Choose to Think About Good Things
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This is the third message in a three message set that focuses on how we can walk in the peace and joy of God all of the time in our lives. Two weeks ago we saw that continuous intentional rejoicing in God in all of our lives, in both the things we like and the things that we do not is one key element of that life. Rejoicing will make us gentle and will bring God near to our hearts and minds. Last week we looked at how to deal with the cares of life that would draw us away from God and would displace our peace with anxiety and fear. We saw that as we pray in the manner that Jesus taught us, that God would change our hearts and give us peace. This week we will look at how we can fix our perspective on the positive works of God all around us all of the time and how that will again cause God’s peace to be near to us. I have addressed this as three things, but really it is one large thing. We are called to rejoice, pray and focus our minds on the goodness of God. The better we are at this, the better our lives will be. Peace and joy will be our reward. To begin today, let’s review, God wants us to have life and peace.
- Life and Peace Review
- God wants bless us with abundant peaceful life
In the Old Testament, we see that God wants to bless. Bless means give life. Look at Genesis 1: 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.
And Genesis 3: God curses man because man does not obey His instruction and follow God’s pathway to a life of blessing!
This is a part of what makes Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5 so profound. Blessing equals life, so, blessed are:
Poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek or gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted x2.
Are those character qualities consistent with what we see in Jesus? Maybe not the first two (I think they relate to our sinful state), but the rest of them, sure. Why the persecuted?
I Peter 4: Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,[a] arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
- Rejoicing vs. Anxiety
Anxiety and fear are enemies of peace! Rejoicing and prayer are allies of peace!
Summer of 2000 37 years old, had three kids and a good job. If you had asked me I would have told you that God was my provider. I lost that good job. My awareness of God as provider was going to be severely tested. In the Spring of 2000 I won a pick up truck. I didn’t need it as far as I knew, I was driving a company vehicle and my wife had a car. I tried to sell it but could not do so reasonably, so I kept it. In the summer of 2000 I knew that God provided that vehicle before I needed it. That means that I saw that my loss of the job had God in it beforehand. I had things to rejoice in. I had things to pray through. There were many different ways that God showed that He was caring for me and for my family. We also worked hard. I worked at two jobs for more than four years, working six days a week every week. I was glad to have the work. As I look back, what I still see is the hand of God. All of the struggles, they fade, the anxiety fades, what remains is a joyful heart that saw God provide during times that were really hard. And I still have the pickup truck, twenty one years later. God is good.
- Prayer and changed hearts
As we struggle to find peace, we are called to pray. And as we pray according to the way that Jesus taught, our focus in life should move to God and His character, will and kingdom. As we focus on God, the strength of other issues in our lives will fade. God is primary to life. We must build our lives around His character and direction. This begins by focusing our minds on what God is doing in our lives, and in our world through Christ. What is God’s kingdom accomplishing today?
So, again, rejoicing and prayer connect us to God who delights to bless us with life. In our passage today we are told to work each day to direct our thinking in a positive faith full way. We are told to
- Direct Minds and Hearts to Godly Things
True, Noble, Right,Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent, Praiseworthy
- Focus on what you see of God
This is a faith choice!!
We focus so we can see, we see so we can be!
True- Do our circumstances lie? Do our hearts lie about circumstances?
Noble- finest personal qualities, principles and ideals
Right- Correct, basically a repetition of true
Pure- That which reflects God’s character and will
Lovely- That which draws us to the cleverness and beauty of God
Admirable- Like noble
Excellent- Something of the highest quality (doesn’t have to be rare)
Praiseworthy- Same as excellent basically
Now, think of these qualities in reverse and then say to ourselves, do not focus on this!!
Lies, Paul is harassed about his Apostleship.
Corruption, Paul is lied about by Jewish authorities
Stupid behavior, Paul is in jail, he should be out preaching!
Perversion, Paul has a thorn in his flesh and can do miracles
Gross destruction, Paul teaches submission to a government that will ultimately murder him
Evil, there is much pain associated with obedience
Sorry, Paul’s personal sacrifice is not only rejected by others but some seek to stop it all together
shameful behavior- people seek to hijack the glorious ministry of Christ for personal benefit
If you find yourself focused on the evil and negative in your life today, then do two things.
- Consider the media you are consuming and cut back or eliminate it altogether for a time.
- Go to the Bible and ask God to give you Scripture to meditate on. And then pray through the personal application of that Scripture with God. Do not step back from service and sacrifice!
For example: struggling in your marriage? Ask God to show you how to submit to and love your spouse better. Ask God to give you strength to forgive and strength to communicate.
If you are struggling at work, ask God to show you how to serve at work all the time from the heart, not just when people are watching you. Pray for the boldness to stand your ground and continue to work hard when others around you attack you for it.
- Story of my mom and her dad and abandonment, alcoholism and rejection. She always said something positive about him. I made her really mad one day by focusing on his bad behavior and she rebuked me and asked me if I wanted her to hate him.
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Find that Spirit!!!!!
We might look at our world and ask how there could be so much that is not representative of these qualities. Perhaps instead we should marvel at the existence of any of these qualities and give glory to God for it!
- Our whole perception of life will change
Circumstances are not our problem. Our understanding and perspective is our problem! I am convinced that this is why Paul lands in Romans 8 on these three ideas when he talks about suffering:
- Suffering proves that we are co-heirs with Christ
- All things will work together for good.
- God is for us, who can be against us
- Nothing can separate us from the love of God
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Colossians 3:3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
- There are other things to focus on
If you are experiencing stressful circumstances, it is common to act in a way to relieve the stress. We will work typically from either a position of fear or of anger. Fight or flight. Anger on one side, fear and insecurity on the other. This is what our adrenal system does for us. But, again, there is the issue of perception. What should we fundamentally fear? God. Why? Because He is the source of life. So, we actually fear the loss of what God is providing us for life.
When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth? Persistent Widow: Pray and not give up!
III. Paul’s Example of How This Works
- Paul acknowledges his painful circumstances
Read again II Cor 11 list:
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
Paul is not bragging about or complaining about those circumstances! He is rejoicing in God’s grace and sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
- Paul has learned to trust Jesus for life
Content in every circumstance. Give examples:
Personal attack from non-believers
Physical weakness: illness or injury, or maybe an eyesight issue.
Can’t make tents in prison! Financial troubles.
Personal attack from believers
- It is Jesus giving Paul peace
I can do all of these things through Christ who gives me strength. Strength for life in any and every circumstance. This is real strength!
Paul sees a calling on His life from Jesus. Do you? Now, you may not have a similar experience to what Paul did, but when I talk to people about why they are following Christ, they typically relate a story of how God has revealed Himself to them. God reaches out and touches our lives. We are called to follow Jesus. And in that calling comes a sense of purpose and meaning that is ver important. As long as we are faithful to follow and we focus on the aspects of God in the world, then we will be plugged in to peace. Jesus gives peace.