This is the last lesson on Philippians. I hope this series has been useful to you personally. Just scroll ‘Category’ to Philippians for all the lessons. Perhaps you could use it, along with Roger Ellsworth’s Opening Up Philippians, for a small group study.
Reread Philippians 4
“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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).
If this isn’t “positive thinking,” what is it? In the 1950’s, a pastor in N.Y.City came up with a popular notion for those looking for inner peace and tranquility in life. Just think about the good. Keep your mind on the positive and joy would come your way. It seems like that’s all Paul is saying here as well. But, the catch comes in verse 9 which connects how we are looking at people and events with following his instruction and example.
His whole point in this letter was to stand firm together for the gospel, with love for each other, so that the work of telling others about Christ Jesus would go on. Maintaining peace and harmony in any group takes work. So Paul told them to deliberately look for the positive in events or others. What is honorable here, what is just, lovely, worthy of praise? We are to “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” as he told the Ephesians (4:3). Eager to be reasonable and to live peaceably. The purpose in searching out the lovely and just and honorable is not for our own inner peace, as Norman V. Peale taught, but for keeping the local church on track.
But, Paul’s own joy is to be our example. That joy was rooted in his desire that Christ be honored and proclaimed. “…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now, as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). Have the desire that Christ Jesus be glorified by your living reasonably, looking for the good, keeping the peace. Like Paul, be happy when someone helps you or shows concern for your work to spread the gospel. He had learned contentment, not through positive thinking, but by rejoicing in the Lord who gave him strength (4:10-13). What an example of confidence in God and living for God’s glory he was setting for all of us who would read this letter. He was sure God would supply all of their needs so that God would be glorified. He had certainly experienced that himself on his recent trip to Rome–through storm at sea, shipwreck, an angel’s visit, snakebite (Acts 27). He wanted to be an example to these friends of confidence and rejoicing in God. Like the prophet Habakkuk, he could say,
“Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls–yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength;”(Hab. 3: 17-19).
This experience is a long way from the whole positive thinking thing. It all comes back to God’s grace. By his grace, we can maintain the glue of peace in our churches, families, and relationships. By his grace, we can get through needy times. By his grace, we can stand firm.