Put up a Stop Sign!

Written on 08/29/2023
Christian Dunn

Verse: Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭8‬-‭9‬ ‭NIV

“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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” 

Personal inner dialogue …

  • “Wait! Is this a good thought?”
  • “No, it’s not!”
  • “What should I do? I can’t stop thinking about it!”

Often, I find my mind wandering into thoughts that are not good, in one way or another. Typically, I start to worry about circumstances in my life and/or focus on my sins and failures. More often these days, I get absorbed in the craziness and terrible news of the world in which we live.

Does the same thing ever happen to you?

Thankfully, we have the reminder that Paul gave the Philippians in these verses to “put into practice.”

Remember - putting something into practice doesn’t mean that you have perfected it. Practicing means that you are doing something (over and over) that you are learning or improving. Don’t get down on yourself when you need to practice changing your thoughts from things that aren’t good to things that are excellent and praiseworthy. We all need to practice. Maybe that’s why Paul gave the Philippians a good reminder at the beginning of his letter to them, when he said: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Along my own journey in following Jesus, I’ve thankfully been taught a few great techniques that help when my thoughts are not heading in the right direction.

1) Talk to God and Ask for Help
“Lord, please help me!” A few words like these, when spoken in prayer to God, always help. When I do this, it helps me to remember that God has the authority and is ultimately in charge. But, he always gives us the choice of whether we want to do something on our own, or if we want to ask for help. When I remember to do this, asking for help allows me to turn over the control of my life to him. I’m always so relieved to find that our Heavenly Father cares about us as his children (1 John 3:1) and has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11). That’s a great thing, because he is the one with the power that is needed in each situation. He will work out our circumstances or give us the peace and perseverance to keep going through the challenges.

“Lord, please help us to change our thinking!”

2) Hold Up the Stop Sign
My wife taught me this concept. When a my mind is heading in the wrong direction, I can hold up my “stop sign” and tell myself/my mind to “stop!” After all, God gave us the ability to choose. But, it’s not always that easy - in fact, it can be extremely difficult - especially when dwelling on something that is overwhelming, working through a sin area, or when areas of my mental or physical health make it a challenge to keep my mind focused.

But, that doesn’t mean I/we shouldn’t try. In fact, we should always invite the Holy Spirit, who lives in our hearts (see Romans 8:11), to help us hold up that stop sign.

Paul reminded Timothy of this when he wrote: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1‬:‭7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Think of it this way - it’s our choice if we want to put up the stop sign, but He has the power to hold it up (in the blazing sun and oppressive heat) and keep it held up (all day, if needed).

3) Do Something Different
I’ve found success when I decide to take an action, even if it seems small, to do something different. Here are a few of those different actions I’ve found helpful: 1) pray - talk to God about what I am dwelling on and ask for his help with it 2) sing (or listen to) a song of praise to God, 3) read the Bible (reading out loud is powerful) and look for places where God’s character is specifically mentioned, 4) physically move to a new location (a different room or going outside), and 5) reaching out to someone to talk or to ask for prayer about my thoughts.

These are just a few tools that often help me, and certainly there are different practices that others utilize - a few that come to mind are creating something, exercising, fasting, and giving thanks.

On that last note. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been asked to share this devotion. God always uses the verses that I am assigned to show me something that is personally applicable to my own life. Hopefully, God uses this devotion to also be helpful for you too as you read this. Just as Paul wrote - “… the God of peace will be with you.”