Chances are, you’ve heard of the scripture above and like me, you’ve tried your hardest to obey it and you might even use it when dealing with anxiety.
But, what if you don’t exactly understand the meaning of this scripture? What if you don’t have a clear understanding of what this verse is saying? Maybe you’re doing what I did and asking yourself, “What is lovely? What is pure? What is noble? How can we dwell on these things if we don’t even know what they are?
I tend to fret about the future, and because of that, I give myself a lot of undue stress. When dealing with my anxiety, I came across this scripture and saw it in a way that I never have before. And it was then that I began to understand the lesson Paul was giving to the Philippians. And with joy, I now get to share my “learnings” with you.
(But keep in mind as you read this post; these tips will only help if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Apart from Him, this post (and the scriptures quoted) would be nothing, nor could it do anything to change out lives and perspective on this topic.)
“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. 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.” (Philippians 4:6-9)
Paul, in a way, is giving us his version of natural anxiety medication. Think of it as a substitute for Xanax, Biblical style.
Let’s start by taking apart Philippians 4:8 and diving into the definitions of the words spoken there:
True: In accordance with fact or reality.
Noble: Righteous, good, honorable.
Right: Morally good, justified, or acceptable.
Pure: Not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material, not tainted.
Lovely: Exquisitely beautiful.
Admirable: Arousing or deserving respect and approval.
Excellent: Extremely good; outstanding.
Praiseworthy: Deserving approval and admiration.
Let’s try this, let’s list a few of the definitions we’ve recorded above and see what we come up with!
“Whatever is…” In accordance with reality, honorable, acceptable, not tainted, exquisitely beautiful, respectful, outstanding, admirable. “…think about such things.”
I love what Spurgeon says about this verse. He says:
“If there is any really good movement in the world, help it, you Christian people. If it is not purely and absolutely religious, yet if it tends to the benefit of your fellow-men, if it promotes honesty, justice, purity, take care that you are on that side, and do all you can to help it forward.”
And Calvin really lays it out in an eye opening way:
“In the first place, Paul commends truth, which is nothing else than the integrity of a good conscience, with the fruits of it.
Secondly, gravity, or sanctity is an excellence which consists in this, that we walk in a manner worthy of our vocation, (Ephesians 4:1), keeping at a distance from all profane filthiness…
…Fourthly, purity, which denotes chastity in every department of life. Paul, however, does not reckon all these things to be sufficient, if we do not at the same time endeavor to make ourselves agreeable to all, in so far as we may lawfully do so in the Lord, and have regard also to our good name. For it is in this way that I understand the words “lovely” and “commendable.”
If any praise, that is, anything praiseworthy, for amidst such a corruption of manners there is so great a perversity in men’s judgments that praise is often bestowed upon what is blameworthy, and it is not allowable for Christians to be desirous even of true praise among men, inasmuch as they are elsewhere forbidden to glory, except in God alone. (1 Corinthians 1:31)
“Think about these things” means to meditate. Now meditation comes first, afterwards follows action.”
Based on the commentaries above, what are some ways that we can obey this scripture? What are a few ways that we can be sure to “think on these things?”
I’m going to use what Calvin said here when listing the things below. He says that meditation comes first and action follows meditation. So a few of these things aren’t going to be primarily ways to “meditate” on these things, but also ways to take action.
1. Stay away from filthiness
That means anything that isn’t pure and acceptable in God’s sight.
2. Put yourself last
One of my favorite acrostics, reminds us that to obtain true JOY, we must put: Jesus first, other’s second, and ourselves last. Different ways we can do this is, giving up an argument and letting the other person win. (even when you know you’re right.) Choosing not to give into the temptation of impatience, bitterness, and self-desire. Sacrificing to yourself daily and lifting up the other person.
One of the most effective ways to keep your mind on heavenly things is to serve others. When we’re serving others with a genuine heart, we find it hard to think about ourselves. If we are thinking about ourselves, we need to examine our hearts and make sure that our motives are pure. What are a few ways that we can serve others? What’s a task that you see your mother do every day? A task that you know, without doubt, needs to be done? For me, that might mean washing the dishes after dinner. For you, that might mean taking out the trash, or walking the dog. Maybe you could make lunch for your family or fold the laundry. How about making your bed without being told? There are countless ways to serve if we get ourselves in the right frame of mind.
4. Count your blessings
This last one is my favorite because when dealing with anxiety, it seems to work the quickest. If you find yourself becoming anxious about something, first take it to the Lord as directed in the verse we read above. Next, list ten things you have to be thankful about. Feeling better already? I know I do! Keep listing things until you can’t list anymore, (I hope we would all be here for a while if we actually did that!) By doing this, we’re taking the focus off ourselves and thinking about; lovely, pure and godly things.
Do you have anything to add to this list? What are some ways that you “think on these things?” Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear them!
May the Lord bless you all and continue to shine through you as you work to serve Him.
Until next week! =)