“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB)
Anyone who has been in church for any length of time will have been exposed to this passage; it is quite familiar to most believers. Yet there are some things that jump out at me as I read them now.
We are commanded to rejoice. This is a command which can be obeyed or refused; a choice must be made. To be obedient, I must choose to rejoice. I have been blessed with a relatively comfortable life and compared to many I have little to complain about, yet sometimes I allow those little things to inhibit my ability to rejoice.
The next verse gives the reason why I should rejoice, even when things are not going the way I would like. Paul reminds me that the Lord is near. On the basis of his nearness, I can learn to not be anxious by bringing my concerns to God in prayer. I am to bring those concerns with thanksgiving, sometimes easier said than done.
The result of this will be that the peace of God will protect my heart (emotions) and mind (thoughts). I have the responsibility to bring the things that are bothering me to God and he will exchange the anxiety for peace. This is very cool, but how does it come about?
It comes about through discipline. I must train my mind to focus on what is true, honorable, right (or just), pure, lovely and of good reputation. It is on these things that I am to ponder and focus my attention.
I am generally an upbeat and optimistic person, so much of the time it is not hard for me to do this. But there are times when it is difficult. Paul doesn’t tell us only to do this when it’s easy. He doesn’t indicate that this should be the case most of the time. He indicates that we are to focus on these things all of the time.
War, economic problems, crime, governmental policy, family issues and dealing with people and their issues can easily distract me from thinking on the things Paul lists in Philippians. Along the same lines, the author of Hebrews commands us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and not be pulled down by the bad news around me. We have a choice as to where we focus our attention and we need to choose well.
In summary, here are the bullet points from these verses with alliteration to help me remember them:
- Rejoice– rejoice always
- Remember– remember the Lord is near so don’t be anxious
- Request– Bring your concerns to God in prayer
- Rest– Let God’s peace protect my thoughts and emotions
- Reflect – Focus on the good things
This takes a discipline that I have yet to master. Yet by following these steps, I hope to look back on 2012 as a year of great progress in trusting God.
What is your verse or verses for the year?