Philippians 4:1-8 has been a passage of scripture I’ve clung to for as many years as I can remember. The reason is simple. I can’t stay focused. Not in an ADHD sort of way, but in a way where I let life overwhelm me and dictate my focus instead of keeping my thoughts and heart turned toward the One who can give me what I truly need no matter the circumstance. Recently, because life is good at giving us challenging situations, I turned to these verses again. There are instructions in these verses that are almost like a blueprint for how to find God’s sweet spot of Shalom.
Stand firm in the Lord (vs. 1)
Standing firm could also be translated as persevere. In the Greek, the word literally means ‘to be stationary, unmoving.’ We are to persist, unwavering, in godliness.
Be in harmony (with others) in the Lord (vs. 2)
It’s almost a sense of sharing one mind, rather than creating discord. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything everyone else thinks, but rather, intentionally choosing to live at peace with others, remembering that we are part of one Body.
Rejoice in the Lord always (vs. 4)
Be cheerful! Reflect happiness! The hard part comes with the “always.” At all times. Every time. The Apostle Paul repeats this instruction, which tells us it is vital! We need to remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength, no matter what we’re facing, and know that we can reflect that joy with God’s help.
This is the third instruction given that is coupled with “in the Lord.” Our own strength isn’t enough. To stand firm, to be in harmony with others, to rejoice in whatever circumstances surround us, we must take up a fixed position with our God.
Let your gentleness be known to all people (vs. 5)
Gentleness can also imply patience, mildness, and fairness. This is so difficult when we’re stressed, annoyed, frustrated, and tired of dealing with difficulty, but it is so important. Be gentle with others, be gentle with yourself, just as God is being gentle with you.
Do not be anxious about anything (vs. 6)
Another way to say this is to “take thought of nothing.” Do not let things trouble your mind. Empty your mind of your own troubling thoughts and let God replace them! The next verses even tell us what God would have us think about instead of the broken record of our own defeating thoughts.
Finally, dwell on these things AND put them into practice (vs. 8):
- Whatever is true (accurate, exact)
- Whatever is honorable (worthy of respect, with high morals)
- Whatever is just (based on what is morally right and fair)
- Whatever is pure (unadulterated, free of contamination)
- Whatever is lovely (having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye)
- Whatever is commendable (deserving of praise)
These verses are packed with guidance! What does Paul tell us in verse seven will be the result of our decision to put these things into practice? “The peace of God, which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Messiah Yeshua our Lord!” That word “guard,” or “keep,” is worth looking at. At its simplest, it means that He will protect. The Greek word used indicates protection by a mounted military guard posted to keep watch. How amazing that God would do that for us! We are not alone! All it takes from us is a little re-focusing.