Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Paul points the path to peace. It is in Jesus, of course. It is also to do with how we choose to use our minds. What have you done for your mind lately?

Sermon for CATM – November 2, 2008 – “Think Good Thoughts” – Philippians 4:1-8

Here you see a glass (use a glass as a visual). Is it half empty, or is it half full? It all depends on your perspective, on how you see the glass.

Now my brother Craig, after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, said that neither answer reflected his feeling, because for him, his cup was overflowing.

What is it that enables a relatively young man who knows he is dying to reflect on his ‘cup’, which of course is a metaphor for either one’s life or one’s situation, and to say that his life, as it approaches its last flicker, is overflowing? What could be going on in his mind?

The human mind is an amazing thing, capable of designing aquaducts, towering office buildings, brilliant works of art. The mind is capable of doing incredibly complex rocket science, astrophysics, of discovering the human genome, of creating the computer, of pondering black holes and of creating vehicles that can fly into space.

We’ve set up the international space station which currently hovers over us. The human mind is capable of profound mystical experiences; the human mind can be interacted with by God Himself. The human mind is capable of tremendous acts of compassion and love, of self-giving kindness and extraordinary generosity…and humour (pic of Homer Simpson’s brain)

It’s incredible, really, what the human mind can do.

Now, the human mind is also capable of the Final Solution, of Ethnic Cleansing, of 9/11, of witless wars like the Iraq Invasion. It’s capable of racism, sexism. Mass murder. The Rwandan genocide and the current Darfur genocide.

What are we to make of the human mind? What are we to do with its darker aspirations? How can we celebrate and motivate its nobler interests?

And…never mind all that…what about locally…very locally…what about our own minds and how we use them? Today’s passage, our second last look at the book of Philippians, presents us with a critical challenge.

After calling us in this letter to humility and calling us to work out, and not for, our salvation with fear and trembling; after challenging us to consider the interests of Jesus, to beware of those who would add anything to the gospel of God’s grace.

After calling us to consider what it means to share in the sufferings of Christ, and after calling us to press on in our faith…here, in his closing statements, Paul is challenging us to consider the way we use our minds, the things we choose to dwell upon.

And of course our mindset impacts how do we respond to adverse situations.

Prov 23:7 says this: For as a man thinks within himself, so he is. [Or “As a woman thinks within herself, so she is”]

There’s a story about a child psychologist who wanted to observe how different children respond to negative circumstances. They got a room and filled it with horse manure. Putting the pessimistic child in there, they observed how he responded.

Predictably, he whined and cried, and despaired that he was in a room full of smelly manure. They put the other child in there, and the little guy started tearing around the room, digging in the manure with an excitement that baffled the on-lookers.

After a few moments of watching this, they asked him why he was so excited. He replied, "With all this manure in the room, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!"

Now Paul says:

1. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

2. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

3. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Choices, my friends. Decisions to be made…where? In the mind. Will I rejoice in the Lord always…will I choose to discipline my mind so I can grow to always have Jesus and His love and His victory over death foremost in my mind? Choices.

Will I be grow to be gentle in my responses, remembering that no matter what, Jesus is close by and enabling me to choose the gentle way?

And will I then, knowing this, reject my tendency to worry and anxiety and instead prayerfully give every situation to God so that He can give me, in return, his peace, the peace which trumps all understanding?

You can know the presence of God, you will experience that personal connection with the almighty. But how?

How can we, here on this messed-up, broken globe, experience God’s peace. His sustaining peace.

Well, we’re actually told in explicit terms how to achieve that peace.

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