4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)
There is a lot of negativity in our world. Some sociologists state that since the 1970s the population of the United States tends to view institutions such as the government and the church, as well as life in general, in a more negative way than the generations prior to the 1970s. The same sociologists view the 1960s as the turning point leading us to the negative turn. Events and experiences of the 1970s, and each decade since, have caused people to lose confidence and hope in ever receiving many beneficial influences from anything or anyone outside themselves.
Paul writes a letter to the believers of Jesus Christ in the area of Philippi. Toward the end of his letter, he gives them some final instructions to follow. Our passage today contains those instructions. He tells them to rejoice in all situations. Show their gentleness. Do not be anxious but let prayer be the manner in which they present their requests to God. God’s peace will guard each heart and mind. Their thoughts should focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. Paul is directing the people to focus on the positive aspects of life with trust in the Lord.
The advice Paul gives to the Philippians can be solid advice for us today. We are quick to identify all the problems and negative aspects of life. Our ability to identify and articulate everything which is wrong in the world around us overshadows our attempts to find the good aspects. A recommendation for all of us might be that we reread these verses every Monday morning before we start a new week as our way to help us accentuate the positive in our lives. Some of us may see a need to do this daily instead of weekly. Whichever method you choose, the message here is to focus on life’s positives.
I am sure that every generation feels like they are living in dark times. We even named a whole era in human history as the Dark Ages. Right now we can feel like there is a lot of dark around us with all the changes in our lives which have accompanied the Corona-19 virus. The numbers of deaths and hospitalizations continue to rise. In addition, we have been living in a very volatile political environment for years as human decency has left most civic discussions and legislative debate. Truly feels like a dark time in so many ways.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have wondered how to respond to the surrounding events during this dark time. I have followed all the practical advice of the medical community regarding the virus. I have listened to the conversations in the political spectrum and attempted to avoid engaging in hostile debates. But there seems to be something more which I can, must, do. Then I am reminded of a song which I sang in Sunday School in my small church while growing up, This Little Light of Mine. The song is a reminder of Jesus’ words, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV) Jesus tells us that we are to be lights in the world. The question this begs is how do we go about being lights?
Clearly for me, being an example is the way I can be a light in the world. I can wear a mask when I am in an indoor public setting or one where social distancing is a challenge. I can listen to others who have a point of view which is different from my own and not judge that viewpoint. Taking the time to educate myself on the experiences of other individuals will be an example.
Another important way for me to be a light in the world is by sharing compassion and hope with others. Jesus showed compassion even to those who were engaged in his crucifixion. Compassion is not attempting to better others. Using words that build up and not tear down another’s self is compassion. Being present with others even when you do not understand what they are experiencing is compassion.
Sharing hope is reminding each other that we do not walk alone but together and with the Lord. Identifying the positive of each day shares hope. Putting the events of our lives in perspective with the history of humanity and God’s children can produce hope. Sharing the promises of God as identified in Scripture leads to hope.
We are called to share our light with a world experiencing darkness. How are you choosing to shine your light? Let your light shine and do not let anything blow it out!