On an old ballfield back in the early days, some coach for the first time said, “Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t.” Many of us have repeated the same instructions to young players frustrated with people and events around them. It’s also great advice for those of us frustrated with people and events showing up in our newsfeeds and on our televisions. It reminds me of a principle I read about in Chip Ingram’s book, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” where he suggests:
“Picture a train, if you will. The engine is our thinking, and it pulls the first car of emotions, then the car of behavior, and then the car of consequences. Good thoughts will influence our emotions for good, which in turn will influence our behavior and produce positive consequences. Negative thoughts have the same influence in the opposite direction. What we think will determine the course of our life.” (p.15)
As you can see, behavior and consequences directly follow emotions that are pulled along by the engine of thinking. So how does a believer develop the right thinking and avoid the emotional manipulation of our “advanced” culture? Paul provides an answer in his letter to the Philippian church. Here are three sources of strength for us to remember in the middle of the cultural chaos.
- First-there is strength in position (Phil. 4:1-5)
In three separate verses Paul references being “in the Lord”. He says we are to stand fast in the Lord (v.1), be of the same mind in the Lord (v.2) and rejoice in the Lord (v.4). The key to right thinking is the cognitive awareness that we are “in the Lord”. The phrase is not placed there for poetic decoration, it is specifically the solid ground to stand on as the foundations of pop-philosophy fracture and crumble.
- Second-there is strength in communication (Phil. 4:6-7)
Regular conversations with the Lord that are gut-level honest produce a “settled” nature that is not anxious (v.6), a grateful attitude through thanksgiving (v.6), a spirit of peace beyond understanding (v.7) and a guarded mind (v.7).
- Third-there is strength in meditation (Phil. 4:8-9)
Unlike eastern style mediation, Biblical meditation is specifically spending time in deep thought on the good things of God; things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, and praiseworthy (v.8). It also develops a disciplined mind by learning (v.9), guides in choosing good role models (v.9) and encourages one to be an influencer for the same things in others (v.9).
So, take a deep breath and remember what the old coach said, “Focus on what you can control and not what you can’t!”