Paul had a good excuse to worry—but he did not! If we are to conquer worry and experience the secure mind, we must meet the conditions God has laid down. In Part 1, we saw the first condition: right praying. Today, we will look at the next two conditions.
Right Thinking (4:8)
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence (virtue) and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Peace involves the heart and the mind. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in You” (Isa. 26:3). Wrong thinking leads to wrong feeling, and before long the heart and mind are pulled apart and we are strangled by worry. We must realize thoughts are real and powerful, even though they cannot be seen, weighed, or measured. We must bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
“Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny!”
Paul spells out in detail the things we ought to think about as Christians.
Whatever is true. I once read a survey on worry that indicates only 8 percent of the things people worry about are legitimate matters of concern! The other 92 percent are either imaginary, never happen, or involve matters over which they have no control anyway. Satan is the liar (Jn. 8:44) and he wants to corrupt our minds with his lies (2 Cor. 11:3). He approaches us the same way he approached Eve: “Did God really say…’?” (Gen. 3:1). The Holy Spirit controls our minds through truth (Jn. 17:17; 1 Jn. 5:6), but the devil tries to control us through lies. Whenever we believe a lie, Satan takes over!
Whatever is honorable and right. This means “worthy of respect.” There are many things that are not respectable and Christians should not think about these things. This does not mean we hide our heads in the sand, and avoid what is unpleasant and displeasing, but it does mean we do not focus our attention on dishonorable things and permit them to control our thoughts.
Whatever is pure, lovely, and of good report. “Pure” refers to moral purity. The people then, as now, were constantly attacked by temptations to sexual impurity (Eph. 4:17–24; 5:8–12). “Lovely” means “beautiful, attractive.” “Of good report” means “worth talking about, appealing.” The believer must major on the high and noble thoughts, not the base thoughts of this corrupt world.
Whatever possesses excellence (virtue) and praise. If it has virtue, it will motivate us to do better; and if it has praise, it is worth commending to others. No Christian can afford to waste “mind power” on thoughts that tear him down or that would tear others down if these thoughts were shared.
If we compare this list to David’s description of the Word of God in Psalm 19:7–9, we will see a parallel. The Christian who fills his heart and mind with God’s Word will have a “built-in radar” for detecting wrong thoughts. “Those who love Your law have great peace and nothing causes them to stumble” (Ps. 119:165). Right thinking is the result of daily meditation on the Word of God.
Right Living (4:9)
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
We cannot separate outward action and inward attitude. Sin always results in unrest (unless the conscience is seared) and purity ought to result in peace. “And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.” (Isa. 32:17). “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable” (Jas. 3:17). Right living is a necessary condition for experiencing the peace of God.
Paul balances four activities: “learned and received” and “heard and seen.” It is one thing to learn a truth, but quite another to receive it inwardly and make it a part of our inner man (1 Thes. 2:13). Facts in the head are not enough; we must also have truths in the heart. In Paul’s ministry, he not only taught the Word, but also lived it so that his listeners could see the truth in his life. Paul’s experience ought to be our experience. We must learn the Word, receive it, hear it, and do it. “But prove yourselves doers of the Word and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (Jas. 1:22).
“The peace of God” is one test of whether or not we are in the will of God. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts and be thankful” (Col. 3:15). If we are walking with the Lord, then the peace of God and the God of peace exercise their influence over our hearts. Whenever we disobey, we lose that peace and we know we have done something wrong. God’s peace is the “umpire” that calls us “out”!
Right praying, right thinking, and right living: these are the conditions for having the secure mind and victory over worry. Just as Philippians 4 is the “peace chapter” of the New Testament, James 4 is the “war chapter.” It begins with a question: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?” James explains the cause: wrong praying (“You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures,” v. 3), wrong thinking (“purify your hearts, you double-minded,” v. 8), and wrong living (“friendship with the world is enmity with God,” v. 4). There is no middle ground. Either we yield heart and mind to the Spirit of God and practice right praying, thinking, and living; or we yield to the flesh and find ourselves torn apart by worry.
There is no need to worry! Worry is a sin! (Have you read Matt. 6:24–34 lately?) With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us—why worry?