Thursday, January 30, 2014
Whatever. It is a word uttered by countless people on television and by many disgruntled children and adults alike. For decisions as simple as what to have for lunch to major ones such as which school to attend or what job to apply for, the casual response of “whatever” seems a little indecisive; as if the person is not focused enough to truly concentrate on the issue at hand. Yet, with all of the shortcomings this word may hold, it is used with much abandon on issues even more crucial than meals, colleges, and careers.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the first known use of the word whatever was recorded in the fourteenth century. While the word has multiple meanings, one of the definitions is “anything and everything that.” Wikipedia states that the slang term means “I don’t care what you say.” In reality, the entire world has adopted a “whatever” attitude.
Many people today feel that they can do or say anything they like without acknowledging the consequences of their actions. They recklessly run wide open, like a loose cannon rolling around on the deck of a ship. Without any respect for the destruction they may cause along the way, they keep living their lives with selfish ambition, disregarding the way their actions are affecting others.
From superstars who live with reckless abandon to doctors who promote abortion, this world is filled with instances of people whose existence is essentially based on a “don’t care” attitude, devoid of values, morals, and in many cases, even common sense. This idea of “anything goes” may be popular for the moment, but history has shown that this pattern only leads down a dead end road.
Recently, I have been saddened when I turn on the news, hearing the way many Biblical principles have largely been tossed aside in favor of more secular ones. Many of these secular views are not just being casually referenced to, but instead, they are being promoted in the public eye at widely popular events such as the Grammy Awards and the upcoming Super Bowl. Instead of focusing on musical talent or athletic ability, events like these are now becoming political arenas.
While the word “whatever” may relate to many things that are wrong on this earth, this word is used in a positive way in the Bible. The Apostle Paul used this word six times within one single verse in his letter to the Philippians. Instead of telling them that he didn’t care or that they could do whatever they pleased, he gave them advice for how they should live their lives. He imparted wisdom, so that they could find joy for their journey, no matter what was going on around them. His message also applies to you and me today, even in the year 2014. Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).
Paul begins by telling us to think about things that are true. In reality, the old adage is true: if you tell the truth, it’s easier to keep your story straight. Yet the devil often tempts us to tell falsehoods on a daily basis, also imparting his own lies to try to undermine what God wants to do in our midst. Instead of getting trapped in his evil snares, we should focus our attention on the true and living God. Our hearts should be tuned to His still, small voice, so that we can hear the Truth, the Life, the Way, Jesus Christ. Only by thinking on what is true will we be truly content.
He continues by saying that we should think about “whatever is noble.” In this context, noble refers to things that are moral, upright, or honorable. We should not even be thinking about engaging in immoral behavior. As Christians, we have to set ourselves apart from the worldly ways, so that we can be an example to the world. We should strive to be like Jesus, walking daily in His Father’s will, always shining our light for all to see, like a beacon in the night.
Paul also encourages us to think about things that are right. This concept brings to mind a child who is learning the difference between right and wrong. You can tell them multiple times not to eat several handfuls of candy before bed. Inevitably, they will sneak into the candy jar, testing their limits just to see what happens. In their case, this results in a stomach ache that eventually subsides. Sadly, our human inclination to “push the limit” often does greater damage, resulting in permanent injury or even death. We know it is right to obey the speed limit, yet we all find ourselves going a “little over” at times. We need to remember that a slight increase in speed can be so much more detrimental if we have a blowout or a deer runs in front of our car. By doing what is right in all things, we will certainly avoid unwarranted heartache and disappointment in life.
Then Paul says we should think about “whatever is pure,” “lovely,” and “admirable.” When I hear the word pure, I am reminded of the precious blood of Jesus that washes us white as snow. Our sins have been forgiven. We have been cleansed. We are pure through Jesus Christ. Yet this world imparts so much corruption, from immoral living arrangements to the disregard for human life. Instead of hiding in a corner somewhere, we need to take a stand for Jesus, showing the world that Jesus saves. We must carry the message of His love to a lost and dying world, keeping our minds pure, focused on the One who is the purest of the pure, the most admirable, and worthy of our praise, Jesus Christ.
Finally, Paul tells us that our minds should be centered on anything that is “excellent” or “praiseworthy.” Paul doesn’t tell us to think about the expletives we heard on that “family friendly” television program. And he doesn’t tell us to dwell on the fact that we told a lie, cheated someone out of something, or engaged in any other inappropriate behavior. Instead, he tells us to live of a life of excellence. We should think about things that will allow us to be a positive role model for others to look up to and to think about things that are worthy of our praise.
You may be reading this, thinking, “I can’t think about all of those things right now. There are too many things about me you don’t know. It’s just...too difficult.” You might even respond to this blog by saying, “Whatever.” Friend, I want to encourage you today. Your situation may be dire, but so was Paul’s when he wrote this scripture. Paul wrote this letter while he was confined in prison. Even so, he uses the words “joy” and “rejoice” in the book of Philippians a total of sixteen times. He knew that Jesus would deliver him from behind those bars. And he also had the assurance that whether he remained in prison or was soon set free, God would take care of him.
Paul unlocked the secret to living in peace, despite our current situations. In Philippians 4:6-7, he writes, “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 understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Paul knew there was more to life than the bars that surrounded him. Whatever happened, he knew that God would be faithful to the end.
God will do the same thing for you. No matter what your circumstances, Jesus Christ loves you with an everlasting love. Every mountain you have to climb, He will help you summit every peak. Every river you have to cross, He will be your lifeline. And every day you wake up wondering how you will get out of bed in the morning, He will be there, holding out His hand, giving you strength to face another day. And when you give God all of your worries and cares, you’ll find that it becomes easier to think about the positive instead of dwelling on the negativity. So set aside your fears, cast aside your “whatever’s,” and rejoice in the Lord always!
In Christ’s Love,