shouldn’t we dwell on those good things, those beautiful things, those things that are commendable?