Philippians 4. Emotional and Mental Health. Resetting the Mind.
Key Notes: Names in the Book. What to think about. Mental health. Common grace and special grace. Ask for help.
The fourth chapter of Philippians covers the “house-keeping” aspects of the letter. Since we are not looking for a narrative, it will lend itself less to an outline, and more to a list of terms. The key sentence is “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just…think about these things.” (4:8). If we build the chapter around this sentence, we can see that he speaks of resetting the mind of the believer with the goal for finding mental health. It is a rich passage with at least ten sentences or phrases worthy of memorizing.
4:1–4 He tells us that the Philippians are his trophies of grace, loved and beloved.
Stand firm in the Lord is the first instruction. It may pertain to the division in the church created by two workers, Euodia and Syntyche, who were valued sisters in the faith. How shall they stand firm in the Lord when there is division in the body? We are easily distracted, lead away by controversy, a wind of doctrine, some new and engaging, or obnoxious person.
Names in the Book of Life. The concept that God not only knows those who are His, but has their names recorded in His Book is a heart-warming concept. It is referred to in many places:
Old Testament: Ex.32:32; Psa.69:28; Dan.12:1; Mal. 3:16.
New Testament: Lk.10:20; Rev.3:5; 20:12,15; 21:27; 22:19
4:4 Rejoice in the Lord, and again, rejoice. Let your mildness, or gentleness be known everywhere. It is hard to be angry and at the same time be kind and rejoicing.
4:5–7 The Lord is at hand. The return of Christ was imminent then and He remains at the door today. So do not be anxious about anything, but make your requests known to God:
Pray, supplicate, and thank Him.
And the peace of God will put a garrison around your hearts and your minds.
4:8 Think about whatever is
true. What about all the lies in politics and advertising
noble. We have no heroes.
just. There is not justice.
pure. Do you watch the television?
lovely. There are spiders and mice and flies and bed-bugs, and cancer.
gracious. Think of our last church business meeting.
excellent. No child left behind?
worthy of praise.Our team lost again.
Think on these things? What are these things? Should we think of roses, Chanel #5, or butterflies? Yosemite National Park? Cars ? Baseball? Each of Paul's words listed are reflected in the Bible as an attribute of God or the character of a godly person.
*True. "We beheld His Glory, the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and ¨truth". (Jn.1:14)
*Noble, serious, dignified."If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." (ITim.3:1)
*Just. "...that He might be just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom.3:26)
*Pure. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matt.5:8)
*Lovely, Pleasing. “…to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him.” (Col.1:10)
*Gracious, admirable, well-spoken of. “…in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.” (IICor.6:8)
*Excellent. “…who called us to His own glory and excellence.” (II Pet.1:3)
*Worthy of praise. “…to live for the praise of His glory.” (Eph.1:12)
Each of these wonderful words is characteristic of God and His children. May these words direct my random thoughts and purge my subconscious of nonsense and trivia.
4:9 You have heard these things from Paul and we should follow him. God’s peace will be with you.
4:10–20 Paul hints that the Philippians have sent a recent letter inquiring about his welfare and their minister, Epaphroditus. They have not been able to do anything for him since Epaphroditus arrived with their gifts. Paul has learned how to be content with little or much because God strengthens him. Philippians was one of the few churches that actively supported him. [ The ex-slave girl did the marketing. Lydia assembled the materials for the gift box; the jailer packaged it.] The gift he received is as much to their credit as to his benefit, because the gift is an offering to God, pleasing to Him.
We usually leave God out of the picture in our gift-giving, but money given to AIDS orphans, or scholarship help to a poor seminary student or support for a Wycliffe translator is a fragrant offering to God.
And God will supply all our needs in Christ.
He concludes with a doxology.
4:21 Individual greetings are for the believers in Philippians from Roman Christians, including members of Caesar’s court.
"Think on these things...." What is mental health? Most sources speak only of mental illness. Describing health is more difficult.
The World Health Organization definition is:
“A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
That is to say that one should be able to reach goals, stay in balance, and function comfortably in work and society.
Paul gives us a list of mental health qualities and resources, but we must recognize that these are not exclusive. And mental health is not a special privilege of the Christian community. The qualities listed are given without discrimination by “common grace” and are not equally distributed. They are not only endowed on Christians and in fact, we may be less emotionally healthy than others. We will likely fall short in several virtues. We know we are needy. "...not many...wise, not many...powerful, not many of noble birth", but "weak, "lowly," "despised in the world". (ICor.1:26–28)
On common grace (as opposed to saving grace):
*The goodness of God is not restricted to believers.
“ ...He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt.5:45).
“You cause the grass to grow for the cattle and plants for man to cultivate.” (Psa.104:14)
*Morality and truth are not the exclusive property of the Twice-born.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Lk.6:32)
Secular rulers are servants of God to administer justice. Rom.13:1–7
Pagans have the “law written on their hearts.” (Rom.2:15)
But believers also have access to special grace and must exert themselves for good.
Wobbling or firm? Stand firm in the Lord. (4:1–3). God knows your name.
Quarreling or peaceful? (4:1–3). Help those who struggle! Blessed are the peace-makers. Matt.5:9
Sad or rejoicing? Rejoice again and again. (4:4–5). The Lord is at hand.
Agitated or calm? Don’t be anxious. Pray. The peace of God will guard you. 4:6–7
Values? Think on the true, the honorable and just. 4:8
No guidance? Follow Paul’s lead. The God of peace will be with you 4:9
Money? Learn to be content with much or little. God will give you strength for such ups and downs as the volatility in the markets and loss of work. 4:10–13
Fretful or at ease? Thank God for His supply of your needs. 4:14–19
Isolated or friendly? Greet all your brothers and sisters. Grace will be with you. 4:21–23
The descriptive words of emotional health are manifold in the text. You can see a resemblance to the list of the Fruit of the Spirit in Gal.5:22
Meditating on God and His goodness 4:8
Learning from a godly mentor 4:9
Trust in God 4:19
Love and Friendliness 4:21
The recent description of what is called "emotional intelligence" sounds similar to what Paul is saying. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and control one’s own emotions and to work productively with the emotions of others. It involves qualities such as optimism, ability to handle stress, cooperation and fairness, qualities we want in anyone who serves the public. Emotional intelligence of the psychologist is a pale copy of what God intends for us. Moses needed these qualities in large amounts in order to lead Israel.
But we are not likely to improve much by simple discipline. This is not a self-help project . God gives good things to those who ask Him. (Matt.7:11). Medical people are often required for medicines or counseling. We cannot elevate ourselves by pulling on our shoe-laces. But these aspects of mental health are ours for the asking from the Spirit of God and His servants.