READ: Philippians 4
BACKGROUND: Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while in prison. The purpose of his letter was to thank the Philippians for their gift, encourage them to stay strong in the face of persecution, and remind them that they can rejoice in all circumstances (4:4.)
THINK: If you didn’t realize the context of this passage before reading it the first time, take a moment to re-read the entire chapter. As you read, picture Paul in a prison cell and imagine his incredible loyalty and trust in the Lord to pen such incredible words of hope in the midst of such dark circumstances.
Focus in on verse eight: “Finally, brothers, 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.”
Paul had a decision to make from inside the cold, dark walls of his cell. He could choose to focus on his circumstance and let it lead to anger/frustration/confusion/disbelief in God or he could choose to discipline his thoughts and think about what is true and praiseworthy. Taking his thoughts captive and making them honoring to God allowed Paul to rejoice even in the darkest of circumstances.
We have a similar decision to make with each thought that enters our minds. I often times find myself dwelling on people or situations that are frustrating to me in an attempt to find a solution to problems that are outside of my control. While these thoughts pass the first test of verse eight – they are true – they fail the next seven. And therefore, they have no right taking up residence in my mind.
This verse provides an incredible filter for us to use to help us “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Ask yourself these questions when a thought enters your mind – Is it true? Is it noble? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it admirable? Is it excellent? Is it praiseworthy? If it fails this list, pray for the strength to quit thinking about it and focus your thoughts elsewhere. Paul’s challenge to train our minds in this way is what will give us the ability to obey the commands he wrote in the previous verses:
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 everything, 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. Philippians 4:4-7
Paul does not ask us to ignore the reality of our circumstances, but he challenges us to focus on the truth of who God is in the midst of them – and that will always leave us rejoicing, free from worry, and overwhelmed with the peace of God.
Written by: Cari Widdel