Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is lovely…think on these things.”
When I think of things that are “lovely,” I think of a mountain lake, so still that the reflection looks like a second mountain; green trees and wildflowers surrounded by the snowy peaks. Maybe you think of a sunset, or a beautiful model, or a masterpiece of art. But the Greek word for “lovely” (prosphilḗs) has more of an idea of a gift, an offering, acceptable, a friendly attitude towards, having affection towards. The Greek word in this form is only used here in the entire New Testament (NT)!
This word combines the prefix pros, ("extending toward") with philéō, one of the Greek words for "love," a brotherly, affectionate fondness. It's the same verb Jesus used twice in John 16:27: "for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God" (ESV).
To me, this means whatever we think about should be something we feel affection for but is still acceptable to offer as a gift of our thoughts to the Lord. That means we shouldn’t be focusing on things that we hate or are angry about. We shouldn’t be focused on negative things at all. Those negative things poison our attitudes eventually.
Oh, how I have experienced this for myself! I tend to focus on the bad things or the things that need improvement. But we need to continually take our thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5), and chain them to the standard of what is acceptable to the Lord, what we know He has an affection towards.
I also get the idea of taking time to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the little things that God has created and given us to enjoy. It’s so easy to feel sad or defeated or helpless when we look at the ugly things in life. But that’s not what God wants us to focus on.
Some of us task-oriented people like to check off to-do lists so much that we’re constantly in a state of, “What do I have to do next? Do I have a couple of extra minutes to squeeze this other task in?” And we never stop to watch the clouds roll by in a summer sky, or smell the air after a rain storm, listen to the crunching of the freshly-fallen snow under our feet, or pick a budding flower in the spring. But God made each of these thing. He gave us these gifts, and when we enjoy them, He gets the joy of His gift being appreciated.
James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (ESV).
We Should Love What God Loves
1 Thess. 4:9-10: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more…” (ESV).
Titus 2:3-5: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (ESV).
Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (NIV).
Hebrews 13:1: “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters” (NLT).
2 Peter 1:5-7: “Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone” (NLT).
1 Peter 1:22: “You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart” (NLT).
Revelation 3:19: “I [Jesus] correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference” (NLT).
John 5:19-20: “So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel….’” (ESV).
We Should Not Love What the World Loves
1 Corinthians 16:22: “If anyone does not love the Lord, that person is cursed” (NLT).
2 Timothy 3:1-2: “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money….” (NLT).
John 15:18-19: “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
Luke 16:14: “The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at Him” (NLT).
Matthew 6:5: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get” (NLT).
Matthew 23:6-7: “And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi’” (NLT).
Matthew 10:37-38: “If you love your father or mother more than you love me [Jesus], you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine” (NLT).
John 12:25-26: “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my [Jesus’] disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me” (NLT).
So when the Bible in Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on lovely things, I think it means to ponder things that are positive, an offering to the Lord that He would find acceptable and beautiful; the ultimate would of course always be worshipping God. It’s always good to think about God and His Word.
When you close your eyes and think of beauty, what picture comes into your mind? My “Happy Place” is a quiet mountain lake surrounded by green trees and snow-covered mountains. Please share yours in the comments below or in the Facebook group, Practical Living for Christian Women.