8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
If we read this passage abstractly, it can sound syrupy and naive. It’s important to remember that the apostle Paul wrote these words, not sitting peacefully in some meadow or in a Sunday School room, but in a chilly, damp Roman prison cell (see Philippians 1:12-14). God’s people have proved Paul’s challenging words true over and over through the centuries. What we train ourselves to focus on can make all the difference in our relationship to God and to other people.
Lord Jesus, sometimes I think looking at ugly, hateful or suggestive things proves I’m “smart” and “sophisticated.” Give me a clearer sense of how those things affect me, and help me cultivate a taste for the lovely, true and pure in life. Amen.
Watch your family’s favorite television show or movie together. Before it starts, encourage everyone to pay close attention to the difference in the attitudes and behaviors of the characters. After the show, discuss who displayed qualities of Christ such as kindness, wisdom, generosity and love. Ask if any of the characters would be role models and why or why not. Talk about how what and who we watch can influence our own way of living. Next, write down Christ-like qualities your family wants to focus on using individual slips of paper. Place them all in a cup or jar and draw one out each week. Encourage one another to watch for people who exhibit that quality and as a family, seek to live that way every day. Share stories each evening and ask God to help you.
* I-Jin Loh and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1977, p. 134.
“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.” (Philippians 4:8-9)
This passage in Philippians may seem like Paul’s making a nice suggestion.
Paul is writing this from a prison cell. He’s suffered much persecution and suffering, and now he’s admonishing the believers to forgive each other to work together in unity.
Paul has learned the secret of how to have joy in the midst of intense trial and pressure.
There is so much to be concerned or anxious about and sometimes we get stuck in the negativity of our thinking.
In Romans 12:2 Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
How do we do that? How do we break the cycle of cynicism and worry?
Paul lays out a recipe for us to follow in Philippians 4:5-7. “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.”
When Paul says to rejoice in the Lord, he’s talking about worship. When we worship, we are proclaiming that God is good, that nothing is impossible to the Lord, and that He is present with us. We bring our prayers and concerns to God and give them to Him, and we do this with thanksgiving.
We practice being grateful daily for all the good things, and when we are grateful we experience peace, regardless of the situation.
My life is not perfect. Paul’s wasn’t and I’m guessing yours isn’t either.
We don’t always get it right, but by practicing a rhythm of worship, prayer and gratitude, we can discover God’s peace through it all.
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