The above is from Philippians 4:8 that “whatever is true and honest, whatever is just, pure, lovely, and of good report, and if there’s anything excellent and worthy of praise, think on these things.”
But how can anyone keep their minds on all eight of those things in a world where so few of those things exist? And especially among the leaders and those who are supposed to be setting us an example too.
But there is hope, because some really awful, nauseating people in high office can and do repent – like Saul (the future Paul) who switched almost overnight from being a member of the vicious elite that seek to crush those they view as a threat, to becoming a humble, obedient servant totally dedicated to God’s purpose (Acts 26:16-19).
For me that’s something worth “thinking on,” because if it happened to a blaspheming, violent thug like Saul (1 Timothy 1:13), then what’s to stop it happening to narcissistic, godless thugs in office today too? Saul was a nasty piece of work, like many of the rich elite in our world today who are drunk on power, prestige and money and exerting their weird ideas on us poor plebs, but think instead on the excellence and praise of a God who can knock a power-mad monster like Saul off his high horse in such a way that Saul could respond and repent.
God was amazing, because he took into account Saul’s “ignorance and unbelief” (verse 13). And even if it was willing ignorance on Saul’s part it did not deter God from “pouring out his grace abundantly” even on “the worst of sinners,” so that we now have this vivid picture in Paul of God’s “unlimited patience” (verse 16).
For my own mental health that is far more worth thinking on than “doom scrolling” through the madness on the internet that leaves me wondering at times if God is even involved at all in stopping evil. But Paul could say from experience, “Don’t let all that nonsense get to you. Think instead on what God did to the likes of me.”
And think instead on what God did through Paul too. When Paul was Saul he set his murderous sights on wiping out thousands, but as Paul he became God’s instrument in the salvation of millions. And through Paul God has equipped billions of us through the centuries with the knowledge and means of overcoming the insanity and mind-destroying antics of evil.
And in Paul we also see Philippians 4:8 being possible, because he was true, honest, just, pure in his motives and a lovely man to know. He loved hearing good reports about others (Colossians 1:3-6), and he gushed in his letters about things excellent and worthy of praise that others had done. Paul could say with relish in Philippians 4:9, then, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice,” because he knew from his own experience that in living such a life “the God of peace will be with you” (verse 9).
And what if our leaders caught on to that too? Well, the hope is always there that they will, because God got to Saul and look what he turned out to be instead. Something worth thinking on – for our own peace of mind as well.