Here is the third of our REAL Devotions, written especially for you by one of the women from within Kerith community. We hope that these words bless and challenge you as you prepare for your weekend with us - it's just 2 weeks away!
With much love, Catrina and the REAL team x
"Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." Philippians 4:8 [The Message]
Oh dear, we do tend to enjoy doing what we shouldn’t, don’t we?
Maybe you’ve read these verses before but in another version, and this one might sound a bit weird - a different translation can often do that. Our thoughts are the basis for our actions so what we think is really important.
This text comes from one of the apostle Paul’s letters that he wrote to groups of Christians to teach and encourage them. It has been called "the happiest of Paul's letters". With any text, it’s always key to bear in mind the context. Prior to this section, Paul has encouraged two women in the congregation to get along together and he has been referring to the importance of trusting God, having a relationship with him, and not worrying. Commentators of this text have been at pains to point out that this is far more than just the modern-day advice to think positively. Let’s break it down:
Meditating: Greek "Logizomai": Reason to a logical conclusion, really take to heart to modify our conduct
True: God is truth and the Word of God our standard. The question should be, "Is it biblical?" rather than "does it work/do I fancy doing it?"
Noble: righteous, just
Reputable: of good report
Compelling: lovely, like Jesus
Gracious: positive and constructive, choosing not to see faults. The chapter opened with this. Unity is much valued.
The best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. How easy it is for us to see the negative!
Paul talks of "circumstances", by which he means pains and difficulties in life’s challenges, which can affect our thoughts. In my life, although I haven’t faced beatings and shipwreck and the other things that Paul faced, I have certainly faced pain and ongoing difficulty, like anyone else. In the last few years our family has faced severe disability, cancer, bereavement and depression. It is so easy to be overwhelmed, but this scripture can be used not to castigate us but encourage us to take hold of our thoughts and think another way.
Everyday life examples of this application might include:
- Thinking about Jesus and his example
- Apprenticeship: the followers of Jesus spent time with him. We can apply the WWJD rule – think what Jesus would do in a situation
- Read The Bible daily: it’s not just another book. It talks to us if we let it. If we feel the words don’t "speak" any more, consider another translation or another format, e.g., listen to a podcast.
- Beware of bad thoughts – take them captive straight away and instead, think along the lines of this scripture.
- Listen to worship music.
Finally, we can decide to do something radical. We can go to a quiet place, and let the Holy Spirit be our guide. Re-read these verses, think, study, delve, truly meditate, rolling them round in our mind. Then apply it.
We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can marshal our thoughts, renew our minds and decide to carry on trusting.