MEDITATION

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Let me say it again: rejoice! Develop a reputation for forbearance and sweet reasonableness, for Jesus is coming soon. Do not worry about anything, but rather in prayer, with gratitude and earnest pleading, tell God all of your needs. By doing so, the peace of God which passes all comprehension will be a garrison to guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Allow me to offer you a last piece of advice, brothers. Whatever things are true, worthy of reverence, right, pure, endearing, gracious, praiseworthy, excellent and honorable – there let your thoughts dwell. Let such things be your treasures. Model your conduct by what I have told you and shown you. Put these things into practice continually and the God of peace will be with you.” (paraphrased)

vv.  4-5
Rejoicing should be an every day activity in the life of each Believer. Paul stresses this by repeating his exhortation to rejoice. Christians know that the joy of the Lord is their strength (Neh. 8:10). Paul here reveals the secret to a happy, peaceful life in Christ. The term “moderation” (KJV) usually refers to activities or habits, but here it is better translated “forbearance” and carries the combined concepts of gentleness, consideration, agreeableness and courtesy. Paul hopes that Euodias and Syntyche will settle their differences. We also must suppress our natural inclinations in order to develop a mild and pleasant disposition. Positive character changes benefit everyone. But Paul gives a higher reason than one’s personal reputation: Jesus is coming again. Paul never loses sight of the eminent return of Christ, for he mentions it in every chapter (1:6; 1:10; 2:16; 3:20; 4:5). In view of this great event, we should seek to have a humble self-estimate and not focus on personal power, pride, prestige and position. Anticipating the Rapture should fill us with joyful anticipation.

v. 6
To “be careful for nothing” means “Stop worrying!” It is Paul’s way of exhorting us to avoid stress. Jesus corrects Martha who is “anxious about many things” (Luke 10:41). In the Sermon on the Mount, He warns us not to be preoccupied about food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:25-34). Peter encourages us to “cast all our care upon Him,” knowing that He will care for all our needs (I Peter 5:7). We should pray, instead of being overly concerned about the things of this life. Nothing is too big or small to take to the Lord in prayer. Paul adds the phrase “and supplication,” which denotes urgent prayer for special needs. We are exhorted to pray and intercede with an attitude of thankfulness and joyous praise.

v. 7
The perfect peace of God results from this new outlook (Isa. 26:3). Jesus promises a deep-seated peace, vastly different than any peace the world offers (John 14:27). Paul reinforces this thought by pointing out such peace is incomprehensible to sinners. This type of peace can only come through accepting His sacrifice on the cross (Col.1:20). Paul tells us that God’s peace will act as a sentinel, serving to garrison our hearts and minds through Jesus. In our world of stress, anxiety and nervous breakdowns, Satan seeks to turn God’s people into neurotics. The Holy Spirit has the ability to keep watch over our hearts so nothing takes control of our mind or emotions. This is a benefit of salvation only Christians can fully appreciate. All security, peace, happiness and joy in this life have their origin in Jesus Christ.


Encouraged by the exhortation to “think on these things,” a great Christian wrote this poem many decades ago:

THE THINGS THAT ARE TRUE

This life is passing and we must be sure
To honor God’s Word and nothing obscure.
I am resolved to do this and follow it through;
Dwelling only on things that are true.

Though many seek riches, the world and its power
And gamble their lives on the thrill of the hour,
I will avoid the greedy and the ungodly crew;
My attention is held by things that are true.

The carnal world, God knows how I hate
Like the strict separation of church and state;
To keep my mind pure, I know what to do:
I’ll focus my thoughts on things that are true.

Temporal toys will attract the proud
Gold and its glitter will thrill any crowd;
But the blessing of God is reserved for the few,
Who live their lives by the things that are true.

Only God and His heaven will eternally last,
All else will vanish like dreams of the past;
So I’ve pondered the matter, and I will pursue
A life with Jesus and things that are true.


vv. 8-9
The attributes Paul refers to are not new to his era. Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and other philosophers also taught people to be virtuous. The Stoics in Paul’s era purported high ideals such as “The Four Cardinal Virtues” of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude. However, these were only abstract ideals, powerless to control one’s thoughts. The primary problem is the incentive to think correctly and act out these virtues in daily life. God plants a deep-rooted desire for happiness and fulfillment in the heart of every person. Christians have a great advantage, for God’s Holy Spirit can help us to discipline our thinking. The topics Paul lists are common to every nation in the world. Universally, human beings desire a life that is peaceful and free from stress. However, few realize such a life must begin with the new birth. Paul teaches eternal principles, instructing the Philippians to meditate on specific virtues.

Paul opens each of his epistles by wishing the recipients the peace of God. He encourages the Colossians to allow the peace of God to rule in their hearts (3:15). How is this possible? Does the peace of God transform our thought lives or do our thought lives produce the peace of God? It seems clear from verse eight that the latter is true. Paul lays out the secret to a happy Christian life in one verse by listing characteristics that can help control our thinking. The Greek wording is very strong here and indicates we are not merely to ponder certain things, but pro-actively concentrate on these attributes.

Our thoughts are important, for our actions stem from them. We must think something before we do it. If our thoughts are godly, our actions will be pleasing to Him. Good mental-health breeds good spiritual health. We are commanded not merely to “think,” but specifically what to think about. The things we are encouraged to meditate upon can be personalized to suit individual needs.

These terms are so rich in meaning and implication, each should be examined separately:

Whatsoever things are true
This refers to truth in the broadest possible sense. Truth heads the list, for Jesus is truth (John 14:6 & Eph. 4:21). In contrast, Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). “True things” also refers to the wonderfully simple things in life. Paul does not promote blind optimism, for one can have a positive attitude and be positively wrong spiritually.

Whatsoever things are honest
The word “honest” points to that which is honorable, dignified and worthy of reverence. This is a virtue that stands in opposition to those who have little regard for anyone but themselves. We are to lead a life of integrity, for we represent the King of Kings. As “living epistles” we are “known and read by all men” (II Cor. 3:2).

Whatsoever things are just

The word “just” is dikios and refers to God’s judicial system. It includes the willingness to see things from His perspective rather than our own. We are to be just in our dealings with God and man, knowing He has literally etched His standards in stone (Exodus 20). 

Whatsoever things are pure
This term means “unstained” and refers to purity of heart and motives. Sin and impure living stain the world we live in. The sanctification process is in view here, for God knows impure thoughts result in impure deeds. We are reminded here of Jesus’ beatitude: “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

Whatsoever things are lovely
This does not refer to things that simply appear beautiful, but to that which calls forth love. It bespeaks a beauty of character that is selfless, pleasing, attractive and worthy of being loved. We validate we are thinking on things that are lovely when we respond in love to the needs of others.

Whatsoever things are of good report
This can also be translated “whatever things ring true,” warning us to avoid things that are morally out of tune with God’s Word. Our spiritual nature must be in harmony with His so others can see Jesus in us. Another translation renders this “of good reputation.” We are responsible to discover the good in others and be fair in our dealings with them. 

In verse eight, Paul breaks this list into two parts. The first group of terms is introduced by the word “whatsoever” and the second group by the word if. This term bespeaks a fulfilled condition and is better translated “because these things are praiseworthy and virtuous, meditate on them perpetually.”

If there be any virtue

Though the concept of “virtue” is distorted by the philosophers of his era, Paul puts the term in the right context. Properly understood, the word refers to moral and mental excellence and includes the concept of spiritual bravery. It promotes the idea of being heroic for God, facing persecution and hardship for Jesus’ sake.

If there be any praise
Paul refers to the praise resulting from this list of virtues. We should encourage those who live dynamic testimonies for God.

Think on these things
The Lord does not want our thoughts to run wild, so He lists primary concepts that should occupy our thoughts. By such mental discipline, we will think less about negative things that tend to drag us down spiritually. We are to reflect deeply on positive spiritual things, allowing them to shape our world view and subsequent conduct. If we ignore the virtues in this short list, Satan has a long list of ungodly thoughts to occupy our minds.

The Lord never promotes meditation merely for the sake of meditation. We are not to just think on these things, but act on them as well. God promotes deliberate reflection on things that can shape our behavior. The Stoics in the first century also had lists of things men should ponder, but only the Holy Spirit can help to discipline our minds to think about the things of God.

v. 9
There are no short cuts to spiritual growth and maturity. We are exhorted to practice His ideals continually and make a habit of thinking and acting as God directs us. As a result and reward, “the peace of God will be with you.” Thinking on these particular things continually will affect positive changes in our lives.
Paul calls us to imitate his thoughts and actions, to re-train our minds to accentuate the positive aspects of our Christian walk (3:17). He is not ashamed to challenge the Philippians to follow him as he follows Jesus. He sets forth a concise list of positive, intellect-conditioning topics. This passage should challenge us to saturate our minds with constructive thoughts about God, others and ourselves, “bringing every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5).

 

MEDITATION - STUDY QUESTIONS

MULTIPLE CHOICE

1. What are we encouraged to do with an attitude of gratitude?  (4:6)
A. sing
B. fellowship
C. pray
D. witness
E. all of the above

2. According to John 14:27 and Philippians 4:7, what does God desire to give us?
A. riches
B. peace
C. security
D. integrity
E. all of the above

3. Which of the following is not one of the virtues Paul lists in 4:8?
A. truth
B. notoriety
C. honesty
D. justice
E. purity


MEDITATION - REFLECTION

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES

1. In 4:4, Paul exhorts us to rejoice. What is your primary source of marital joy? Each spouse should make a list of things that make you happy…then exchange lists.

 

 

2. What things cause you to be impatient and unreasonable (v. 5)? Discuss way in which you and your mate can practice sweet reasonableness and patience.

 

3. We are encouraged not to be overly concerned with the things of this life. Read 4:6. Make a list of things that worry you and cause you stress. Discuss these things with your sweetheart.

 

4. Paul indicates that letting our thoughts dwell on positive things can alleviate worry. List thoughts that bring you joy.

 


5. Look up the words “pessimist” and “optimist” in a dictionary. Discuss with your spouse ways in which you can become more optimistic.

 


MEDITATION - REFLECTION


ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS:

1. In 4:4, Paul exhorts us to rejoice. What is your primary source of joy? Make a list of things that make you happy. Beside each item, tell why.

 

 

2.What things cause you to be impatient and unreasonable (v. 5)? Write a paragraph concerning ways in which you can practice sweet reasonableness and patience with others.

 

 


3. We are encouraged not to be overly concerned with the things of this life. Read 4:6. Make a list of things that worry you the most.

 


4. Paul indicates that letting our thoughts dwell on positive things can alleviate worry.  List thoughts that bring you joy.

 

 

5. Look up the words “pessimist” and “optimist” in a dictionary.
Write a paragraph concerning how you can become more optimistic.

 


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