Looking for Goodness

polFinally, 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. Phillipians 4:8

One of my favorite songs by the 80’s band “The Police” is ‘King of Pain’ because its so melodic and catchy.  In the song, the author has eyes to see the pain around him in the world:

There’s a little black spot on the sun today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top
There’s a flag-pole rag and the wind won’t stop

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

There’s a king on a throne with his eyes torn out
There’s a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt
There’s a rich man sleeping on a golden bed
There’s a skeleton choking on a crust of bread

Whatever the specific meaning of these lyrics (there is some debate) one thing is clear: this person sees pain and ironic suffering and badness in the world. 

And while I think this song is magnificent, and melodic, its a no-go as far as a philosophy of how to live ones life.  We feel like this sometimes– like all is bad and dark around us, like everything is getting worse, like we’ve reached a tipping point and the sky is falling.  But at that point when we are in the valley of the shadow of death, we are encouraged in Scripture to ‘fear no evil’. 

Actually, the Bible doesn’t encourage us to stay positive– it commands us to stay positive.  

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. Phillipians 4:8

From beginning to end, the letter from Paul to the Phillipians is just one long encouragement letter– asking them to keep the faith, to keep their spirits up, and continue to act in hope.  He asks them to love each other, stay unified, and not let the troubles of this world get them down. 

Its good advice, I think, to actively apply this verse to our own lives.  There is so much that is not true, not noble, not right, not pure, not lovely, and not admirable to think about and focus on.  The cynic may say that such advice is advice for ostriches who prefer to keep their heads in the sand– but that is not true. 

Every day true things happen which are better not to focus on and discuss at length.  For example: bowel movements and zit popping.  Others:  moments of anger, unguarded lustful thoughts.  Still more: false political string-emails that get forwarded on, dirty jokes and porn, the discouraging perspective on any topic at all.  None of these things are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, or admirable.

Each of us is just one person.  But if you’ve ever been in a discussion where everyone is piling on with discouraging assessments, and one person speaks a positive good word of encouragement and hope, you know what a difference something like that can make.  If you’ve ever been in a situation where the conversation is going a direction it shouldn’t, and someone steps in and says a good word to stop it and turn things around– you know how much difference one person’s positive obedience to this command from Phillipians can make. 

For some reason, it sometimes feels good to speak a discouraging word.  And sometimes a group of discouragies get together and seem to like to wallow in despair.  To them the one focusing on the good, noble, and lovely may seem hopelessly naive– or perhaps naively hopeful.  Either way, Christians are called to be this– and to act accordingly. 

God, it seems to me, is hopelessly hopeful.  Even in the face of these great and discouraging odds that humans may somehow not make a mess of their lives, God sent his Son to give transformative hope to all people.  With very bad odds, God makes a bet on us.  He acts with faith and hope on an unfaithful hopeless cause– us. 

Christians are to live a life saved from ourselves– from our despairing hopeless habitual stupidity and sin.  And we are to live these lives not for our own stupid selves, but for the sake of others– because of Jesus.  That is what we are about.  So to muddle around wallowing in the hopeless, the ugly, the painful, the tragic and the false and impure is not only stupid- it is wrong of us. 

And its a pretty nice command to follow, when it comes down to it.  God is asking us to have eyes to see the good in the world– to have gracious eyes that can see past the ills to the pure, good, noble, lovely things.  What a beautiful command to be told to follow!  We are to be people who encourage others, who help others to see the goodness of God in the world, in the midst of the confusion.   Its up to us to decide to follow this way of grace.

We have a choice.  Get with it. 

May God have mercy on us all.



3 responses to “Looking for Goodness

  1. Stuart Skrien

    Very wise and thoughtful words Andy!

  2. simplefreechurch

    Thanks Stuart! I think you are a good model for us on this point!

  3. ~~~ LORD loves you ~~~ JESUS saved and healed me from drugs ~~~ May the LORD bless you and keep you ~ May the LORD smile down on you and show you his kindness ~ May the LORD answer your prayers and give you peace ~~~ Glory to LORD JESUS ~~~

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