“Finally,” says Paul, for the second time in this letter to the Philippians. He got side-tracked a bit after his first “finally” (3:1). But now he’s gonna wrap up this short letter for real. And in the portion I read this morning, 4:8-13, I notice he talks a lot about “things.”
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. . . . for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:8-9, 11b-13 ESV)
Think about these things. Practice these things. Do all things.
What we set our minds on, and what we choose to give ourselves to, will have a direct influence, it seems, on what we are able to deal with.
And Paul says it’s a secret to learn. The only time in the NT, I think, where the term secret is used outside of understanding the revelation once hidden of Christ and the gospel. The original word used here is used only once in the NT, having the idea of being initiated into a mystery, of becoming intimately acquainted with a thing not intuitive to everyone. Of learning the secret of doing all things through Him who strengthens us. And, it seems, it is tightly linked to thinking about the right things and in practicing the right things.
Whatever is true, honorable, just and pure. Whatever is lovely, commendable, in essence excellent, and worthy of praise. Think about these things. These things sound a lot like the Savior.
To meditate on the person of Christ is to think about these things. After all, isn’t He the truth (Jn. 14:6)? Will not every knee bow one day before Him and show the honor due His name (Php. 2:10)? By His divine nature He is just, and by His great love and sacrifice became the justifier (Rom. 3:26). Remember that He came as the spotless, pure Lamb of God, who “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1Pet. 2:22). What’s more, He is the Bridegroom, the Beloved, the altogether lovely One (Song 5:16).
Is anything more commendable, more excellent, or more worthy of praise than the One who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Thinking not. Thinking about these things.
But the secret of doing all things lies not just in meditating on Christ, but also in imitating Christ. Taking what we’ve learned and received and heard, and practicing these things. Not just hearers of the word, but doers, as well. Training for godliness (1Tim. 4:7-8). Exercising. Cooperating with the Spirit’s work of sanctification as we strive to become more in reality what we are in standing. Doing “reps” of righteousness. Committed, by His enabling, to working it out, that we might know His working in us.
Thinking about these things. Practicing these things. Aren’t those, at least in part, what enables us to face all things?
Aren’t they part of the secret sauce that allows those who flourish to do so whether they are brought low or abound?
Frequently, consistently, chewing on the things of Christ. Regularly, diligently, trying to walk the talk. The things we think about, the things we practice, are the things that will help us learn to be content in every situation. They are the things which, through His Spirit, enable us to do all things.
Might we learn the secret.
Thinking about these things. Practicing these things. Doing all things.
By His grace. For His glory.