And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. – Philippians 3:8 NLT
As Paul begins to wrap up his letter to the Philippian believers, he summarizes his thoughts and gives them one last set of directives. He had a special affection for these people and wanted to see them grow and prosper in their relationship with Christ and one another. They were under constant pressure from the Judaizers to compromise their freedom in Christ and submit to Jewish laws and rituals as a means of earning favor with God. Paul vehemently stood against that heresy. But on the other end of the spectrum, they were being encouraged by the antinomians (anti-law), to reject any kind of moral law whatsoever and give in to self-indulgence. Both extremes were wrong and dangerous to the well-being of the church. So Paul urges them to maintain their focus. He doesn’t want them to get distracted from what is truly important.
First of all, he calls for unity, and he uses two specific individuals as examples of disunity within the local body of Christ. He appeals to them to settle their dispute because they belong to God. Their mutual disagreement with one another was to take a back seat to their common bond in Christ. Loving one another as fellow believers was more important than being right. They were to find their joy in the Lord, not in winning a dispute or being proven right. He would rather they be known for their reasonableness and consideration than their resilience in winning an argument. Paul reminds them, and the other readers of his letter, not to forget that the Lord is going to return some day. They were to stay focused on what was really important, because on that day, all disputes and arguments are going to seem petty and unimportant. And they were to replace their worry and anxiety with prayer. If they had a need, they were to take it to God. If they had anything happening among them that was disrupting their unity, they were to bring the matter to Him, praying for one another and thanking God for all He had done for them. As a result, they would experience the peace of God, a supernatural calm in the midst of the storm, protecting their hearts and minds from harmful influences. I can’t help but think that Paul had in mind Isaiah 26:3, which says, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
That seems to be the point of this entire section of Paul’s letter, because he goes on to say, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 NLT). It would seem that Paul is encouraging his readers to keep their minds focused on God and all that He has done and is going to do for them. Rather than worry about the things of this world, they were to focus on the world to come, the one that God had promised and was preparing for them. Rather than argue over worldly issues and concerns, they were to fix their thoughts on heavenly ones. It was a matter of focus and priorities. This world is full of distractions and plenty of things to take our eyes off of God. We can easily be persuaded that He is not enough and that this world offers us the things we really want and need. But Paul would argue that the things of this earth are nothing compared to what is to come. Materialism is no match for what God has in store for us. This temporary world can’t compare to the eternity we will spend with God and His Son. So keep your focus. The author of the letter to the Hebrews shared this same sentiment. “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT). When Paul tells us to fix our thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable, he is telling us to stay focused on God. Nothing in this world has those attributes. No one in this world shares those characteristics. They are the essence of God Himself. What is true is to be found in God alone. What is right will be found in Him who is righteous alone. Whatever is to be admired in this life will be found in the one who is the source of all life. He is to be our focus in this life, not just in the one to come.
Father, this world can be a distracting place. It is so easy to fix our thoughts and our attentions on the things of this earth, and lose sight of You. Material things can become our fixation. We can end up placing our hope and trust in things that won’t last and can’t deliver. We can try and find fulfillment and satisfaction in the temporal rather than the eternal. Keep us focused on You. Help us learn how to keep our eyes fixed on Christ. We need the capacity to endure and to finish strong, keeping our eyes on the goal. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men