Welcome back everyone to our big study of the book of Philippians.  This is my last conversation in the Philippians study, and in many ways, I will be bummed to see this series end next week, it’s just so fun to walk through Scripture the way we have, and this particular study just seemed so perfectly timed for the world you and I are living in today.  We have broken our study down to two parts, if you remember we kicked off 2022 in the first half which we called “The Ultimate Guide to Life & Love” where we saw Paul really giving us a guide to life.  That took us all the way to Easter, and then we started the second half of the study, which we called “Choices” as we walked through different choices Paul challenges us to make as followers of Christ.  This has been interesting because the first four choices that Paul challenges us to make are very difficult because we are choosing to live opposite of how we may instinctively want to live, and frankly they are choices that will absolutely be opposite to how culture, and the rest of the world is living as well.  So those first four choices are challenging.  We looked at the choice to live a holy life, the choice to live in and for God’s word, the choice to rejoice in all circumstances, and the choice to avoid religion.  These are very challenging choices for sure and will have us living opposite and moving against the current of life and culture for sure.  But then there seemed to be a shift in the choices Paul asks us to make to some really encouraging choices that feel so much more redemptive, and quite frankly are choices that we can all really resonate with and can also help us so much as we choose to live them out.  The first of these choices was one that we can all resonate with, because we are all on life’s journey.  We can feel it, the ups, the downs, the good times, and the bad times…the amazing highs, and the painful lows and Paul helped us understand that we are all works in progress and then encouraged us to press on towards our eternal reward in Heaven.  We must choose to set the eternal goal and press on…forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead.  Then Paul spoke of the choice to not worry about anything but to pray about everything and the amazing product of that in our lives.  We replace anxiety and stress in our lives with God’s peace that is beyond understanding.  Two awesome choices, with powerful ramifications for our lives when we make them…and quite frankly when we don’t as well.

Now today we look at another very important choice, in an area that many people are struggling these days in their own personal lives.  We talk today about the mind, our thoughts, and the importance of what we focus on.  Today we make the choice to focus our thoughts and think about what is good.

Philippians 4:8 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.  NIV

Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, anything that is excellent and praiseworthy…think about such things.  I love the way this is worded in the NLT with the word “fix.”

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT

Fix your thoughts on what is good, think about what is excellent and praiseworthy.  Our thoughts are very powerful things.  Think about how powerful your thoughts are, and how much of your reality and life they dictate.  They control how we view other people, and how we view ourselves.  They dictate our actions, decisions, priorities, and emotional state.  Our thoughts can fill us with inner strength and energy and motivation…or they can discourage us, and tire us out, pulling all motivation away from us.  Our minds and our thoughts are powerful things, and Paul seems to really understand this, and talks often about our minds.  Here’s just a few examples of Paul talking about our minds and thoughts.

Paul says we are to not conform to worldly behaviors and cultural patterns but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.  NIV

Here in Ephesians Paul says again we get rid of our former way of life, and put on the new self, made new in the attitude of our minds.

Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  NIV

In Colossians he really echoes our study today in many ways, telling us we should set our minds on eternal things, the things above.  And you know what I always say about things on repeat in Scripture!

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  NIV

Paul also tells us something profound about our thoughts that we must do, and that is to take every thought captive, this is very important, and I believe something very personal to someone like Paul who has walked through so much and has such a violent and murderous past.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. NIV

Paul understands the thoughts that hit us, and the importance of taking our thoughts captive.  Imagine the thoughts and the head trash this guy deals with…he killed men and women who believed in Jesus.  Do you think those memories didn’t come back to him?  Do you think he didn’t have moments of guilt and regret?  Paul understands the power of our mind and thoughts and teaches us that we must make the choice to focus our minds on what is good.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT

Have you ever stopped and thought about how your thoughts and what hits your mind affects how you are living your life or how you perceive reality or how you view yourself and others?  Your thoughts are powerful directors of who you are, how you are feeling and what you are doing.  Do you see it?  So, with that understanding then what we think about and what we choose to focus on becomes a really big deal and thinking the way God thinks would be a really good thing.  As I was putting this talk together, I came across a study done by the TLEX Institute that says we have anywhere from 12,000 – 60,000 thoughts in one day.  That is pretty incredible in a 24-hour time span.  Now let me add to that.  The study showed that over 80% of those thoughts are negative!  So if you have 60,000 thoughts in a day, that means that you can have over 48,000 negative thoughts hit your mind a day!  Do you see why Paul uses such strong language when talking about our thoughts?  He would say we must “take hold of” or “capture” or “fix” our minds and thoughts and focus…it’s because our minds are under constant assault and the mind has power.  It is a major director of our life, our behaviors, our self-view, and how we view others and determines our personal reality.  48,000 negative thoughts in a day, and I want you to understand something, negative thoughts bring negative actions and beliefs!  Here’s an example…

Let’s say you are part of a team, but when you look around at the team, and the leaders of the team you have negative thoughts about leadership decisions, why one person seems to get more than you, or has a role that you want.  You have thoughts questioning what the team is up to and its direction.  The thoughts grow more and more negative, and you start deciding that there must be more going on than you know about.  You start to determine that there are cliques in the group, and that there is a secret conspiracy to get certain people more than others…now none of this is reality, but as these thoughts on the team consume you…guess what…it’s now your reality and you become the divisive piece you thought you saw in others…or you think something is so wrong that eventually you don’t want to be part of the community or team anymore, all based off assumptions and thoughts that are now your reality and it won’t matter what the truth is because in your mind, it has become your truth…our thoughts are huge directors in our life.

In that same study we were looking at earlier where we saw those staggering statistics on our thoughts, they also found that 95% of our thoughts are repetitive thoughts from the day before.  Now think about that for a moment, our minds are bombarded with thoughts, and over 44,000 of those negative thoughts are on repeat in your minds!  Do you see the importance of training ourselves to be aware and intentional with our thoughts and bring them into focus, and in step with God?  This is such an important choice we are looking at here today.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT

I wanted you to see a couple things today, first just how powerful our thoughts actually are…they play a major role in our reality, the lives we live, our behaviors, decisions, and frankly how we view ourselves and others.  Our thoughts can motivate us or completely paralyze us if we aren’t careful.  I also wanted you to see how important our thoughts are to Paul, and how often he brings up how intentional we must be with our thoughts because he understands how powerful they are…and he also understand how assaulted our minds are each day…with up to 60,000 thoughts hitting you each day and up to 48,000 of them being negative, and over 44,000 of those negative thoughts on repeat in your mind.  Our minds are powerful things, and I wanted to show you an example of just how powerful our thoughts and minds are when we are God focused, choosing to see and focus on what is good, true, honorable…verses what happens when our minds shift to the negative…and I think there is a great example of this found in a very popular story in The Old Testament and it’s found in the amazing story of David and Goliath.  Yes, I know that you probably have heard this story before, but I want you to see it from a bit of a new perspective here today.  I would encourage you to read this whole story this week, it’s found in 1 Samuel 17.  We find the Israelite Army at war with the Philistines…but there is a not so small problem.  The Philistines have a giant named Goliath, and he has intimidated the entire army so much they are frozen, afraid, and everything is just at a standstill as this giant hurls insults at them.   They are consumed by fear.  So to set the scene, you have Saul and the Israelite army on one hill, the Philistine army on the opposite hill and a valley in between, with this giant coming out each day challenging them to fight…

1 Samuel 17:3 The Philistines were on one hill, the Israelites on the opposing hill, with the valley between them. 4 A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor — 126 pounds of it! 6 He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. 7 His spear was like a fence rail — the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood there and called out to the Israelite troops, “Why bother using your whole army? Am I not Philistine enough for you? And you’re all committed to Saul, aren’t you? So pick your best fighter and pit him against me. 9 If he gets the upper hand and kills me, the Philistines will all become your slaves. But if I get the upper hand and kill him, you’ll all become our slaves and serve us. 10 I challenge the troops of Israel this day. Give me a man. Let us fight it out together!” 11 When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine’s challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope. MSG

Remember we are talking about the power of our minds today, what kind of thoughts are racing through the Israelite soldiers’ minds as they look across at this mountain of a man who is insulting them, taunting them?  Yeah, negative thoughts consume them, and I’m sure they were getting hit with those 44,000 negative thoughts on repeat each day, and now the entire army is frozen…consumed with fear and have lost all hope as their minds and thoughts are consumed with a giant, and fear.  Then David shows us, the youngest son of Jesse, who has been out tending to his father’s flock while his older brothers are fighting this war with the Philistines…and as we look at this from the perspective of our minds and thoughts and how powerful they are, we see a young man who has made the choice to focus on God…or as Paul asks of us today…

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT

So, this is what I want you to see an entire Army frozen because their minds and focus aren’t on the good and true and praiseworthy things, and a young man who shows us with his mind consumed and focused on God.  When David shows up to the Israelite encampment in the Valley of Elah, every thought, every conversation, everything is dominated by Goliath.  He is talking trash and taunting them daily, they are intimidated and rightly so…I mean he is a giant and obviously very confident in his fighting abilities…and every day he dominates their thoughts and focus, and they are frozen.  This is so interesting because these are God’s children, and their thoughts aren’t on God but on this giant…and we can learn something from Saul and his army here.  The moment we permit evil and the things of this world to control our thoughts, we can’t press on towards God in our journey, we become stuck.  Negative thoughts are so powerful, they can shape the way we think, the way we feel about ourselves, and will shape our decisions and actions.  This is the Israelite Army who God is with, and instead of being courageous and pressing on, they are frozen, cowering, and afraid of one gigantic warrior.  Their minds aren’t on what Paul says our minds must be on…they aren’t fixed on God anymore and they are stuck.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT

Now here comes young David, fresh from the fields tending to his father’s flock.  His focus and mind is only on one thing, God.  He walks up to this scene and can’t believe that God’s people were cowering in fear of Goliath.  David’s focus, his thoughts are dominated by God, this is what shapes his reality.

Now I want you to think about this, the soldiers have had their thoughts consumed by Goliath for 40 days. 40 consecutive days he has come out and intimidated and insulted them, and each day their thoughts are more and more consumed by fear, and negativity.  But not David, he has been in the stillness of the fields tending to his father’s herds.  It’s just been David and God, nothing else.  He has experienced God out there in the fields.  He has been kept safe as he defeated predators coming after the flock…he has defeated a lion in a pit on a snowy day…he knows God’s power and protection and his mind is set on God and the things above.  Saul and the army’s thoughts are negative, fearful, and they are frozen here.  David’s mind is fixed on God, and he goes out with a slingshot and 5 stones and wins one of the greatest victories of all time, killing Goliath.

Do you see it?  Do you see the power our thoughts have?  Are your thoughts positive or are they negative?  Did you ever notice how much easier it can be to believe or agree with your negative thoughts?  So, what is your focus?  Do you focus on the wins or the losses of your life?  Do you dwell on your mistakes?  Do you lock onto the positives or negatives in your life?  If you aren’t sure if your mind is fixed on the good or bad of your life, here’s a good way to check.  What do you talk about with people?  Think through your conversations…are they positive or negative?  What consumes your attention?  When you wake up in the morning or are alone in the car, what kind of conversations do you have with yourself?  We may call this self-talk…is it positive, or negative?  When you think about yourself, or look inward is that positive or negative?  Now I would like you to take a moment and think through an example of how focusing on what is pure and right and lovely and true and excellent and praiseworthy could impact your life in a different way than thinking negatively about yourself or your situation.

Your mind is under a constant assault, remember that study we looked at earlier, up to 60,0000 thoughts hit your brain in a day, and over 80% of them are negative!  And to add to that, you can have up to 44,000 negative thoughts repeating in your brain…they will hit you today, and again tomorrow…and on and on it goes.  For so many of us we aren’t seeing the power of our thoughts.  We don’t see that our thoughts are huge directors in our lives, shaping our behaviors, decisions, our realities and how we view ourselves and other people.  We just plow through life without intentionally focusing and holding our thoughts captive.  Think about it, your thoughts are a big deal, and if we aren’t careful those 48,000 negative thoughts can cause us to slow down or stop altogether, just like we saw with Saul and his army in the Valley of Elah.

Paul understands how challenging the mind is, and how much intentionality it takes to stay focused on the things above and not all the negative thoughts that hit our minds.  Think about what it must have been like to be Paul, with all those memories of murder and violence still in his mind…don’t you think he more than anyone would understand the assault our minds take of negative thoughts?  This is a guy that calls himself the chief of all sinners for a reason…and he challenges us to make a challenging but life changing choice to focus on the good, because our thoughts are major directors in our lives.  They shape our reality, our behaviors, our self-view, and how we view others…this is why this choice is so essential.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. NLT