Posted by Pastor Mark Erickson
Yesterday, we looked at Philippians 4:4-9 and reflected on how giving thanks is a critical practice in learning to experience the peace of God. Today, let’s return to the same passage and reflect on another behavior Paul outlines that will lead to peace and joy. Yesterday our word was “thank” – today we’re changing a vowel and our word is “think.” Read again this passage from Philippians 4:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
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.
In addition to offering prayers with thanksgiving, Paul tells us to think about the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. At first glance, this sounds a lot like Fraulein Maria telling the Von Trapp children to sing about their favorite things whenever they are afraid. Yet I think Paul is encouraging something far greater than contemplating raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
When Paul speaks of things that are true, lovely, pure, etc, he is not just referring to things that make us smile, but to the true things about God that have been revealed to us in Scripture. He reminds us that “the Lord is near.” When we are overwhelmed by the state of the world, there is nothing greater to spend time thinking about than doctrine and theology – primarily the incredible news that God has rescued us in Jesus.
We probably all have things we do to de-stress and decrease anxiety: walking, exercise, crafting, interpretive dancing (I’m looking at you, Mike San Martino), etc. Those are all great things and I hope that you have hobbies and activities you enjoy, but Paul is talking about something more than just decreasing stress. He is talking about us contemplating Christ himself – the ultimate good in the universe. Only God Himself can be described as true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
You see, Christian peace is not about the absence of trouble. Christian peace is about the presence and nearness of God, who is greater than even the most overwhelming of circumstances. It’s not that we expel negative thoughts, it’s that we welcome in even greater thoughts – thoughts about who God is and what He has done for us.
In 1873, an American lawyer name Horatio Spafford wrote a song shortly after tragically losing his wife and daughters in a shipwreck. In my opinion, the 2nd verse is the pinnacle of this powerful song we still sing today:
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part, but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
Though he was overwhelmed by the loss of his family members, reflecting on the gospel enabled Horatio to say, “It is well with my soul” and “Praise the Lord, O my soul.” In the same way, we can face any circumstance and be able to say, “rejoice in the Lord always.” We say this not because we are free from troubles, but because we have been rescued by the One who has already overcome the greatest trouble of all.
Peace is not the absence of fear, it is the presence of something greater than those fears. Because of Jesus, we can know peace as we cling to Him and reflect on who He is.
Discussion/Application: What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself every day? How would you articulate the good news of Jesus in a way that helps you reflect on it and think of it often?
Bullet Prayer: God, when I am overwhelmed by the world around me, please help me to always remember how awesome, loving, beautiful, and glorious you are. Thank you for demonstrating your love for me through Jesus.