In the book of Philippians, Paul is writing to people in a church in Philippi. The Philippians are struggling, and Paul himself is in prison.
And yet, in the midst of a serious and dark time, there is a great sense of hopefulness and joyfulness in Paul's message.
Here's a passage from his letters, found in Philippians 4:4–9:
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.
Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.
Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing.
Then the God of peace will be with you."
In this passage, Paul offers some practical pieces of wisdom to help us live life — with all of its stressors and negative pressures coming at us — in ways that are hopeful and helpful.
His advice applies to our lives together as a community and also to us as individuals.
First, Paul says to be intentional about rejoicing.
Paul understands that joy doesn’t happen just when things go perfectly.
In fact, in this set of verses, he’s linking joy and worry, and reminding us that they’re all happening in our lives at the same time.
And so he invites us to recognize that God is present in all the situations of our life.
Good and bad, we must be intentional about seeing God’s presence and being grateful for it.
The second piece acknowledges that we may have one attitude about God, but another about life.
And Paul offers this bit of advice: Let prayer outshine worry.
Paul doesn’t say that worry doesn’t exist in the world. Instead, he challenges us to make prayer our antidote to worry.
In the midst of prayer, we can find a sense of peace and hope.
Paul’s third piece of advice is to consider your mindset.
What are you concentrating on? What becomes your guiding principle for facing the world?
In a devotional about mindset, author Max Lucado says this: “Change the thoughts, and you change the person. If today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions, what happens when we fill our minds with thoughts of God’s love? Will standing beneath the downpour of his grace change the way we feel about others?”
Whatever’s happening in your life, I invite you to remember Paul’s advice:
- Be intentional about seeing and rejoicing in God’s presence.
- Pray in the midst of worry.
- Consider what you’re pouring into your life and how that is affecting what you pour out of your life.
Loving and gracious God, we rejoice that we have you and your love, regardless of what’s happening in our lives, and that you offer us a hope we can cling to, as Paul has suggested.
For all the ways that you reach out and touch our lives, we offer our praise to you. We thank you for this day, Lord.