“Father, I don’t know what’s coming, but I pray to stand firm in You no matter what.”
Have you ever committed to no matter what in response to some circumstance?
No matter what.
When I uttered those words in prayer, all I wanted was forward motion on the sacred ground of God’s purpose for my life. I wanted traction for my steps; He called me to stand firm. Little did I know both would come to pass.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Philippians 4.1 (NASB95)
In my limited view, I believed God would prepare me to aid others in choosing faith in God over faith in anything or anyone else. With all my plans in place, I began a new year with a clear sense of direction and confidence in having heard His will. Daily Bible reading, study, and journaling cultivated my faith into an ever-stronger trust in Christ.
Just before January gave way to February, the most horrendous tragedy of my family’s life blasted my faith.
How do we stand firm in Christ when our faith foundation quakes?
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4.8-9 NASB95)
Finally. In conclusion. The summation of Paul’s exhortation of the centrality of Christ in the life of every believer.
Brethren. We are not alone. Believers – those who truly know Christ and His call – form a united defense of hope and life amid tragedy and suffering…and every circumstance.
Think. The command to focus our attention on life in Christ.
Practice. The command to develop a life-sustaining discipline of following the example of Christ.
Why? Because moving from knowing to believing is the conduit for walking in “the peace of God” (v 9).
Whatever is true.
God – His Word is true (John 17.17 NKJV). Truth is the standard against which every other adjective in this verse finds its definition. Truth surrounds us. Addition increases, subtraction takes away. The sun shines, even on a cloudy day. The bounty of a garden finds its beginning in the death of each seed. Creation points to The Creator. Eternal life does not end.
Whatever is honorable.
God is honorable. He is worthy of our honor (Revelation 4:11 NKJV). Living according to His will is how we honor Him; it’s the natural outflow of knowing Him. Opportunities for honorable living are innumerable. Honest work for honest wages. Holding your tongue when venom fills your mouth. Choosing to honor God by living like Christ when the world seeks to honor self.
Whatever is right.
God is righteousness – He defines what is right (Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV). Believing God is right does not mean we can understand every event of life. A butterfly was once a worm. My voice transmits through a wireless phone to someone miles away. Sin destroys. Salvation through Christ never dies.
Whatever is pure.
God is pure – He is uncontaminated by impurities of any kind. (Revelation 4:8 NKJV). God’s actions align with His perfect pureness. We know the benefits of purity, don’t we? If you’ve ever satisfied your thirst with clean water, it only takes one sip of muddy water to know which is best. Make a baby smile and you become a partaker of pure joy. Love others as Christ loves you; that’s pure love.
Whatever is lovely.
God is lovely because He is love (1 John 4:8 – NKJV). Everything about God is excellent. Even Christ’s heinous death leads us to the beauty of eternal reconciliation with God as Father for all who believe (1 John 5:10-13 NKJV). Where’s the lovely in our world? The radiance of a star-filled sky. What about the nurture from a parent for a child with lifelong special needs? There’s a reason we’re inspired to capture a photograph, paint on canvas, or string words together.
Whatever is of good repute.
Every attribute of Christ deserves our praise (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV). The Gospel of Christ is the good report of salvation, of hope, of the power of God indwelling those who believe. What is admirable in our world? Giving out of one’s own need for the provision of others. Sacrificing one’s own comfort to comfort another. Offering praise to the God of all good things even when bad things occur.
If there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
There is no limit to excellent and praise-worthy things on which to think, if you are in Christ. Knowing Him is not only the who, the why, and the how of standing firm, knowing God is our witness for those who need Him. Every life experience – even the horrid, unbearable ones – has the potential of strengthening us for the journey this side of heaven.
Our thought-life is the seed from which actions spring. This passage demonstrates how believers in Christ thrive, even when circumstances threaten to pull us down. This is not the power of positive thinking. This is the power of absolute truth – Christ in you.
How do we know when we’ve made our choice? It shows up in our actions.
My love for God and my commitment through Christ helped me choose well. I have learned not only to stand, but to stand firm in the midst of spiritual winds of doubt that threaten to shred every fiber of the banner of my faith in Christ. And in the discipline of standing firm, I moved forward in the call of Christ in my life.
My prayer for you:
Father, I come to You in Jesus’ name. You are excellence that is worthy of praise, even when pain reduces our words to whispers of the heart. May we choose to think on the things that we know to be true about You, the things that carry us when walking is too hard. You are there – in the heart of each believer. May we always choose to walk by faith in You as opposed to what we see. You are writing a story that our finite being cannot comprehend or foresee. And Father, I pray for those who do not know You. May the testimony of our endurance in You be the sacred ground on which the lost are saved.
Have you ever experienced a time when thinking on the things Paul shared helped you stand firm in Christ?
Why does thinking on the truths of God help His people endure challenging times?
Let me know with a comment below.