Weekly Devotional: Philippians 4:4-9
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. —Galatians 6:7
It’s easy for me to think of this concept of sowing and reaping in a direct, momentary, cause-and-effect way. If I give in to a specific temptation and end up sinning, it will have an immediate and specific consequence that I need to either suffer through or repent of (or both). The same is true with doing something that pleases the Lord; an act of kindness or an encouraging word usually brings an immediate effect and a fast response from someone who is uplifted by it.
But I’m starting to think that in addition to these immediate and obvious moments, there may also be a continual, big-picture sowing going on in our lives, an accumulative effect of the attitudes we choose and the decisions we make: attitudes of humility or pride, of giving or taking; decisions to either follow God’s ways or give in to selfishness. Through time, these add up—the thoughts I practice and decisions I make in the Spring and Summer of my life bear slow-growing fruit (or slow-growing weeds) that don’t show up until the Autumn and Winter of my life.
It occurs to me that this may be especially true for sins of the mind; the times we don’t say the angry or hateful thing, but we think it. The times we don’t act on our desire or feelings, but we allow our minds to fill with lust or greed or envy. The times we grumble and complain about others safely behind their backs. In Matthew 5, Jesus said:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment….” —Matthew 5:21-22
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” —Matthew 5:27-28
How do we not let the barrage of inner struggles and failings we are prone to choke out the long term fruit of spiritual maturity and wisdom we hope for down the road? How do we arrive at the end of our lives with more growth than regret? With the sweetness of a soul that shines with the light of Christ instead of the bitterness of a self-absorbed soul that everyone has to tolerate? I believe Philippians 4 outlines the seeds we need to sow to reap big-picture, lifelong fruit:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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 4:4-9
In all honesty, brothers and sisters, what things are you letting your mind dwell on each day, even each hour? Are they true? Honorable? Just? Pure? Lovely? Commendable? Excellent? Praiseworthy? Or do your thoughts more often fuel sin or feed the selfish side of your soul, justifying questionable behavior and building yourself up in your own eyes?
I still remember something Pastor Kyle said in a sermon a few years ago: “Through practice we are becoming something.” This is a profound spiritual truth. If we do as Paul suggests and take to heart the things we practice—especially the unseen things we roll around in our minds—we can arrive at the end of our lives with more growth than regret, with joyful peace instead of fearful pride, and a Father who is pleased with what's been reaped over the course of our entire lives.