Imagine the scene.
The sunshine is glorious as you lie in the grass, shaded by the overhanging boughs of a tree. Up above, the sky is a magnificent shade of blue with not a single wisp of cloud on the horizon. Close by you can see a small brook, and the gentle, rhythmic murmur of the rolling water, as it wends its way past stones and boulders, is a soothing sound to your ears. Apart from this, and the small group of birds flitting around in the branches above your head, the air is silent and still. You breathe deeply and, in such tranquil surroundings your body, mind and soul soon relax. You stretch out in the grass and fall into a comfortable and restful sleep.
Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
Now picture another scene.
You are standing in the center of a trash pile. Everywhere you look there is garbage: household rubbish, rusting cars and bicycles, sodden paper and cardboard, tins, plastic. It is stacked high in all directions. And then there is the smell. The aroma of rotting food and other wastes fills your nostrils and makes you want to retch. There is no escaping it. As you hold your breath, you clamber through the reeking mess, stumbling over protruding items as you do so, cutting your knees and hands in your search for something – anything – that is of value, but never finding it.
These two contrastingly stark images were what came into my mind recently as I read the following words from the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“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 these things” (v8).
What a beautiful glimpse this gives for how God wants each one of us to live our lives – focused on Him, growing in Him, living our lives for His glory. And when we do this – as Paul says – “the God of peace will be with you” (v9).
Yet so often we forget this truth. Instead of in the green pastures where he offers to lead us, we choose to spend our lives on the trash heap. We immerse ourselves in gossip, lies and idle talk. We choose to judge others and we think badly of them as we plot against them. We give in to fear, anger and bitterness. Addictions take hold of us, obscuring our view of God. We become absorbed in our phones, the internet, trash TV. We settle for second best, instead of God’s best, for our lives. It all stinks – but we simply choose to ignore it after a time. Yet it is all still grossly offensive to a God who has so much more for us.
May we instead be people that seek God’s better way – those things that are noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. May we pursue the excellent way that God offers for our lives and praising Him in all we do. He deserves nothing less!