In What We Keep, a collection of interviews by Bill Shapiro, each person tells of a single item that holds such importance and joy that he or she would never part with it.
This caused me to reflect on the possessions that mean the most to me and bring me joy. One is a simple forty-year-old recipe card in my mom’s handwriting. Another is one of my grandma’s pink teacups. Other people may value treasured memories—a compliment that encouraged them, a grandchild’s giggle, or a special insight they gleaned from Scripture.
What we often keep stashed away in our hearts, though, are things that have brought us great unhappiness: Anxiety—hidden, but easily retrieved. Anger—below the surface, but ready to strike. Resentment—silently corroding the core of our thoughts.
The apostle Paul addressed a more positive way to “think” in a letter to the church at Philippi. He encouraged the people of the church to always rejoice, to be gentle, and to bring everything to God in prayer (Philippians 4:4–9).
Paul’s uplifting words on what to think about helps us see that it’s possible to push out dark thoughts and allow the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (v. 7). It’s when the thoughts that fill up our minds are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy that we keep His peace in our hearts (v. 8).
Unlike many of Paul’s other epistles, his letter to the Philippians doesn’t seem to be a response to a serious crisis or conflict within the congregation (only one relational conflict is mentioned in 4:2). Instead, Paul’s primary motivation seems to be to express his deep gratitude for the support of the Philippian believers (vv. 14–18) as well as to rejoice with and encourage a greatly loved community of faith. The tone of the letter conveys that he shares a unique spirit of comradery and trust with this faith community, which he describes as his “joy and crown” (v. 1). Paul senses with these believers a deep unity as those who “share in God’s grace” (1:7). Instead of focusing on addressing weaknesses within the congregation, he’s able to joyfully encourage them to go deeper in their walk with Christ (v. 27), learning to experience joy in Christ even when suffering (v. 29).