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How can we have more peace during this Christmas season?

“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.”

Why is it important to meet with other Christians?

 “24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

The author of the book of Hebrews is writing to Christians who are being pressured to return to Judaism and give up on their Christian faith. After focusing on the sufficient sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to perfect them and give them total acceptance before God (10:1-18), the writer admonishes his readers to boldly “draw near” to God in a “new and living way” without unbelief or consciousness of sin or guilt (10:19-22). They are to persevere in the faith (10:23) and Christian fellowship till Christ’s return (10:24-25), when the promise of the eternal inheritance will be awarded to those who persevere (cf. Heb. 9:15; 10:35-37).

As the nearness of Christ’s return approaches, Christians are to meet with one another “to stir up love and good works” among each other. The word “consider” means to carefully focus on another person in such a way as to “stir up” or stimulate one another to love God and each other so they can live a godly life (“good works”). Satan wants Christians to withdraw from other believers so he can attack them and destroy them much like a lion that preys upon animals that are isolated from the herd and more vulnerable to attack (cf. I Peter 5:8). But God wants us not to forsake “assembling ourselves together, as is the manner of some,” so we can focus on “exhorting one another” in such a way as to encourage and strengthen each other to persevere in the Christian faith.

The more we meet with other believers, the more prepared we will be to face Christ on “the Day” of His return for His church. Satan will whisper lies to us (“No one would love me if they knew all about me,” “I cannot depend on others to help me,” “Christians are such hypocrites,” “No one would miss me if did not go to church,” “I am not needed”) to keep us from meeting with other believers. But the more Christians focus on the truth (“Christ wants to love me through other believers,” “I can learn to depend on others through Christ who strengthens me,” “Christians are imperfect sinners like me,” “I am an important member of the body of Christ,” “I am needed to love and be loved in the church”), the more motivated they will be to connect with other Christians.   

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me dismiss the lies that keep me from meeting with other believers who encourage and strengthen me and I them to be more prepared to face You at the Judgment Seat of Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.