4 Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! 5 Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.
8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you.
Everyone gets evaluated at some point in their lives. Infants get evaluated for developmental milestones by pediatricians, teachers evaluate students and give grades, bosses evaluate employees at annual reviews. Even doctors evaluate our health against ideal numbers for weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. At some point in all this evaluating, we may feel like we did great and made the grade, but at other times, we may feel the goals are unattainable and beyond our control. As people of faith, if we were to be evaluated, what kind of “grade” would we get?
As a Christian, sometimes I feel like I’m making progress, but it’s hard. The rest of the time I feel like I’m just hanging on by my fingernails, trying to follow the example of Jesus during this time of pandemic and social change. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, points out that the Christian life is very different from the way the world lives, however noble the world’s moral virtues may appear. Paul tells us to continually practice and to focus our minds on the example of Jesus.
But how can we follow the example of Jesus, a goal that seems so impossible? Certainly, we can’t do it on our own. Paul tells us how. “The Lord is near,” he says, so be “glad always,” because we have a loving relationship with God who cares for us. We are to be gentle “in our treatment of all people,” so that we are loving like Jesus. We are instructed not to be “anxious about anything,” because we can bring everything to God in prayer. We’re encouraged to give thanks to God for all he has done for us through Jesus for our salvation, and give thanks again for all that he will do through us.
Through our thanksgivings, we will be guided and shaped by the power of the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Jesus, being transformed for the transformation of the world. Paul says that when we do these things, we will have the peace of God which will keep our “hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”
By Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
We don’t have to worry about “making the grade.” As the redeemed children of God, guided by the Holy Spirit, we can continue to grow in grace and love for God and our neighbor by following the example of Jesus. Today, seek God in prayer and open your heart to the Holy Spirit, who will shape and guide you to be more and more like the Savior. Trust that when you do, you will receive the peace of God.
Prayer: God of Peace, we thank you for Jesus and we want to follow his example, but it is hard for us. We can’t do it without the guidance of your Holy Spirit. Help us to open our hearts to change and to receive your peace, through Jesus Christ. Amen.