“You are what you eat” the saying goes, and there are all sorts of diets available that encourage you to live healthier lives by eating more healthily. The same can also be said of spiritual food.
Watch What You Eat Spiritually
Just as with physical food, not everything that we may eat spiritually is necessarily good for us. Paul understood this well, and encouraged his readers in Philippi to watch what they were eating spiritually:
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
I guess the ancient world was not that different to our own society today in many ways. Simply pick up a newspaper and it is likely that there will be stories about the opposites of what Paul was saying. Whilst Paul said to concentrate on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, many parts of the media delight in the untrue, unholy, unjust, impure, ugly, of ill repute, vicious and blameworthy. You could argue that it is right to be aware of what is going on around us, but we need to be careful. What we allow to occupy our minds will sooner or later determine our speech and our action. That is why Paul not only instructs his readers to fill their minds with the right stuff, he then goes on to tell them to put it into practice. “Think right and do right”, in other words.
Martin Luther said “You can’t stop a bird flying overhead, but you can stop it nesting in your hair.” You can prevent the wrong thoughts entering your mind by making sure that you are thinking the right thoughts – whatever is excellent and praiseworthy.
Perhaps you know how true this is. It is easy to start thinking the wrong sorts of thoughts, and before you know it it’s hard to stop. It’s sometimes only by forcing yourself to think good thoughts that you can bring yourself back, and it’s surprising how much better you can feel!
Here are some examples of “good” thoughts, based on the list of eight words that Paul used:
True God and his Word
Noble Take life seriously/honourably
Right Holy nature of God
Pure Avoid immorality and impurity
Lovely What is pleasing, agreeable and attractive
Admirable Something that deserves a good reputation
Excellent In line with God’s virtues
Praiseworthy Concentrate on people’s (and God’s) good qualities – be affirming
When we then put these thoughts into action we will live the kind of lives that Paul was wanting the Philippians to live, and we will also find the peace of God.
Putting good thoughts into action, though, is not as easy as it sounds. But by continuing to practice we can get better. By making thinking good thoughts, and doing good things, habits, the easier it will be when we are under spiritual attack. These are the kind of things that Paul wrote about when he spoke of putting on the armour of God in Ephesians 6.