Photo: some of the publications by Stewart Brown
Even after giving away many of my books, I still have too many of them. Just ask my wife Sandra about this! To keep my study room from becoming an unbearable mess, I needed something to keep my books together and organized. Otherwise, most of the books are useless to me if I cannot find the one that I need. If any of them fall on the floor, they can easily trip me up. This analogy also pertains to my thoughts and yours.
So, what do we need? A pair of good bookends to hem in our thoughts and bring them into focus on God. Through His amazing love and grace, God has provided two spiritual bookends, enabling us to organize our inner lives. Like books, my thoughts can rush in different directions all at once. This is one meaning of the word “anxious” in Philippians 4:6. Stress rises due to mental imbalance and feelings of being internally pulled apart. The result is a messy, cluttered mind that causes cluttered inefficient and destructive living. God’s bookends are found in a Bible text familiar to most Christians, Philippians 4:4-7. This message is especially addressed to those who have minds messed up with anxiety and worry—loose thoughts that you cannot control.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!…do
not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by
prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your
requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends
all [human] understanding, will guard your hearts and minds
in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4, 6-7, NIV)
In reading the above verses, many of us may only see permission to bring our shopping list of needs to God. However, God will help us pray according to His will and meet our genuine needs more readily and timely if we infuse these two bookends in our praying and daily living. Our first bookend is praising or “rejoicing” (v.4). Start and live your whole day by rejoicing in the Lord-sometimes audibly and always internally, in your mind! The second bookend is “thanksgiving” (v.6) expressed to God as you call on Him even about your most urgent need. Worry and anxiety cannot co-exist in us with a heart and mind rejoicing in and overflowing with thanks to the God who lives in you by His Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:7b).
Choose to rejoice in Jesus all through your day and cultivate a gratitude attitude in any and every circumstance. Rejoice in who God is and give thanks always for His amazing love and faithfulness to you as He works in you even when you cannot see it. Practicing and expressing joy and gratitude will corral your thoughts, keeping them focused on God. As you do this, you will learn His ways and experience His presence in the valleys and on the mountain tops of your life. Let these two spiritual “bookends” draw you deeper into God’s holy presence. Consequently, He will receive your requests and lavishly give His peace to guide your thoughts (verse 6), guard your mind (verse 7) and grow your faith in Jesus (verse 13)!