What we think about determines how we feel, how we act, and much of what we say. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians told the early believers what they should be thinking about:
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. Philippians 4:8-9.
Thinking on these positive things brings peace. It creates a feeling of gratitude and results in right actions and uplifting words.
On the contrary, focusing on things that are not pure, true, or admirable leads to ingratitude and thanklessness. It results in wrong actions and critical words. I know because I have been doing that a bit lately. The result has been a feeling of sadness and hopelessness, a feeling of being overwhelmed.
It is funny how even when you know the benefits of an attitude of gratitude you can forget to practice that attitude. When we know what we should think on, how do we control what we actually do think about? How do we stay focused on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable? Paul told the church at Corinth how this could be done when he wrote that “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:5b.
Every thought captive! Every single one! We cannot let even one tiny negative thought loose on its own in our head, or it might set free a whole host of other negative thoughts. Once they get free, taking them captive again to obedience to Christ is like herding cats. Thankfully, I am not alone in my efforts. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. I need not be permanently defeated by my negative thoughts, only temporary sidetracked.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39.
Thoughts of gratitude, thoughts about what is pure, noble, and praiseworthy about those around me, are the key to a life filled with joy and happiness. Such a life results in peace and right actions. If our thoughts are obedient to Christ, they will be just such thoughts.