Paul encouraged the saints in Philippi by saying, “Whatever is true … think about such things.” Do you think it’s possible to think about more than one true thing at a time? To believe more than one true thing simultaneously? Or do you think that you can only hold one truth at a time?
Perhaps you’ve talked with someone going through a difficult circumstance. When you respond with an encouraging word from Scripture, your encouragement is kindly refused or outright rejected with a reminder of what the person is going through. “You don’t know how difficult this has been for me.” You wonder to yourself why the person is thinking that you haven’t heard them or don’t believe them simply because you offered a true word from the Word. It’s almost as if the person thinks they must set aside the truth of their trouble in order to believe a truth from Scripture.
Let’s consider this question of truth for a moment using John 16:33.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
What are the simultaneously true things that we see in this one short verse spoken by our Lord?
- That he has spoken to us.
- That he wants us to have the peace that is found in him.
- That we will have tribulation.
- That he has overcome the world.
All of these statements are true. They do not contradict one another, and can be held in tandem. Yes, we may be in the midst of some tribulation, but we must not reject someone’s reminder of the peace that Christ wants us to have in the midst of a very real, true tribulation. Why wouldn’t we want to hear such a wonderful truth? Might it be that in the midst of trials, we are tempted to reject other truths? If someone brings them to our mind, it’s a reminder that we don’t actually want to think about what is true … that God can give us peace in the midst of trial. We want our way to peace, and that would likely be a pathway free of tribulation. But if we push aside such words of truth, we become prisoners to fear, worry, and anxiety.
In John 8:31-32, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” True freedom is when we gladly hear every promise of Scripture, when we welcome reminders of God’s character. All of these truths carry us in the most trying of circumstances.
So, there are two important reminders for all of us.
The first is that we should never shrink back from sharing the Word, remembering “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov. 26:11), and that our speech should “always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).
The second is that we should never shrink back from hearing a truth that someone has to share with us. If that truth is grounded in Scripture, it is a truth that we need to hear, even in the midst of difficult trials. Such words are for our peace; they are for our growth.
“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” ~ John 17:17