Imagine that you are having your routine physical. The doctor checks your blood pressure, your heart rate, and your cholesterol. In fact, she runs a whole range of blood tests. She listens to your breathing, asks about your medical history, and checks for any allergies. And then, she checks … your attitude, your outlook on life. She wants to know how optimistic you are. Are you hostile? Do you carry anger or worry around with you? And before you conclude that these last questions are too personal, let me correct myself. I said, “imagine” a routine physical. You don’t really have to imagine. Paul Costa Jr., former head of The National Institute on Aging said, “personality has to be assessed as a standard part of health work-ups.” Not only good food, but also good thoughts are important for physical, mental, and spiritual health.
And so, what kind of food do we serve our minds? Criticism, complaining, bitterness, blame? With this kind of nourishment, what will grow inside? Probably not hope or joy or patience or optimism. Carefully and thoughtfully read Philippians 4:8-9.
Finally, brothers, 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. 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.
Paul is not simply telling us to do the right thing; he is telling us to do what is right for us.
Ilene Siegler, of Duke University Medical School says that that “hostility is the most health damaging type-A quality.” Carol Franz, of Boston University did a ten-year study of optimistic people and found that, “regardless of how much stress they had to cope with, people high in this kind of motivation had better health.” Then there is the twenty year Duke University study of more than four hundred men and women that found that the most suspicious and hostile people in the group stood the smallest chance of even surviving that twenty year span.
I always find it interesting when the “experts” of humanity reach a conclusion that God has been saying all along. “Think on these things.” “Put it into practice.” “And the peace of God will be with you.”
The Power of Contemplation: “think” Mull it over, repeat it to yourself, write it down, talk about it, sing about it. It was Alexander Pope who wrote; “Some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon.”
The Power of Selection: “on these things” Not on “those things” but on “these things.” Fix your attention on what is good and change the channel on what is bad. Yes, there is evil in the world, and no, you can’t turn away and pretend it’s not there. But, when you choose your focus, your center of attention; when you select the kind of thinking that you will serve to your mind, choose carefully.
The Power of Action: “put it into practice” This is because it’s not meant for my head, but for my heart. Complete life change is the goal. And if my diet is consistent and constant, then the outcome will be unavoidable. My heart will change and my life (practice) will show the transformation.
I remember when my friend Rick, on a whim, applied for a teaching job on one of the Hawaiian Islands. He had grown up on St. Louis, attended college in Missouri and never really expected to get the job … but he did! He was excited and amazed. But after living there for a while and experiencing real life, even in “vacationland,” he wrote me and said, “I’ve learned that ‘Paradise’ is not a place, it’s a state of mind.” Thankfully, Rick knew the Father and he knew what to serve his mind.
Of the eight qualities Paul lists, which do you need the most? Why?
What will you do first to give God control of your thoughts?