We have discussed some “heavier” topics in this series, mostly centred around discussion of privilege, sacrifice and giving up of ourselves to love our neighbours. Chapter four gives us a bit of a break from this heavy talk and brings a reminder to rejoice and meditate on the beautiful things occurring in our midst. Paul begins by calling a couple individuals to reconcile, but then quickly shifts gears into the “rejoice” passage.
Verse eight is a long sentence exhorting the Philippians to meditate on the beautiful things going on within their community. This is important to consider, looking back on the rest of Paul’s letter. Paul has already highlighted a few interesting points that we should acknowledge when think about the things that are true, honourable just, pure, pleasing, commendable and worthy of praise.
First, Paul has explained to the Philippians that it is God who works in them to do these things (2:12). I think this context is important for this because it means we are not only commending individuals for their faithfulness to God, but also commending the Lord for His faithfulness in working within us. When we meditate on these things, we are meditating on the presence of God in our midst as individual believers and a community of faith.
Second, Paul has already provided an example of this meditation throughout the letter. Thinking back to 2:19-30, Paul notes Timothy and Epaphroditus as individuals to be commended and welcomed with celebration for their faithfulness to Paul and the spread of the Gospel. In the next couple paragraphs of chapter four, Paul highlights the value of the Philippian community and their partnership with him in the work of the Gospel (4:10-20). Paul is specifically exhorting them to continue this tradition of noting each others’ faithfulness in the distressing situation they live out their faith. Remember, the church is a minority group in Philippi, surrounded by a culture that did not appreciate the provocative and disruptive nature of the Gospel. Commending one another their partnership with God was meaningful for tying the community together in solidarity with Christ.
Finally, thinking back to chapter one, Paul comments on those who are using his imprisonment to advance their selfish ambitions in ministry. Paul’s response is to rejoice in how God uses the preaching of the Gospel, regardless of motives, to advance the early Church. Paul is choosing to think about what is true, honourable just, pure, pleasing, commendable and worthy of praise. This does not mean we do not acknowledge and address what are lies, dishonourable, unjust, impure, displeasing, reprehensible and worthy of shame. We acknowledge these things so that we can grow, but Paul calls us to think about the things that are true, honourable just, pure, pleasing, commendable and worthy of praise.
Some versions of the Bible use the word dwell for “think about” and I think that imagery gives us an image of what Paul is conveying to the Philippians. Paul is describing the things that the Philippian church needs to continually spend time thinking about. The church should be allowing their minds to sit in a pool of thoughts about the beautiful things occurring in their midst. Paul is also communicating this to the gathering of believers, for them to dwell on these things as a community when they gather. I imagine that this involves a continual recognition of the things that God is doing and how people are growing in their faithfulness with Christ.
I know that I struggle with this in my own home — to dwell on the amazing things that God is doing in our home. I also struggle to dwell on the faithfulness to Christ those in my family demonstrate. God is doing amazing things in building His kingdom here in Chatham. God is also doing amazing things in our homes. Let us dwell on these things and rejoice. Let us make this a regular rhythm of our marriages, friendships, life groups, and gatherings. This is probably one of the ways Paul stays content (4:11). He is regularly meditating and rejoicing in the wonders that God is doing in His life and the churches He visits and writes.
God is moving in our homes, in our community and in our city. The more we think about the things that are true, honourable just, pure, pleasing, commendable and worthy of praise, the more we find reason to rejoice. Celebrating one another for how we are faithful in trial is another thing we should consider. We all experience struggle. We all experience temptation and trial. When we are open about our struggles and weaknesses, we are able to help one another, but also, we are then able to rejoice with one another as we witness God move in us to do His will (2:13). Paul’s concern is that ultimately, God wins, so there is reason to rejoice and expect the power of God to flow in the lives of the Philippian church – there is reason to have our hearts and minds sit in a pool of the good things occurring in our lives.
I encourage you to take some time and celebrate how God has moved in your lives. There are good things happening that we can see God’s hand moving and bringing growth to us and our family of faith. Think on these things and pray for God to show you His goodness in those things. He wants us to be aware of His goodness and to draw closer to Him.
Holy Spirit, reveal to us your goodness. May our hearts and minds be molded into dwelling on your goodness and following the steps you have laid before us. May our community be a testament of your greatness where we share the common experience of Your hand on our lives. Amen.