Philippians 4:8 - part 6
“…whatever is commendable…think about these things.”
The next word Paul uses in Philippians 4:8 is another word that is only used here, euphēmos. This is a compound of eu meaning well, and phēmē meaning report – literally, a good report.
In studying this verse, we’ve learned that our thoughts are something we should take control of because they affect our entire lives. Constantly dwelling on sinful, self-centered thoughts, leads to hopelessness, which is a result of taking our focus off of the power of the cross. But that begs the question, should we only think about so-called ‘positive’ things?
Some might say yes – only think about the good things in your life and intentionally exclude the negative things.This is a common theme that runs through the “prosperity gospel”. If you’re sick, think about good health. If you’re in financial trouble, tell yourself you’re rich. Is this what Paul had in mind for ‘commendable’ things?
Of course not! Paul writes to another church in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Again, how does this answer the question of situations of a bad report? We must obey BOTH Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:2.
Imagine you have a family member that is dying, your best friend has just moved to another city, and your workplace has announced it will soon begin downsizing. The earthly, prosperity driven will chant that their family member is healthy, the friend has only moved next door, and the workplace is actually promoting them. The problem with this, is that the focus is only on this world, not on things above (Col. 3:2). Thinking of only earthly things might also sound like, ‘God, my family member is dying, my best friend has moved away, and I might lose my job. Why are you doing this to me? If I had some notice, I could have prepared for this better…but would that have done any good? I’m such a failure…my life is meaningless’.
Obeying Phil. 4:8 and Col. 3:2 is turning to God and asking Him to lead you through any situation while having the Gospel speak into every circumstance of life. Vain positivity and self-centered despair have no place in front of the cross. Our prayers can sound more like this, ‘God, my family member is dying, my best friend has moved away, and I might lose my job. I don’t understand why this is happening. Would you please help me? I know that you aren’t surprised by any circumstance, and nothing is out of your control. I know that in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, I have everything I will ever need even if I lose everything I have in this world. I know you love me. Help me to trust you more.’
The good, commendable report is dwelling on what the Gospel has accomplished for us. If we only think about what we are in control of, there is very little that is good to think about. When we think only of earthly things, our thoughts tend to terminate on the things themselves. When we dwell on heavenly things, we see that earthly matters point to the One who gives. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. The everyday good things in our lives are pointers to a good report – God gives good things to sinful people, and He never changes.
Paul also says in 2 Timothy 2:7 to “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”. In that same context, Paul says “Join with me in suffering…” (2 Timothy 2:3). So are we supposed to deny reality, lie to ourselves, and pretend everything is just fine or will be, when it’s not? No. We dwell on what we actually have in the Gospel. When we think about things above, we can see everything below in the light it was meant to be seen shining the way to Jesus.