Are you positive? Are you—really? Often it’s easy to allow ourselves to brood over life’s petty inconveniences. Or perhaps we’re overwhelmed by a trial that seems to go on perpetually.
These can drag us down into the mire of negativity. Then, when you look at the daily news, you see gloomy headlines about global terrorism, war, murder, financial crises, family dysfunction, weather upsets, pollution—and the list goes on. If you know anything about Bible prophecy, you know these problems will only get worse. The simple fact is, we live in a negative world.
Jesus Christ instructs you, as His disciple, to keep a keen eye on world events (Luke 21:36). Yet, even in this evil age, He also expects you to think and act positively!
That’s right! We ought not to become overwhelmed or dismayed by what we see happening around us. We should not allow our problems to get the better of our attitudes. Instead, we should look beyond these dark days and think of the marvelous time when Jesus Christ will return with full power and glory to rule the whole world!
The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 1:3, says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope [living hope—New King James Version] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
This “living hope” should reign supreme in your mind (verse 13; 2 Corinthians 10:5). It should dominate your thoughts and actions each day.
You should realize that God desires you to be filled with abundant hope—and to share that hope with others. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you …” (1 Peter 3:15). If you have been given God’s Holy Spirit, you should exude the fruit of joy (Galatians 5:22).
As true Christians, we should live each day in anticipation of God’s soon-coming Kingdom. Remember that only those in God’s Church today who possess “living hope”—manifested in a positive mental attitude—will teach all mankind how to live abundantly in the wonderful World Tomorrow.
For this reason, God wants us to focus our minds on the positive.
In Philippians 4:8, God gives us a blueprint that, if followed, will guarantee that we build—and stay in—a positive frame of mind. Let’s read it: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
The phrase “think on these things” is actually a command, and the Greek tense has a focus on the habit of thought. We are responsible for our thoughts and should hold them to godly ideals. Thought leads to action. Dwelling upon negative things or sinful pleasures leads to sin, but a positive approach to life leads to success.
While we all have our ups and downs, in the main our thoughts and actions should remain positive as we grow in Christian conversion.
But being a positive Christian is not merely having the “power of positive thinking”! You may have heard this type of thinking called “bootstrapism”—trying to “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” In other words, trying to improve your attitude and overcome negative thinking by your own power.
But this method achieves only a temporarily positive mental attitude. It is not a lasting attitude or frame of mind. The second wisest man who ever lived knew the difference between having this kind of temporary self-confidence and the right kind of godly confidence that is lasting. King Solomon called the person who trusts in his own heart a “fool”! (Proverbs 28:26).
Knowing this, let’s examine Philippians 4:8 in detail, noting some examples in each area where we should direct our thoughts.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true ….” As a positive-minded Christian, you should focus on that which is true.
And what is truth? God’s Word—the Holy Bible in its entirety—is truth (John 17:17).
There is never any need to doubt what God says. Psalm 119:160 states, “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” We should take comfort in the fact that every single one of God’s promises is true and sure. When we study the Bible, we can know absolutely and positively that whatever God has promised, He will do, because He speaks truth and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19).
One of the things God promises is that, to replace the appalling conditions now extant in the world, He will soon bring about a new age—“the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
Once God’s government is established on this planet under the leadership of Jesus Christ and the Spirit-born saints, humanity’s health and well-being will be restored. The desolated Earth will become as the garden of Eden—and be made to sparkle like a magnificent gemstone. Streams of living waters will spring forth in the desert, and even the nature of the animals—including poisonous snakes and spiders—will be changed (Isaiah 11; 35; Ezekiel 36).
That is what is true!
It is also true that when the plan of God is finally completed, even death—the “final enemy” of man—will be completely destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). God will give every man, woman and child ever born on this planet the opportunity to enter His Family on the spirit level (Romans 8:14-17). Of the increase of God’s government and peace there shall be no end (Isaiah 9:7).
When you force yourself to stop thinking negatively, and think on these truths instead, you cannot help but be deeply inspired—and turn positive in your outlook!
“[W]hatsoever things are honest [or honorable] ….”
Today, dishonesty is everywhere. People write “hot” checks, knowing they will bounce. Advertisers exaggerate claims and tell outright lies about the products or services they promote. Individuals cheat the government or falsify their income tax returns. Employees take unnecessarily long “coffee breaks,” or drag their feet and do as little work as possible while on the clock. Indeed, one way or another, theft has reached into everyone’s pocketbook.
As Jesus said, the desire to be dishonest is an intrinsic part of man’s carnal nature: “Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye … All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:22-23).
Once in a while, however, when a little honesty is shown, we see a little glimmer of hope. At one Feast of Tabernacles, I heard of one Church member who accidentally left a large amount of cash in the pocket of a pair of blue jeans she turned into the laundromat to have washed. When she returned to collect her clean clothes, she found that the laundry-cleaning worker had handed in all the money found in the pocket!
Think of what the World Tomorrow will be like when similar examples will be the norm, not rare exceptions!
Now let’s have a look at the other meaning of this phrase—“honorable”—which means “revered, venerated.” What is honorable?
God’s holy name is honorable (Psalm 29:2); the Bible tells us that anyone who reveres God should be honored (Psalm 15:4). 1 Timothy 5:17 shows that special honor is due unto the ministry: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”
The elderly who have lived righteously are also worthy of honor (Proverbs 16:31). So is the young man or woman who shows strength of character and holds fast to true values. Proverbs 31 says that a virtuous woman is “clothed” with honor (verse 25).
Hebrews 13:4 tells us that the marriage union is honorable. If you are married, think of the ways you can better honor your spouse and your marriage by giving of yourself.
“[W]hatsoever things are just ….”
Unfortunately, today’s world is woefully devoid of justice—even in its courts of law.
As for man being qualified to rule and administer government, God says of government officials today: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. … Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace” (Isaiah 59:4, 7-8).
Then the people, under this human misgovernment, say, “Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light [solution of civil, personal, national and world problems], but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men” (verses 9-10).
It can be very difficult—even for a begotten son of God—to remain in a positive frame of mind when this world is so full of injustice.
But do not forget that God is a God of justice. He is fair, equitable, impartial and righteous. His commandments are holy, just and good (Romans 7:12), and are an excellent subject to think on. Remember, David said that God’s law is perfect, sure, right and pure (Psalm 19:7-8), and that meditating on it made him wiser than his teachers.
In God’s Kingdom, Jesus Christ will rule justly and with wisdom—making right decisions at the right time, in perfect harmony with the right laws. Notice the attitude of the soon-coming King of kings: “And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth …” (Isaiah 11:2-4).
What a wonderful time it will be when Christ, who properly evaluates situations and applies the right principles to produce righteous judgments, is world ruler. What a blessing it will be to finally have liberty and justice for all.
Imagine: Under God’s loving rule, mankind will receive the full benefits of its labor. No human despot or government will take away that which rightfully belongs to any person. What is more, disputes will be settled justly, whether among nations or individuals, for God can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. How marvelous the world will be when everyone can rest assured that his problems will be resolved justly!
“[W]hatsoever things are pure ….”
Purity refers to things clean: thoughts, words, deeds. It means clarity, or freedom from anything that weakens or pollutes.
Developing pure, divine, holy and righteous character—the courage and conviction to find out what is right and the will and ability to do what is right, despite temptations to compromise—is the very purpose for which man was put on the Earth.
A truly converted man or woman is always an outstanding example of character—of virtue and purity. How about you? Are your thoughts, words and deeds pure?
If you are struggling in this area, consider Psalm 19:8: “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”
If you are in a negative mindset, distracted or discouraged by wrong thoughts, drop to your knees immediately and ask God to help you think positive, pure thoughts. Study God’s “pure words” (Psalm 12:6), knowing that “[e]very word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him” (Proverbs 30:5).
1 Peter 1:22 states: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”
If you have trouble properly loving someone else—whether an unconverted neighbor or a brother in God’s Church—realize that you could be guilty of breaking God’s laws. Examine yourself. Remember that “the end of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5).
Keeping God’s commandments and yielding to His government leads to being able to love others with purity—without reservation or deceit. And this, in turn, leads to greater unity.
In the days of Ezra, not long after the second temple was completed, the Jews who had returned from the captivity kept the Passover. Ezra 6:20 states that at that time the priests and Levites were “purified together.” If you look up these two words in Strong’s Concordance, you will see that they mean “unadulteratedly pure as one.” The priests and Levites were strongly unified—all of them were pure. The people were also unified with the priests. They all kept God’s Passover together. The only way that this kind of purity and unity can be achieved is through God’s government.
It is vitally important to your spiritual salvation that you build a positive mental attitude and a “pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-5). As Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”
“[W]hatsoever things are lovely ….”
The word lovely means pleasing or winsome. Do you think on those things that are lovely?
God made us so that we may really enjoy things that are lovely: the taste of delicious food—the sound of beautiful music—the sight of a beautiful landscape or flower garden—the fragrance of lovely roses—the endearing embrace of a husband or wife. God intended this pleasure and enjoyment. God is love (1 John 4:8), and God expresses His love toward us by making these delights available to us.
Think of the spectacularly or subtly beautiful experiences you have had—or seen or heard about. Many of mankind’s highest works and achievements can be called truly lovely.
Learn to admire and enjoy what is beautiful and lovely now, in this human age, looking forward to the time when God will make the Earth a lovely place to live for all, a place where beauty will be perfected.
“[W]hatsoever things are of good report ….”
Remember what God said about His Son Jesus Christ at the vision of the transfiguration, in the presence of the apostles Peter, James and John? “[A] bright cloud overshadowed them and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased …” (Matthew 17:5).
Words of praise and appreciation from a parent, teacher, minister or other respected person can be of much encouragement to an individual. Proverbs 15:30 states, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, And a good report makes the bones healthy” (New King James Version).
It is easy to criticize and put others down. A positive Christian should, however, rejoice when others succeed, not when they fail. In a similar vein, we must also be on guard against spreading bad reports, rumors and gossip. God condemns gossip throughout the Bible. “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:16). This verse shows that reputation-damaging gossip is as wicked as murder! Study in detail the following proverbs: Proverbs 11:13; 18:8; 20:19; 26:20, 22. They vividly describe the evils associated with gossip.
God likes to hear good reports of His people—from the greatest among them unto the least. Don’t forget that there is potential for success in all people. God has planned for everyone who accepts His way to receive a good report at Christ’s return (Hebrews 11:39).
What else is of good report?
God’s Work—which is being done by the Philadelphia Church of God under the leadership and direction of Jesus Christ through Gerald Flurry! The Work of God has been revived in the middle of the crisis years (Habakkuk 3:2), and we are well on the way to reaching the largest audience possible (Revelation 10:11; 11:1) with God’s warning message of hope for this last hour.
That’s definitely a good report! And how encouraging to think on what God is accomplishing through this small, mustard-seed-sized organization!
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7).
Virtue and Praise
“[I]f there be any virtue, and if there be any praise ….”
God has called us to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3); He is worthy to be praised (Psalm 18:3). Do you think on the good things of life—and consciously thank God for them? How often do you count your blessings?
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “Certainly a lack of gratitude is one of the most prevalent, if not the most terrible, of sins. Few have learned to really appreciate what they have. Most are prone to accept the good things by taking them for granted, failing to give thanks. We gripe about our complaints more than we count our blessings” (Plain Truth, April 1962).
It’s evident that in recent years, right along with our rapid rise to prosperity, public ingratitude has increased among the modern nations of Israel (Romans 1:21). “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful …” (2 Timothy 3:1-2). Hopefully we do not fall into these categories!
God expects—and deserves—praise for all He has done for us. Do we praise God for what we have?
We may not have perfect health, but we can be encouraged by the strength and hope that others, with even more serious problems, demonstrate.
We may not have a great job or large income, but we can be inspired by the sterling examples set by some of our brethren who live in Second and Third World countries—some of whom are content to live in what many of us would consider substandard conditions.
Be thankful for what God has given you—and express your thanksgiving to Him in prayer. If you have difficulty getting started, begin by reading the Psalms, for instance. They are full of words of praise for the One who made heaven and Earth.
He Can Who Thinks He Can
Philippians 4:8 ends with the positive command: “[T]hink on these things.”
Remember that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). We are, fundamentally, the sum total of what our thoughts make us. What we allow ourselves to think and believe is highly important because our thoughts are the building blocks from which all our ideas, imaginations, habits and ultimate character are formed. Our actions are always preceded by thoughts.
God has called us to learn to think, feel, say and act as He does—to develop His same positive thoughts, emotions, character and mind. Christ said, “[Become] ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Apostle Paul said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
The loving mind, thoughts and ways of God are found in Philippians 4:8—as well as in numerous other scriptures throughout the Bible. The Bible is the very foundation of all true knowledge, and it was designed to guide us in building the kind of mind God has.
As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against the “god of this world,” Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:11-12). Our adversary would like to have us focus only on the hopelessness of this life—and get us into a negative frame of mind, feeling downcast and futile in our endeavors. He knows that if he can distract us from our overall goal—God’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)—he has a chance to destroy us!
To be a true Philadelphian, you must be a light to the world (Matthew 5:14-16)—a “witness of the Light” (John 1:6-7). You must stand positive about the future and the ultimate destiny of mankind. A negative Christian cannot inspire others to follow God’s way.
In his book The God Family Vision, Gerald Flurry wrote: “John the Baptist’s purpose was to be a witness. God’s people today serve the same purpose. … That witness can be more powerful than preaching, because it is a person letting Christ live in them, and thereby letting the light shine! … Although some don’t want to believe yet, in time our witness will have more of an effect on people. That is the strongest message of all.”
We need to rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2) and keep our thinking positive. Now is our time to work on qualifying for God’s Kingdom (1 Peter 4:17) by supporting God’s Work and sharing the hope-filled message of God’s family government with as many others as possible.
Rest assured that the greatest power in the universe is behind you (Romans 8:31), waiting to share His glory and character for eternity. So, be positive!