"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:6-8)
Despite the promises that we find in the Word, in these troubled times and final days it is common to see believers with troubled thoughts in relation to God, themselves, and even other people. The fruit of these thoughts is often a loss of God's people in difficult circumstances and a loss of patience and grace toward ourselves and others.
Our thoughts determine what comes out of our mouths and what our attitudes and deeds will be. According to the Apostle Paul, it is death to have carnal thoughts, but to have spiritual thoughts is "life and peace" (Romans 6:8). If our thoughts are not directed toward God and filled with His Word, the dead fruit of carnal thinking will rule in us, such as worry and troubles that give place to negative and sinful behavior, wrong thoughts about God, a mistaken understanding of ourselves, a lack of understanding of difficulties, bad attitudes, mistrust, and a bad attitude toward other believers and about those we come in contact with.
On the other hand, if our thoughts are spiritually directed, turned toward Christ and filled with godly things, regardless of our troubles and the world around us, we will be able to have peaceful thoughts and a joy that can be seen by our positive attitudes, trust, thankfulness, and good works toward God, those around us, and especially toward ourselves.
IF WE WANT TO HAVE A PEACEFUL THOUGHT LIFE WE MUST LEARN TO BRING OUR NEEDS TO GOD
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)
Can you imagine a life without worry? Can we imagine the Apostle Paul, who despite being in a Roman prison, in approximately 61 A.D., wrote to the church that was based on his second mission trip to Philippi, first of thanking them for their material gifts that they had sent him and urging them to be continually joyful and not "be anxious for nothing"?
How is it possible that the Apostle Paul, despite his difficult circumstance, could write in such a positive, joyful, and peaceful spirit? The secret to his positive attitude was that he learned to bring his troubles to the Lord. In the New Testament we find more than forty prayers by Paul that were directed to God for various needs, a godly life, his ministry, strength, God's will, unity of the believers, and greater hope; prayers for the believers in Rome when he said that "...the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13) Prayer was a part of Paul's daily life with Christ, which is why he could encourage others despite his own difficulties.
Therefore, Paul told the Philippians not to worry about anything, but bring their needs before God with prayer and supplication, and that with thanksgiving. In other words, the Apostle Paul revealed to us the secret to peaceful thinking in hard times - it comes from prayer to God and bringing our needs to Him
How many believers are there today who cry out for peace filled thoughts, and yet fail to continually bring their needs to God in prayer? Many desire God's peace, but do not have it because they do not maintain a prayerful relationship with Him; and if they do maintain it, it is without gratefulness for what they have, always searching for something bigger and better.
Are you aware that most of our worries come from our earthly desires for something? When I speak about cares, I do not mean that we ought not to care about certain things, I am speaking about those cares that come from unrest in our bodies, homes, work, and church.
When our mind is filled with the things of this world for which we yearn, we begin to have an anxious desire to possess those things and enjoy them, and therefore become anxious and begin fighting to have those things.
It is interesting that Jesus, in an example found in Matthew, mentioned anxiety when he told His disciples that they could not serve two masters; meaning God and money. Immediately after that he said this, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25)
First of all, worry can occur because we have not renewed our earthly thought lives, that continually desire bigger and better material things. Yet, on the other hand, worry can bring about pressure and circumstances that are not necessarily connected to material things of this world but occur because of our independence of God.
The principle Paul was conveying to the Philippians was clear; if they wanted to have peace filled thoughts in troubled times, if they wanted to be free from anxiety, then they needed to maintain a prayer life with God, that is that they should bring their needs before Him with a thankful heart, not arrogantly commanding Him to fill their every need.
Anxious believers clearly do not bring their needs and problems before God; rather they try to resolve them without His help. For each need in our family, job, church, or school - Paul said to make them into a prayer request. How successful would we be if we would simply transform our times of anxious thought into prayer? We would surely worry a lot less.
If we want to have peace-filled thoughts in a troubled world, we need to put a stop to our anxiety and pray. When we pray, the peace of God descends on us. It may not necessarily change our circumstance but it will change our attitude and bring us peace that is greater than the anxiety we feel in our heart. This is why, directly after his instruction to pray, Paul told the Philippians what happens when they bring their needs before God in prayer, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)
Therefore, peaceful thoughts in troubled times do not come because of positive thinking, avoiding conflict, or even feeling good, but because of our relationship with God in prayer and because we have brought all our needs, with a thankful spirit, to Him knowing that He is in control.
IF WE WANT TO HAVE PEACEFUL THOUGHTS, WE MUST
FILL THEM WITH QUALITY ELEMENTS
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things." (Philippians 4:8
Paul went on to tell the believers in Philippi in order to have peaceful thoughts in troubled circumstances they needed to reprogram their thought life; to fill them with that which is honest (noble; Green semnos), correct (righteous; Greek dikaios), morally pure (innocent; Greek hagnos), friend-oriented (good report), well said (virtuous), and even behavior pleasing to God (praise-worthy)
So, what is the problem? How is it that people, despite the fact that they go to church and praise God, do not have peace and are filled with anxious thoughts? The answer is simple, they do not fill their thoughts with godly things before and after church, as Paul urged, rather they fill them with the things of this world.
When the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, spoke about being transformed into a new man, he told the believers in Ephesus that, in addition to taking off the old man that belonged to the old way of life, they had to renew their mind and thought life day after day; meaning clothe themselves in their new man, "which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24b)
What does this mean? It means that as believers we ought not to live as we lived in the past, "in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God." (Ephesians 4:17b-18a), rather live a new life, being clothed in our new man "which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24b) This is actually the fruit of repentance and conversion. We have not become just a member of a church, rather we have repented and left behind our old way of thinking and living, and have accepted a new way life that is found in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The problem is that we allow this world to renew our thinking, not wanting to become subject to this new way of life, which is God's Word.
If we only read the newspaper, which is filled with negativity, gossip, half-truths, covetousness, and information that is not pleasing to God, and then sit for hours in front of our televisions "relaxing" our thoughts with violence, taking the Lord's name in vain, and every kind of immorality and lust, and then ask ourselves why we have restless and negative thoughts, attitudes, and behavior, the answer is simple - our thoughts are not filled with godly elements and therefore we give forth the fruit of our carnal thinking.
Instead of renewing our minds each day with God's Word, that which is good, morally pure, and righteous, while doing that which is pleasing to Him, we "renew" our minds with negativity, aggressiveness, lies, lust, swearing, unfaithfulness, distrust, dishonesty, gossip, enmity, and every kind of uncleanness, and then we ask ourselves why we doubt God, why we are envious, jealous, full of hate, distrust, covetousness, wrong attitudes, and doubt; why we lack gentleness and joy that should be evident to all, as Paul mentioned when he said, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." (Philippians 4:4-5)
This is why we must carefully renew our minds and fill them with heavenly things and God's characteristics found in the Holy Bible. When we fill our minds with those things that are good, true, honest, lovely, of a good report, virtuous, and praise-worthy, and with this kind of attitude bring our needs to the Lord with thanksgiving and prayer, our works, attitudes and words will be completely different. Therefore, it's not about trying make ourselves better with positive techniques, rather filling our minds with God's Word, which will consequently birth the fruit of the Spirit - "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23a)
God told Joshua to meditate on God's Word day and night in order to be prosperous and successful in his ways, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (Joshua 1:8) Joshua renewed his mind day and night as he meditated on the things he read, and he kept them. God gave him courage and was with him regardless of the challenges He met, such as in taking on Jericho, Ai, and other kingdoms.
This is why Paul told the Philippians to renew their thoughts with better resources, for this is the only way we will have peace in the troubled times that come.
WITH QUALITY SUBSTANCES AND CONTINUAL
OBEDIENCE TO GOD, WE WILL HAVE PEACEFUL
THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD AND BETTER RELATIONSHIPS
"The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)
If we will our thoughts with the things of God and continue being obedient to Him, not only will we have peace, our attitudes and deeds will flow out of that peace and will bring an even better thought life and a better understanding of our circumstances, not just about God, but better thinking, attitudes, and deeds toward those around us. And who wouldn't want to be around us when we are filled with gentleness, joy, and the peace of God?
If we constantly watch soap operas and thrillers, that show unfaithfulness, betrayal, and distrust; if we fill our thoughts with negative news and tabloids, how is it possible to have positive and blessed thoughts toward those around us?
How is it that we have competition, comparison with others, gossip, distrust, and jealous in the house of God? Because believers do not have hope; they do not see anything good, and they are filled with cynicism and suspicion. Why are they unteachable and unfaithful? Because their thoughts are not daily filled with that which is just, kind, of a good report, and praise-worthy. This is why today there is so much doubt, hate, bitterness, and fighting in the body of Christ. Not because of doctrine, but because our thoughts and hearts are not renewed with the heavenly things of God, but with intellectual facts about Jesus.
This is why Paul warned the believers in Philippi to do that which he was doing. His prayer and writings were saturated in God's peace. His desire was to reconcile people with God and with one another, that the church be united. This is why he often began his letters about peace, such as in Ephesians, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 1:2) and in Galatians, "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:3) Unity among people is not possible without renewed peace-filled thinking that comes when man is surrendered to God.
God's peace is an ingredient we cannot survive without in these final and turbulent times. Not only ought we implore with the unsaved to make peace with God, we ought to reconcile ourselves with Him and surrender all our needs to Him.
We must admit that without Him we can do nothing and begin thanking Him and rejoice when our circumstances are not the best. Let us remember that this letter was written in very difficult times, but in a very positive, peaceful and joyful spirit. How was that possible? By a prayer life with God, filled with heavenly thoughts and godly resources. If we continue to do the same, God, our source of peace, will always be with us and our thoughts will remain calm in these final and turbulent times (Philippians 4:9b)