“Thought and character are one,” wrote the 19th century philosopher James Allen in his book As a Man Thinketh. He further makes this forever timely observation about our thinking:
“Man is made or unmade by himself. In the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the divine perfection. By the abuse and wrong application of thought he descends below the level of the beast. Between these two extremes are all the grades of character, and man is their maker and master.”
In one of the great verses of the Bible, Philippians 4:8, we are told the kind of thoughts we need to dwell on.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Here are 6 questions about your thoughts, that not only help you evaluate your thinking, but provide an insight into the kind of character you are developing.
(1) Is it True?
The Bible is the standard of Truth (Eph. 1:13). It serves as a basis for those things that our minds ought to dwell on. Furthermore, truth stands opposed to falsehood (Eph. 4:25), which is from the Devil himself (Jn. 8:44).
Proper thinking rests itself on things that are true. Think on things that are true about yourself, your family, your brethren, your friends, and your fellow-man.
(2) Is it Honorable?
Honorable means noble, serious and dignified. It is thinking that is neither flippant, cheap, or tawdry. Honorable thinking rids itself of little, petty thoughts. If we are to engage our lives in noble deeds, we must begin with noble thoughts.
(3) Is it Just?
The word “just” refers to that which is fair and right both to God and to man. Certainly life is filled with injustices and inequities. But there’s no value in dwelling on them.
We also would do well to focus our minds on dealing justly with others. Revenge, evil scheming and plotting to get even will consume our souls and soon fill our minds unjust thoughts.
(4) Is it Pure?
The word “pure” means clean or free from defilement. It is from the same root word translated “saint”.
Paul admonished Timothy, “keep yourself pure” (I Tim. 5:22). Purity of life begins in the heart by thinking pure thoughts. Conversely, by thinking impure thoughts, we will produce a defiled character and ungodly actions
Reading salacious literature, watching sexually explicit movies and pouring over internet porn will defile the heart and fill the mind with impurity.
(5) Is it Lovely?
This word means “attractive, winsome, pleasing and amiable.” The Christian’s character should reflect loveliness. An old expression that is lost on today’s culture says, ” pretty is as pretty does.” More important than physical beauty is spiritual beauty. Such loveliness of character originates in the mind.
Lovely thinking dwells on kindness, forgiveness, sympathy, forbearance, tenderness and love.
(6) Is it Commendable?
Other versions translate this word “good report,” “good repute,” and “admirable.” In other words, think on the things that are well-sounding, appealing, and gracious. Look for the good in life. Think about the good in life. And share the good that you see with others.
The writer concluded by adding that anything else that is virtuous and praiseworthy, think on it, too.
These words by the 19th century Scottish author Samuel Smiles are also worthy of serious reflection:
Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman