As Thanksgiving approaches, perhaps it would be a good thing to focus on verses that tell us to be thankful. This is one woman's perspective on a particular passage of Scripture. What is your perspective on this passage?
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the peace of God will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9
v. 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
We often read this verse and concentrate on how to rejoice in the thing we are going through…but this passage is calling us to rejoice in the Lord! While it may be difficult to rejoice about suffering, heartbreak, loss or grief…we can rejoice in the Lord Who promises to never leave us or forsake us as we walk through difficult things! When we shift our focus from “the thing” to “the Lord”…it is much easier to rejoice in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in!
v. 5 “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”
I have watched many different people walk through difficult circumstances in my lifetime. The ones who have faced crisis with the knowledge that “the Lord is near” have made a lasting impact on my life. There is a marked difference in their demeanor, their attitude and their response. The people who go to encourage and comfort them seem to always come away encouraged and comforted themselves! It changes everything when one looks at what is happening through the lens of eternity, and with the confidence that God will carry them through. They are gentle…not grasping for control, but resting in the promises of God…and it is evident to all.
v. 6&7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We should tell the Lord what is making us anxious and ask for His help, believing that He has the power and authority to change the outcome. It may be easy to overlook the two little words: “with thanksgiving” when we are asking God for help in a matter; however, I have come to believe that they are often the key to unlocking the promised peace described in the latter part of this passage.
How do we thank God for hard things or difficult times? Perhaps you can thank Him that it is not worse…or that “x” happened instead of “y”…and that type of thanksgiving certainly has its place. However, in my experience, when I begin thanking God for Who He is and the fact that He is in control in the midst of my circumstances….
When I thank Him for His mercy and goodness and grace…
When I am thankful that the God
Who spoke the world into existence…
Who opened up a sea for His people to help them escape their enemies…
Who toppled seemingly invincible walls without a fight…
Who allowed a boy to slay a giant…
Who shut the mouths of lions…
Who caused blind people to see and lame people to walk…
Who raised people from the dead…
When I am thankful that the SAME GOD Who did all of those things (and more!) is ALIVE and REAL and ACTIVE in my situation…it unleashes that great peace that passes all understanding to be poured out over my heart and soul and mind.
So, don’t be anxious! Pray! (…knowing that nothing is too big or too small for Him!) And don’t forget to thank Him! Thank Him for His goodness, His power, His grace! Thank Him for His sovereignty, His faithfulness, His trustworthiness! Thank Him for Who He is and that He cares about you! Thank Him for His “compassions that fail not” and His “mercies that are new every morning!”
Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything…
v. 8&9 “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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the peace of God will be with you."
How do we rejoice in the Lord?
How do we pray with thanksgiving?
We change our way of thinking! We set our minds on things that are true, noble, right, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.
Where do I find those things?
…In the news? Rarely.
…On Facebook? Occasionally.
…A good book? Maybe.
…God’s Word? Always!
If I will spend time studying and meditating on God’s Word, thinking about it, and putting it into practice…I will get to know Him better. I will begin to understand His character, His power, His purposes and His plans. I will be able to pray with the promises and power of God in mind. Not only will it change the way we pray…it will change the way we live.
In retrospect, whenever I have read these passages in the past, I have focused on the “to do” list of it all…
I need to rejoice! I need to pray! I need to think!
I believe God is reminding me that it’s not about ME and what I can do…it’s about HIM and what HE can do!
The recurring theme of this passage seems to be calling us to remember Who He is, what He has done and what He can do. When I view my circumstances with that in mind…a heart overflowing with thanksgiving and peace can’t help but follow!