5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
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.
Paul wrote this letter in prison (cf. Philippians 1:13-14). He knew his jailers might execute him or set him free (cf. Philippians 1:20-26). On the day he had a scribe write these words, he awoke in a dank Roman dungeon, never sure about whether and when guards might come to end his life. So his words were much more than just religious “happy talk.” With every reason to be anxious, he instead urged prayer, peace and a focus on the good and beautiful in life.
Lord Jesus, I want to walk every day in your peace, to focus on the excellent and admirable, even beyond the latest scandal or conflict. Keep my heart and mind safe in your hands. Amen.
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, yet I had never before noticed Paul’s command in verse 8 telling us to focus our thoughts on those things that are excellent, admirable, true, holy, just, pure, lovely, & praiseworthy. Let’s consider this amazing charge.
One of the great God-given freedoms humans possess is to think whatever we want. We could be enduring a mind-numbing presentation on a Friday afternoon & simultaneously be happily picturing an upcoming vacation or maybe we are wondering about the KC Royals starting pitching rotation while watching a Hallmark movie where the hard-charging female executive finally finds true love with a bearded lumberjack who majored in 19th century French poetry. This used to be called “day-dreaming,” but we’ve upgraded the lingo to “multi-tasking” to make it seem to have more gravitas.
I choose to use this freedom to cleanse my mind before going to sleep each night by perusing old joke books & comic books. (This explains so much – Editor.) Here’s a few from last night:
Sadly, many of us waste this freedom & voluntarily allow other people or entities to dictate what we are thinking about. The 1st thing we do each morning is to look at our electronic devices to see what’s trending or what is the news of the day & we then let those stories, headlines, or gossip cloud our thoughts throughout the day. Now, it might be necessary to consider traffic patterns for our commute, or, living in Kansas, it could be wise to check the weather to determine our attire for the morning, afternoon, & then evening, or maybe we need to see if we won the lottery–thus allowing us to skip work altogether. Everything else? Meh. It’s quite doubtful that someone from the State Department is going to call & say, “We haven’t been following the situation in Ukraine very closely. Could you bring us up-to-date?”
What if we fasted from our multi-media inputs & took Paul’s charge seriously? Now, I’m not encouraging us to be ignorant or not be engaged in our world (or doing something crazy like fasting from the news for 24-hours). Rather, what if we gave God 1st dibs on our day & deliberately directed our minds to ponder goodly, or even better, Godly thoughts & ideas? Let’s experiment with today’s passage:
We all know the old saying, “Garbage In / Garbage Out.” If we tweaked the adage to “Godly Ideas In / Godly Actions Out,” then we just might find our day’s perspective to be delightfully improved. Like the wife who was asked if she woke up grumpy in the morning. She responded, “Nah, I just let him sleep.”*
*(Exactly how old are these books? – Editor. Well, my “Treasury of Wit & Humor” is from 1946. That’s why my humor is so fresh & topical – DL. Um…– Editor.)