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For the last few weeks we’ve been looking at a list of words that describe what “righteous thinking” looks like in the life of the believer. Today we come to the last word, but it’s certainly not the least. As a matter of fact, if any of these words has the power to transform our lives it’s this one. In Philippians 4:8 we read, “Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” Paul’s last exhortation is to think about anything that is “praiseworthy.”
So, what does praiseworthy mean? As I studied and reflected on this topic, I think the simplest way to put it is, “something worthy of our highest and most intimate thoughts.” Now, you may be thinking, “What’s the difference between admirable and praiseworthy? As I studied these words, I believe the difference is in the object of our thinking. Admirable thinking often finds its focus in people and experiences. It’s finding Christlike qualities in others. Paul gives us an example by saying, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.” It’s the opposite of finding fault in something or someone. You know what I’m talking about. You have people in your life who reflect admirable thinking, looking for the good, the positive; and you also have people in your life who are always thinking about the negative.
So, admirable thinking focuses on people and experiences, but praiseworthy thinking finds its ultimate focus in God. Praiseworthy thinking takes every expression of praise toward people, events, accomplishments, or ideas and directs it back to the source—God. Because praiseworthy thoughts are centered on the character, attributes, and actions of God, they cause us to reflect on spiritual truths and what they reveal about our God. Ask yourself, how often do I focus my thoughts on the character and attributes of God? Do I think about how God has transformed my life, using people and experiences?
Praiseworthy thinking impacts how we deal with stress, anxiety, fear and trials. It gives us courage, strength, and hope. It affects how we see others and ultimately how we see ourselves. How I parent my children, how I treat my spouse, how I treat my friends. Praiseworthy thinking transforms the way I think about every area of my life.
There are over 300 references to praise or forms of the word in the Bible. Isaiah 25:1 says, “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” In Psalm 63:3-4 we read, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”
The Bible also speaks of those who don’t praise God. Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Praiseworthy thinking can impact your life in ways you may have never considered. Let me share three.
1. Praiseworthy thinking helps us overcome anxiety, stress, worry and fear.
I want us to think back to our last series, Scars: The Art of Healing and ask, why did Paul write Philippians 4:8 in the first place? What’s the context? In Philippians 4:6-7 he says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It’s true that all of the characteristics of right thinking mentioned in Philippians 4:8 will help us avoid worry, but praising God will also give us our greatest hope for overcoming those thoughts that keep us from fulfilling God’s will and purpose for our lives.
When we praise God for His provision and His blessings in our lives, it helps us think more about the eternal and less about the temporal. Again, let’s look at the context. A few verses later, in Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Do you struggle with finding contentment, peace and joy in your life? Let me ask another question: Do you praise God for all He’s given you in Christ? One question may answer the other. “If anything is praiseworthy, think about such things.” When we focus our thinking on God’s character, His eternal promises, and His constant blessings, we find true contentment.
2.Praiseworthy thinking helps us drive out self-pity.
I have found that discontentment and self-pity are cousins. When I’m praising God it’s hard to pity myself. I find it amazing how the most spiritually mature people praise God in the most challenging circumstances, and the people who have the most, seem to whine the most.
3. Praiseworthy thinking helps us drive out Pride.
It’s hard to praise God and be filled with pride at the same time. Pride and praise are like darkness and light. When light enters the room, darkness flees. Praiseworthy thinking reflects all glory back to where it originated. First Corinthians 4:7 says, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” All that we have and all that we are comes from God.
As we close, let me share one way we can apply this to our everyday lives. We need to fight against thinking that is not praiseworthy. When we start to worry, feel anxious, begin to fear, start to take credit, or start feeling sorry for ourselves—recognize it, confess it, and repent of it. First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confess means to think the same thing about the behavior as God does. Repent means to be sorry for your sin, hate it and stop it.
Paul says, if anything is “praiseworthy,” think about it—dwell on it, meditate on it, reflect on it. When a negative thought enters your mind start listing reasons to praise God. Take that thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”
Pastor Jeff Greer