Philippians 4:8-9 says this:”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. 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.” It’s interesting that Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Philippi (and of course, all believers) that God’s peace will be with us, after we’ve meditated upon things that are true, noble, right, etc. There may be nothing about the circumstances we’re facing that appears to be overflowing with excellence or praise, but once we choose to think about things that are, then His peace comes upon us. In the preceding verses, Paul tells us that the same result happens when we give God our cares. He states, “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.” (Philippians 4:6-7). In effect, he is stating that God’s peace (that is far above human understanding) is not dependent on circumstances, but is dependent on our choice to seek Him, regardless of our circumstances. His peace won’t just magically fall upon us like confetti at a wedding. It appears after we choose to give Him our fears, and accept His truth and victory. It’s that peace that Daniel discovered when he faced potential death in the fiery furnace, and again when he faced potential death when facing lions. The first recorded martyr Stephen also had such peace when he stood firm in his trial with a face “like that of an angel” (Acts 6:15) and his death by stoning when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and prayed (Acts 7:55-59). Both men experienced circumstances that didn’t seem excellent or praiseworthy, but they looked beyond the harsh truth of their current reality to see God’s greater heavenly reality, and see it they did. Of course, that same reality allowed Christ to be crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.
In the list of things that Paul urges us to think about, the first one is truth, and that’s because truth is the foundation upon which all other virtues stem. If we don’t first know God’s truth, then whatever is noble, right and pure will not be centred in truth. They will be a distortion. If our version of truth is different from what God declares as truth, then what we see as noble, right and pure will also be different from what God declares to be noble, right and pure. We must know His truth first, and what is His truth? Essentially, truth is found in God alone.
In John 7:18 Jesus says,”Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him,” and in verse 28, Christ states, “he who sent me is true.” It’s simple. What is truth? God is truth – His compassion, mercy, justice, power, love, forgiveness, etc. All of God is truth. Discover who He is and we discover what truth is. John 4:23 reminds us that God seeks those who worship Him “in Spirit and in truth,” and in John 14 Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of truth.” The centrality of truth is also emphasised in the armour of God in Ephesians 6. The belt of truth is mentioned as the first piece to put on, and then righteousness, peace, and faith, come later. God is not a god of disorder. Truth comes first for a reason.
In Paul’s encouragement about what we think about, we come to learn that our life begins with our actions, and our actions begin with our thoughts. James 1:15 warns that evil desires give birth to sin. It is a process that begins with what we think about; a lustful glance that lingers too long, continual pondering about some injustice against you, etc. Troublesome, distracting and evil thoughts will come into our mind, but we are not helpless against them. When they occur, give them to God immediately. 2 Corinthians 10:5 urges us to, “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” When we think about what is true, and noble, and right, as God (not ourselves or the world) define them, our life will change. We will make choices in line with those virtues. It’ll be easy for us to forgive, to “abstain from sinful desires,” and to find our joy and fulfillment in Him alone. Think about who God is, and we will begin to be a mighty vessel for His glorious purposes.
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.”
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”