Scripture tells us that whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise—to “think about these things.”1 Paul mentions it again in Colossians. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”2 The KJV translates: “Set your affection on things above.”
So . . . you probably shouldn’t read the newspaper today! 😉 Or watch the news! Or go to work! Or leave your home! It sounds a bit impossible, doesn’t it? To not think about things that are false, dishonorable, unjust, impure, pathetic, reprehensible, lousy, or worthy of criticism? But those are our instructions!
So . . . are we supposed to be ignorant and naïve about the bad things that happen in our world? Should we all just hide? Become monks? Live in denial? Or move to a deserted island or deep in the mountains? (That sounds kinda’ nice! 😏) No! 😠 And absolutely not! How do we then, remain in the world and yet not be affected by all the negativity? Simple. We are to “guard [our] hearts and minds”3 from it. We are to stay informed but not “set [our] affection” on it. Instead, we are to be peaceful—not anxious—about all the negativity.
How do we do that? Pray! About everything! What we need, what we want, what we hate, what we love, what we fear, what we wish for—everything. But that’s not all. After we pray about these things, we need to quit praying about them. Wait! 😯 What? Yeah, that’s right. Leave those things in God’s capable hands and move on! To the next thing to pray about.
You see, I think that too often our prayers are nothing more than desperate, anxiety-ridden pleas that we pray over and over because we believe we should “pray without ceasing.”4 And we should—pray all the time! But hear this! We are also instructed to “not be anxious about anything.”5 So, if we are still anxious and fearful and frustrated after praying, then how are we any different from those who do not pray? 🤔
Prayer should result in peace, right? But if all we are doing is bringing our requests to God and not leaving them with him or trusting that he will answer them in his perfect time—with our best interest in mind, mind you!—then our praying sometimes only induces anxiety as we become fixated on praying! And instead of becoming peaceful, we become more anxious and frustrated and angry because we have prayed and God has not answered . . . or so we think. And at that point, it is hard to distinguish the pray-ers from the non-pray-ers!
So. As believers, our response must be different. So, how do we get rid of anxiety while living in an anxious world? Simple. “Guard your hearts and minds”3 from it. Am I repeating myself? 🤨 Here’s how it works. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”1 We are to focus on these things. Dwell on, meditate on, and cherish the thought of these things. Fill our minds on these things. So that we may be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”6
And when we are “filled to the measure” with God, there will be no room for anxious thoughts! Because we will be busy being thankful! And spreading truth and honor and lovely things to the world because Paul encourages us to “practice these things.”7 And you know what happens when we “practice these things”? “The God of peace will be with you.”7
And the peace of God? Well, that’s hard to explain or understand. And with good reason—it “surpasses all understanding.”3 You see, we mistakenly believe we will not and even should not ever be at peace in this world, or be at peace as long as this “thing” in our life still exist, or be at peace in this world until God gives us what we are demanding—um, I mean requesting from him. 😬 But we really can be at peace in this anxious world . . . if we practice being true and honorable and excellent and . . . do I really need to list these things again? 🙄
The question comes down to this: What things are you thinking about?
1Philippians 4:8 2Colossians 3:2 3Philippians 4:7 41 Thessalonians 5:17 5Philippians 4:6 6Ephesians 3:19 7Philippians 4:9