Devotional # 138. 5/26/15. Philippians 4:7-8.
Intro. Having just talked about “rejoicing in the Lord always” and not having anxiety but instead praying and “supplicating” ourselves, Paul then tells us that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (v. 7). After this Paul gives us some examples of what to think about. Let’s see what we can learn! HaHa
v. 7. If you think about it the anxiety Paul was talking about is actually us saying “I don’t trust you God” and “I would rather worry about what I can’t change then obey You.” So if anxiety is not trusting in God then what happens if we do obey and pray and thank Him? We are promised “the peace of God.” And unless we’ve experienced God’s peace it is impossible to explain. Who, other than the Creator, could even claim to give real peace? It is God who somehow maintains grace and justice at the same time and wrath and peace at the same time. Only our eternal God knows what it is like to have what we would consider conflicting attributes going on at all times inside of His Persons and yet be at perfect peace.
And He offers this peace to us. In fact I love the word used. Did you catch it? It is THE peace that passes understanding. It’s not just “a” peace, it’s “the” peace. The one true peace. And that “peace” isn’t understandable to our human minds. I was explaining this to my kids, holding my hand in front of me I said “this is the maximum of our comprehension.” And with the other hand I went up to it and then right over it and passed it and said, “this is God’s peace.” Can you picture it? God’s peace flowing right over our limited mind and submerging us in harmony and contentment. Of course we can’t understand it. If we could understand it then we greedy humans would bottle it and sell it, but instead it is supernatural and beyond our intellect.
This is such an encouraging thought to know that our anxiety, when properly given to God, can be overcome by THE one true peace which we can’t understand. But I love that although our minds can’t comprehend it, our minds are covered and taken care of! The one true peace of God is promised not just to calm us down and allow us to rely on God but also “guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is like having Jesus stand watch, guarding and protecting our “hearts” and “minds” as only He can do.
v. 8. The six uses of the word “whatever” and terms like “anything” and “things” is genius for Paul to use because Paul isn’t just speaking to the people in Philippi but to every Christian who reads this letter for thousands of years. That way it doesn’t just make sense to one people group for one generation but is understandable no matter who you are.
I think it’s important before we dive in to each of these “things” that we understand what we’re supposed to do with them, in this context. Paul finishes this list with “meditate on these.” So although we definitely should be “truthful” or “just”, here we’re being told to “meditate” on godly things that are “true” and “just”, etc. But what does it mean to “meditate” here? In the Greek “meditate” is logizomai (G#3049) meaning “reckon” or “count” and “refers more to fact than supposition or opinion” (Source 1). So it makes sense that we are to take account in our heart of these godly things according to “fact.” Is it important that your bank account is correct according to fact? Think about the headache and time you spend when you are 9 cents off in your account, or if your bank incorrectly deducts money, I guarantee you would call 100 automated call centers just to make it right. But we’re supposed to care about these things even more than our bank account! Getting things to balance in our spiritual life takes time and dedication too. We are to “meditate” and “think” (KJV) on godly things.
First Paul says “whatever things are true“, so what things are true? Do you remember when Jesus was on trial and told Pilate “everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” What did Pilate respond? He said, “what is truth?” Having dealt with philosophy and questionable moral absolutes, Pilate kind of scoffs at Jesus. He basically asks, ‘truth? Can anyone really know what is true?’ The answer is “yes!” We’ve talked about Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 where He says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” So Jesus Himself was truth. In this context, if we speak about Jesus, we are to “meditate on Him.” The Bible is also truth (John 17:17) so when we speak from or about the Bible then we are to “mediate on it.” The more that we have a relationship with Jesus, talking with Him, being talked to by Him, loving the things He loves; and the more we read the word of God and live by it, then the more we will love “truth.” In Greek the word “true” is alethes (G#227) meaning “true” or “loving the truth, speaking the truth, truthful” (Source 2). So do we love truth and do we speak truth? Or are sarcastic? Are we angry? Are we ashamed? All of these (sarcasm, anger and shame) are not truth. And it’s not just us speaking truth but it’s loving it when others speak truth.
Next Paul says, “Whatever is noble“. In the King James Version it says “honest.” But in Greek the word means “honorable” (Source 3). I like that. I think “honorable” is a good way to put what Paul is getting at. Another way to translate the Greek is “venerated for character” (Source 2) and although this is a little more difficult to understand I still think it’s good to try. I think we could put it like this: “having a respected or established reputation.” So again these are things, not people, that have a respected reputation. Because people whether they are pastors, priests or parents they will let you down. But “things” that are established make me think of doctrines and truths from the Bible. Maybe it is one of God’s promises, like “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). Or the doctrine of the Trinity. For us to meditate on established and respected things is commanded here.
Then Paul says, “Whatever is just“. So whatever is godly justice should be meditated on. This might be justice that we see from the Bible like when Lazarus goes to Abraham’s bosom but the rich man is in hell (Luke 16:19-31). What does meditating on a story like that give us? A few ideas that pop into my head are: 1. recognizing that the poor man (Lazarus) had no justice on earth helps us understand that God doesn’t owe us justice in this life, but… 2. He has promised us “justice” in the next. 3. We can’t judge others because we only see bits and pieces of a life, but 4. God sees everything so He is the only one qualified to judge properly. It is extremely important to be comfortable with stories of justice in the Bible. God invites us to wrestle over stories like Lot’s wife being turned into salt or God telling Abraham to kill Isaac, but the more we read them and study them the more we see that God’s justice is perfect. If we’re to really to meditate on “whatever is just” then we need to be able to meditate on pieces of justice from the Bible, like the book of Revelation.
Or maybe you need to meditate on “justice” in your own life…which can be hard. For example when I was in college I had a job as a security guard at a major retail chain. One day a mom brought her 5 year old son up to me and told me that he had stolen a toy car. She asked me to take him into the back, show him all the cameras and my handcuffs and everything and scare him into never stealing again. So I did. The little boy got justice for his action and since my wife had a similar situation when she was four and she hasn’t forgotten it I’m sure the little boy hasn’t either. The point to my story is that we should think on a time or times when we received justice for something we did. Now meditate on that. How did it make you feel? Why? Meditate on the goodness of when things are put right, even when it goes against everything that our flesh wants to do.
Paul moves from justice to “whatever is pure“. I think most people probably have a pretty good idea of what “pure” means. Druggies can talk about the purity of drugs, a writer can say ‘as pure as snow’, racists will talk about pure genetic blood lines and some love the taste of pure water with no pollutants. But what about the spiritually pure? Again, this isn’t just about waiting until you’re married or trying to keep as many laws as you can. It’s meditating on pure, spiritual “things.” Does it surprise you that there are verses about the purity of God and God’s Word? God is pure (Habakkuk 1:13) and Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”
After James explains what false religion looks like he says, “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” This is interesting because we’re given practical advice on what we can do to demonstrate “pure religion” which has an effect of keeping us “unspotted from the world.” I think this is probably the best complete biblical view. Because I’m telling you the context of this verse in Philippians so that you don’t just think you have to try and be pure and miss that you’re actually supposed to meditate on something other than yourself… but you have to balance that with all of the other verses in the Bible (Source 4) that require purity from your life.
“Whatever is lovely” makes me wonder how to define “lovely.” Doesn’t that seem subjective? Like art…just because one person likes the way something looks doesn’t mean someone else will find it beautiful. Let’s look at the original word in the Greek, which is prosphiles (G#4375). It means “acceptable” or “pleasing” (Source 5). So I think it’s safe to say that this is much more than an external beauty but instead what is “acceptable” or “pleasing” to the Lord. So what is pleasing to God? Well, Romans 12:1 says, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” So taking this in context with here in Philippians we should meditate on ‘presenting our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice.’ In Colossians 1:10 we see that we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” There are many verses about pleasing God, see http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Pleasing-God for 66 verses!
Lastly Paul says, “Whatever is of good report“. Who do you think this report comes from? Would it be from someone that is evil? I’m sure the Nazi’s considered many of their reports to be good. Would it be from someone who is a nice person but not a Christian? I’m glad when a news reporter tells us that 7 people have been found alive under a collapsed bridge. I hope that it is pretty obvious that neither of these should be reports that we “meditate” on. But I hope the point is made that we should dwell on good, godly reports. Such things like when Paul says to bring Mark because he is helpful (1 Timothy 4:11) or when someone says they just got back from a mission trip. As our day goes by do we replay the conversation or presentation in our mind? Are we excited about someone’s explanation of how God is moving and do we think on it and pray about it and thank God for it?
After using the six “whatevers” Paul says if you’re able to find “any virtue” and “if there is anything praiseworthy” then meditate on either one or both of those.
Conclusion. At any point did you ask what you might “meditate” on other than godly things? It seems that it’s kind of like losing your car keys. You don’t really think about them until they’re gone and then finding them is all you think about. Even if you’re not able to go look for them you can’t give anything else total focus. So it will take intention and action on our part to meditate on godly things but I bet our lives will be better. We’ll still function at work and at home but there will always be a stream of godly things going on. I think this is a lot like what praying without stopping (1 Thessalonians 5:17) looks like, too.
Source 3: semnos (G#4586), http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4586&t=KJV