My Favorite Things

July 16, 2017
Philippians 4:8-9
Abraham Hong

“Now, when anything bothers me and I’m feeling unhappy, I just try and think of nice things,” says Maria as the von Trapp children huddle in bed because of the thunderstorm outside.

“What kind of things?”

“Oh, well let me see - nice things… daffodils! Green meadows. Skies full of stars. Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens. Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things.”

It thunders again and the children cower. But Maria just smiles and sings.

“Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels. Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles (Schnitzel is a thin slice of meat coated in breadcrumbs and fried - just think German or Austrian tonkatsu). Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings. These are a few of my favorite things.”

At this point, the chubby kid has a huge smile on his face. He’s clearly thinking about the schnitzel. And all the children are now captivated by Maria and her song.

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes. Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. Silver-white winters that melt into springs. These are a few of my favorite things.”

And now here’s the heart and meaning of the song “My Favorite Things,” written by Rodgers and Hammerstein and sung by the legendary Julie Andrews.

“When the dog bites. When the bee stings. When I’m feeling sad. I simply remember my favorite things. And then I don’t feel so bad.”

What a delightful song! But let’s be honest. If a dog were to bite me, I would not think about cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels. I would think about getting a lawyer. And if a bee were to sting me real good, I am not going to think about snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. I am going to scream and shout.

But this song works - for the world. It’s perhaps the best that the world can do. The world will always seek ways to cope with the stress and the suffering and sadness of life. The world will always try to provide an answer for distress and despair and death. But the world always fall short - short of the gospel of the glory of Christ.

Now, Paul is no Julie Andrews. But Julie Andrews is no Paul. The Lord gave Paul his word for his church. And here at the near end of his letter to the Philippians, our beloved brother in Christ has given us something to think about and something to do in the midst of all the thunderstorms of life. As we wait for the return of Jesus, let us think about things that are true and honorable, just and pure, lovely and commendable, and excellent and worthy of praise. And as we prepare for the new heavens and the new earth, let us also practice these things. This is the two-fold command of this morning’s Scripture text. May the God of peace be with us.

Let us think about things that are true. When I think about what is true, I think about how God’s word is true. I remember the honest tax collector who would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” When I think about what is true, I consider Joshua’s good and genuine report of the promised land. I recall the criminal on the cross who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Things that are true.

Let us think about things that are honorable. When I think about what is honorable, I think about Boaz and his dignified treatment of Ruth. I remember about David’s majestic proclamation against Goliath: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord….” When I think about what is honorable, I consider how Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. I recall the story of the good samaritan who helped the dying man on the road. Things that are honorable.

Let us think about things that are just. When I think about what is just, I think about Zacchaeus who paid everyone back and then some. I remember God’s perfect and holy justice. When I think about what is just, I recall Nehemiah’s righteous leadership. I consider the flaming sword that guarded the way to the tree of life. Things that are just.

Let us think about things that are pure. When I think about what is pure, I think about how Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife after saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” I consider about a new heavens and a new earth without any sin. When I think about what is pure, I remember Stephen who prayed for the people who killed him. I recall David’s words in Psalm 119:9 - “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” Things that are pure.

Let us think about things that are lovely. When I think about what is lovely, I think about the woman with the alabaster jar who wept at Jesus’ feet. I consider how lovely is God’s dwelling place. When I think about what is lovely, I remember the husband and wife relationship and the marriage between Christ and his church. I recall people like Ruth who clung to Naomi and all the saints of old who desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Things that are lovely.

Let us think about things that are commendable. When I think about what is commendable, I think about our volunteer spirit here at Highland. I consider all the martyrs of the church universal. When I think about what is commendable, I remember all the saints who died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. I recall Christ telling his disciples not to rejoice that the spirits are subject to them, but that their names are written in heaven. Things that are commendable.

Let us think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. When I think about what is excellent, I think about Daniel and his loyalty and allegiance to the Lord. I remember that the most excellent spiritual gift is love. I consider the choice food and drink at the final banqueting table of Christ. When I think about what is worthy of praise, I recall the beautiful woman in Proverbs 31 - the woman who fears the Lord. Things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Brothers and sisters, that is a lot to think about. But above everything that has been said so far, there is one more thing that you think about. Or I should say, one more person.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is of the highest truth and the greatest honor. Our king, of whom the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, is most just. Our bright morning star is most pure. Our lamb that was slain is most lovely. Our Lion of Judah is most excellent. Our God is most worthy of praise. Think about the Lord. Our favorite things are most perfectly found in our favorite person.

Oh how true is Jesus’ great suffering and love for you! Oh how honorable is the heavenly Mount Zion and the place of Christ’s exaltation! Oh how just he will be on the day of judgment! Oh how pure is his righteousness! Oh how lovely is his forgiveness and care! Oh how his name is worthy of praise! Oh how excellent is his gospel and glory! We can never run out of things to think about when we think about Jesus.

If we are going to travel well and wait with endurance for Jesus’ return, then let us think rightly. Ours is a thinking religion. And pilgrims are, above all, thinkers. Why? Because pilgrims are people who are going home. Paul encourages the church of Christ to think in this manner so that she would have joy and peace until the Day of the Lord.

Your mind and your thought life is very important. Romans 12:2 teaches us that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds. And Philippians 2:5 tells us that this mindset is ours in Christ Jesus. What happens in between your two ears, what you say to yourself in life, whatever is playing in your mind as the interpretive soundtrack of your life, is really important. Take care of your mind and your thought life. Remember that sin entered into the world because Adam and Eve entertained a few thoughts from the serpent. Take care of your mind and your thought life. Remember that all it takes is the thought “My father does not love me,” to ruin the life of a young man or woman. Take care of your mind and your thought life.

Do not think about things that are opposite of what is listed here in Scripture. Do not think about what is false. Do not think about what is disgraceful. Do not think about what is unfair or dirty or immoral or ugly or reprehensible. Do not think about things that are worthy of criticism or condemnation.

This is not easy. But as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” When people are gossiping, think to yourself, “Is what I’m hearing true?” When you hang up the phone after talking with your parents, think to yourself, “Is my relationship with my parents honorable?” When life doesn’t seem fair to you, think to yourself, “What is just and what do I really deserve?” When you file your taxes, think to yourself, “Is this tax return pure?” When you think about your husband or wife, think to yourslf, “Is our marriage lovely?” When you’re not sure what to do in a given situation, think to yourself, “What is commendable here?” Brothers and sisters, practice thinking of these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen - practice these things. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Take every thought captive to obey Christ. Do not be children in your thinking, but in your thinking be mature. Think over God’s written word, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Think about these things. And practice these things.

In closing, if you follow this two-fold command, then the God of peace will be with you. When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you’re feeling sad, think about such things and practice them. May they be your favorite things - all bound up in your favorite person, who I guarantee is always thinking about you. And soon and very soon, in the new heavens and new earth, you will meet him face to face. And, if you so choose, you can look forward to enjoying the best schnitzel ever.