Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the LORD in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia, and I plead with Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the LORD. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. 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. 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.
We love Philippians 4. We love Paul’s abounding affection for these people, referring to them as “my joy and my crown.” We love words such as “rejoice”, “gentleness”, “thanksgiving”, “peace” and “transcend” – a life lived “in Christ” can be full of these. We love the reminder that prayer and gratitude can be an antidote to anxiousness. (And we kind of ignore the part in verse 2 about the rift between Euodia and Syntyche because it’s sandwiched between some truly lovely thoughts.)
But after all the rejoicing, the praying, and the thanking, Paul uses the term FINALLY to zero in on the Holy Spirit’s power to work in our minds. Be willing to fill your minds with good things, he says. Focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.
In a world that feels chaotic, our default is to focus on all the things that we would like to control – to change – to improve – to eliminate. We spend a lot of mental energy plotting and planning, which is great when it leads us to decisive action. But how often, as we focus on the chaos, does it feel like there is nothing we can do to make things better – or that what little we could do would be marginally effective, like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. This realization shifts us from planning to worrying, intensified by a sense of how precious little control we actually do have over so many aspects of our lives.
But we are able to exert some control over our own minds, and God is our partner in that. For some, that means meditation and emptying their minds (for the moment) to give their brains a break. For others, that means prayer. Still others proactively work to replace (if only for a while) negative thoughts with positive ones. These are techniques for facing the world with a grounded stance, feet spread apart, arms raised up with fists clenched and defiantly shouting “NEVERTHELESS, you will not defeat me!”
Take some time today to follow Paul’s instructions. You might find that time during the day, or before you go to sleep, or when you awaken in the middle of the night. Ask the Holy Spirit to help your brain back away from the things of the world that bombard it and to fill it with thoughts that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Let us pray...
Gracious Lord, I need your help! I am more willing to focus on the negative than on what is pure and admirable. Give me the desire to fill my brain with the lovely thoughts that you are so ready to supply. Amen.