In chapter two , Mrs. George discusses fear and how to deal with it in light of Philippians 4:8. At the beginning of the chapter, she mentions some specific things that can be causes of fear or worry….earthquakes, finances, unemployment, economy, children, singleness, divorce, death of a spouse, old age, illness and suffering, death
“As we saw in the preceding chapter, the first few words of Philippians 4:8 challenge us to think on what is true or real and to function according to facts, not feelings or fantasies. What we think must be true according to what the Bible says, true according to the character of God as revealed in the Bible, and true according to what people say and do. As God uses His Word in our life and enables us to think on what is real, He calms our fears about the future, the past, and the present.”
Thoughts on the Future…..
Or the “what if” thoughts. What if my car doesn’t start? What if I get cancer? What if my children rebel?
A key thing to remember is that thoughts of the future are not true or real. They haven’t happened…they are mere possibilities that we do not know will come to pass. Philippians 4:8 is a command to dwell on what is true. What is real.
“Whatever our ‘what if,’ we need to remember that ‘what if’ is a guess. If we want to overcome our fears, we cannot think ‘what if.’ Instead, in obedience to Philippians 4:8, we have to acknowledge that events in the future are not real and eliminate this kind of speculative thinking. Thoughts about the future are, at best, only guesses. Furthermore, the future is in God’s hands, His loving, capable, merciful, powerful hands. He can enable us to deal with what is real, with what is now, and He will be with us whatever the future holds (Matthew 28:20). While we need to be prepared for things like earthquakes and we need to be wise about our finances, our parenting, and our health, we don’t need to waste energy worrying about what is not yet real and therefore may never come to pass.”
Instead…today is what is real. God has given us today. These are the circumstances of today. Rather than worrying about the future, we need to focus on today and God’s truth. Mrs. George goes through the list of specific fears that she mentioned at the beginning of the chapter and brings up the truth of God’s Word that apply to each fear. It is imperative that we draw near to God. We know from His Word that He never leaves or forsakes His people…and therefore, whatever happens in the future, we know He will be there.
“We experience peace instead of worry when we choose to believe the Scripture’s promises that God will superintend every future event. Nothing will ever happen to you that God does not already know about. Nothing will ever happen to you that is a mistake (Psalm 139:4, 16). Nothing will ever happen that you cannot handle by God’s power and grace (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Nothing will ever happen to you that will not eventually be used by God for some good purpose in your life (Romans 8:28-29). And nothing will ever happen to you apart from God’s presence (Matthew 28:20).”
We mustn’t dwell in the “what-ifs” of the future…but trust God for today.
Thoughts on the Past…
Or the “if only” thoughts….
“If only I had done that differently,” “If only I hadn’t done that,” “If only that hadn’t happened,” or “If only I had been better informed.”
Again, Mrs. George points out that what is real and true is what is happening in today. The past is not real…it is gone. Because we cannot go back and change events or situations…it does no good to relive it in a sea of “if only” thoughts. This is not a call to forget the past…instead, God says throughout Scripture to remember the past…to see what He has done and learn from what has happened.
I was struck by Mrs. George’s discussion of how God leads through the past. She gave an example of a missionary family who had their daughter enrolled in a boarding school. After the first horribly hard year for the daughter, the parents began to really question their decision. Had they been right to send her? (Or…”If only we hadn’t done that…”) Mr. George asked them if they had prayed and sought counsel before sending her to boarding school. The answer to both questions was “yes.” “A burden was lifted from them and they found real relief as they recalled how they had sought God’s guidance each step of the way.”
Mrs. George points out Romans 8:28 as it speaks on this issue…”And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” It’s a familiar verse…but an amazing reminder of the fact that no matter how hard or painful or discouraging past events might be, God will redeem them to work good.
“So the next time you catch yourself saying or thinking ‘if only,’ I encourage you to pause and ponder the fact of God’s sovereignty, knowledge, and presence in that past situation. Refuse to allow yourself to get bogged down thinking about something that is no longer real. Instead, draw near to God by thanking Him for His continual presence with you throughout time and His promise to redeem the hard times of the past.”
Thoughts on the Present…
Again, Philippians 4:8…thinking on what is true. It is easy to look at our circumstances and feel like, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.” Maybe life feels out of control….financial trouble…pressure at school…difficulties in relationships with other people…
“It’s not supposed to be this way!” But…it is important to stop and realize… “Okay…but this is the way it is. This is what it looks like. Now what will I do with this?” We must accept the reality and move on.
“Our assignment is to accept what is real. We are to acknowledge that God oversees and has overseen every detail of our lives – our singleness, our marriage, our family, our job, every situation and every circumstance every day. This knowledge can help us – with faith, with hope, and with Him by our side – act on what is real today rather than resent reality and idly wait for fantasies to somehow materialize.”
Mrs. George offers three things that have helped her in training her thoughts to think on what is true.
“The key is our relationship with God and the power He gives us to do all that He calls us to do.”
- Recognize the command. Philippians 4:8 is not a sweet suggestion or just sage advice…but a direct command. Thoughts that are not in alignment are sinful. When we realize that fanciful thoughts are sin…that puts them in a different light! Sin has no place in the life of a believer. We must turn from our sin and, relying on His grace, respond in obedience and think on what is true.
- Respond in Obedience. 2 Corinthians 10:5, in talking about the weapons of our warfare, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” She compares this to a rodeo and calf roping. “I realized I needed to be like that cowboy as I handled any thoughts that were not true or real. My ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ thoughts were untamed and rebellious, bucking, jumping, wanting attention, and running wild in my mind. Like the cowboy – and with God’s help – I needed to chase after them, rope them, bring them in, throw them on the ground, and use both hands to tie them down.”
“Taking our thoughts captive to Christ – to the Word of God, to what is true and real – calls for energy and effort. As the editors of the New English Bible put it, we must ‘compel every human thought to surrender to the obedience of Christ.’ But this battle – a battle in the mind and a battle for the mind – is a battle we fight sustained by God’s grace and empowered by His love. We don’t change ourselves or our thinking by our own power. As we draw closer to Him, though, we experience His transforming presence and freedom from thoughts which do not honor Him”
- Reap the Benefits. “Thinking thoughts that are true and real frees up our energy for positive uses and constructive purposes.”
“When we choose this kind of thinking, real life slips by, unused and unenjoyed. Futile thoughts like these drain our precious energy. We waste it on what is false and what is fantasy.”
In conclusion, Mrs. George says, “Instead of dwelling on our problems, we can choose to think about God’s ability to handle those problems. Even as we feel the pain that life brings our way, we can experience the peace which passes understanding, the peace which God gives His people (Philippians 4:7). Such promises from Scripture can be the source of much comfort, hope, and peace when we choose to think about those realities as we deal with the difficult circumstances of life.”
As we bring our thoughts into captivity and bring the sinful thoughts to Christ, we are reminded of His death on the cross for those very sins. When we are reminded of His great sacrifice, we see His love and we are compelled “to love Him in return with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.”
For part one of this book review series, see this post.