The ongoing battle in our lives is that between subjective experience and objective truth. We always must strive for a balance and there is a danger of being so doctrinally-minded that one thinks it is wrong to display joy and gladness in the Lord. Doctrine should fuel our doxology for how can we worship God if we do not know Him? With that being said, many are interested in a “truth” that is totally shaped by how they feel and what they experience. My experience determines what I perceive as truth and dictates what I deem is right. Our feelings and emotions are very susceptible to being played by sinful impulses and desires all the time. We will even possess cravings for feeling that are often rooted in sinful desires and tell ourselves that they are natural somehow excusing us.
Christianity emphasizes doctrine, theology, and objective truth. When we confess our faith in Jesus Christ, we are not saying that we came to a conclusion that He is the best option out there but there are some plausible alternatives. No, we confessing that He is the way, the truth, and the life. If we subject our lives to the whims of the day, there will be much in the way of disappointment and defeat that characterize us. Paul gets to the heart of the matter in Philippians 4:4-9. Christians experience joy by knowing truth. However, there is a caution before us. Joy is not found in simply memorizing soteriology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology in a perfect way. You can recite the fine points of each one of those fields and lack true joy. True joy comes from us resting and dwelling upon the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. We must grasp the battle that we are engaged in and how we can possess a mind of joy.
In verses 4-5, Paul shows how our joy as believers endures regardless of circumstances because our joy is in the Lord. Joy does not depend upon the season or experience. Biblical joy is rooted in the Lord Himself. That is the key as Paul puts it: rejoice in the Lord. This joy comes from contentment in the Lord. This joy rests in the trust one has that all things are under God’s control. In the most difficult times, we can know this true joy in the Lord. Satisfaction is not found in circumstances but in our sovereign Lord.
Paul then shows the importance of prayer in connection with joy in verses 6-7. If we are anxious, through prayer, God grants us peace that transcends the problem. We might not understand nor know how things troubling us will unfold. Yet, in Christ, we can truly experience this blessed peace. Heart and mind are used together to speak of the soul, of our complete being. In Christ Jesus, we can know a garrison of peace! This peace of God that comes to us in Christ as we pray shows us that regardless of the situation, it is all under the authority of heaven.
Prayer settles our hearts as we come to the throne of grace and consider our standing in Christ. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). The peace that our Lord gives to us in our hearts is just as real and sure as when He said to the winds and the waves on the Sea of Galilee, “Peace! Be still!” This should comfort our hearts and remove all fears and anxiety. The God of heaven beckons us to come and bring our cares before Him. This mind of joy will not be fully experienced unless we rest our weary souls daily in the Savior.
Finally, in verses 8-9, Paul calls our attention to those matters that we should think, dwell, and meditate upon. “True” points our focus to the word of God and Christ who is the theme of the Scriptures. “Honorable” is that which is noble and to be revered. Of course, there are things of the earth that are noble and to be honored such as honoring our parents and commitments we make. In a greater way, the things of heaven are to be adored and revered. “Just” or right; righteousness should consume our minds and this would bring us to consider the law of God as the rule and standard for our living as believers. “Pure” would be that which is free from sin and his holy, clean, and undefiled. “Lovely” is only used here in the NT. Other terms we can think of are sweet and gracious. What is pleasing according to God should fill our minds. “Commendable” is only used here in the NT and it is that which is highly regarded. The Word of God will bring our minds to that which is heavenly and lofty. Paul summarizes it all by saying that those things which are excellent and praiseworthy should dwell in our minds.
The command “think” means to dwell or meditate on. The mind is being filled all the time: what are you filling it with? Often, we think it can seem legalistic to speak on things like what we watch, read, or listen to. I agree that we can go overboard but I fear that is not often what is our biggest issue. For most of us, it can be a laxness that sets in where we do not think it is a big deal. Use verse 8 as a prism in your watchfulness. Remember that we are called to bring every thought captive unto Christ.
This is the battle for our minds. Are we bringing every thought captive to Christ? We are what we think! May we be given to that which is spiritually whole and healthy that comes from above! Let us use our days to be filled with the good things of God as revealed in His Word. Let us beware being enslaved to Netflix or conspiracy theories. None of those things will bring us a mind of joy. In the Lord, there is joy forevermore! Think upon that!