Week of June 16

Avoid the Hop, Skip, and Jump Approach to Life’s Troubles

Read: 1 Kings 15; 2 Chronicles 13-14; Philippians 4
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:8-9, ESV


The famous “Round Toit” expression has become synonymous with procrastination. I wondered where the term originated, and one source states that it predates ancient Egypt. I even discovered an address in North Carolina on Rountoit Road! I would hesitate to bid on the purchase of that home because, as the name suggests, it likely would be a long and frustrating process to reach the final sale! Paul lists a group of virtues in the latter section of Philippians and Bible scholars have placed the rubric “Miscellaneous Exhortations” above the section that contains our focal verse (4:1-9). We may be tempted to discount their importance because of the heading and even decide to get “Round Toit” after more weighty moral concerns are addressed. However, I believe there is some significant truth to apply to our lives today, so let’s examine Paul’s words.

The Meaning of the Text

Important peace concerns
Paul has turned his attention at this point in the letter to various personal matters in the life of the church (cf. 4:2; Euodia and Syntyche’s fellowship). Notice the various exhortations in verses 1-11: “to steadfastness (4:1), to unity (4:2-3), to joy and peace (4:4-7), and to proper outlook (4:8-9)” (NAC). We need to recognize, regarding a “proper outlook,” that our focal verses (4:8-9) are linked to verses 4-7 and unite beneath a rubric of peace. So, Paul writes that the peace of God will sustain Christians in hardship (4:7) and in 4:9 he writes that the result of proper thought life (4:8) will be the presence of the God of peace (NAC). This will help us to center our thinking in the proper context for Paul’s counsel and will aid us when we seek to apply the passage directly to our lives.
Peace: a solution to daily troubles
Develop the proper environment for peace. I will at times sing to myself “Nobody knows the troubles I have,” when I face hardship. I do this to help me to elevate my thinking to see the Lord’s goodness and help in my struggles. I discourage you from requesting a recording of me singing, but I will encourage you to put to memory these words and call upon them for strength in your difficulty! Sometimes troubles fall like trees across our paths, so Paul sends in a “peace relief” rescue team for such times. We will see that the God of peace arrives in such circumstances when we cultivate the proper environment.
Pursue community peace. Paul summons the church to collectively focus its attention on these matters, and God would rule in them (4:8). Then, individual Christians were to live their lives in the same way. Does this make sense? It seems like self-driving cars are in our near future, but this passage reminds us that we are to place our hands on the wheel of choice each day and steer toward these goals!
Steps to peace
Our thought life. There are two lists in the verses, and each is governed by a verb: “think about such things (v. 8) and “put into practice” (v. 9). Simple enough. Regarding the former verb, we are to count on these things, meaning we are to chart our daily course according to them. Paul, by using these two verbs, combines the mental and the ethical concerns of his Jewish background with Christian thought (NAC). Knowledge would lead to Christian living. There are seven qualities that characterize Christian thinking: true (ethical sense of truthfulness, dependability), noble (worthy of respect, honor), right (i.e. just, giving God and humans a justness that they deserve), pure (holy in relation to God), lovely (be lovable; be that which calls forth love), admirable (praiseworthy), excellent (morally excellent) and praiseworthy (worthy of praising God).
Profound impact on church life. These characteristics would unite the church and provide the world with a powerful testimony. Paul turns toward the application of these characteristics and calls the church to practice what he lived out before them. He wanted them to use him as a model for effective Christian living. He assures them that God’s peace will reside in those who have “ordered their lives in accordance with God’s will” (4:9; NAC).

The Message for Your Heart

Karen Bullock, my colleague for many years, has a grandson who competed in track and field. One of his specialties was the triple jump. I have a short video clip of him racing down the track, and then leaping and touching the track with one foot. He then vaults off that foot and soars until he touches the track with the other foot. He takes flight again and stretches until he finally lands in a sand pit! It is an amazing event to watch, but it should not become a metaphor for how we handle troubles in our relationships.
I recall many of my youthful attempts to leap over troubles. I hopped, skipped, and jumped many ways to avoid repairing broken relationships. Then I met a mentor, Elson Marks, who challenged me to memorize Philippians 4:8 when I was a college student. I soon discovered that it provided me with a simple, yet profound, guide for keeping my relational feet on the ground each day. The verse was life changing as I began to see God transform my relationships by renovating my life! I realize that the problems I was hopping over were largely of my own creation and not the actions of others. God’s word, and my Philippians 4:9 example, Elson, provided the discipline through which God brought peace into my daily walk. Take control of your daily relationships by incorporating these virtues into your life until you arrive at the destination of God’s peace.

For Thought and Action

1. Write down on a card, or in your notes on your mobile phone, the list of virtues Paul cites in verse 8 and ask the Lord to awaken you to ways to apply them throughout your day.
2. For Families: Larry Ashlock says, we can apply this verse in our families immediately. First, let's put Philippians 4:8 to memory and then teach the verse to our children and/or grandchildren (Great grandchildren, too!). Make sure to reinforce the scripture memory at mealtime or bedtime by talking about ways these virtues helped you and them to have God’s peace during the day (I suggest using a modern translation for small children). Secondly, ask the little ones to draw pictures of ways to apply each virtue in their lives. Finally, of course, let's be their mentor by practicing these virtues in our own lives.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock