Pastor David B. Curtis


Spiritual Stability - Part 3

Philippians 4:6-7


We have been talking about spiritual stability for the last several weeks. Spiritual stability is reliability in withstanding pressure. A spiritually stable person is a person who is firm in godly character, he is fixed or steadfast in godliness. A good Biblical example of this is seen in the life of Job. In the midst of an unimaginable trial, Job remains steadfast in godliness. One after another messengers bring Job word of financial tragedy. And before he could catch his breath, he receives a messenger of death. All his children have died.

Job 1:18-21 (NKJV) While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, 19 "and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!" 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."

Think about what your response might be. Job worships God, he is saying, in effect, "God, you are worthy of my praise and adoration, all that I have came from you and you have the right to take it all away." That, folks, is a stable man!

How can we stand fast in trying times, times of great temptation, trial, or persecution? How can we remain stable in times of confusion, times of distress or illness? How can we be spiritually firm, without wavering or doubting? How can we be calm in the midst of the storm? In the first nine verses of Philippians 4, Paul tells us. We are commanded in verse 1 to "Stand fast in the Lord." This is the key phrase in these nine verses. Paul wants his spiritual children to be stable. So, he gives them and us six elements necessary to a spiritually stable life.

1. Unity - In verses 2 & 3, he asks them to, "Be of the same mind." This is a call for unity. It is very hard to be stable when there is disunity, or discord because those things cause conflict. If we all followed the injunction found in chapter two, we would have unity.

Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

If this was the mind set of us all, we would have unity that would strengthen our stability.

2. Joy - He tells them in verse 4 to, "Rejoice in the Lord."Our joy comes from our privileged permanent union with the Lord. That we can always rejoice in.

3. Humility - He tells them in verse 5 to, "Let their moderation be known to all men." This is the idea of being humble, learning to accept less then you are due. You expect nothing; you demand nothing, you know your own sinfulness so you know you deserve nothing. So, you don't mind when you get nothing. Pride causes instability. It's hard to get a humble person to leave his post of Christlikeness. But it is easy to get a proud person to leave a Christ-like walk.

4. Faith - Spiritual stability comes from resting on a confident faith in the Lord. Paul says at the end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6, "The Lord is at hand, be anxious for nothing." The Lord is near; the second coming that would bring His presence was near so they didn't need to worry.

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

"Be anxious for nothing" - the Greek construction forbids the continuance of an action already habitually going on. The word "nothing" is the Greek word medeis, it literally means: "not even one thing."

The way that you handle problems, temptations, trials, and difficulties is a reflection of your view of God. Knowing the Lord is here won't help much if you don't know the Lord. But if you know God, if you know that He is omnipotent - all powerful: omnipresent - all of God is in every place: omniscience - He knows everything: and if you understand that He is on your side, why would you ever worry? He's Sovereign and He's working everything out for your good and His glory. Everything that happens is for His eternal purpose. When you trust in him in all of your circumstances, you'll be a stable person.

Psalm 35 extols God as the strong protector.

Psalms 35:1-5 (NKJV) Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take hold of shield and buckler, And stand up for my help. 3 Also draw out the spear, And stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, "I am your salvation." 4 Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor Who seek after my life; Let those be turned back and brought to confusion Who plot my hurt. 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of the LORD chase them.

God is true to what he says and we can trust Him. Your faith in God is the bottom line in your ability to deal with difficulty. A knowledge of God is essential in the matter of spiritual stability. The Bible is the revelation of God, so in knowing Scripture, we come to know God. And in knowing God, we come to trust in Him. It's hard to trust someone that you really don't know. You can be stable in any situation if you know your God and understand His sovereign control and His sovereign purpose.

One of the major problems in the church today in the matter of instability is the wide acceptance of Arminian theology. The church at large today holds to an Arminian theology. If you were to go back two hundred years, you would find it very difficult to find many who held to Arminianism. Just a few hundred years ago, Campbell was put out of his pulpit in Scotland for teaching Arminian theology. Calvinism and Arminianism are at opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Traditional Calvinism, or Reformed theology says, "God is Sovereign." Now, most Christians would say that God is sovereign, but they don't understand what sovereignty means. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that he is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and on earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart his purpose, or resist his will.

Psalms 115:3 (NKJV) But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.

Arminianism, in effect, says that man is sovereign, and God is hopeful and helpful. You have got to find it in yourself to come to Christ, you've got to find it in yourself to stay with Christ. You've got to find it in yourself to accomplish your spiritual goals with the knowledge that God is hopeful and helpful that you will because He would like to see you in heaven, if you could work it out. That view comes from a misinterpretation of 2 Peter 3:9.

2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

This verse is talking about God holding back judgement for the elect's sake. It says he is "longsuffering toward us" - the "us" is the elect. "Not willing that any (of the elect) should perish." The Arminians take this verse to mean that God wants everyone to go to heaven but he isn't strong enough to work it out. If God wants things He cannot get, He must be impotent instead of omnipotent. That is not the God of the Bible! Believe me, if God didn't want anyone to perish, then no one would perish. God is Sovereign and he gets what he wants.

Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV) In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,

God wills, and He works all things out according to His will.

The Arminians also teach that God is helpful, and given the right conditions on your part, he'll come along and give you some assistance. So man comes to faith in Christ and he says, "It was pretty smart of me to trust Christ." Who gets the glory for his salvation? He does! His confidence in himself is never shattered, he feels that he gained his salvation and he could loose it. All his trust is really in himself and not God. So, God is not sovereign, He's hopeful and helpful. This is a man exalting theology that denies the truth of Scripture. Does Romans 9 teach that God is hopeful and helpful or that he is sovereign?

Romans 9:16-23 (NKJV) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth." 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

The Arminian doesn't understand sovereign grace, and so he doesn't understand that every trial in his life is under the total control of God. Spiritual stability comes from trusting in God, not in yourself.

C. H. Spurgeon said, "If you believe that everything turns on the free will of man, you will naturally have man as the principle figure in your landscape." This can really cause anxiety because man is fickle, man is weak, so you have every reason to worry. Arminian theology is man centered and the cause of many of the churches' problems. The bottom line is that if your trusting yourself, you're not trusting God. And if your trusting in yourself, you are going to end up worrying, you'll be anxious and unstable.

How can we strengthen our faith to the point that we will be stable in every situation of life? Good question! Look at:

Romans 4:18-21 (NKJV) who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, "So shall your descendants be."

God made a promise to Abraham, he promised him children, he promised him that he would be the father of a great nation. Now, Abraham was about 100 years old, and his wife Sarah was 90 and she was barren. Look at Abraham's response to the promise:

19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb.

Notice that Abraham's faith was not weak. The Greek word used here for "consider" is katanoeo. It means: "to consider attentively, fix one's eyes or mind upon." The four oldest manuscripts of the New Testament do not have the negative. Abraham did consider his own body and Sarah's dead womb. The Old Testament verifies this:

Genesis 17:17 (NKJV) Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"

Abraham faced the facts, he didn't deny them. He looked at the facts as they were, at their very worst, but having looked at them, he held on to the promise of God. He believed God in the face of all opposition. Faith does not close its eyes to reality. He knew physically that it was impossible for him and Sarah to bear children, but he believed God's promise.

20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

Strong faith trusts God even when it looks impossible. Strong faith glorifies God. We see from verse 21 that faith is believing a promise; it is understanding and assent to a proposition. You can't trust God for what he never promised.

Has God promised us physical health? Has he promised us wealth? No! But he has promised that everything that happens to us will work out for good if we love Him. If faith comes from believing a promise, how can we strengthen our faith?

Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

We need to learn what the promises are by studying the Word of God. But studying and learning the promises is only the first step. We need to act on what we know. James stresses the need of works to strengthen our faith.

James 2:14 (NKJV) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
James 2:17 (NKJV) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:20 (NKJV) But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:22 (NKJV) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

So, there is weak faith, dead faith, and strong faith. For an exposition on James 2, see the message "Salvation by Works?" When we put our faith into practice, it is strengthened. Galatians 5:6 says:

Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

We know that love is demonstrated by obedience. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." If you don't act on your faith and live it out, it will die. But if we walk in obedience, our faith will mature and be strong. James point is that works are the key to the vitality of faith. So, we need to study God's Word and obey what we learn, and our faith will grow strong. And as our faith grows stronger, we will become spiritually stable people.

So, we grow in spiritual stability through: unity, joy, humility, faith, and the fifth element is:

5. Gratitude - Spiritual stability comes from learning to react to problems with thankful prayer, or a heart of gratitude:

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

Because you trust Him, call out to Him with a grateful heart. This is the antidote for worry and the relief from anxiety - "In everything"; in the big things, the small things, the personal things. Do you have a hard time praying? How easy it is for me to speak to someone depends upon how well I know the person. It's the same with our relationship with the Lord. If we don't know Him very well, prayer can be very difficult.

This section does not emphasize the theology of prayer, it emphasizes the importance of prayer and the attitude of prayer. Three different Greek words are used here for prayer. The first one is "prayer" which is the Greek word proseuche. This is a general word for prayer, it means: "to humbly prostrate yourself before someone." It has the idea of submission to God. The next word is "supplication" which comes from the Greek word deesis, which has the idea of: "request for needs", it stresses the sense of need. The third word is "request" which is the Greek word aitema, it specifies the content of prayer or the formulation of definite and precise requests.

They all have to do with petitions and the assumption is that when you get into a problem, you're going to cry out to God. Why? We need His help! Why do we pray for people to get saved? Because we know that it is up to God to save them. Even an Arminian is a Calvinist when he is on his knees. What do I mean by that? Just this; When an Arminian prays for someone's salvation, he is asking God to save that person. Why ask God to save them if God is not sovereign in salvation?

Prayer, more than anything else in the Christian life, emphasizes our utter and complete dependance upon God. This is the importance of prayer.

Jonathan Edwards most famous sermon is "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God," but maybe a more important sermon, as far as American Church history is concerned, is the message he preached on July 8, 1731 in the city of Boston titled, "God Glorified in Man's Dependance." The opening paragraph stated, "There is an absolute and universal dependance of the redeemed on God. The nature and contrivance of our redemption is such that the redeemed are in everything directly, immediately, and entirely dependant upon God. They are dependant on Him for all and are dependant on Him in every way."

There is nothing in our Christian experience in which we manifest our dependance on God more than in prayer.

Matthew 6:7-8 (NKJV) "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

God knows what your needs are before you do, he knows them before you ask. So pray like this:

Matthew 6:11-13 (NKJV) Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Why ask when He already knows what we need? To declare your dependance! Lord, we need these things and we look to you to provide them. Lord, we are dependant upon you. We need you to feed us, forgive us, and guide us. So, the importance of prayer is that it is a declaration of our dependence.

Paul tells the Philippians that the attitude of prayer is, "with thanksgiving."

Philippians 4:6 (NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

"With thanksgiving" - in the Greek this is "meta eucharistia." We could translate: "after gratitude." Now listen carefully, meta and the genitive means: "with", but this is meta and the accusative, which never means: "with", it means: "after". "AFTER GRATITUDE MAKE YOUR REQUEST KNOWN. " What Paul is saying here is, "Instead of crying out to God in your difficulty; with doubt, questioning, dissatisfaction, discontentment, or blaming God; cry out to God after thanksgiving." Why? If you have a grateful heart, your prayers will be right.

How can I be thankful in the midst of trials? Focus on your God as we saw David and Habakkuk do last week. Let's think about it for a moment. You know that God can't lie, right?

Numbers 23:19 (NKJV) "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

Do you also know that He has promised never to put more on you than you are able to handle?

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The trial may be very difficult, things can get very hot, but you can be thankful that God has his hand on the thermostat. He can't lie, and he said:

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

God has told us that trials and suffering make us mature in the Christian faith.

James 1:2 (NKJV) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

So, in the midst of a trial, you can thank God for helping you mature into a person who is more and more like Christ. You see in all the difficulty, God's purpose, and you thank Him for His available power and for His faithfulness. Instead of questioning and complaining, you give thanks. Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God, in His goodness and faithfulness, has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependant upon Him, that all we are and have comes from Him. I am convinced that the greatest singular act of personal worship that you can render to God is to have a thankful heart, because a thankful heart recognizes God as the source of everything. To fail to be thankful, is a serious sin. When Paul recounts the tragic moral downfall of mankind, in Romans 1, he begins with the statement:

Romans 1:21 (NKJV) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

God created us, and we are to be thankful to Him for everything we are and have.

Psalms 100:1-3 (NKJV) Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! 2 Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 3 Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

All gratitude, all thanksgiving starts here - I was created by God. All I am and have come from His grace.

Psalms 100:4-5 (NKJV) Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 5 For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV) giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The primary purpose of thanksgiving to God is to acknowledge His goodness and honor Him.

Psalms 50:23 (NKJV) Whoever offers praise glorifies Me; And to him who orders his conduct aright I will show the salvation of God."
Hebrews 13:15 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Thanksgiving promotes contentment about possessions, position, and providence by focusing our thoughts on the blessings that God has already given to us.

There is only one kind of person who can be thankful for everything - a humble person. A humble person knows he doesn't deserve anything, so the smallest thing for him is a cause of thanksgiving. If you have a problem in your life being thankful, the problem is not a lack of thanksgiving - that is a symptom. The problem is pride. You're saying, "God, I just can't be thankful because I'm not getting what I deserve." But if you really know what it is that you do deserve, you will be thankful. We deserve to be in Hell, therefore anything short of Hell should cause thanksgiving. We sometimes act as if God should be thankful that we trusted Him. We act as if God owes us. Let me ask you a question, "Have you sinned lately?" I'm sure you have. What does the Bible say are the wages of sin? Death, spiritual death. If you are a Christian, you will spend eternity with God. So, you have much to be thankful for. You deserve to spend eternity in Hell, the lake of fire, because of your sin. So, don't presume on God's mercy, be thankful for it.

Thankfulness is motivated by Bible doctrine. So, if you are having a problem being thankful, get into the Word and spend some time studying.

Colossians 2:6-7 (NKJV) As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Colossians 3:16-17 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

The issue here is a thankful heart. If you really know God, you can be thankful in the midst of the worst of circumstances. A thankful heart will give you spiritual stability. Remember Jonah? He had an unimaginable predicament; he was swallowed by a fish.

Jonah 2:1 (NKJV) Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish's belly.

If you were praying from a fishes belly, how would you pray? "God, get me out of here, now!"

Jonah 2:9-10 (NKJV) But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD." 10 So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

How could Jonah pray like that? How could he be thankful?

Jonah 2:7 (NKJV) "When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You, Into Your holy temple.
Jonah 4:2 (NKJV) So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

Jonah knew His God, and therefore, he was thankful in the midst of the worst circumstances.

What is the result of a thankful heart?

Philippians 4:7 (NKJV) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This is the result of a thankful heart. Everyone with problems would like peace. Well, this verse promises it. The word "peace" comes from the Greek word eirene, its Hebrew equivalent would be shalom. It refers to: "the absence of conflict, tranquility, serenity." In the middle of difficulty, when you're praying with a thankful heart, God gives you peace. Notice what it doesn't say. It says nothing about the answer. It simply says that God will give you peace. He gives us His peace. This is not referring to peace with God, every believer has that. This is talking about the peace of God. When you really know God and are trusting in Him, you will have His peace.

Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

No matter what problem your facing, if you understand who your God is, and if you go to Him with a thankful heart totally dependant upon Him for your needs, He'll give you peace.

This peace that God gives "surpasses all understanding." The word "surpasses" is huperecho, which means: "to excel or surpass." It's not human, it's not rational, it transcends the intellectual powers and man's explanation. A peace possessed by one who has health, wealth, friends, and loved ones is quite understandable. But a peace in the midst of trial and calamity surpasses human understanding.

Notice what this peace does - It guards your heart and mind. The word "guard" is the Greek word phroureo, it means: "to mount guard as a sentinel, to hem in, to protect." God's peace guards our hearts and minds from anxiety, worry, doubt, and fear. When we don't trust God, we lose our peace and end up in anxiety. But when we have a confident trust in God, so much so that we thank Him in the midst of our petitions, then we have God's peace standing guard over our thinking. All this is possible "through Christ."

How can we stand fast in the midst of battle? By working on our Unity, Joy, Humility, Faith, and Gratitude. Next week we will look at "Right Thinking." If we think right, we'll live right.

Standing fast is something we should all strive to do out of our gratitude for all God has given us:

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15 (NKJV) But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

Express your gratitude to God for all he has done for you by standing fast. Hold your post of godliness and Christlikeness.

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