Last year I had the privilege of hosting weekly gatherings in my home as the leader of one of my church’s community groups. That experience was a blessing in many ways, but one of the highlights for me was the way we began our time together each week. Every week, without fail, we began by reading the exact same passage and asking each other the exact same question. This passage and question set the tone for our time together, and indeed, our lives.
The passage we read came from the book of Philippians: “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard from me, and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you,” (Phil. 4:8-9 CSB). The question we asked was simple: “What good things have happened in your life this week for which you can be thankful to God?”
We read this same passage and asked this same question week in and week out because experience has shown me that all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, seem to have a major problem with what is referred to as, “stinking thinking.” We dwell upon bad experiences, we beat ourselves up over every last detail of our lives, and our minds naturally gravitate towards those things that bring us down. In other words, we not only “sweat the small stuff,” but we sweat everything.
History tells us that this is no new phenomenon. It was the prevalence of this type of negative thinking that gave rise to the popular book, The Power of Positive Thinking, back in the 1950’s. That book went on to sell millions of copies and has been reprinted numerous times over the past half century. It was wildly popular because the author recognized early on that we had a problem with the way we think, and the world agreed.
If I were to ask you right now, “What good things happened in your life today for which you can be thankful to God?” how quickly would you be able to respond to that question? My guess is that it might take a while, or at the very least it would cause you to pause and think. On the contrary, if I were to ask you, “What are some bad things that happened to you today?” how long would that take? Be honest.
The apostle Paul tells us in Phil. 4:8-9 that if we think about the good stuff: those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, of moral excellence, those things that are praiseworthy, if we dwell upon these things, then the God of peace will be with us.
What are you dwelling on today? How about taking a moment right now to invite the God of Peace to walk beside you as you redirect your thoughts to those things that are good?