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. (NIV)
Thought control sounds sinister. It smacks of brainwashing or mind controlling injections, surrendering our thought processes to some malevolent force. But what of a thought control that involves surrendering our thinking to a benevolent person? This is what Paul is encouraging in this passage. An intentional focus on certain things which implies a determination not to focus on other things.
This can be applied to general life situations. We can choose to concentrate on all the negative things that happen and so bury ourselves in melancholy. Any change that is on the horizon is seen as a threat arousing fear or anxiety. Then again, we can choose to focus on what is good around us and see change as heralding some glad new season in life. Good things and bad things are with us always: we can choose to focus on one or another category. And that choice shapes our life.
Similarly with people. Everyone we know has their share of irritating foibles or even significant character flaws. Yet they also have positive features. They might sometimes upset us, but also sometimes bless us. Where will our focus be? Will we have a generally jaundiced view of people because we mainly see their faults? Or will he have a sense of gratitude for who they are even while recognizing their fallibility?
This focusing on the good is not pious denial, whereby we ignore what is bad or what is threatening. We face all that realistically. Christians are to recognize the darkness, but they are to choose not to live in it. Focusing on the darkness makes everything dark. As has been said, to those who live in sewers everything smells bad.
By all means admit the negative side of circumstances and of people. But take a short look at the problems and a much longer look at the possibilities.