Leviticus 14, Proverbs 28, Psalm 100

Read Leviticus 14, Proverbs 28, Psalm 100.

This devotional is about Psalm 100.

This simple song oozes with joy. Verse 1 calls all the earth to “shout for joy.” Verse 2 commands us to worship him “with gladness” and come before him (in worship) “with joyful songs.”

Joy is an attractive emotion. But why should we do all this shouting and singing and worshipping with joy? The answer is in verse 3. That verse is the hinge on which this Psalm turns. We should worship joyfully because we belong to God:

  • He is God (v. 3a) and he made us (v. 3b) therefore we are his (v. 3c). What you make, you own. What you own, you control. We belong to God because he’s God and we’re his creation. But, the verse goes on and says:
  • We are his people (v. 3d). This refers to God’s covenant with Israel. His promises to Abraham and his descendants formed a unique relationship which made all Israelites “his people” in a more significant sense than “his by creation.” This promise to Israel still stands but we Gentiles have been grafted into it by God’s grace (see Romans 11:13-17).

But then, after describing how we belong to God by creation and by grace, the Psalmwriter says this, “we are… the sheep of his pasture.” This image suggests God’s care for us. He provides for us “his pasture” which we need in order to be nourished and healthy. He protects us from predators and cares about our spiritual well-being. We’re in good hands because they are his hands, the hands of the perfect shepherd.

Because we belong to God, he watches over and cares for us. What more reason, then, does a person need to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (v. 4)? Verse 5 affirms that God is good, he is loyally-loving, and he is faithful. Why? Because we belong to him.

This is directly opposite to how we think. We think (in our sinful thought patterns, that is) that to belong to God means to be controlled, manipulated, subjected, harassed by rules and punished severely. This Psalm argues the opposite. Because we belong to God he will take care of us. Most dog owners will feed and water and care for their dog because it belongs to them. Most of the same people won’t do anything for the stray dog that goes wandering through their backyards. The stray dog may be “free” to what he wants, but he becomes dirty and starved in the process. The dog that is truly free is the one that is loved and cared for.

This is why we rejoice. We belong to God but he loves us and will provide everything that is good for us like a great shepherd provides for his sheep. This is something to be joyful and bring glad praise for today.

Have you approached him “with thanksgiving” (v. 4) yet? If not, do that next.

Leviticus 11-12, Proverbs 26, Psalm 98

Read Leviticus 11-12, Proverbs 26, Psalm 98.

This devotional is about Psalm 98.

The end of the world, at least as we know it, is usually thought of as something to be feared. The unbelieving world around us frets about the extinction of humanity through climate change, or an asteroid hitting the earth, or the sun exploding or dying. We Christians read the book of Revelation and stand in fearful awe of the tumult that will precede the coming of Christ’s kingdom.

Unbelievers have much to fear about the end of world, but not for the reasons that they think. The end of this world means accountability before God. The Bible tells us that each person who has ever lived will stand and give an account of his life before a holy God. Apart from the righteousness of Christ credited to us by God’s grace, none of us will have a satisfactory answer for how we’ve lived our lives. And, as he promised, God will punish everyone who died in their sins.

It is sobering–and very sad–to think about the billions of people who will be tormented for eternity for their sins. It is surprising, then, to read the Psalmist’s encouragement to sing “for joy” (vv. 4, 6, 8) because God “comes to judge the earth” (v. 9b). And, how will that judgment be delivered? “He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity” according to verse 9c-d. In other words, when God’s judgment comes, he will give everyone exactly what they deserve.

So, given that everyone will get what they deserve and that, apart from Christ, each of us deserves God’s eternal wrath, why does the Psalmist encourage us to sing for joy? Two reasons.

First, those who die in their sins have no excuse. Verses 2-3 tell us that “the nations” and “all the ends of the earth” have seen “his salvation” (vv. 2a, 3d). No one who dies apart from Christ, then, can plead ignorance. God has revealed himself and humanity turned a blind eye to him.

Second, the world cries out for judgment and righteousness. Everyone who has ever been sinned against understands the pain that injustice causes. When Jesus “comes to judge the earth” (v. 9b), he will be doing what is right. This world, which is distorted by sin, will finally be restored to what God created. If you’re in Christ by faith, that is a very good thing, something that should give you joy. When Jesus comes to judge, God will no longer be disregarded or questioned or mocked. He will restore the world to the state he created, a state where sin is punished and joy reigns because of righteousness. All the heartaches and problems that sin has caused in this world will be banished and, for the first time ever, a righteous society will exist. These are reasons for joy.

This Psalm, then, calls each of us who believe in Jesus to rejoice in our hearts and sing with joy from our lips because of God’s salvation (vv. 1-3) and because of his judgment (vv. 7-9). Do you rejoice in these truths?

Leviticus 7, Proverbs 22, Psalm 94

Read Leviticus 7, Proverbs 22, Psalm 94.

This devotional is about Proverbs 22:9.

Many people–most of us, probably, at some point in our lives–live under the delusion that more stuff or better stuff will make us happy. We think that nicer clothes, or a new car, or a house in a better neighborhood, or just some more spending money to go out when we want is what we need. We think that money is the antidote to worry because if we had the money, we wouldn’t have to worry if the car breaks down. Or, we think that spending is the cure for boredom because dinner and a movie sounds better than leftovers and reruns.

One symptom of our materialism is stinginess. The person who wants more and better stuff has a hard time giving anything to someone else because each dollar spent on others is one less that could go toward that new iPhone.

Proverbs 22:9 urges us to reconsider. It says, “The generous will themselves be blessed….” Being “blessed” means being “prospered” in the loosest sense of the word “prosper.” Sometimes that blessing is material prosperity. The Bible tells us that the things we have and the money that comes into us is God’s blessing in our lives. Other times, though, being “blessed” in scripture refers to the joy or contentment that only God can give. That joy or contentment is usually distinct from our circumstances. There are poor people with joy and wealthy people who are miserable. There are people who are ill or aging or who have experienced many problems in life who live each day happily as a gift from God. Likewise, there are some very bitter, unpleasant people who have only first-world problems.

This verse told us that those who are generous will be blessed in some way. Is that blessing the blessing of joy or is it the blessing of material prosperity?

The last half of verse 9 may hold the answer. It says that they generous will be blessed “for they share their food with the poor.” This phrase gives the reason why God blesses them. Because they share with others, God shares blessings with them. But what if sharing “food with the poor” IS the blessing? In other words, what if the blessing God gives to the generous is the joy of helping others? What if God is telling us that there is a blessing built in to generosity because it triggers gratitude in those who have their needs met by your gift? What if God wants us to know that within every poor person there is a potential relationship that your generosity might unlock?

If you have no needs, no threats, no real problems in your life but you lack real joy, it’s time to open up your wallet and start sharing. When you share your time serving others in need and spend your money on those who don’t have it, you might find joy like you’ve never experienced before. Take this truth statement and think about how to apply it in your life; the result might make you happier than you can possibly imagine because it will make a real, meaningful difference in someone else’s life.

Exodus 38, Proverbs 14, Psalm 86

Read Exodus 38, Proverbs 14, and Psalm 86.

This devotional is about Proverbs 14:2, 16, 26, 27.

Fear is feeling that motivates people to act in ways that other feelings do not. You may love America, for example, but I’ll bet you pay your taxes more because you fear being prosecuted than because of patriotism.

These verses in Proverbs are linked by the concept of the “fear of the Lord.” The first two of them describe about how the fear of the Lord motivates people to do what is right:

  • 14:2: “Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly….”
  • 14:16: “The wise fear the Lord and shun evil….”

We often hear that “fearing the Lord” doesn’t mean being afraid of God but rather having a sense of “reverential awe” toward him. Reverential awe is good but there is more to fearing God than just being in awe of him. Someone who fears God is reverent because of who God is personally but a God-fearing person also respects his role as Lord and judge. Fearing God does not mean we serve him because he’s angry and we’re terrified of being annihilated at any moment for doing or saying the wrong thing. It does mean, however, that we submit to his authority to make the rules and we obey the rules because we believe in him and all that he is, including that he is just. Verses 2 and 16 tell us that this kind of proper fear of the Lord causes someone to do right (“walks uprightly”) and avoid doing wrong (“shun evil”). These are the consequences when someone fears God.

Verses 26 and 27 show us, however, that fearing God is not negative at all; it is positive. Verse 26 says that fearing the Lord provides a person with “a secure fortress” and verse 27 says that it “is a fountain of life.” When you believe in God as the Bible presents him, it brings security (v. 26) and blessings such as joy and purpose to your life (v. 27). Why is that true? Because sin is dangerous! Verse 27 says that the fear of the Lord turns “a person from the snares of death.” Sin kills but fearing God will help you avoid it.

We need God’s grace to fear him and to live obediently because we fear him. That means extending grace, of course, to others who truly fear God but still give into the desires of the sinful nature within. But, please understand, we do ourselves and our loved ones no favors at all when we act like sin is no big deal because God’s grace in Christ covers it all anyway. Sin is a big deal! The wages of it “is death” (Rom 6:23). When we rebuke someone who is sinning because we fear God, we are not trying to cut them down personally; we’re trying to save them from the destructive effects of sin. If you’ve ever had a loving friend step in and help you avoid or extricate yourself from sin, you know what a blessing that is. Until we are fully redeemed by God (at death or Christ’s return), we are vulnerable to the deceptive lives of our sin nature, the world, and the devil. But if we fear God and his discipline in our lives, it will help us avoid sin and find the fountain of life Solomon described in v. 27.

Exodus 16, Job 34, Psalm 64

Read Exodus 16, Job 34, and Psalm 64.

This devotional is about Psalm 64.

David had a lot of enemies. Saul was his enemy, the Philistines and other pagan nations were his enemies, even some his own sons became his enemies. In all these cases, these enemies battled him physically and their goal was to kill him.

Here in Psalm 64, David speaks of his enemy (v. 1) but the weapon that he feared was not a literal weapon but the warfare of words. Look at how frequently words come up in this psalm:

  • v. 2: “conspiracy” and “plots” are formed in conversation using words.
  • v. 3a: “They sharpen their tongues like swords”
  • v. 3b: they “aim cruel words like deadly arrows.”
  • v. 5: “They encourage each other in evil plans… they talk…. they say….”
  • v. 6: “they plot injustice and say….”

Words are not as dangerous as swords or guns or other instruments of war. But they are dangerous in their own way. People use words to overthrow rulers, to damage reputations, to wound emotions, to separate friends, to end careers, to create problems in families, and more.

David was confident that God would win anyway, despite the words of evildoers. In verse 7, he envisioned God riding in like the cavalry to save the day. In verse 8, he was more specific about how God would save him, “He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin.” We can use words to cause a lot of damage to others but, if you do that enough, eventually people will figure you out. They won’t trust what you say and won’t even want to listen to what you say. In the end, “all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.”

A better way for us to use words is described in verse 9: people “will proclaim the works of God.”

Are you careful about the words you use when talking with others or to others? The Bible commands us to watch what we say because we love God; this passage also tells us that our words will eventually catch up with us and be our undoing. If you have a problem with destructive, uncontrolled speech, ask God for help and memorize some verses from his Word about the power of speech.

If you’ve been the victim of someone else’s destructive speech, let verse 10 give you comfort and hope: “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; all the upright in heart will glory in him!” God knows if you’ve been unjustly and unkindly wounded by the words of others. Trust him to come to your aid and vindicate you.

Genesis 48, Job 14, Psalm 46

Read Genesis 48, Job 14, and Psalm 46.

This devotional is about Psalm 46.

The world is a dangerous place. The same natural environment that nurtures us with air, water, and food can drown us, poison us, strike us with lightning, and kill us in any number of other ways.

The people who live in this world can be dangerous, too. Although most people have no intent to harm, there are plenty who want to rob, rape, and even kill. Some of these people become world leaders which enables them to marshal resources to kill on a massive scale through warfare. There are nations in this world, today, are at war or preparing for war. Innocent people will die because they were conscripted against their will into some man’s army or because that army will attack them and destroy their homes.

This is the world we live in. We feel secure most of the time, but that security is an illusion. If we paid attention to all the ways we could die, it would greatly increase our fears.

Psalm 46 invites us to contemplate a different world. It calls us to trust in God as “our refuge and strength” the one who is “ever-present” to help us in time of trouble (v. 1). This kind of faith gives us confidence, not fear, no matter what disasters happen around us (vv. 2-3).

But the world that the Psalmist envisions here in Psalm 46 is not a present reality yet. When God dwells in Jerusalem on earth (vv. 4-6), then we will see him protect us (vv. 7, 11), stop the natural disasters that kill (v. 8) and the wars that claim so many lives (v. 9). Instead, he will command the nations, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (v. 10).

The vision of life presented in this song won’t happen until Jesus reigns on earth in his kingdom. When his kingdom has superseded all the kingdoms of this earth, when he has defeated his enemies, then there will be peace, prosperity, joy, and eternal life. But better than all of those benefits is the opportunity to know God (v. 10a). Everyone will know him and we will all worship him in his kingdom (“I will be exalted, ” v. 10).

This is the hope that God’s word sets before us believers while we live on this earth. We are citizens of that kingdom but in exile for now until he fully establishes that kingdom on earth. While we wait, Jesus gave us to the gospel to call people all over the world to know the Lord, worship the Lord, and wait for that coming kingdom with us.

If you are harassed, feeling helpless, discouraged by the problems of this world and wondering why life has to be so hard, be encouraged. Things are a mess because the rebellion against the true Lord of this earth has not been defeated yet. But, when that kingdom comes, the joys and pleasures of worshipping the Lord in it will far outweigh the problems we lived through to get there. So don’t give up your faith; it will be rewarded when the king comes.

Genesis 47, Job 13, Psalm 45

Read Genesis 47, Job 13, and Psalm 45.

This devotional is about Psalm 45.

This beautiful song bears the superscription, “A wedding song.” Those superscriptions are (probably) not part of the original text. We don’t really know if they are original or not, because we don’t have the originals, but scholars feel they are accurate, if not inspired. That superscription tells us the setting for this song, but we do not know if this song was written for Solomon or one of his descendants.

Regardless of which Davidic king had this written for his wedding, the Psalmist who wrote it looked beyond that human king. Verses 6-7 are quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9. There the author of Hebrews recognized that they applied to Jesus. Jesus is the only king in David’s line about whom it could accurately be written, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever…. therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions.”

So, there it is, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a prophecy of his eternal kingdom that reco that Israel’s true king would be God but also be distinct from the person of God that we would call the Father. These two verses suggest the deity of Christ, his coming as the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, and that there are distinct persons of the Godhead.

This Psalm also suggests the idea of looking at God’s people as the bride of Christ. Like the human bride of whichever Israelite king this was written for, we as the bride of Christ must “honor him, for he is your lord” (v. 11b). But honoring Jesus is not degrading or burdensome to us; instead, when we honor Christ, love him, and are joined with him, it will mean “joy and gladness” for all of us.

Genesis 23, Nehemiah 12, Psalm 22

Read Genesis 23, Nehemiah 12, Psalm 22.

This devotional is about Nehemiah 12, particularly verses 27-47.

God was doing something in Jerusalem. Compared to the growth and expansion of the kingdom that David and Solomon saw, what Nehemiah and his countrymen were doing was small. But, compared to the ruin that Jerusalem had been for 70 years and the powerlessness and exile that God’s people had experienced for a generation, the days of Nehemiah and Ezra were amazing. They were more hopeful than successful, like a sprout from the ground on a farm that hadn’t produced anything in years. A sprout is not the same as an acre of corn ready to be harvested, but it is a reason to be hopeful. Every acre of corn began with a spout, after all.

So, these were not Judah’s greatest days politically or economically. But spiritually, they were powerful. God was moving in his people and for his people again. He was working in the hearts of pagan kings and governors to protect and provide for his people. The people were expressing repentance for their disobedience to his word and were publicly recommitting themselves to obey his covenant. And what was result of all of this work God was doing in Jerusalem? Singing!

The wall around Jerusalem was a defense mechanism. It had no real spiritual purpose, like the altar and the temple did. It was there to protect the inhabitants of the city from enemy attacks.

Nehemiah saw the repair and rebuilding of this wall as a spiritual act, however, because Jerusalem was God’s city. It was the place where his temple was, where his name would live, and, eventually, where his Messiah would reign. So, when the wall was finished, Nehemiah organized a ceremony to dedicate it (v. 27). And, one of the key features of that dedication ceremony was singing. “Two large choirs” (v. 31) were organized “that gave thanks” (vv. 31), by singing during this ceremony (v. 40). They were joined by “musical instruments prescribed by David the man of God” (v. 36). The two choirs stood on top of the wall to give thanks, then they came together to continue that singing in the temple (v. 40). The result of all of this music was joy. Look at how verse 43 described it: “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”

The music offered to God on that day had such a powerful affect that people wanted it to continue. People brought provisions to the temple (v. 44) to provide for musicians and singers (vv. 46-47). This shows what a key, important role music has in the worship of God’s people. When God is working in people’s lives, they want to praise him in song. Music lifts our hearts when they are wounded and it gives us a way to express our joy when we are glad and thankful for what God has done.

This can be part of your walk with God as well. Not only can we be thankful for Nick Slayton and all the worship team members who lead us in worship each Sunday, we in this age have the gift of recorded music to help us worship in our private devotional times, to encourage us when we are down, and to help set our hearts to thankfulness and praise as we go to work each day. Why not pick an uplifting song of praise to listen to on your way to work today? Sing along and let the Lord use this gift to help you start the week off in dedication and praise to him.

2 Chronicles 35 and Revelation 21

Read 2 Chronicles 35 and Revelation 21.

This devotional is about Revelation 21.

This is it; the chapter that describes what everyone who loves God is waiting for. As beautiful as this earth is, as joyful and loving as this life can be at times, we all know that something big is amiss. This world is fundamentally broken and that is because the most important piece is missing—God.

He’s not missing in the sense that he is absent, for we believe that God is omnipresent—everywhere present in the fullness of his being. No, God is missing from this life in the sense that he is not the center of our worship, the source of our joy, our reason for living, our hope for the future. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, God graciously let them live and decreed for the human race to continue, but we have never experienced the kind of fellowship they had with him. We do not know what it means to “walk with God” without trying to hide ourselves with fig leaves. 

But, when Christ returns and the events that end this age are over, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” (v. 1) and God’s dwelling place will be “now among the people” (v. 3). The pain and sorrow and death that pollute the joys and love of this life will be over (v. 4). We will have a joyous welcome into God’s kingdom that rivals any joy we can have in this life; the closest we can come is our wedding day, which this passage uses to try to describe for us what it will be like (vv. 9-14). 

And who gets in? “Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” Not all the people who claim to be great in this life. The only people who get in are those who have been rescued from sin and the punishment we deserve for it by the sacrificial death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, for us. Here is hope and encouragement for you this morning; it will be perfect someday, if you’re in Him. No matter how badly this life treats you, there is a perfect hope of eternity in Christ.

1 Chronicles 29, Psalms 133-135

Read 1 Chronicles 29 and Psalms 133-135.

This devotional is about 1 Chronicles 29.

The large number of commands and rules in Moses’ law can make us feel like serving God is merely a matter of “dos” and “don’ts.” If people did everything the Lord commanded them to do and didn’t do what he commanded them to avoid, they may have thought that God was pleased with them. And, when they sinned, if they merely “did” the offering God commanded, all would be well again. The Pharisees seemed to believe this to be true and possibly many Christians do as well. 

But 1 Chronicles 29 argues against such an objective, works-based approach to God. David spoke to the assembly of God’s people in 1 Chronicles 29 and described for them the wealth that he had provided for the materials in the temple Solomon would build (vv. 1-5a). David then invited the leaders of Israel’s tribes to contribute to the Lord’s work in the temple as well (v. 5b).

The people responded well to his invitation and gave generously to the stockpile of materials that a magnificent temple required (vv. 6-8). All this was done with joy–“the people rejoiced”, “they had given freely and wholeheartedly” and “David the king also rejoiced greatly” (v. 9). Then David prayed a magnificent prayer of praise in verses 10-19 and led the people to praise the Lord with him (v. 20). David’s prayer took no credit for the abundance of the Lord’s provision but instead marveled at how God’s abundant provision for them enabled them to give so much wealth to him (v. 12a, 14-16).

Then David focused on the heart: “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity” (v. 17a). It is not our performance of giving or righteous good works or religious ceremonies that God wants; it is a heart that desires him, is devoted to him, and obeys and gives and serves him out of awe and worship and thanks and love. All of these things would have come naturally to us if sin had not entered the world, but we did sin. Therefore, selfishness and wicked desires invaded the space God created in us to be devoted to him.

David recognized that it was only God’s gracious work in the heart that enabled true devotion to Him so he prayed that God would do this work in the people (“keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you”) and in Solomon (“give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees”). As believers in Jesus, we’ve received a new nature that leads us toward a holy life. But we need God’s continual work to “keep these desires and thoughts” (v. 18), just as David prayed, because of the constant battle we do with sin. 

Your obedience to the Lord may be spot on today in the sense that you’ve been consistently doing the Lord’s commands and have avoided sinful choices as far as you know. But what is the state of your heart? Habitual obedience is good but it only pleases the Lord when it comes from within. May God purge our hearts of our sinful desires, open our eyes to our spiritual blindspots, and give us a heart that is increasingly devoted to him.

2 Samuel 11, Daniel 1, Psalms 111-113

Read 2 Samuel 11, Daniel 1, Psalms 111-113.

This devotional is about Psalm 111.

At times we can look at God’s word as a burden. It is filled with commands and obligations and we are commanded to obey it all. The scripture warns of great judgement for those who refuse to obey God’s word and, even when we find forgiveness in Christ for our disobedience to God, we often still suffer sorrowful affects of our sin. These things can make God’s word feel heavy to us and cause us to be fearful whenever we open the scripture.

What we need to remember, though, is that God’s commands are not burdensome. They are not tedious, meaningless regulations like sitting at stoplight when there is absolutely no traffic coming from any direction but you have to sit there because it is the law. That’s not what God’s commands are like. In fact, according to Psalm 111, the commands of God’s words are a great blessing to us. They are given to us to make us happy, not burden us.

Verse 6 of Psalm 111 says, “all his precepts are trustworthy. They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” That is something to be happy about because God’s commands give us something solid on which we can build our lives. One of the scariest things about life is the uncertainty of it. There is no guarantee that the plans you make in life will succeed. There is no certainty that the market will want your product. Even if people want it today, something better might come along tomorrow. Even though you may feel completely healthy, things can change.

If our plans, our jobs, our health, and many other things are uncertain, then how can we ever really feel joy and contentment? The answer is by building our lives on what is certain rather than hoping in things that are very uncertain. What is certain are God’s precepts–his commands and teachings. Verse 8 says, “They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.” You might lose everything, but if your life is built on God’s commands, they will uphold you when everything else falls apart.

Without Christ, we cannot build our lives on God’s faithful commands because each of us has an unfaithful heart that leads us astray. But, in Christ we have a new heart that desires to obey God’s word and the Holy Spirit who leads us to walk in his ways. These are great blessings to God’s people for, as verse 10 says, “all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” It is only when God turns on the lights in our hearts through regeneration that we understand how wise it is to follow God’s commands in obedience.

But when we obey God and experience a stable life because of his commands, we can’t take credit. Verse 10 ends the Psalm by saying, “To him belongs eternal praise.” This is why I wrote earlier that, “according to Psalm 111, the commands of God’s words are a great blessing to us.” It is God’s word that gives us insight on which we can build a stable life so all glory and praise go to him for his revelation and the blessed life that results from being built on it.

1 Samuel 21-22, Ezekiel 32, Philippians 4

Read 1 Samuel 21-22, Ezekiel 32, and Philippians 4.

This devotional is about Philippians 4.

Paul experienced many difficulties and stressors during his ministry. So, it must have been incredibly encouraging to have the Philippians as his friends. While they had some interpersonal problems (cf. 2:3-4 with 4:2-3), they were loved deeply by the apostle and they returned that love, even sending Epaphroditus to help personally (2:25) as well as financial aid (4:10-18).

There is so much joy in this letter that it is easy to forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote it (cf. 1:12, 17). The Philippians’ friendship and Paul’s imprisonment form the background out of which he wrote the chapter we read today. His imprisonment, particularly, was the circumstance he lived in when he wrote verses 6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Undoubtedly Paul was a man who had practiced these commands in his own life repeatedly. His command to the Philippians to deal with their fears that way rose out of his own experience as well as from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In verses 8-9 he commanded them to discipline their thoughts toward good and godly things instead of focusing on their problems, complaints or fears.

Many of our negative emotions rise out of undisciplined thinking. We attach meaning to things that happen, then tell ourselves negative stories about the meaning we’ve made up.

It is easy to do and we’ve all done it, at least at certain times in our lives or with certain events of our lives. God’s word, however, gives us a different story–a truthful one–to tell ourselves about anything and everything that happens in life. A sovereign God has ordered the events of your life for his glory and your good. There will be problems, pains, stresses, heartbreak, sorrow, and grief in this life. That’s because this life and this world have been broken by sin, not because God doesn’t love you.

The solution to the problems of life is to trust God’s promise and put your hope in his future kingdom. When it comes, the pains of this life will be forgotten and the perfect life that you and I want will be real; it can never be real until then.

When life tempts you to think thoughts of despair, replace those thoughts with truth: God loves you and redeemed you from the guilt of your sin and the punishment you deserve for it. He is preparing a perfect, eternal kingdom for you and is re-making you into a perfect person by his grace.

While we have much less to fear than the martyrdom that ultimately took Paul’s life, his teaching reminds us that, no matter how little or much we fear, the Lord is waiting to hear our prayers and give us peace as we look to him.