Why is it so hard to hang onto the good? Maybe it’s just human nature to focus on the negative, or maybe it’s a reflection of our own self-doubt. One insult often leaves a lasting impact, while compliments and words of encouragement are quickly forgotten. I am personally quick to dismiss compliments because I don’t believe them. Although I believe the person’s intentions are genuine, I am less inclined to believe that the statement is true. I dismiss the comment as an attempt to make me feel good. Yet, just the opposite is true of criticism or insult. When I receive negativity I quickly accept it as the truth. It never occurs to me that someone might want me to feel bad. In this way, the scales are always tipped with negativity receiving far greater attention.
Negativity doesn’t just affect the perception of ourselves, it impacts our perception of the world around us. We are generally more apt to focus on the negative or evil events in our world. All it takes is turning on the news to see that negativity sells. Although news programs may contain some positive highlights, the vast majority of what we hear is negative and fear mongering. We can easily become overburdened by the apparent evil in our world. All the while failing to see that love and goodness are equally present. This may explain our general lack of satisfaction in who we are, where we live, and what we have.
In Phillippians, Paul tells us how we can achieve the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. It starts in our thoughts.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Phillippians 4:8-9
When we dwell on our thoughts we become filled with the products of those thoughts. In other words, we are feeding our thoughts and giving them power. The question is, what kind of thoughts do you want to give power to? This doesn’t mean we should bury our heads in the sand and be unaware of the problems around us. But neither should we give them undue attention, dwelling on them until they consume us. Rather, we should allow our thoughts to dwell on good and godly things. When we dwell on these thoughts our spirits are renewed and we become motivated to put them into practice.
Paul’s instruction empowers to create good in our world. The only way to defeat hate is with love. The only way to defeat despair is with hope. The only way to defeat evil is with goodness.
If we want to be more like Jesus, where should our thoughts lie? Likewise, where would the enemy like our thought to remain?
When life floods us with negativity, dwell on thoughts that are:
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;” Romans 12:10
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
“…But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” 1 Peter 2:20-21
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Titus 2:7-8
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
The world will change when we dwell on God’s Word and start putting them into practice.