StreetWise - August 2013
by Paul Hazelden

"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." (Philippians 4:8)

Paul knew what he was talking about.

I am constantly astonished by the quality and quantity of deep psychological insight you can find in the Bible.

If you take this passage out of context, you could think that Paul is telling us to close our minds to ugly and nasty things, to pretend that they don't exist. He could be encouraging a Disney "Wish Upon A Star" view of the world. But he is not.

In this letter, Paul squarely faces unpleasant facts: he is in chains, and some people preach Christ out of envy. He recognises these are the facts. But he also recognises that they are not the important facts.

Paul is not telling us to think nice thoughts so that things will not feel so bad. Actually, this "Raindrops on Roses" advice does work, but it is shallow. It makes you feel better in the short run, but it does not produce lasting change. Paul's message is far harder to hear, and far more life-transforming.

There are no quick fixes here, but there are some important truths.

In part, Paul is saying: what you look at is what you see. We believe our eyes, so what we see shapes the world we live in. And we can change what we see by deciding what we will look at. In the long run, we decide what sort of world we want to live in.

Paul is also saying: what you look at most is what you see most of. It is important to see Jesus in the Bible when we read it each morning. Spending five minutes with Jesus is good. But spending the rest of the day with Him as well is so much better, and it makes the day completely different.

And Paul is telling us: keep your focus on your mission and calling. Our job is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. Our mission is to bring the Good News to everyone. Our calling is to see the Kingdom of God made a reality here and now. These are good, true, admirable things to focus our minds on.

Yes, there are problems, lies, failures and sins. We need to face these things, but if we allow ourselves to focus on them, we miss the point. If we focus our attention on what is wrong, instead of what is right, we may do lots of good work, but we will never build the Kingdom.

If we focus on solving the the problems, we will never run out of problems to solve, and life will become one long problem. If we follow Paul's command and focus on creating and building something worthwhile, we will get the critical problems fixed along the way. And the life we build? It may not be perfect, but I believe it will be far better than we could possibly imagine.

Every blessing,


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Copyright © August 2013 Paul Hazelden was last updated 25 July 2013
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