Finally, brothers, 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.
Every day now we are confronted with the latest Covid-19 statistics. So many new cases reported, so many deaths. Each day we wonder what new restrictions will be imposed on us. We wonder if we will find milk, bread, and toilet paper in the grocery store. Each day it wears on us just a little more. It dominates our thinking.
What we choose to think about shapes both our attitude and our peace of mind. When we focus on the negative, it drags us down. But when we focus on the positive, it lifts us up. This is not Pollyanna thinking, where we ignore reality and create a non-existent, rose-colored world. It is taking a closer look at the world we do live in and recognizing that God’s grace still abounds.
The world in which Paul lived was much harder than ours. Many, if not most, of the people who made up the church came from the working classes. They might be a slave or a common laborer. Their daily life was not under their control. In addition, to take a stand as a follower of Jesus could result in open persecution. There was much that could drag a person down.
Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to take their situation to God. 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 everything, 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. (Philippians 4:4-7)
They had much to be anxious about, but Paul told them to not let that dominate their lives. Instead, they were to focus on their new life in Christ and find their peace in Him, as they laid their anxiety in front of the throne of God. Paul promised them that if they would do this, they could transcend their current situation. The next verses became the key to accomplishing what Paul was asking them to do. They needed to change what they were thinking about.
Instead of focusing in the negative, they were to look for all the positives that they had. These were to dominate their thinking. The word for think about in Greek can be translated ruminate. Just as a cow continues to chew its cud over and over again, a believer is to chew on the blessings of God over and over again.
We are all getting a little stir crazy with our forced social distancing. The news the other night asked people what they miss the most, and the majority of people focused on being with friends and enjoying the freedom of movement that they are denied. But we are not as deprived as we think we are.
This morning as I walked into my office, the air was alive with the songs of spring. The birds are actively singing their delight. Although the air was still crisp, I was able to wear a lighter jacket and do without my stocking cap. The snow piles are beginning to disappear and the grass is beginning to emerge. The temperature should rise into the upper 40’s or maybe even 50 by this afternoon. With the warmer weather I have been able to get out for a run, which I haven’t done for months.
Just in the last couple of days, I have noticed more people out walking (at a safe distance from others) or riding their bikes. In my mother-in-law’s neighborhood, at 4 o’clock each afternoon, everyone comes out to the end of their driveway and shouts greetings to one another. Families who have not been able to spend extended time with one another are rediscovering each other. People who have been too busy to take a walk are talking a walk.
Even though we cannot meet corporately for worship on Sunday, we are discovering ways to stay connected. We are calling each other more than we have. We are sending encouraging notes to one another. We are worshiping together via video even as we are separated in our homes. Life has not stopped; it has just changed.
There is no doubt that there is a negative side to this whole ordeal. In addition to the inconvenience, there is an economic strain for many, as well as a genuine health risk. We want to take these things seriously. But we don’t have to dwell on them. There is much to be thankful for. There is good reason to rejoice in the Lord. He has not abandoned us. He is still near.
So, what is dominating your mind today? 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.