IT’S ODD ADVICE FROM A BEAT-UP PREACHER sitting in jail.
Apostle Paul wrote the people of Philippi, a city in what is now northern Greece, “I’m imprisoned” (Philippians 1:13 Casual English Bible).
Then he said, “Focus on good things.”
He said that to a group of new Christians who were probably already suffering some of the same violent persecutions he had endured for several years:
- hunted down by enemies
- heckled and harassed
- beat up
- run out of town
- arrested and whipped
- locked in prison
- stoned and left for dead
If I had written that letter to new Christians , I wonder if I would have told them to keep their heads down. Lay low so you can live to preach Jesus some other day, after Romans got acclimated to us. Of course, it took them three centuries to do that.
Instead, Paul assured them that God’s peace would guard their hearts and minds. Had I been in that church in Philippi, I would have said, “What about our bodies?”
Paul couldn’t promise that. Romans would kill Christians off and on for nearly 300 years…Peter and Paul among them. Early church leaders said most of Jesus’ original disciples were executed because of their beliefs.
In the face of all this hostility, how could Paul work up the chutzpah to say:
“Focus on good things. Let your mind dwell on whatever’s true. Whatever’s honorable. Whatever’s just. Whatever’s pure. Whatever’s lovely. Whatever’s commendable. If you come across anything worth praising, let your mind spend time there.” Philippians 4:8 Casual English Bible
Troubles we face today are much different than those Paul faced. Yet a lot of our problems are matters of life and death.
I’d list a few, but it would look political because everything looks political now. And that may be the most dangerous problem of our generation, here in the States.
But regardless of our political preferences, Paul’s advice has a hopeful ring because it reminds us that Christians aren’t earthlings with a destiny tied to the planet. We’re citizens of God’s kingdom. And regardless of what’s going on here on earth, we remain people of another world. That doesn’t dismiss us from our job of taking care of the planet. But that’s a temp job.
I think the biggest challenge in positive thinking is to believe it deeply enough to live it.
So, here’s a one-minute reminder to live it. The short-short-video premieres at 9 a.m. Central Time on Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Peace to you.