13: Paul's Greatest Hits
**To kick off our Daniel series, and in preparation for moving into our new home on October 18th, the elders have invited our church family to a 28-day season of prayer and fasting. These daily devotionals correspond with the 28-day Bible reading countdown to the day we celebrate our soft opening.**
I started listening to the great Johnny Cash in college after a friend, whose musical tastes I respected, made a passing comment about how “legit” Cash was as an artist. Of course I had heard of Johnny Cash, but other than a few songs, I had never really listened to his music. I figured I would give him an honest try, so I bought an anthology album of his greatest hits. Sure enough, over time I was won over by the iconic boom-chucka-boom-chucka rhythms, the minimalist guitar riffs, and the storytelling lyrics that offered profound insight into the spectrum of the human experience. And that’s how greatest hits albums are supposed to work...they turn the uninitiated into lifelong fans by presenting a smorgasbord of the artist’s work.
Well if you ask me, Philippians chapter 4 feels like Paul’s greatest hits album. The chart-topping tracks include:
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (vs.4)
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (vs.6)
- ...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. (vs.8)
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (vs.13)
Isn’t it kind of surprising to realize that all of these super famous Bible verses actually come from the same chapter? Rather than taking them each as pithy independent sayings, there must be something that connects them all, since they all have the same context. I want to propose that the unifying theme is peace.
Paul specifically mentions peace twice in this chapter (vs.7,9). It is also implied when he makes an appeal for unity between two believers (vs.2), and when he talks about contentment (vs.12). Many things could be said about the theological realities of peace in the Scriptural writings of Paul, but I would like to simply offer a few simple observations:
- Peace is the fruit on the gospel tree.
Peace is not the substance of the gospel, but it is a direct application of the gospel. The gospel is the truth that Jesus died in our place for our sins, absorbing the wrath of God that we deserved, and rose again in victory over sin, Satan, and death. The immediate result of that amazing truth is that we are reconciled to God...we have peace with God. If you are lacking the experience of peace in your relationship with God, there’s a good chance you need to spend more time meditating on the truth of the gospel. Return to the tree to taste the fruit.
- To have peace, your Christianity has to be experiential, not just theoretical.
The peace of God “transcends understanding” according to Paul (vs.7). I don’t think this is Paul promoting some vague, religious mysticism. Rather, I think this is Paul promoting real relationship with God that can be experienced by every Christian. It makes sense then that the key to unlocking this peace is the highly relational activity of prayer (vs.6).
Your thought life REALLY matters.
In light of everything Paul talks about in this chapter, it is not without significance that in the life of the mind we can…
- “...be of the same mind” (vs. 2)
- “Rejoice in the Lord” (vs.4)
- Be anxious, or not be anxious (vs.6)
- Pray (vs.6)
- Think about what is true, good, excellent…(vs.8)
- Be content (vs.11)
- In so many ways, the spiritual battles you fight every day are won or lost in the mind. So let me encourage you to think about what you think, because what you think determines whether or not you have peace, even in the midst of spiritual warfare. The prophetic picture of Christ from Psalm 1 reveals him as the “Blessed Man” who meditates on God’s Word day and night. The more you set your mind on Christ and His Word, the more sensitive you will be to the Holy Spirit, and the more sensitive you are to the Holy Spirit, the more you will have an experiential, not just theoretical relationship with the Father. And I think that’s the end goal that Paul had in mind with his “greatest hits” album that is Philippians 4...he wanted his readers to experience real relationship with God. Because THAT is the only true peace. And of course, when it comes to our thought life, no one has said it better than Paul himself right here in Philippians 4, so I’ll let him have the last word.
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. (vs.8)
Pastor Kyle McMullen