We long to know God’s peace and feel His presence. But the peace of God, which guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7), does not come about in a vacuum. It will not happen spontaneously. God’s abiding peace will only be experienced when we train our minds on that which is pleasing to Him. So to know peace, first ask, “What should be my pattern of thinking?”
This verse gives Paul’s answer. He encourages us to build our framework for thinking on the basis of that which is excellent and praiseworthy. To that end, he provides us with a list of six foundational virtues of a Christian thought life.
The first is truth. The belt of truth must be fastened before we can benefit from any other aspects of the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14). So here, truth—found objectively in Christ and experienced subjectively as we proclaim the gospel to ourselves and to others—comes first. Second, Paul directs us toward “whatever is honorable”—or “noble,” as some translations have it. Fastening our minds on that which is majestic or awe-inspiring is the opposite of contemplating that which is immoral and earthly. As believers, we are not to feed our minds on trashy entertainment or similar trivialities, which preoccupy so much of our secular society. Instead, we are to think about that which lifts our souls upward towards God and His great works. Third and fourth, Paul calls us to make decisions based on what is just and pure instead of what is convenient or gratifying. It was this way of thinking that distinguished Joseph from David in otherwise similar situations, for when Joseph was pursued by Potiphar’s wife, he made his decision to run from her on the basis of what was right, not what was easy or instantly pleasing to him (Genesis 39:6-12). David, on the other hand, followed his feelings and committed great injustice in sleeping with Bathsheba and murdering her husband (2 Samuel 11). Being a saved person does not immunize us from ungodliness, which starts in the mind and ends in sinful action. Thinking like a saved person does. Fifth and sixth, we are to think on “whatever is lovely” and “whatever is commendable”—or, as it is translated in the King James Version, what is “of good report.” When we think this way, we will listen to reports that build people up as opposed to reports that tear down, disappoint, and destroy. This is a mindset that promotes brotherly love and accompanies God’s grace as it works in our lives.
Tailor your thinking to the pattern Paul provides and make sure you accompany it with prayer (Philippians 4:6-8), and you will have very little room left for anxiety—that peace-disrupting, joy-destroying state of mind which so often creeps into our lives. Instead, train your mind to think God’s thoughts after Him, and you can experience an increased measure of His peace and presence.
97Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
99I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
100I understand more than the aged,8
for I keep your precepts.
101I hold back my feet from every evil way,
in order to keep your word.
102I do not turn aside from your rules,
for you have taught me.
103How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
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