What are you mindful of? I ask myself that question often especially when I struggle with circumstances or relationships. Controlling our thinking and being mindful of the things of God can seem like the most difficult thing to do in life, yet it is the very thing we must do and it is easier than one might think. God has given us a powerful overcoming strategy in order to be mindful of the things which will lead us in peace, keeping us fixed and focused on heaven rather than earth.
Most of us “think” we trust and believe God in all things but the more circumstances in life line up in opposition to us, the more out of control our thinking can become. The sure test to see how out of control it is and discover what we really believe is to listen to what we say. The Word of God reminds us we speak from the overflow of what is in our hearts. Luke 6:45 puts it this way. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” The heart includes our minds and is the seat of our spiritual life, the source of our thoughts, affections, emotions, passions, desires, purposes, and endeavors. The truth is that whatever is in our heart and mind will come out our mouths.
So what are you “really” mindful of? What is at the seat of your spiritual existence? What are your affections, purposes, desires, and passions focused on? When something happens contrary to what you think should happen are you hurt, sad, disappointed? Do you question your relationship with Jesus at those times? It is in periods of greatest opposition when our true motives, thoughts, passions and desires are exposed; when the truth of what we are mindful of is revealed!
When I discover my mind is everywhere else except on the things of God even though I love and believe God for all things, I feel like He emblazons “You are not mindful of the things of God!” in my spirit. Jesus said this to Peter in Matthew 16:23 “Jesus turned to Peter and said, ‘Get behind Me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not MINDFUL of the things of God, but the things of men.” Pause for a moment and imagine this scene…. Jesus says this AFTER Peter has boldly proclaimed he knows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. AFTER Jesus commends and tells him flesh and blood did not reveal this to him but His Father in heaven. AFTER Jesus tells Peter He would build His Church on this rock. AFTER Jesus declares the gates of Hades would not prevail against Peter. AFTER Jesus proclaims He would give Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. AFTER Jesus states that Peter could bind things on earth and loose things of heaven.
You would certainly think Peter was doing pretty well on the faith scale after all those exhortations from Jesus, right? But then Jesus begins to reveal to His disciples how He will suffer, be killed, and raised again. This is when Peter forgets to be mindful of what he has been taught. Peter lets his fleshly mind take over when Jesus says things that do not make sense. He relies on his own logic rather than allowing Heavenly Father to reveal truth to him. Peter takes Jesus aside rebuking Him saying “No, this is not going to happen to You Jesus.”
Peter was an offense to Jesus because in his sin and error he attempted to draw Jesus into sin by denying His Father’s will, just as Satan had done. Peter was more interested in his own desire than in promoting God’s will. Does this ever happen to you? It definitely happens to me! Knowing and confessing there are times we desire and are interested in pleasing ourselves more than God, knowing we are mindful of our own interests more than God interests, and knowing we can believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God and still offend Jesus should make us snap to attention! Just like Peter, we can know the Truth and still fall short. We can go to church, pray, worship and be in love with Jesus and still find ourselves mindful of the things of men especially when circumstances do not line up the way we expect.
Once we are honest with ourselves that we are in unbelief, we can repent and determine to be mindful of the things of God. But then the question arises “What are the things of God and how do we remain mindful of them?” Philippians 4:8 answers this question. “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy, MEDITATE on these things.”
It is easy to see the beauty and holiness in this verse knowing it to be truth but then not apply it to our lives. Perhaps on occasion we “remember” to meditate on these things but it is certainly not a constant. And perhaps if we glean truths from the previous verses in Philippians 4 and apply those to our lives we will have the necessary foundation on which to build our meditation of these “whatever things”. In other words, if we do the following things first, then being mindful of the things of God will come naturally.
Philippians 4:1 “…stand fast in the Lord, beloved.” This simply but profoundly means to persevere in fellowship with the Lord. We must not be deceived; when all hell comes against us it is not easy to stand fast in the Lord. It is easy to get angry with God while questioning and doubting His existence and love, perhaps even toying with the idea of walking away from our relationship with Him. If you have not been at this place yet, you will be. It happens to all who believe God for the impossible and seemingly do not get what they believe for. But we are to stand fast to the only One who can be trusted at all times!
Philippians 4:2-3 “… be of the same mind in the Lord. …help these women who labored with me in the gospel…” Paul specifically names two women in these verses suggesting they may have been at odds with one another and he is reminding them they can disagree on non-essentials in the faith but it should not disrupt their oneness in the Lord. Then he purposely exhorts the church to help the women who labored with him just as we are to help our leaders who are appointed to labor. Being of the same mind and helping leaders to further the gospel brings unity to our lives and Churches faster than anything else. Contrary to the early Church, today if we are at odds with one another or do not “get” what we want from the leaders, we “court” other ministries and churches until we find the one that “feels” right instead of choosing to be of the same mind and helping those who are laboring right where we are at. Unfortunately, this becomes a way of life for some, and they eventually become restless at every ministry, never learning to be steadfast and consistently mindful of the things of God. This trend in the Church also hinders leaders who are forced to choose between fulfilling their call to preach the whole counsel of God and equip the saints OR please the people, give them the attention and recognition they desire, and compete for popularity with other churches, ministries, and pastors in order to keep people interested and loyal. Let us begin to take Paul’s advice; let us share the same mind and labor together!
Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice!” We are to be glad in the Lord, to rejoice repeatedly and renew our gladness in Him at all times. How much easier it is to rejoice in the Lord when we are with believers who encourage one another and help the leaders rather than a body where people are antagonistic and always looking for greener grass on the other side of the fence. Let us rejoice IN THE LORD, not in ourselves, our gifts, abilities, or churches!
Philippians 4:5 “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” Gentleness is often misinterpreted in this context but it means “moderation” or “fairness”. It is speaking of what seems reasonable and equitable. We are to be moderate in our judgment of others, careful that we do not lend ourselves to extremes when it is just a matter of opinion. The reason for this is simple; the Lord is at hand and will judge fairly, taking vengeance on enemies while rewarding patience and gentleness. A little fear of the Lord would go a long way in our actions to all men.
Philippians 4: 6-7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” This non-anxious state of mind is absolute, unconditional, and non-provisional yet how many times in a single day do we rationalize and give ourselves permission to be anxious? Some versions read “Be careful for nothing.” Literally, God is telling us to avoid anxious care and distracting thoughts regarding the desires, wants, and difficulties of life. There is a wonderful cliché “I do not have a care in the world.” These are great words if we really mean them. We should not care for anything that causes us to mistrust God. Distrust is sin – plain and simple. It means we have doubts about God and that makes us unfit to serve Him.
The great news is there is a remedy for anxiety and distrust; constant prayer! This always makes for a good debate amongst Christians because we have come up with our own rendition of what God really means when he says, “in everything by prayer” or “pray constantly”. The debates are pointless and should cease because “everything” means “every” “thing”, not just some things. When anything burdens our spirits we can ease our minds through prayer; when anything in life perplexes or distresses us we must pray and seek direction and support. We are told to join our requests with thanksgiving, seeking good and receiving mercy from God. Our demonstration of gratefulness gives us the right disposition and purifies our motives for further requests. Is it easy to stop worrying and pray? Not at first. But the grace of God will cover you when you choose obedience over all else. It is a simple thing God has given us to do in order to overcome. Make our requests known to God with thanksgiving and anxiety will have no place in our lives! Hallelujah!
As Paul encourages the Church in these verses we can see the actual progression leading up to our ability to meditate and be mindful of the things of God. First, remain steadfast in the Lord not in ourselves. Second, be of the same mind in the Lord with fellow Christians. Third, help and encourage those who are laboring, our leaders. Fourth, rejoice in the Lord at all times, renewing our gladness in Him again and again. Fifth, exhibit gentleness in life to all people. Sixth, be anxious for nothing. Seventh, in everything by prayer and supplication make our requests known to God. And lastly do it all with thanksgiving.
After all of this Paul says “FINALLY brethren!” He is speaking to the Church so we the Church better listen up! FINALLY! As a result of applying these eight truths in Christ Paul tells us to meditate or think on some things – on some “whatever’s”! We must ponder these things with the expectation of receiving them, not just letting them pass through our minds as impossibilities.
† We are to meditate on whatever things are in regard to truth and being noble (honesty) in our words and actions. When we ponder all that is decent and moral we will speak true and honest things and walk properly, upright, and nobly.
† We are to meditate on whatever things are agreeable to the rules of justice and righteousness; those things that are pure. When we do this, our dealings with men, our relationships, business and social interactions will be conducted free from impurity and untainted from sin.
† We are to meditate on whatever things are lovely and of good report. This refers to amiable things causing us to be dearly loved. Living a pure life, meditating on lovely and good things will make us friendly, sociable, and good-natured, causing people to think well of us. However, let us not confuse this with being people pleasers. We meditate on what pleases God not man. Some people will speak well of us as a result but it will also bring the rancor of others.
† We are to meditate on virtuous and praiseworthy things which include ANYTHING worthy of commendation. When we meditate in such a manner, we are quicker to give praise and acknowledge virtuous behavior in others.
Finally beloved, the purpose for meditating on these things is to get an abundance of God thoughts into our hearts and minds, into the very depth of our beings. THEN, out of the overflow we will speak the things of God not the things of ourselves and others. When we follow our Lord’s directives given in Philippians 4:1-8 we will receive what is freely given in verse 9. “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” We will discover when all hell comes against us we can still live within the safe confines of the God of peace because He will be with us.
Father God, we thank You for Your faithfulness and willingness to teach us all Your ways. We thank You that we have the privilege of fellowshipping with You, being of the same mind with our brothers and sisters, and helping those you have appointed to lead us. We rejoice in You and thank You for being so near and at hand. Help us to be gentle and moderate with all people. Thank You Lord for the absolute conviction to be anxious for nothing. Thank You that as we remain steadfast in You we get to bring every request before Your throne, and though You know our needs, You listen and love to talk with us. We are thankful to have a God like You! We thank You for all things that pertain to life; all things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, and praiseworthy. We recommit to You today to meditate on these things, choosing to be mindful of Your things! We thank You for Peter who demonstrates to us that even when we believe we fall short. But through Your great love, You bring truth and conviction which leads us to confession and repentance. Thank You Jesus for Your great sacrifice on the cross so we can receive forgiveness for our sin of distrust, and start new today! Thank You for Your great grace, that is anything but cheap! We honor, praise, and glorify You today! In Jesus Name we pray! Amen!