There are certain things in life that are far-reaching in their influence. The habit of cheerfulness, for instance, is said to be worth many thousands of dollars a year to a man. The habit of being always an encourager, and never a discourager, gives incalculable value to one’s personality and influence. A discourager makes life harder for every other life he touches; but an encourager is a constant inspiration to others, and makes life easier for everyone.
There is another habit of life, which – if it were to become universal – would change many things. This is the habit of always seeing the good in people, conditions, circumstances, and experiences. The Apostle Paul suggests it when he says, in a remarkable passage, “If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” The emphasis seems to be on the word any. “If there be any virtue” in another, even if it is not much; if a life which seems almost entirely bad contains even the smallest thing that is good – then we are to find it, and to think upon that mere speck of beauty, rather than on the many things that are evil and unbeautiful. If a person has the smallest quality or does the smallest act that is worthy of praise, of which we can speak with even the faintest approval and commendation – then we should give thought to it, and voice our appreciation for it, rather than think and speak of the many things in the person that are not good or praiseworthy. “Think on these things.”
It is easy to think of reasons why this is the Christian way. It is Christ’s way with us. If there is even the faintest spark of virtue or hope in a life, Christ sees it. He is looking for good and hopeful things. Some people see only the faults and flaws in the lives of others; they are looking for these things – blemishes, defects, and imperfections. They are never trying to find anything beautiful, and they find what they seek. Our Master, however, is looking for things that are right – good beginnings of better things. Someone once asked the curator of an academy of fine arts about the pictures of a certain artist. “What do you consider the defects in his work?” they inquired. The answer was this: “We do not look for defects here, but for excellences.” This is what our Master does in our lives; He does not look for the imperfections (of which there are always many), but for things that are worthy of praise. If there is any virtue, He finds it, takes notice of it, nourishes it, and draws it out. If Christ looked upon us as we too often look upon others – seeing the flaws, the shortcomings, the inconsistencies, and the failures – and judged us by the same standard that we too often have, then not many of us would ever grow into beauty. But where there is even a spark of good, He finds it and cultivates it into its best possibilities!
We shall never become of much use in the world until we learn this lesson of always finding and encouraging the best. We shall never lift up anyone to a higher and better life until we have found something in him to approve and commend. There are some men and women who wish to help others, and to be of use to them; but they work after a wrong method. They think they must eliminate the faults and defects which they find, and so they watch for things that they cannot approve. They have keen eyes for specks – none are too small for them to see – but they never see the beautiful things in another person. The Master refers to such persons in His teaching about “motes and beams.” He wishes us to look for the good in others, and not the evil.
There is no life that is so devoid of beauty and good that it has in it nothing that is worthy of commendation. One man found – even in the mud of London’s streets – the elements out of which precious opals, sapphires, and diamonds are formed. Even in the moral refuse of this world, the love of Christ finds possibilities of loveliness in character and heavenliness in life.
We are continually meeting people who are discouraged, who have fallen under the shadow of misfortune, who have perhaps even done wrong and are suffering in reputation, or who have been unjustly treated and are enduring the sting. These are the persons to whom our love should go out in words of hope and cheer, instead of blame!
If the friends of Christ would cease their fault-finding and become true friends of human beings – finding the smallest beginnings of virtue, and encouraging them to grow – the earth would soon be changed into a fruitful garden!
“If there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” How many of “these things” can you find to think about someone else today – especially a person in your own family? How can you encourage their “small beginnings” of virtue to grow and increase?
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God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
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This post is another installment of Miller’s Monday Musings, a weekly series that is published every Monday on our website. The series features selected writings that have been adapted from the works of James Russell Miller (1840-1912), a much-beloved Christian author and pastor who is well-remembered for his practical thoughts on Christian home and family life. Learn more about this weekly series by clicking here.