No, this is not me in the photo. Nor is this campsite in Philippi or anywhere else in Greece. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – the source of this picture – this is a Junjik Valley Man with his wall tent.
The Junjik River Valley is in far northern Alaska. I’ve never been to Alaska.
But I’d like to someday.
When I say I’m “camping” in Philippi, I simply mean I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and meditating on the book of Philippians.
But you already knew that.
As I was sitting reading Philippians 4:4-9, I was struck by the absolute, emphatic, all-encompassing language Paul uses.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 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. 9 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 4:4-9 [ESV] – bold italics added for emphasis
There are no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” here. No “maybes”. No “sometimes”.
We are to rejoice in the Lord always. Not when we feel like it. Not when everything is nice and tidy in our perfect little lives. No, we are called to rejoice always. When we’re hurting, or worried, or down. Rich or poor, healthy or ill, calm or stressed, we are told to rejoice. Always! This fact is so important, Paul repeats it for emphasis.
We are to be anxious for nothing. Not “nothing but…” Nothing! Again, Paul emphasizes the point, this time with the opposite side of the coin: in everything, go to God.
It may not make sense to rejoice or refuse anxiety when you look at your circumstances. But, that’s the point. We aren’t meant to look at our circumstances.
We’re meant to look to God, to fix our gaze upward with joy and thanksgiving.
Paul even admits that such behavior is illogical from our limited earthly perspective. But seeking true peace with God is seeking the peace beyond all understanding – far deeper than a mere calming of our life’s storms.
Finally, Paul tells what to think about. Note the six “whatevers” and two “any(thing)s” in verse 8. These are the thoughts God wants us to have. All of these are thoughts on the ways of our Lord: truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty, awesomeness, excellence, praiseworthiness… in their truest forms, these are reflections on God.
It all boils down to this: we are to focus on the Lord, not ourselves. We have to not let life get us down, but rather let God lift us up. And let all the world know Jesus is our hope!!
Rest in Jesus. Sleep well dear friends. Trust in God’s grace and love. And know the Lord is in control.