Monday, July 22, 2013

Set Your Mind on the Right Things

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.. - Philippians 4:4-8
So often the challenges we face are made more difficult by the fact that we haven't set our minds on dwelling on the right things. We allow ourselves to become overcome with anxiety and worry rather than focusing our attention on the things we need to be thinking about. This is what Paul refers to as being "transformed by the renewing of your mind" in Romans 12:2. As we look at his exhortation to the congregation at Philippi a little closer we see three key lessons that Paul is trying to teach us.

First, our lives should be characterized by rejoicing in all things and in all circumstances. Paul commands us to rejoice in the Lord always (verse 4). It's so important that he repeats the command. Our default position should be one of worship in everything we do. The natural consequence is that gentleness will be evident to all as noted in verse 5.

Second, Paul commands us to not be anxious about anything (verses 6-7). However, it's not a command to simply not worry. Like so many of his teachings, Paul is coupling giving up one thing (being anxious) with doing something else (prayer). It also comes with a promise that by following through on this instruction you will be blessed with the peace of God (verse 7) that will guard your heart and your mind in Jesus.

Just imagine for a moment how the Philippians probably reacted to reading that instruction. I can imagine more than one of them saying something like "What does Paul know about not being anxious? Doesn't he know what stresses I am facing? Doesn't he know what difficult situations I have to deal with?" No doubt there were a few of his readers that were probably put off by Paul's exhortation to not be anxious. That's my first reaction, too. But then Paul knew exactly what he was talking about. He had faced his own share of trials (see Acts 27:13-44, for example). He had faced numerous perilous situations throughout the course of his ministry. So he had experienced firsthand the peace of God as he had practically applied the advice he was now giving to the Philippians.

Finally, Paul concludes by encouraging the Philippians to set their minds on the right things (verse 8). It's our human nature to dwell on negative things rather than on the ways that we are blessed. Applying Philippians 4:8 requires a radical change in outlook and conditioning ourselves to respond in a Christlike manner to things that happen to us rather than out of our sinful nature. In other words, we need to not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of knowing Jesus. Don't focus on what you don't have or what you need. Focus instead on the blessings that God has given you.

By setting our mind on the right things, we can dramatically alter our outlook on life and increase our ability to be a blessing to others. By setting our hearts and minds on worship, we can become a shining light for Christ in a world lost in the darkness of sin.

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