Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, if anything is praiseworthy…think about such things.
In the last few days I have had two communications with people who have chosen not to attend our church. They are new to the community, and they came for a while, but now they have chosen to become a part of a different fellowship. As I talked to them I asked them what influenced their decision, and they told me. The reasons from both couples were the same. After hearing them I was discouraged, and I immediately went into my faulty fleshly response of finding a solution. I needed to fix the problem in an attempt to change their minds. This morning, when I began to study for this devotional, I was deeply convicted because I had not spent any time telling either of those couples how glad I was that God had led them to a place where they could serve Jesus Christ effectively. I was so wrapped up in my “loss” that I forgot to praise God for His gain. My flesh had won the day.
I am frustrated with myself. I am angry that my flesh, primarily manifested in my pride, continues to influence my thinking, especially about people. Maybe you can relate. We get so busy trying to implement our plans, get our work done, achieve our goals, and live our lives, that we alienate other people who don’t enhance what we’re doing. If someone doesn’t agree with us or makes suggestions for change we find fault with them.
We may keep it to ourselves and form a lasting opinion of them, or we may talk about them to others in disrespectful conversation. We believe such people are detrimental to our cause and we may completely push them aside. We take it personally when someone rejects what we are doing and has other ideas.
Our pride has convinced us that our way is the best way, which soon becomes the only way. Our pride then reinforces our position, all the while belittling the other person, and we destroy any opportunity we had to build a meaningful relationship. We very quickly lose any motivation to find good in the other person. Our only motivation is self, and all we really want from life is to achieve our personal agenda and its goals.
The last item that the Apostle Paul mentions in Philippians 4:8 in his list of things that are to transform our thinking and behavior is this – look for what is praiseworthy in another person. I remember what my mom used to tell me when I was young – “If you can’t find anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” That may be good for a young child, but as we mature we had better learn to find nice things to say about others.
The only people we should be talking about are those that we know well enough to know what is praiseworthy about them. If we don’t know them well enough to know their good qualities, what gives us the right to talk about their bad qualities? And even if we do recognize praiseworthy things about them, it does not validate our talking to others about what’s wrong with them. We have been duped by our pride into believing that we are somehow helping them by telling others what’s wrong with them. Gossip and defamation of character is never acceptable to God.
What is acceptable to God is for us to think about what is praiseworthy in other people. We must intentionally look for the good in others.
When the Apostle Paul got saved and moved from persecuting the Christians to promoting Christ, God sent a man named Ananias to him to pray over him and bring healing to his blindness. Ananias immediately makes excuses and began to tell God all about the horrible things he has heard about this man. But the Lord tells Ananias to look at Paul in a new way – from the perspective of his Savior. Ananias obeys. Later, when Paul is heading into Jerusalem to join the disciples, they were all afraid of him. But a man named Barnabas came to Paul’s defense and convinced everyone that he was truly a follower of Jesus.
The natural response of our flesh is to fear people with bad reputations. Pride finds fault with others as a defense mechanism to protect our self-image. But when our thinking is conformed to the nature and character of Christ, we will look for what is praiseworthy in others.
Jesus told Ananias to change his thinking. Barnabas had already learned to think correctly. I am still learning. How about you? Let’s agree that beginning today, we will magnify the good in others and minimize the bad. We will be people who focus on the praiseworthy.