It All Begins With A Thought

A Bible Study in Philippians 4:4-9

I’m going to wrap up a four-part walk-through in Philippians in this final study and we’ll look together at replacing ANXIETY with PEACE.

We are an anxious nation.

Alarmingly, I found out that 1 in 6 Americans takes a psychiatric drug [Scientific American magazine article].  Anxiety meds are second only to depression meds.  That said, I do believe meds that are used carefully are a gift of God.

But what if we turn too quickly to the pill bottle and too slowly to the Lord?

Mark Twain joked, “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.”

In this presented scripture for this study, I want to point out some suggestions that the apostle Paul gives us to advance through our ANXIETIES.  And if you are thinking, “I’m not anxious about anything,” perhaps a bible study on self-denial might be appropriate later.

FIRST, we need to have right thinking.

Paul says in VERSE 4 to REJOICE.  And to make sure we don’t miss it, he says it twice:  “Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!”  (AMP)

Philippians is all about JOY; Paul uses the word some 16 times!

When he says here to rejoice “always,” he suggests JOY is more than an emotion, since you can’t command an emotion.  You can’t force someone to be happy; they either are or they aren’t.  But Paul tells us to rejoice always.

JOY, then, must be a decision, a choice.

I once heard someone say, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy comes from Jesus.”

Actually, JOY is an act of faith.  It supposes that regardless of how things look at the time, God is still on the throne; God loves me, God is for me, even though my circumstances seem bleak, God will see me through.

That’s why James could write, “Reckon it nothing but JOY, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials”  (James 1:2 ~ Weymouth New Testament).

James knew that God can use our TRIALS for good and to build our CHARACTER.

And that’s why Daniel’s three friends could defy King Nebuchadnezzar with confident JOY: (See Dan. 3:17-18)  

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.”

RIGHT THINKING begins with choosing JOY!

The church at Philippi knew Paul lived this out.  When he visited their city, he had cast out a demon and inadvertently thwarted a money-making scheme, disgruntled businessmen falsely charged, beaten and thrown into prison, along with his buddy Silas.  You can read the whole story in Acts 16.

Sitting in their jail cell that night, they could have had a grand pity party.  Instead. they chose a worship service!

  • Wounded and behind bars, they sang hymns!
  • And God sent an earthquake unlocking every cell door without hurting anyone.

That same night the jailer and his family were all SAVED and the next day Paul and Silas were released.

All because they CHOSE JOY…despite of their circumstance.  They CHOSE to think right!

I don’t know about you, but when listening to the teaching from “experts” or pastors/teachers. scholars. I like to hear their examples to help enlighten the message.  I believe Paul felt the same way.

He gives us examples of what to think about in VERSE 8:

Paul says to turn our mind toward the POSITIVE, to FOCUS on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy.

WE ARE WHAT WE THINK!

While every SIN begins with a thought, so does every act of obedience!

Various people have been attributed to writing this poem:

Sow a thought, reap a word.

Sow a word, reap an action.

Sow an action, reap a habit.

Sow a habit, reap a character.

And sow a character, reap a destiny.

It all begins with a thought.

What if, when you wake up in the morning, instead of turning on the news, you read a short devotion out of “Our Daily Bread”?  I have it sent to me every morning to my Email address to read.  When you do this first thing in your day, you’re training your mind to think more positively.

Secondly, we need to PRAY right!

Verses 6 and 7 in the New Living Translation (NLT) sums this up with,

[6] Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done!

[7] 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.

We are all good at worrying, but sometimes we feel ill-prepared to PRAY.

Yet, if you know how to WORRY, you should know how to pray!

  • Worrying is talking to yourself about things outside of your control.
  • Praying is talking to God about the things outside of your control.

When the ANXIETY level starts rising in your daily activities, talk to God about it.  Paul gives some hints as to how to pray right.

The word “pray” here, denotes a worshipful approach.

You come to God humbly, submitting your will to His.  You shouldn’t approach God like some heavenly slot machine hoping to hit the jackpot. You approach God with awe and respect by asking Him for what you need–and that’s called petition or supplication: the process of shifting your burden from you to God!

IT’S OKAY TO ASK.

Do you notice that in our asking, Paul says to do so “with thanksgiving”?  There’s nothing worse than a spoiled child who always says, “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

We need to be grateful for what we already have, and we also need to be grateful for, however, God may choose to respond.

GRATEFULNESS in advance is another sign of FAITH.

We can be grateful because God cares for us.  Whether God says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait,” God is still a good God–all the time!

God wants us to PRAY with THANKSGIVING, regardless of the circumstances.

When you find yourself growing anxious, give it to God, and don’t take it back!  Follow the advice of 1 Peter 5:7.

Trust that God cares for you and is at work in your situation.  And begin to act on FAITH that God will direct your steps moving forward.

Someone once said, “If your knees are buckling, kneel on them.”

Instead of worrying, why not try praying.

The “START” Bible says, “If you have a BIG God, then you have a relatively small problem.  But if you have a BIG problem, then maybe you have a small god.”  (see footnote [i].)

The giant Goliath looked at the shepherd boy David and saw a small problem.  But David looked at Goliath and saw a large God along with a target too big to miss!

Look what God promises when we give our ANXIETY over to Him:  Verse 7 says “And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Have you ever taken your family to an unfamiliar beach or a community swimming pool and see the signs posted, “Life Guard On Duty?  And when you see the posted signs, how much confidence and security that comes to mind when entering the water.

A God who is on GUARD DUTY over your hearts and minds.

God’s Word found in your bibles says God never slumbers or sleeps (Psalm 121:4).  He’s always on guard duty, 24/7.  God will bring HIS PEACE to our entire being: body, soul, and spirit in a way beyond our understanding.

THINK RIGHT, PRAY RIGHT, and lastly,

LIVE RIGHT!

This is like the Nike principle: “JUST DO IT!”  Put your THOUGHTS and PRAYERS into ACTION.

Verse 5 gives us a description of how we should live as Christian believers–with “gentleness” (NIV), or “unselfishness” in the Amplified Bible.  The idea is to LIVE with graciousness out of a humble spirit.  You don’t always have to get your way!  That means you become willing to yield your rights to another.  And that’s especially good marital advice!!

That’s a hard principle to act on for some of us.  Why would anyone want to yield their rights to another?  The rest of verse 5 tells us why:

The LORD is near.

The Christian believer has the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, within them always.  Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us.

You are never alone, the Lord is near!!

But there is also an end-times application here:  Jesus is coming soon!  His return draws nearer every day.  So, LIVE the way He wants you to live now.

In Verse 9, Paul urges the Church to follow his example, not only what he says, but what he does.  Now there’s something that most of us wouldn’t advertise in our Christian community.  “Follow my example”.  

I learned early on that my kids would follow my ACTIONS a lot faster than they would my words as they grew older.  Despite what I said, it was what I did that counted.  WORDS are cheap.  ACTION matters!

So, put it into practice!  PRAY RIGHT.  And LIVE RIGHT.

And Paul promises us, “With the peace of God to guard us and the God of peace to guide us–Why worry?”

____________________________________________________________________

FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i] :  NKJV, Start: The Bible for New Believers, Thomas Nelson, 1227

Video:  YouTube – Mix Give Thanks, Don Moen

Images:  Google Image Search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); Exceptions noted in the text.

 

 

 

The Christian Life as “Power Walkers” and So Much More!

POWER WALKERS

The Using of “Mixed Metaphors”–

The picture above is a group of people getting ready to walk for a cause: Breast Cancer Walk.  This is of importance to me in particular since my wife went through surgery and radiation treatment for breast cancer over two years ago.  We both were forced to ‘walk through it.’

A mixed metaphor, in case you have no reference point, combines two or more images that don’t seem to make sense.  Some examples:

“You’ve buttered your bread…now lie in it.”

“Clearly we’ve opened a Pandora’s box…of worms.”

“Burning the midnight oil…at both ends.”

“Marching to the beat…of a dead horse.”

“Robbing Peter…to pay the piper.”

The apostle Paul mixes several metaphors in Colossians 2:6-7:

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,  having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude”  (NASB).

Many commentaries that I have read during the writing of this blog believe the theme of the entire book, is a “hinge point” of Colossians.

On The FAITH Side…

The Colossians had received Christ JESUS as Lord and Savior and they had been taught the faith.

And On the PRACTICE Side…

They needed to continue to live in Him, built up in Him; becoming strengthened in their faith, overflowing with thankfulness in their everyday and sometimes hectic lives.  Boy, can we relate to the Colossians or what?

PAUL USES 6 -WORD PICTURES OF CHRISTIAN SPIRITUAL PROGRESS:

“For though I am away from you in body, yet I am with you in spirit, delighted at the sight of your [standing shoulder to shoulder in such] orderly array and the firmness and the solid front and steadfastness of your faith in Christ [that leaning of the entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]”  (Colossians 2:5 AMP).

Raising the Standard

The First Word Picture–The Soldier (verse 5):

The first picture is a review  “…to see how orderly you are and how firm your FAITH in Christ is“, as part of God’s Army–solidly united against the enemy–standing shoulder to shoulder.  All the while as we practice discipline, we strive to obey our Commander and Chief.  We’re not to battle against each other, but to do battle with each other–raising the banner or flag in serving side-by-side!

The Second Word Picture–The Power Walker (verse 6):

POWER WALKERS

The Christian Life Must Be Lived Out!

How do we do that?  We must go from our heads, to our hands, and then to our feet!  When Paul says, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him.” Paul is reminding his readers, since they received JESUS by faith, so too they must WALK BY FAITH in His power.  That is the only way to make spiritual progress.

Moving with a purpose–

The verb continue; “to continue to live in Him” indicates a “continuous action”, moving in power.  Remembering the day of your salvation must be a present reality in your lives.  Our conduct must be consistent with His lordship and our worship should affect our walk; our practice must conform to our character, our principles, our INTEGRITY [see the Word Detective’s Archives: the post regarding INTEGRITY].

The Third Word Picture – The Tree (verse 7):

Our Roots Are Planted In Him

In this agricultural metaphor, just as a tree is “rooted”, we are to be grounded in the soil of God’s Word.  I like to call my Bible, 66 bags of “word seed” instead of 66 books of the Bible.

The tense of the Greek word means, “once and for all, having being rooted.”  Those who have truly received Christ Jesus are rooted in Him.  A tree puts down deep roots to find nutrition and to provide stability in the growing.

Likewise, we must go deep with Christ to find the fuel that we need to flourish during the storms of life.  This image most likely comes from the beautiful picture displayed in Jeremiah 17:8:

“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters

that spreads out its roots by the river;

and it shall not see and fear when heat comes;

but its leaf shall be green.

It shall not be anxious and full of care in the year of drought,

nor shall it cease yielding fruit.”

When we are rooted in a relationship with JESUS, we will have everything that we need for life and for godliness.  2 Peter 1:3declares,

“For His divine power has bestowed upon us ALL things that

[are requisite and suited] to life and godliness, through the

[full, personal] knowledge of Him Who called us

by and to His own glory and excellence (virtue).”

Just as a tree cannot thrive without any roots, we too cannot grow if we have not been grounded in “His glory and excellence.”

The Fourth Word Picture – The Building (verse 7):

Starting with a FOUNDATION

Paul now moves into a construction image to show us that our foundation is built on JESUS; where we must continue to add-on, so that we’re “being continually built up in Him.”

Ephesians 2:20 says, “You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone.”

At our conversion, the construction process begins with a foundation first.  Then raised up and anchored with a cornerstone, helping align the whole structure in tying it together.

CORNERSTONE

 In the same way, as the chief cornerstone, JESUS holds everything together while providing alignment to our lives.

The CHURCH you’re attending right now wouldn’t be of much use with just a foundation in place.  A foundation is only the beginning of better things to come–the base is laid in order to build a strong building.

God doesn’t want us to STOP at conversion. Instead, He desires for us to construct our lives as in…  1 Corinthians 3:12:  “gold, silver, and precious stones” instead of using things that don’t last such as “wood, hay and straw.”   This is in order to be strong, building with solid materials.

Again, the tense of the verb [“continually”] indicates that the building keeps on going.  The Christian Life is not meant to be a one or two-story house, but rather a skyscraper that keeps going up and up!

The Fifth Word Picture – The Student (verse 7):

GRAD STUDENTS

The next METAPHOR in place:  “increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught”.  We are to be students in God’s Grad School so our FAITH can be strengthened and established.

We are to be STUDENTS in God’s Graduate School–

When I mean STUDENTS in God’s Grad School, I don’t mean spending years in a Christian preschool.  Hebrews 6:1-3 in The Message Bible brings word picture into focus:

“So come on, lets leave preschool fingerprinting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art.  Grow up in Christ.  The basic foundational truths are in place…But there is so much more.  Let’s get on with it!”

We are Disciples of Christ–

As STUDENTS, it becomes our responsibility to learn and know the Word of God if we are going grow in our FAITH.  Being disciples of Christ, we are to be always learning and putting ourselves in an environment of study and being strengthened on a regular basis.

It is important for every believer to plug into a small group whether at church or in a neighborhood.  However, you don’t want to just be a church with “small groups”… but a church that is made up of small groups.

The Sixth Word Picture – A River (verse 7):

An Overflowing River

The idea here is based on verse 7“abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving.”  Receiving instruction in biblical truth should produce inner JOY.  The more we understand grace, the more gratitude we will have.  JOY from Thanksgiving shouldn’t be experienced just on the Legal Holiday.  It should be continual!

Kent Hughes writes, “A thankless spirit betrays a life which is no longer focusing on the greatness of Christ.”  If you don’t feel like being thankful today, it is probably because you’ve taken your eyes off of JESUS and putting them on your problems instead.

A Christian LIVING IT OUT!

The two verses in Colossians 2, verses 6-7 challenges us to…

1.  GROW downward–being “rooted.”

2.  GROW upward–being “built up”.

3.  GROW inward–being “strengthened in the faith.”

4.  GROW outward–as we “overflow with thankfulness.”

As Paul mixes up his metaphors, he also changes his verb tenses in order to show what happened to us and what we are responsible for.  In the list of 6 Word Pictures, I was able to find only two active verbs:

1.  To live continuously in Him.

2.  To be continuously thankful to Him.

Our task is to live surrendered to His preeminence, His supremacy; and to abound in giving thanks to what God has done for us in Christ.

So in Christ JESUS, have a JOYFUL THANKSGIVING THIS YEAR and in each and every day!