We have been talking about, in our recent blogs, the need for us to maintain a sound mental health that is grounded in the truth of Scripture. We have been considering each week the passage that Paul wrote while he was in a Roman prison to the church in Philippi. We have seen the importance of “rejoicing in the Lord” even in the face of difficulties. We have seen that it is profoundly important for us to maintain an attitude of confidence in God and not to be anxious, even in the face of surrounding destruction and that we should always bring our needs and burdens to our high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, whoever lives to intercede for us. Last week we considered maintaining an attitude of the peace of God with us, even in the midst of life’s storms. Paul begins to wrap up this section of Scripture when he talks about the value of maintaining a positive attitude and keeping a right thought process in place in our lives. We read, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things,” (Phil.4:8 NASB). With the word “finally”, Paul begins to conclude this section that began when he was talking about conflict in the Philippian church between two women. In all these things it is very important for us to continually remember the circumstances that Paul was writing under. How did Paul maintain this kind of thought life while he was locked up in a Roman prison?
A lot of Paul’s right thinking is found in the body of this epistle itself. Paul wrote about the many things that God was doing in and through him and he extolled the virtues and excellence of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he told us that we would all one day bow down and worship (Phil.2:9-11). When we are going through a difficult storm in our lives it is critically important that we not forget what God has done and how God has moved in the past. This past Tuesday my dear Aunt Laura passed away in a nursing home down in Hamilton Square. This is the last of my mother’s siblings or spouses. The fact that my mother had not been able to see her sister in over two months and that she will not be able to attend her sister’s funeral is a very heavy burden on her precious heart. My mother and her younger sister, Laura, survived together a very traumatic and difficult childhood. Their mother died when they were both quite young and their father would eventually remarry the woman who had come into the house to be a housemaid for his daughters. This woman would very much be like the evil stepmother in many family dramas. So, my mom and her sister had always had a very precious and close relationship. But as my mom was crying about not being able to visit her sister at the end or being able to attend the funeral I reminded her of our last visit with Aunt Laura just a week before we left to go to Bahamas. I reminded my mom of taking Aunt Laura her favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip, and how absolutely overjoyed Aunt Laura was as we visited with her and she enjoyed her feast. This is the picture I encouraged my mother to think about and meditate upon. My mother has no control over being able to attend her sister’s funeral, but what she can control is her ability to think on a positive memory that can bring a smile to her heart.
As Paul begins to conclude this section of his epistle he’s telling his readers, and you and I, to meditate on anything of virtue or anything worthy of praise. Wrong thoughts in our thought life frequently leads to unrest, discouragement and depression. In working for 15 years in Michigan as a licensed professional counselor I saw many clinically depressed people. Much of the depression had to do with wrong thinking patterns and how people interpreted events that happened in their lives. But having the right mental perspective and spiritual thinking can lead to health and peace as we have seen in the life of Paul. God will do His part in our lives through His grace, but we must participate by removing things that we know draw our hearts and minds away from the Lord. This does not mean that we can be perfectly right with God by our own efforts, but rather God has freely imputed His righteousness to us for Christ’s sake. When Paul tells us to think on the things that are “true”, he’s not telling us that we shouldn’t have legitimate concerns in life. Certainly, seeking to have safe habits in place during these difficult times is a very important thing. But remember Satan is a great liar and he will do everything he can to get us not to trust in God and to be filled with fear. Thinking on things that are true means that think on the things that are opposite to dishonest or the unreliable things that we are bombarded with on a nightly basis when we watch the news. Thinking on “noble” things means to think on things that are worthy of respect and dignified. At the start of this lockdown we were offered a free next month of service through Netflix. We took advantage of this free offer but found very little by way of movies that would justify an added expense to our bill, so we canceled the service. There was very little that I would say was “noble” or “pure” that was coming through our TV through the Netflix offer. There are indeed many things that are excellent and praiseworthy during these difficult times, so it’s important that we find and meditate on these important realities.
I am very grateful and thankful to God for the privilege and honor that I have of serving the Lord Jesus Christ at New Durham Chapel at this critical moment in time. I am thankful that for the most part, our church family is healthy and well. I am thankful that God has continued to provide abundantly for the financial needs of our church (including the $3000 credit our gas and electric bill). I am glad that my two children in Michigan, who are laid off, are collecting this enhanced unemployment and are making more money not working than they would be if they were working. I may disagree with this theoretically, but I’m thankful that they’re taking advantage of this government benefit. I am truly grateful to God and thankful for those who have stepped up and been instrumental in streaming and zooming our church into the face of our crisis. I’m aware that more people are being reached through the live streaming service than would probably be reached on Sunday morning at NDC. I cherish the opportunity to God has given me preach my Aunt’s funeral next Thursday to my cousins who need the Lord Jesus Christ. I am excited to have a baby dedication service this Sunday during our live streaming service as it reminds us that life is a gift from God and He continues to move us forward. I could go on and on but I hope you will join us for our Mother’s Day firstname.lastname@example.org. It might even help your thought process fulfill God’s desire for you.
Rejoicing in our Savior,
Pastor Rich Sivo