Living Philippians 4:8 – On Paul’s Advice to ‘Think on These Things’ 


By Roxanne Drury 

I am pretty confident most of us have heard the phrase ‘take your thoughts captive.’ What exactly does that mean? Is it biblical or just a cliché? Is it something we should dwell on, or dismiss? We are going to look at that in this article. 

First, I think it is important that we realize the importance of our thoughts. They are powerful to do good or to do harm to ourselves and to others for that matter. In John Maxwell’s book, “Think on These Things,” he says, “What occupies your mind and what you think means more than anything else in your life.” He suggests that our thought life will make the determination on just about everything about our lives. Now, that is what I call powerful! 

Let me ask you a question. Answer honestly. If you wake up in the morning and your brain immediately complains to yourself about having to get up so early, it thinks about all the dreaded meetings that are planned for the day at work, and cringes at sitting next to the guy who cracks his knuckles, what kind of day do you think you are going to have? A good one, or a lousy one? 

Now, let’s wake up in the morning and in our brains immediately thank God for another day, thank God that we have a job, and ask God to relieve the arthritic pain in the hands of the guy who cracks his knuckles. What kind of day do you think you will have if you begin it that way? 

Do you see how our thoughts determine what our day is going to look like? Focusing on the negatives affects how we feel and how we act. Oh, we’ll still have those meetings, and we’ll still hear the cracking of knuckles, but I think we will be much more tolerant because we thought about those things in a different light. The light of the Lord and His Word says, “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” (Philippians 4:8). We have a better chance of responding to those things in a way that honors God and the people around us if we choose to look at them in a more positive way in light of this verse.   

Removing negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts may be easier said than done. So I am going to offer a few more examples to help get your thoughts moving in the right direction. No pun intended. 


Negative Thought          

“Nobody at work likes me”  

“I’ll never get that promotion”   

“I am misunderstood”  


Positive Thought 

“God loves me no matter what” 

“God sees me as valuable” 

“God works all things together for good” 


We can look at what we know to be true from the Bible and what we know to be true about   God and His steadfast love for us and use that truth to refocus our thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I sure feel awful when I am having negative thoughts. It is no party, is it? Plus, it is a total downer for the people we are around. We want to be better than that. We want to be the person God wants us to be. Maxwell states, “You can literally change your life by beginning to think different thoughts.” 

As we begin to change our thoughts, our lives change, and the things we do begin to change. We care more, we give more, we serve more, we love more, we have more opportunity and, most importantly, we easily and happily begin to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Ephesians 5:22-23). 

As you can see, by thinking different thoughts, we change, and good change such as this is growth. Without growth, we are stagnant and in a proverbial negative rut. Continually living in a negative frame of mind will hinder the growth that God wants for you, His perfect will for your life. I don’t know of anyone that has ever said, “My life goal is to be a grump.” Or “When I grow up, I want to be in a rut.” No, that is not what God wants for us and it is not what we truly want for ourselves. 

So, here is the challenge for you and me: ‘think on these things’. We must reframe our mindset to see the positive in all situations. It may take work and sometimes it might be a stretch, but I believe as Maxwell says, “that we can face each day with joy and optimism,” “that we can lift the spirits of those around us” and “that we can initiate good thinking and positive action.” 

By thinking on the things listed in Philippians 4:8, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds as Romans 12:2 instructs. “Do not conform 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 and pleasing and perfect will.” There is enough negativity in the world – it has no place in the heart and mind of a follower of Christ. Agreed? 


Roxanne Drury is a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired Christian preschool teacher with a teaching certificate in Early Childhood Education. She has served the Lord in children’s ministry for over 40 years and is currently on staff at Rockharbor Church. She has recently written a new book that she calls “a God-inspired book for little girls.” She may be reached at [email protected]. 




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