Monday, April 25, 2011

Devotional for YMCA Brazos Bend

Today I want to share with you some key secrets of living the good life that God wants each of us to enjoy. A few weeks ago, it was my pastor's birthday, and I found out that his favorite verses in the Bible come from Philippians 4:4-7. That piqued my interest since you can imagine that a good pastor has been through the Bible backwards and forwards. So if he has some favorite verses, they are worth listening to. I also love the verse that comes right after this, so today we're going to walk through Philippians 4:4-8.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

Paul started out this passage by telling us to rejoice in the Lord. Rejoicing is being glad, having a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. There are a couple things that stand out to me about this.
  1. He is commanding us to rejoice. Like it is something we have control over versus a reactive emotion. He makes it sound like we are not victim to our emotions but rather in control of them.
  2. The object of our rejoicing is not the situations we find ourselves in, or our accomplishments, or significant other people who are in our lives. Rather, Paul calls us to rejoice in the Lord Jesus. Now we cannot rejoice in the Lord if we are not first in the Lord Jesus.
    • Romans 3:10 says, ...there is no one righteous, not even one.
    • Romans 3:23 says, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
    • Romans 6:23 says, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    • Romans 5:8 says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
    • Romans 10:13 tells us that Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
    • Romans 10:9-10 says That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
    • Romans 8:1 says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
    • And Psalm 103:12 says, as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Now this is good news worth rejoicing in!
When we have been saved through Jesus and live a new life in Christ Jesus as He transforms us, we can rejoice in the Lord even in spite of when things don't go our way, when people hurt us, or when things are bad and there's nothing we can do about it.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 (NIV)

What does it mean to have gentleness?
  • For our behavior to be kind or tender
  • To be courteous
  • To be polite or refined
  • Not to be harsh, severe, rough, or violent
Why should we be gentle? Because the Lord is near. This can be taken two different ways. First, Jesus is with us wherever we are, so our actions should reflect our knowing that He is right here with us. I think a lot of times we probably would think twice about some of our behavior if Jesus was standing right here next to us. Second, the Lord is near also means He is coming back soon, or we are going to face Him soon. Our life can end at any point, so let's be ready without regrets when we do meet the Lord.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

I love this verse, but not as much as the next one. In any case, I don't know about you, but there are definitely times I've been anxious. Anxious about how I've done in school, anxious about whether someone is going to like me or accept me, anxious about my job, or anxious after I've done something wrong or there's been an accident that has consequences. Paul tells us not to sweat the small wait--he tells us not to sweat anything, which means even the big stuff.

Well how are we supposed to not be anxious about anything? He tells us just to ask God! Pray and petition Him with thanksgiving. So that means that we are just talking to God and making our requests known to him, and not just asking asking asking, but also telling Him what we're thankful for too. It is powerful when we take time out not just to ask God to do something for us, but we also remember who He is and thank Him first.

I call this having an attitude of gratitude. That sounded catchy, so I googled it and found this is actually a popular phrase. One article I read said, "Scientists are finding that an attitude of gratitude is a powerful contributor to a happy life. Some believe that it may be the single most effective way to increase happiness." It goes on to say that "New research shows that practicing gratitude may be the fastest single pathway to happiness, health, long life, and prosperity." Well I can't agree more, except that this isn't new news at all! We've known this for nearly two thousand years!
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

OK--this one is my favorite verse. If you have never experienced the peace of God, which transcends or surpasses all possible understanding, then you are missing out. The people of Israel have a word we translate as peace, but in Hebrew the word is shalom. Shalom is more than just being at peace, it is being in a right standing with God, the world, people around you, and with yourself. It is a wholeness, a completeness, a fullness. And that word is just a human understanding that people have used for millenia. I'm talking here about the peace that goes beyond the limits of all human understanding—the peace from God, which He promises will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.

If you are in the Lord, and if you present your requests to Him with thanksgiving, then you won't be anxious and you will experience His peace that is so amazing that we cannot even understand or fully explain it. Now that is an amazing thing.

On now to the last verse.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Let me ask you first—what kinds of things are we prompted to think about by movies, music, and TV? There is a lot of selfishness, rudeness, people putting themselves first, all sorts of things we can do to please ourselves, and even evil. But here's a secret revealed: God knows these things are not going to help us live an abundant life. Instead, let's choose to put our minds on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. When I'm deciding about what movie or TV show to watch, what music to listen to, or what conversation to get involved in, I think about this verse and use it as a test for the choice I have in front of me.

So my challenge to you today is to rejoice in the Lord, and that means first you have to be in the Lord, to be characterized by gentleness, to avoid anxiety by asking God to take care of what's bothering us with an attitude of gratitude, to enjoy His peace, and to put our minds on things worthy of thinking.

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