I am thrilled when God takes a piece of a conversation, a quote from a sermon, a word from Scripture or an experience from the garden and rolls it into a lesson that passes straight to my heart. It happened Sunday morning as Dr. David Hogg from Christ Baptist Church here in Raleigh shared a message from Philippians 4:8-9. Here’s the passage if you need a reminder.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 NASB
We are being bombarded with an unending flood of bad news from both mainstream media and our social media feeds. Most of us have that friend (or maybe two) who loves to share drama much like Chicken Little of fairy tale fame with one “the sky is falling” repost after another. My feed is full of rottenness posted from right-wingers, corresponding and equally corrosive posts from left-wingers, and all of it is top-coated with hate and disdain for anyone who dares to post a contradictory opinion. What has happened to us, people?
In recent days I have found myself overwhelmed, even depressed, at the events transpiring over the last months, and these unending injections of gloom do not help. What helps is time alone with God, an investment in His Word, and regular conversations with Him through prayer. Refocusing upward takes faith—faith that there is no one and no problem bigger than God, faith that He has not changed His mind about me or deserted me.
Dr. Hogg challenged us Sunday morning that we can’t expect a positive outcome if the inputs to our hearts and minds do not align with Philippians 4:8. He bravely suggested that we “stop listening to the news in whatever form you get it. Or at least get only the highlights and then walk away.” And he added that we should not dwell on anxiety, negativity and fear.
Satan loves a pandemic because he gets an upper hand in chipping away at the confidence we should have in our Father. My faith which should carry me through the tough times is easily eroded when Philippians 4:8 is set aside, and I open the firewall of my mind to anyone and anything.
These considerations took me back to a vivid garden image, something I had just witnessed. One of my prized hostas struggled at the end of last season under the brutally hot streak of sweltering days we experienced. Though some green remained the plant languished and never reached its peak. A few days ago I carried its container to the potting bench. I planned to uproot the hosta, improve its soil, and reinsert it for the 2020 growing season. What I found was a root bound plant. The plant had expanded until no room remained to support additional roots. Little soil remained in the container.
A root bound plant might survive a season or two but will exhibit a loss of growth. The likely outcome, though, is that the plant will die altogether. The solution is drastic – either a serious pruning of the roots or a minor pruning of the roots followed by relocation to a larger pot.
The spiritual lesson hit me hard Sunday morning. With all the sources flooding my mind with anxiety, body counts, projected statistics on the spread of a terrible sickness, shortages of basic items and fear my container had filled up. Growth stopped. Fruit cannot happen. Under current conditions my faith will languish and may dry up altogether. I need to transport my thoughts to a bigger place and ingest a new set of inputs (See Romans 12:2). May I say it again? No one is bigger than God. No problem is bigger than God. I must upscale my thinking to consider who He is and what He is about.
David, the psalmist, faced mountains of adversity and asked for help with his thought life. He understood that a root bound mind would not deliver righteous solutions.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalms 19:14 NASB
Philippians 4:8 spells out God’s expectations for our thoughts if we want to live a life marked by praise and spiritual growth.
Any chance you too have become mentally root bound with all this negativity? There is a better way. Let’s agree together to scale back the negative inputs and filter our outward responses. God has placed so much around us for which we can be thankful and praise Him.
The next move is ours.