“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
Christmas time can be a less than peaceful experience for many people. Even though we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace who came to bring peace on earth, our experience is anything but peaceful. How can we have more peace during this Christmas season?
It begins with what we think about. The Bible tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Our thoughts determine our feelings. If we think about confusing things, we will feel confused. If we focus on peaceful things, we will experience more peace. For example, if my focus is on nothing but a growing list of gifts and a shrinking bank account, I am going to have more anxiety. If I am preoccupied with a busy schedule trying to find a way to go to all the Christmas parties and programs, I am going to be more distressed. If I give more attention to painful childhood memories during the Christmas season, I am going to have more discouragement at this time. I am not suggesting we ignore our financial difficulties, busy schedules, or painful memories, but that we limit how much time we concentrate on these things.
If we want to have more peace during this time of year, it would behoove us to listen to God’s advice through the apostle Paul to the Christians at Philippi. After talking about overcoming anxiety through prayer (4:6-7), Paul gives a final instruction about what to think about as we pray (4:8). He writes, “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).
God is advising us to “meditate” or concentrate on “these things” addressed in this one verse as we pray. Let’s take a look at each individual quality. He says to focus on “whatever things are…”
- “true” (alēthēs) refers to that which is authentic, valid, or undeniable reality. In an age of “fake news,” this object of our focus is so important to finding peace. Instead of focusing on lies which are probably the primary source of our anxiety and fear, we are to focus on what is true.
- “noble” (semnos) means that which is honorable, dignified, deeply respected, or majestic. If we are focusing on dishonorable or disrespectful things, we will feel worse about ourselves. This is easy to do when we are bombarded by the media with that which is dishonoring to God.
- “just” (dikaios) denotes what is correct, righteous, upright, or thinking, feeling, and acting wholly conformed to God’s standards or will. So much of what we hear or see on TV this time of year promotes the opposite of what is “just.” The world exalts that which is wrong as being right. And that which is right as being wrong. If our primary focus is on the world’s values, we will have a guilty conscience which robs us of peace.
- “pure ” (hagnos) refers to that which is clean, holy, sacred, uncontaminated, undefiled, or sinless to the core. If we are giving attention to that which is impure, we will be plagued with guilt and shame.
- “lovely” (prosphilēs) denotes what is agreeable, dearly prized, pleasing to God. Literally this compound Greek word means “friendly (philēo) towards (pros).” When we are pondering that which is pleasing to God, our hearts will be filled with His peace.
- “of good report” (euphēmos) conveys the idea of something admirable, reputable,or things spoken in a kindly spirit with good-will toward others. With there being so much bad news reported daily today, is it any wonder that people lack peace!?!
- “virtue” (aretē) refers to the perfections of God, moral goodness or excellence which is displayed to enrich one’s life. Need we see any more?
- “praiseworthy” (epainos) means commendable, deserving of commendation and exaltation.
As you read through this list of virtues, what comes to your mind? Is there anything or anyone who fits all these descriptions? As I read this verse over and over again this morning, I could not stop thinking about the Lord Jesus. Only Jesus fits these descriptions perfectly!
Christ alone is… “true” (John 14:6; 15:1; Rev. 19:11), “noble” or honorable (John 5:23; Phil. 2:9-11), “just” (Matt. 27:19, 24; Luke 23:47; I Pet. 3:18; Rev. 15:3; 19:11), “pure” (John 8:12; 18:38; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I John 1:5; Rev. 15:4), “lovely” (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; I Tim. 6:14-15a), “of good report” (Matt. 4:24; 9:31; Mark 1:28; Luke 4:37; 5:15; Rev. 4:11-5:14; 7:9-12), a Person of “virtue” or moral excellence (John 1:1, 14-17; Phil. 2:6; Isaiah 9:6), and “praiseworthy” (Rev 4:11-5:14; 7:9-12). If we want to experience God’s peace that surpasses human understanding, we are to “meditate” on the Lord Jesus Christ as we pray. This word “meditate” (logizomai) is where we get our English word “logic” or “logical” from. God wants us to give our left brain (prefrontal cortex) some ammunition to deal with the lies Satan inserts into our right brain (limbic system).
The more we think about the Person of Jesus Christ, the more He will set you free from the lies that rob you of peace this Christmas season. May I suggest you take one of these qualities each day for the next eight days and pray them back to the Lord? Praying these attributes back to the Lord will help to download them into your right brain. The more you focus on these attributes of Jesus, the more your brain will create neurological pathways containing these promoters of God’s peace.
For example, pray to Jesus who is “true.” You might pray, “Dear Lord Jesus, because You are true, I can trust what You say. You are faithful to keep Your promises. When Satan came against You tempting You by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), You responded, “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” You always countered falsehood with truth and I now ask You to help me do the same. When Satan tempts me to believe his lies, I pray Your truth Lord Jesus will dismiss his lies and renew my mind to what is true. Every word that You spoke on earth was true. Every action and every thought were true. This is why You could die for the sins of the world because You were the perfect Sacrifice. Thank You for paying the penalty for all of my sins. Please help me focus on what is true about You, myself, and the world in which I live. In Your name. Amen.”