They didn't know anything about my new school, and yet they were finding fault with it.  It was in a more prosperous district, and they assumed I would be swimming in a huge budget.  It was also a much larger school with more teachers, and they assumed I would get lost in the demands of teachers with more seniority.  I started to feel as though they were trying to sabotage my excitement about my new school. 

Not everyone was a naysayer, but enough were that it started to bother me.  On my last day no one huddled around me to say goodbye and good luck.  But one friend walked me out to my car with my last box in her arms.  "It's going to be great," she reminded me.

We can choose to listen to the naysayers, or we can focus instead on the good.  God directs us to focus on the things above.  The world is full of bad reports, so we must consciously focus our prayers on the good and perfect gifts from above instead.

So often we focus on the things that discourage us.  Instead we must set our minds on the things above (Col. 3:2), not on the things of the earth.  In other words, we must deliberately train our minds to contemplate heavenly things, not earthly ones.  This earth and all that is in it is passing away.  It is not our reality.  It is merely a shadow of what is real – God's will as it is done in heaven.

What specifically should we focus on then?  Philippians 4:8 tells us:

  • "whatever is true" – The Word of God is truth.  Time spent studying and memorizing Scripture will help you to focus on the things that are true.  Spend a few minutes in God's Word each morning at your desk before your students arrive.  It will help set the tone for the rest of the day.
  • "whatever is honorable" – Our feelings can betray us.  The heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9), so it is difficult sometimes to trust our own honesty.  Always compare what you say and what you think with what God expects.
  • "whatever is just" – God is the only just judge.  His statutes and judgments fit the behavior of every person without regard for their status in the community.  As a teacher, I wanted to be known as a loving, strict, but fair teacher.  We are tempted every day to be otherwise.  Follow God's precepts and you will be a just teacher.
  • "whatever is pure" – In the world's eyes you may be considered pure.  But it's not the world's opinion that matters.  We cannot purify ourselves; only God has the power to do that.  Ask him to cleanse you completely.  Just because everyone else in the teachers' lounge speaks ill of the new principal doesn't make it right.  Things are not gray – they are black and white.  Pray that God helps you to see the lines clearly and then focus on those things that are pure.
  • "whatever is lovely" – The world is full of unpleasantness.  Our news reports it every day.  But we do not have to concentrate on it.  We can instead concentrate on those things that are lovely, pleasant, and pleasing.  I admit that it is a challenge at the end of a difficult school day, but we can make a deliberate effort to pay attention to those things that are lovely.  They will then cause us to pray in thanksgiving to God, the Creator of such things.
  • "whatever is commendable" – In this age of accountability and the grading of schools, we hear a lot about schools that are failing or being closed.  Wouldn't you prefer to hear more about those that are succeeding?  Wouldn't you prefer to hear about quality teachers?  Find a way within your sphere to focus on those people and those things that are of good report.  Is someone doing something wonderful in your school?  Toot her horn!  Raise a banner!  Strike up the band!  Call attention to the good instead of perpetuating the bad reports of others.

OFFERING ENCOURAGEMENT