Today is the 30th day of my 30 days of focusing on things excellent or praiseworthy. Seriously, this has been an incredible time. Although the verse that inspired me to do this is Philippians 4:8, I found something awesome when I backed up a bit and looked at all of the surrounding verses. Let me post them here:
“Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
All I really have to say here is, “I know, right?”
I was trying to figure out the best way to communicate all that I have learned and experienced in this past month. I have decided to paraphrase the above verses, with the idea that Paul was writing them today, to the leaders of my church here in suburban Nashville. Here is what I think he’d say:
“Therefore, stay strong in the Lord.
I am asking Jane to please stop getting so angry at things that don’t matter. Please just let it go. Tell her to remember the grace that she has been shown and that she should choose to show others that same grace. Please help her realize that all these people who she gets so annoyed with are loved by Jesus, so she needs to act accordingly.
Rejoice in the Lord, always. Seriously, I am going to say it again. Rejoice. Let others see your gentleness. The Lord is here. Don’t worry about anything. There is a lot going on that you can’t control and that might make you feel anxious. Don’t dwell on any of it. Instead, pray about everything. Thank God for all that He has done, and realize that He is in control. He is bigger than anything that you are concerned about. Let Him know what is on your mind and in your heart. Let him know what you want, and honestly lay yourself out there. And when you do this, you will find that you have a peace that you never imagined possible. This is a peace that can only come from God. You can’t fake it, and you won’t find it anywhere else. But this peace from Jesus will protect your heart and your mind.
Finally, stop focusing on all of the junk that is in this world. Instead, think about the things that are true, noble, right. Think about the things that are excellent and praiseworthy. Focus on these things. Dwell on these things. Look to the people who have shown you what it means to draw near to God. Look to those who are living out their faith and reflecting Jesus. The things that you are seeing them do? Do them. Put it into practice. Don’t just admire the great things you have seen… do them yourself. And again, this peace that you so desperately long for? You’ll find it. Trust me.”
And so although the 30 days are over, I don’t want to stop focusing on things excellent or praiseworthy. I know that I need to keep it up.
I see how easy it is to slip back into old patterns. Just last night I was rolling my eyes and making snarky comments that didn’t need to be said. And today I found myself writing “funny” text messages that were clearly just my way of trying to creatively disguise gossip. Yeah, epic fail on that one, Jane.
But I will keep going.
I will keep moving forward and keep drawing near to Jesus. I will keep trying to see things as He sees them, and love people as He loves them. And I will keep focusing on things that are excellent and praiseworthy.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39
See you soon!