The way we think, day in and day out, gives to us a foundational key to sustaining joyful living on a daily basis. Joy is built upon the foundation of daily thinking in a manner that reflects our Father’s heart. In order to remember what we’ve been given, we need to think in a correct manner. I believe this is what Paul is telling us to do in Philippians 4; we are to think in a way that does not come naturally to us. Remember that Jesus told his disciples that what comes out of our mouth reveals what is in our heart. What Paul is doing is revealing to us a different thought language. It is a language that reveals the heart of God through the Spirit.
While most of us agree that we should think in this manner, I believe that there is subtle opposition to this way of thinking. I saw this when we were living in Rome. One day, I was speaking with our neighbor. I don’t remember the topic of our conversation, but at one point, I commented about how our children enjoyed good health. Quite seriously, she told me not to speak in that manner. She believed talking about the positive aspects of our life brings a curse on us. It struck me how different that type of thinking is. If you live in a culture that discourages speaking about positive aspects of life, then you might be tempted to think negatively so that you don’t somehow curse yourself.
I think we subtly have the same tendency in our culture. Recently, I was speaking with someone at work. I mentioned that we had not had any problem calls that day. He responded, “tongue in cheek,” by saying, “let’s not jinx it.” Let’s knock on wood so that it will continue. Now he was joking, but that line of thinking has a belief foundation from somewhere, otherwise it would not exist in our language. This type of speaking can discourage us from thinking in the manner Paul described, because we might fear “jinxing” the good things in our life. So, we subtly begin to think negatively and hope that positive things will occur. Not much different from how our Italian friend would think. However, Jesus did not teach us to live, speak or think in this manner.