Whatsoever things are true
I have an overactive imagination. As an author, you’d think that would be a good thing. And it is – when it comes to writing books. But sometimes my imagination grows legs and gallops off across the hills to places that it was never intended to be. Like the time I was convinced that the middle-aged hotel cleaner on our Cyprus holiday when I was sixteen stole my favourite skirt. The disparity in our fashion sense and clothes size never registered with me! Or when I lay trembling in bed as a six-year-old, sure that the BFG was outside my bedroom window, ready to snatch me away in the dead of the night. I should point out that the story was new to me, and the school day unfortunately ended before I discovered that the ‘F’ in BFG actually stood for ‘friendly’!
In more recent years, my imaginations have taken a more grown-up form. But just because I’m now an adult, they aren’t any more valid. If it’s not true, it’s not true, whether it’s a giant outside my bedroom window, or imagining that my husband has had a bad car accident if he simply happens to be late getting home from work.
If you are a believer, you will likely be familiar with Philippians 4:8. It begins, ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are…’ then gives a list of six good things we should think about. The very first one on the list is, for me, and maybe for you too, probably the most challenging – ‘whatsoever things are true.’
Everyone is different. Some will always imagine the worst, while others will be almost-unrealistically optimistic. But despite glass-half-full people being praised for their great attitude, neither position on the optimistic/pessimistic scale is actually right! Neither is burying your head in the sand to prevent facing facts. What matters is the truth.
The truth is important when it comes to ourselves. Many people have an overinflated sense of their own importance. Others suffer from a crippling inferiority complex.
I read a great quote last year in relation to our position in Christ – holy and righteous in Him. It said, ‘How we see ourselves impacts how we behave.’1 it’s true! And not only with regards to our position in Christ.
We’re masters at convincing ourselves that we’re something we’re not. Did you ever see someone who saw themselves as the best-looking person God ever created? They strutted about, head held high, maybe tossing their hair or flexing their muscles, expecting admiration wherever they went. But maybe you took a good look at them, and realised that, underneath the attitude, they were really quite ordinary!
On the other hand, you’ve maybe known those who saw themselves as totally incapable of doing something, so they didn’t even try. I’ve discovered that we can do a lot more than we think we can, especially since, as believers, God has promised to be with us and will help us in things done for Him. (Read Exodus chapters 3 & 4.) The danger is found in making up our own minds as to what we are or aren’t, and thus behaving in that manner. If we focus on what is true – see ourselves as God sees us – we will behave as God would have us behave.
Another danger is thinking untrue thoughts about others. There are so many ways we can be guilty of this – envying someone else’s ‘perfect’ life, looking down on and despising others, or even attributing to other people thoughts and actions which aren’t even true. How many of us have imagined that we were being talked about behind our backs? Perhaps we were, but my hunch is that others don’t talk about us as much as we think (or maybe want to think?) they do.
What about the future? It’s so easy to let our minds run away with us and imagine all sorts of awful scenarios. It’s most wise to make preparation for the future, but if we are dwelling on that which is true, we won’t be giving space to the scary potential disasters that can have such a grip on us.
Where is truth to be found? John 17:17 says, ‘Thy word is truth.’ In God’s Word, we read the truth about ourselves, our position before God – sinners, loved by Him, saved by grace, and sure of heaven. We learn the truth about others and how we ought to love them, even our enemies! And finally, we learn the amazing truth that God is faithful, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, that He is with us always, even to the end of the age.
Those are true things well worth thinking about!
1 Brian Joyce, Spiritual Warfare (4): Breastplate of Righteousness, Truth and Tidings, September 2018
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