How do we maintain our balance in the midst of the changing and difficult circumstances of life? I'm sure that you're aware that Christians are not exempt from the problems of a sinful world. We, too, experience the anxiety of disquieting circumstances and the anguish of broken relationships. In John 16:33, Jesus gave us a truism:
John 16:33 (NKJV) "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
I think that we all can relate to that can't we? We will have trouble in this world. A loved one becomes ill, our car breaks down, we lose our job, people we love turn their back on us. The common denominator in all of these circumstances is uncertainty. These and countless other circumstances continue to prove that Jesus was indeed correct when he promised us that we will have trouble in this world. We all experience times of instability in the midst of difficult circumstances. Sometimes it can become so severe that we lose touch with the ability to function in life. We can become so overwrought with anxiety that we lose our balance, our stability. It can even get so bad that we become like David, and act like we are retarded. We all, at times, find ourselves weak and unstable. Where do you go for help; where do you turn in times like these? We turn to the only one who is our deliverance, our salvation; who knows our hearts, who understands our desires, and that is to God. And that is where Paul wants us to turn in this text.
It is very important for us that we learn how to be stable, because not only is instability intolerable in our own lives (it robs us of peace and joy) but it's intolerable because of how it affects others. A spiritually unstable, broken, and crushed believer is a contradiction to a watching world of unbelievers. They can't understand how you can profess an all sufficient God, but then live as if your God was not sufficient. This is a very important matter to consider, because people are very pragmatic - they are not very interested in doctrine, or the things we say. But, if they see a body of people who seem to have something that enables them to triumph in life, they become interested at once. We, here at Berean Bible Church, are Calvinistic and believe that salvation is a work of God. But we also know that God extends His kingdom through his people.
Matthew 5:13-16 (NKJV) "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
I believe that salt here refers to influence. Salt creates a thirst and prevents corruption. What good is salt if it has no effect? The idea of light here, I believe, is that of giving direction. In verse 16, people are to come to a place of bringing glory to God by what they see in you. And when they see you standing strong in the midst of difficult circumstances, it makes them want to know about your God. Where can you be more of an influence and give more direction then when you are in the midst of a trial? Look with me at:
Acts 7:55-60 (NKJV) But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, 56 and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; 58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Verse 58 tells us that Paul (formally Saul) was there, and he witnessed Stephens stability in the midst of being stoned. I believe that this event had an impact on Paul - he saw a strength and stability that he couldn't explain. Stephen is having the life crushed out of him by men who hate him, and as he is being stoned he prays, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." He is praying for the welfare of those who are killing him. Don't you think that would have a lasting effect on his killers?
We are all called to this same stability that Stephen demonstrated. We are called to be stable, unwavering, unmoveable, committed to stand as a solider in the midst of a battle. We are to be a living manifestation of the strength of Christ. So, in writing to the Philippians, Paul calls them to "standfast" in the Lord. And in the situation in which he wrote, he gives us a living illustration of stability.
He is a prisoner in Rome, chained to a guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To put it in the vernacular of the youth culture, he was chained to a guard 24/7. Yet, Paul mentions joy sixteen times in this epistle. His circumstances did not affect his joy. How would you handle being chained to a person 24/7? Some of you might feel like you are. You might feel like you are chained to a toddler, a job, or a spouse. But no matter what you think you are chained to, you do have some freedom; Paul didn't, and yet, he never lost his joy. What is his secret? In Philippians 4:1-9, he tells all believers how to live a stable life.
In verses 1-8, we have six elements that will lead to a stable life. They are: 1. We need to cultivate UNITY in the body of Christ - "be of the same mind" (verses 2 & 3). 2. We are to maintain a spirit of JOY - we are to "rejoice in the Lord" (verse 4). 3. Learn to accept less than you think you are due - HUMILITY - our "sweet reasonableness" is to be known to all men (verse 5) 4. Rest on a confident FAITH in the Lord - we are to trust in the Lord and be constantly dependant upon Him (verses 5 &6). 5. React to problems with thankful prayer - GRATITUDE (verses 6 & 7). These five can be summed up in five basic virtues. Love, joy, humility, faith, and gratitude. Now where do these attitudes come from? They are a product of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
When you live your life under the control of the Lord, He produces these virtues in your life. So, the solution to anxiety, guilt, hostility, bitterness, or loneliness is to be controlled by the Lord. And the way to be controlled by the Lord is to be focusing our minds on the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and are of a good report. When your mind is focused on the truth of God's Word, the Lord produces these attitudes in your life. Having your life under the control of the Lord comes from concentration on the Word of God. There is so much mysticisms in the church today that we must understand the Lord controls your life as you concentrate on the Word of truth. I believe that we are only controlled by the Lord as we are filled with His Word. Let's compare two passages.
Ephesians 5:18 (NKJV) And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled (controlled) with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Colossians 3:16 (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. 18 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Notice how the results of being "controlled by the Spirit" and "letting the Word dwell in you" are the same. The results are the same because the cause is the same. When the Word dwells in us, the Spirit controls us.
The sixth element is Right Thinking. Godly thoughts produce godly attitudes. How you think is vital; you must have a disciplined mind. Someone has said, "Don't let your mind wander, it's too little to be out by itself." You can keep all the fear and anxiety and depression at bay, depending on how you think! We talked about the mind last time, and now we come to the final element in leading a spiritually stable life.
Philippians 4:9 (NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
We see our final point in this verse. Spiritual stability comes from "Acting on God's Standards." In order to be spiritually stable, you must have godly attitudes, which are produced by the Holy Spirit as we focus on the Word of God (verse 8). And then, you must have godly deeds or godly behavior. You can't divorce thinking from action. Thoughts can never be abstracted from action. James puts it this way in James 2:20, "faith without works, is dead." He is saying it is "unproductive."
The verb "do" in Philippians 4:9 is from the Greek word prasso, it means: "to practice." Robertson says it means: "to practice these as a habit." The verb poieo means: "to do", but prasso means: "repetition, action that is continuous." We talk about a lawyer or a doctor having a practice. What we mean by that is that it is a constant way of life to them. It's different from practicing the piano or swimming. That is using the word in a sense of: "working on something to learn it." When we use it of a lawyer or doctor, we hope it means more than that. When we say a doctor has a practice, we mean it is his normal routine to live as a medical doctor. That's the intent of the word prasso. Paul is saying, "This should be your practice, this should be your pattern of life."
Spiritual stability finally comes down to the matter of living a life disciplined to obey God's standards. You must discipline your life to do what is right. You might say, "I would like to do what is right, but I have trouble obeying what I know to be true."
Let me give you an analogy. If a police officer see's a crime about to be committed or someone breaking the law, he arrests them. That is analogous to this passage. When you have godly thoughts produced by the Word of God and godly attitudes produced by the Spirit of God, together they act as a police officer who arrests your flesh before it can commit the crime.
The flesh moves to disobey God's standards, and as it does, the police officer arrests it, preventing it from committing a crime against the Word of God.
Let me give you an example. When I was a young believer, something happened at the church that we were attending that I didn't like very much. So, I picked up the phone to call the pastor to let him know how I felt. I was going to give him a piece of my mind. As I dialed the phone, Proverbs 6 came to my mind. I had previously memorized that passage and now the Lord brought it to my attention.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV) These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
The Holy Spirit quickened those verses to my thinking. I didn't want to be involved with something that God hates, so I put the phone down. The Holy Spirit must have the Word of God in your thinking to guide you. If your thoughts aren't biblical and your attitudes aren't godly, the police officer isn't on duty, and he can't arrest anybody; and your flesh will violate God's standards.
It all starts with right thinking produced by the Word of God. And right attitudes produced by the Holy Spirit, which polices the flesh and leads to right practices. That's why the practices don't come until verse 9. The biblical pattern is always doctrine first, then practice. In Romans, you have 11 chapters of doctrine, and then he says, in chapter 12, that we are to present ourselves to God as living sacrifices. In Ephesians, he gives us three chapters of doctrine, and then he says, in chapter 4 "I beseech you that ye walk worthy." We must know truth in order to battle the flesh.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV) For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
You can't use fleshly weapons against the flesh. Our weapons are spiritual attitudes and spiritual thoughts, which bring captive everything to the obedience of Christ.
Not only do wrong attitudes and wrong thoughts produce instability, but sinful behavior produces anxiety and spiritual instability.
Isaiah 32:17 (NKJV) The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.
Righteousness equals peace. Obedient behavior produces peace and stability.
Psalms 37:37 (NKJV) Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright; For the future of that man is peace.
Romans 2:10 (NKJV) but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 14:17 (NKJV) for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Notice that righteousness comes first, then peace.
Paul is saying to practice these things as a way of life, make them your habit. This calls for discipline. The discipline in your life creates the habits.
Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
The word "use" is the Greek word hexis, which means: "habit or practice." The word for "exercised"is gumnazo, which means: "disciplined or trained." By discipline, you create habits. We are creatures of habit, but we must use discipline to form godly habits. Do you remember the first time you drove a car? Was it a scary experience? There are so many things you must think about and do all at once. Years later, it has become a habit because you disciplined yourself to practice. Now you can drive down I-64 at 55 miles per hour, dodging in and out of traffic while discussing superlapsarinism with an angry Arminian.
Spiritual growth is the result of developing godly habits: Bible study, prayer, witnessing, fellowshiping with other believers. Most of us desire to read the Bible, we know that we need to, but usually we don't feel like it. I think that it is beyond dispute that most of us are living lives which are seriously lacking in discipline and in order.
Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book, Spiritual Depression, writes this:
I defy you to read the life of any saint that has ever adorned the life of the Church without seeing at once that the greatest characteristic in the life of that saint was discipline and order. Invariably it is the universal characteristic of all the outstanding men and women of God. Read about Henry Martyn, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, the brothers Wesley, and Whitfield - read their journals. It does not matter what branch of the church they belonged to, they have all disciplined their lives and have insisted upon the need for this; and obviously it is something that is thoroughly scriptural and absolutely essential.
Philippians 4:9 (NKJV) The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
So, Paul is telling them to make "the things which they learned" a habit. What things? Where did a Christian in Philippi go to get information about how he was supposed to live? Scriptures? All he had was the Old Testament. The New Testament had not yet been written. Where did he go for his information? We see from Acts 2 that they devoted themselves to the apostle's doctrine.
Acts 2:42 (NKJV) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
In the early days of the church, before the New Testament was written or widely circulated, the standards of Christian belief and behavior were largely taught by being embodied in the words and examples of apostles. That's why Paul said in:
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV) Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
So, he says to the Philippians in 4:9, "What you have learned, received, heard and seen in me do." Learned is the Greek word manthano, which is: "a learner, one who learns under discipline, a disciple." He's referring to his personal instruction to them.
Acts 20:20 (NKJV) "how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,
Paul is telling them to practice what they learned from him. Then he uses the word, "received," which is from the Greek word paralambano. From para, which means: "beside", and lambano, which means: "to receive." It means: "to receive to your side, to accept." If you trace this words usage in the New Testament, you will see that it is used in a technical sense of receiving revelation from God. He is not talking about what he taught explaining and expounding the Scriptures, but what he received directly from God and gave them. For example:
1 Corinthians 15:3 (NKJV) For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
Galatians 1:9 (NKJV) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Paul is saying, "I want you to practice in your life what I taught you (learned) and what I delivered to you of revelation (received).
Then, he uses the word "heard" which is from the Greek word akouo, "to hear." This is what they have heard from other sources about Paul. You've heard of my doctrine and conduct from others. He is probably referring to men like Timothy and Epaphroditus. He is telling them to put into practice what they have learned from others about him. Can we say that?
The word "seen" is from the Greek word eido,"to see" (lit. or fig.); by implication to know:-"be aware, consider." They have seen his life, they are to practice what they have seen. The Philippian jailor, from Acts 16 was most likely in the congregation there and heard these words. He had seen Paul's stability when he was beaten and thrown into the inner prison. Paul modeled the standard. He had godly attitudes, godly thoughts, and godly deeds. So Paul says to them, "do what I do." Can you say this to those that you are discipling? Can you say this to your children? Do what you see me do! We teach much more by what we do, than what we say. We are to flesh out godliness and call others to follow us. We all ought to be able to say, "Imitate me, do the things that you see me do."
This verse is very extensive to us! We have not "seen" Paul first hand, but we see him in the scriptures; in Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
Paul is saying to the Philippians and us "Practice what you have learned, make it your habit." Godly deeds are vital to stability. This thought of acting on the truth of God runs thru the entire Bible.
Joshua 1:6-9 (NKJV) "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 "Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
We are to meditate on the Word of God, so we can do it! We are to learn it, so we can live it. We are to learn the Word, and act on the Word.
Psalms 119:1-8 (NKJV) Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! 2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! 3 They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. 4 You have commanded us To keep Your precepts diligently. 5 Oh, that my ways were directed To keep Your statutes! 6 Then I would not be ashamed, When I look into all Your commandments. 7 I will praise You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments. 8 I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!
Matthew 7:24-27 (NKJV) "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Act on what you have heard, and you will be stable on the rock. The storms of life won't destroy the person who's life is built on the rock of obedience.
James 1:22-25 (NKJV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Don't only hear - do it! If we are going to have stability in our lives, we must act on and live out the truth of God's Word. Paul said it, Joshua said it, David said it, Jesus said it, James said it. This is a major biblical theme. Practice starts in the mind. Verse 8 tells us, "Learn the Word, and act on what you learn."
Now, here is a promise to the obedient - "and the God of Peace will be with you." "God of Peace" is Paul's favorite title for God. He lived in the peace of God in the midst of the worst circumstances. Paul knew God as the "God of Peace." This promise is to the obedient. Paul is not implying that they would be forsaken by God if they fell short, he's talking about fellowship - the full experience of God's presence as the "God of peace." The peace of God and the "God of peace" are experienced by those in fellowship, which comes from obedience. Disobedience or sin blocks our fellowship.
Matthew 18:32-35 (NKJV) "Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 "And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
In verse 34, the debt is not the debt he owed originally, that was cleared. This is the debt he owes for his present actions. A failure to forgive is disobedience, we are called to forgive each other.
Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
If we don't walk in obedience, we could be handed over to the torturers. This could refer to physical, or emotional torture, anxiety, fear, loneliness, or guilt.
The presence of the "God of Peace" is with the believer who is a doer of the Word. How could we ever be unstable when in fellowship with the God of peace? All our problems are not spiritual problems, but I believe that they all have a spiritual solution.
I think that most of us want to practice the precepts of God's Word, it's a desire we have, but we keep failing; we can't seem to do what we know we should. This happens because we try to live independent lives, we must understand that we need each other. The Church's greatest need is "accountability." We need people to question us on what we are doing and to encourage us to do what is right. If you knew that someone was going to question you on your day's thoughts and activities, would you act any different? I dare say that you would. The majority of people in the church won't accomplish much without accountability.
Spiritual stability comes from right thinking, right attitudes; and right action, deeds, or behavior. You do these, and the God of Peace will be with you, and you will be a stable person.
Psalms 4 (NKJV) Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. 2 How long, O you sons of men, Will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness And seek falsehood? Selah 3 But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The LORD will hear when I call to Him. 4 Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD. 6 There are many who say, "Who will show us any good?" LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. 7 You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased. 8 I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
There is great peace to those who walk in righteousness, even in the midst of trials. Isn't it time that you got serious and made some spiritual progress? Practice these things!
|Continue the Series|