I don’t know about all of you, but it is pretty easy to let your mind wander. It interesting that in Philippians 4, Paul advises some areas that it is wise for us to think about.
Php 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
In greater context, these are the final pieces of advice that Paul is providing to the Philippians, so he wants them to control their thoughts. There are plenty of evil things to think about in the world. Just watch the news. It is easy to dwell on the things that are negative.
Rather, Paul encourages us to focus on those things that are positive. It does not mean that we can never speak out against evil or criticize our culture, but the definition for think on here carries the connotation of numbering. It is like taking inventory of the things that are honest, just and all of the other characteristics.
We can get so wrapped up in all of the negative things around us that we entirely miss out on all the great things that God is doing. God is opposed to evil. There is no doubt about that, but there is a lot more to God than simply being the force for good in the world. He is not simply a supernatural police force who shows up when someone breaks the rules.
Think about the implications that this would have in our everyday lives. Jesus Christ is our hope. It makes sense that our hope was also be the source of everything that is good. After all, there are many true things in the world, and we can thank God for them. There might be many false things out there as well, but we need to make sure that we are fully aware of the great ones as well.
God is good all the time. Let’s try to remember that even though it might be easier to think about all the evil around us.
It is easy to think that we have done all the right things and are going to get into heaven because of how great we are. After all, I think most of us think that we are pretty good people. However, in Philippians 3, Paul points out how that simply doesn’t seem to be the case.
Php 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
Php 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Php 3:7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Paul had a pretty impressive pedigree. However, they were all loss. They ultimately didn’t have any value because of that is not how you earn favor in the eyes of Jesus Christ.
Php 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Our righteousness comes from God alone. I think that’s hard for us to conceptualize because it doesn’t always make sense God would give that to us. We receive righteousness from God by faith. That’s it. In a world where there is always a price, there really isn’t one as far as God is concerned. God gives it to us freely.
Personally, this makes me think about gratefulness. God doesn’t have to help us freely. God could set conditions about certain laws we would not be able to break or something like that, but He didn’t. He chose to help us freely, and that is something we all ought to reflect on.
There’s a lot of times we do things that we really don’t want to do. Whether it is waking up early to go to work or having to go to that strange reunion where you really don’t know anyone but feel obligated to attend. Philippians 2 provides us with some strong words about how we need to act at all times.
Php 2:14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
Php 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;
Php 2:16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
Paul tells us to do all things without murmurings. That even involves the things we really don’t want to do. That’s a tough one.
However, his rationale admittedly makes quite a bit of sense. We’re supposed to stand out in a world that complains all the time. We’re supposed to be representatives of Jesus wherever we go, so while this certainly does not mean that we have to agree with everything, we don’t want to get into an attitude of negativity that brings other people down.
To put it in perspective, let’s think about what we have as children of God. We have peace that passes understanding among many other things. If we have that in our lives, then it only seems to follow that that should come out in our everyday conduct and personality.
I guess that’s a challenge for all of us then. We have good news that is better than anything you’ll see on your preferred news network. We have the gift of God which is better than any gift any of us will ever receive. We have all of this going for us, so I think we need to make sure that we don’t become murmurers and ruin that testimony before others.
Welcome to yet another book! In Philippians 1, I think that Paul gives us some great perspective on related what it means to be with Christ.
Php 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Php 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
Php 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
Php 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Paul had no fear of dying. He did not need to worry about it because he understood that being with Christ was the best possible experience. At the same time, he did not want to leave Earth because he was helping the Philippian church among others.
I think this is a great perspective. On one hand, it is always positive. No matter what happens, there is something good we can be doing. As we live, we live for Jesus. If something happens along the way, we get to be with Him for all eternity. There is really no bad option.
I wonder if this is a message that might resonate particularly strongly with our world today. We have people who are obsessed with youth, and they are afraid of the fact that life might someday come to an end. For Christians, then there is no reason to be afraid of that. Actually, we should look forward to that event. It makes me think of the line at the end of The Last Battle by CS Lewis.
“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Genesis chapter 30 illustrates a rivalry as to who can bear more children. Rachel and Leah keep having children, and they seem to think that having more children have helped them become kind of the “best wife.”
Gen 30:8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.
Gen 30:20 And Leah said, God hath endued me with a good dowry; now will my husband dwell with me, because I have born him six sons: and she called his name Zebulun.
Neither sister is innocent in this situation. They both want to end up with a favorable result, and they feel that the only way they can do that is by defeating the other one.
This is not how we are supposed to treat each other. We are supposed to treat each other with love and to understand that we should not be only worried about ourselves.
Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Php 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
This almost directly addresses what was talked about in Genesis. We shouldn’t do things just to get ahead. We should do things that help other people. We should not only think about our own interests. We should worry about what is best for everyone around us.
That is also somewhat difficult to do in our everyday lives.
For example, how easy is it for us to want to cut someone off in traffic because we need to get somewhere on time?
It seems rather insignificant, but if you think about it, we really should be thinking about everyone. We shouldn’t just think about achieving our own means. We shouldn’t put other people in danger by cutting them off.
I know that this sometimes happens accidentally, and of course this example is probably a little bit oversimplified.
However, at the most basic level, this passage in Genesis is showing two people who want to go the same place, and they are trying to climb over each other to achieve their goal.
As shown through the passage in Philippians, we are not supposed to act this way towards each other. We are supposed to view each other as more important than ourselves. We shouldn’t use other people as a means to an end, and we shouldn’t try to put people down in order to make ourselves look better.
This is a hard mission, but it is one that we need to work towards completing. Think about the impact that it would have on all of our interpersonal relations…