When it comes to experiencing the peace of God, most believers stick to what is instructed in Philippians 4:6-7. Therein, prayer and thanksgiving are emphasised and we discussed these in part one and part two of this series.
Yet, if we want to experience the peace of God in all its fullness, there is more that we must do. These additional steps can be found in the next two verses of Philippians 4: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9). Do you see how these two verses likewise conclude with the promise of peace? “The God of peace will be with you,” Paul declared. Clearly, we must take note of what Paul instructed us to do in verses 8 and 9 and not solely in verses 6 and 7, if we want to be wholly at peace. What- is instructed? Let us start with verse 8 in which we find the third step in our peace-unwrapping process.
STEP 3: THINK GODLY THOUGHTS
Paul commands his readers to set their minds on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, reputable, virtuous and praiseworthy. This goes beyond bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Why? The act of bringing every thought into captivity means that when we think in a way that displeases the Lord, we send that thought packing. What Paul commands in Philippians 4:8 demands far more than this. He is urging his readers to intentionally, actively and constantly fill their minds with godly, faith-filled thoughts. In principle, if believers are so busy dwelling on God and what is good, their minds will never wonder into the woeful woods of worry!
It is interesting what words Paul chose to describe what should occupy our ponderings. The first adjective he used is “true” or aléthés in the original Greek. Even if he had only said, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true—meditate on these things” it would have been sufficient. Aléthés speaks about that which cannot be hidden, that which will ultimately be shown as fact, that which will be uncovered after something has been fully tested. Does this not suggest the promises of God? Perhaps one is experiencing financial lack. The truth is that God is Provider and this unshakeable fact will ultimately manifest. Perhaps one is sick. The truth is that God is Healer and this unshakeable fact will ultimately manifest. We are to set our minds on the promises of God and not the lies of the devil. If we are able to do this, how can worry ever find a foothold in our hearts and minds? Meditating on the truth – namely, the promises of God – is key to combatting worry. But, what else should occupy our thoughts? Paul speaks about things that are noble, just, pure, lovely, reputable, virtuous and praiseworthy. Let us consider each of these adjectives one by one.
NOBLE (Greek: semnos) – that which is weighty and majestic, that which is grave and dignified, that which is to be deeply respected and revered.
JUST (Greek: dikaios) – that which is right in the eyes of God, that which is in conformity to God’s standards, that which is righteous and by default, innocent.
PURE (Greek: hagnos) – that which is completely free from defilement, that which is pure inside and out, that which is not mixed with guilt or anything condemnable.
LOVELY (Greek: prosphilés) – that which is worth the effort of having, that which is worthy of affection, that which is dearly prized.
REPUTABLE (Greek: euphémos) – that which is laudable and admirable, that which is spoken in a kindly spirit, that which desires the good of others.
VIRTUOUS (Greek: areté) – that which is morally good and excellent.
PRAISEWORTHY (Greek: epainos) – that which is worthy of praise, that which is commendable.
Now, dear friend, ask yourself: what occupies your thoughts? Aside from your work and studies, your mind is occupied by your dreams and desires, your feelings towards others, the conversations you have, the ideas you generate, the television shows and movies you watch, the websites you visit, the podcasts, audio books and music to which you listen, the articles and books you read. These things – and others – all occupy real estate in your brain. Now, are these occupiers noble, just, pure, lovely, reputable, virtuous and praiseworthy? Yes? No? Some of them? All of them? None of them? We must ask ourselves this question, answering honestly and striving – with the help of the Lord and a little old-fashioned self-discipline – to do better. The point of Paul is this: If you are filling your mind with the lies of the devil, the filth of this world, gossip, self-centredness and covetousness, how can you expect to be at peace? His point is a valid one.
And so, let us apply STEP 3 in earnest. Let us actively and intentionally meditate on the promises of God and fill our mental real estate with what is pleasing to Him. This is a necessary and effective step in our war against worry.