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16. Developing Spiritual Stability Part Two

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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 such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)

How do we stand firm in the Lord? How do we develop spiritual stability? Scripture describes the immature in Christ as being tossed back and forth like the waves of the sea and blown here and there like the wind (Eph 4:14, James 1:6). The enemy of our souls is always trying to discourage us, make us quit, and make us fall away from God. The spiritual life is a continual war (cf. Eph 6:11-12, 1 Peter 2:11, 1 John 3:13). How do we stand firm? At the end of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, he challenges them to stand firm and shows them how to. He says, “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (Phil 4:1).

When he says “that is how you should stand firm in the Lord,” it can be translated “in this way stand firm in the Lord” (NASB). In Philippians 4:1-9, Paul teaches principles about spiritual stability. The first principles we looked at in Philippians 4:1-5 were:

  1. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Pursuing Intimacy with Christ and Christlikeness
  2. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Fostering Harmony in the Body of Christ
  3. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Maintaining Our Joy in the Lord
  4. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Practicing Gentleness
  5. Spiritual Stability is Developed by Maintaining a Constant Awareness of the Lord

In Philippians 4:6-9, we will consider several more principles about spiritual stability in the believer’s life.

Big Question: What principles about spiritual stability can be taken from Philippians 4:6-9 and how can they be applied practically?

Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Rejecting Anxious Thoughts

Do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6)

One of the ways we develop spiritual stability is by rejecting anxiety. The word “anxiety” in the Greek means to be “drawn in opposite directions; divided into parts."1 When we are anxious, our mind is divided. This is one of Satan’s tactics that will keep us from standing firm in the Lord (Phil 4:1). We cannot stand firm in the Lord if we are divided. A house divided against itself will not stand and neither will a mind divided against itself. Satan uses anxiety to take our focus off Christ—our foundation (Eph 2:20). He aims to take our focus off Christ so that we cannot be effective in serving him or progressing in our spiritual lives.

Isn’t this what we saw in the story of Peter walking on the water (Matt 14:22-33)? While Peter was focused on Christ, he walked on the water in the midst of a great storm. However, when he turned his eyes away from Christ to focus on the storm and the water, he began to sink. The text doesn’t say that he became anxious, but we can be sure that’s exactly what happened. He had a divided mind; the storm and his precarious predicament took his focus off Christ causing him to sink.

This happens to us daily. Trials, sickness, discord, and difficult circumstances at work or with family, all vie for our attention and focus. Satan wants us to play these scenarios over and over again in our mind so that we will be divided and therefore not stand in Christ. It’s one of his secrets to defeat the Christian. If he can take his focus off Christ, then the Christian is vulnerable.

Application Question: Why is Satan so diligent in working to bring anxiety in the hearts of Christians? How does anxiety negatively affect our lives?

1. An anxious heart cannot worship God.

The Psalmist prayed, “give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). Satan realizes a divided mind cannot worship. Many times I come into worship or prayer and I can’t focus on God. My mind keeps drifting to the problems and anxieties of the day. We must have a unified heart to worship God, which is our greatest call in life. We are called to “love God with all our heart, mind, and soul.”

2. An anxious heart will be ineffective in prayer.

James talked about the man who prays without faith. He said this:

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6-8)

This person cannot pray effectively because he is worrying—he is doubting God’s faithfulness and care for him. This person is double-minded and therefore unstable like the waves of the sea. He should expect nothing from God. To worry is to essentially say, “God I don’t trust you. You do not know what is best.” Satan realizes if he can divide our mind and make us not trust God, it will limit the effectiveness of our prayers.

3. An anxious heart will make the Word of God ineffective in our lives.

Christ described the seed upon thorny ground as a person in whom “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it [the Word], making it unfruitful” (Matt 13:22). The worrier cannot effectively receive the Word of God. The worries of this life choke the Word and make it unfruitful. Many read the Word of God and listen to sermons all day long, and yet, it is unproductive in their lives. It is unproductive because it is not received in faith. Instead of trusting God, they are consumed with the worries and the anxieties of life. It renders Scripture unfruitful and ineffective.

4. An anxious heart limits the work of God’s power in our lives.

If anxiety severely affects our prayer and reception of the Word of God, then it goes without saying that it renders much of the power of God ineffective in our lives as well. As mentioned previously, it was when Peter started to worry while walking on the water—as he focused on the wind and the storms of life— that he began to sink. The very power that was operating in his life was rendered useless. It is the same with us. Worry saps us spiritually. It hinders our faith. A worrier will many times limit the display of God’s power in his life.

5. An anxious heart will commonly cause physical ailments.

Doctors and psychologists would agree that anxiety actually causes the body to turn on itself. It is the cause of various sicknesses and ailments. Scripture would seem to support this. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If a cheerful and joyful disposition aids in the healing processes, then it just makes sense that a negative disposition, an anxious disposition, will increase or prolong sickness.

6. An anxious heart will lead us into sin.

If an anxious heart limits the ability for us to take part in God’s grace, then it only makes sense that anxiety will lead us into many sins.

Application question: What types of sin will anxiety bring in the life of a believer?

  • Anxiety brings depression.

“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25).

  • Anxiety will cause us to make bad decisions.

When Abraham became anxious about having the child of promise, when he became tired of waiting on God, he took his calling into his own hands. He married his wife’s slave girl, Hagar, which brought conflict into his family (Gen 16:3). If you will not trust and wait on God, anxiety will often lead you into hasty or wrong decisions that could have long term consequences. The son of the flesh, Ishmael, persecuted the son of the Spirit, Isaac (Gal 4:29). In fact, these people groups have been warring ever since as seen in the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews throughout history.

Similarly, many single people get into unhealthy dating relationships or marriages because they are not willing to wait on God. Their anxiousness leads them into bad decisions. Sometimes these anxious decisions have long term consequences.

Are you a worrier? Are you prone to anxiety?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” We must learn how to trust him no matter what our circumstances, our heart, or others are saying. As long as we put him first, he will direct our paths. He will guide us. Christ told the disciples who were worrying about their future to “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and all these things would be added to them” (Matt 6:33). As long as we put him first, God will take care of all our needs. We don’t have to worry. Isaiah 40:31 says that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. If we are going to stand firm, we must reject anxiety and choose to trust God.

Application Question: What anxieties do you commonly struggle with? How is God calling you to reject the anxieties of life so that you can stand firm?

Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Constant Prayer

but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

How else do we develop spiritual stability? Paul teaches the Philippians who are suffering persecution for the faith (Phil 1:29), have false teachers in the church (3:2), and are also having a major conflict between two women (4:2) that they must learn to pray in everything. He says, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.”

The very reason many of us are constantly shaken by the various events that happen in our lives is because we are not constant in prayer. For many of us, it is the hardships of life that draw us into prayer, but when things are going well, we are prayerless. Paul said this to the Thessalonian church: “pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:17-18).

It is those who have learned the discipline of constant prayer who will be able to stand in the midst of trials. In fact, after teaching the Ephesians to put on the armor of God in order to stand against the attacks of Satan, Paul said, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). He said if we are going to stand firm against the attacks of Satan, we must pray “on all occasions,” and we must “always keep on praying for all saints.” Spiritual warfare is done in the atmosphere of prayer.

Have you developed the discipline of constant prayer? It is necessary in order to stand firm.

Observation Question: What are the three types of prayer that Paul mentions and what do they represent?

1. Paul says that in everything we should have “prayer.”

The word “prayer” in verse 6 is a general word for prayer. However, in this context it probably means more than that since it is listed beside other types of prayer. It seems to refer to “special times of prayer that we share in periods of devotion and worship.”2 We must constantly adore and worship God throughout the day, talk to him, and share our innermost secrets with him. To pray means to live in a sense of awe and worship of God throughout the day.

2. Paul says that in everything we should have “petition.”

Petition, or it can be translated “supplication,” means to have “an earnest sharing of our needs and problems”3 with God. Peter said “cast your cares [anxieties] before the Lord for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Many times Christians only feel the need to bring their big problems before God and not their small ones. Paul says we should have supplication in everything. God wants to know our anxieties, our worries, our doubts, our joys, and the things that excite us. He wants us to lay them all down before him. Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask for “our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). He wants us to bring our daily needs before him. Our God cares that much for us. In everything we must bring our petitions before the Lord.

James said that we “have not because we ask not” (4:2). Many cannot stand because they don’t constantly bring their petitions before God. They feel sufficient in themselves for certain tasks and therefore do not feel the need to bother God. But it is this independence that actually weakens them. They may consider their independence a strength, but in fact, it is their weakness. Christ said this to the church of Laodicea as a rebuke: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Their lack of dependence upon God was their weakness. They thought that they needed nothing from him, or at least they lived that way practically. However, it is when we recognize our weakness and dependency that God’s strength is truly displayed. Paul said this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Are you constantly bringing your needs and cares before the Lord? Or are you independent—virtually living as though you don’t need him? It is those who depend upon God who will stand. The independent will not stand in the trials of life. They rely too much on their strength. We must constantly bring our petitions before the Lord.

3. Paul says that in everything we should give “thanksgiving.”

This may be the hardest aspect of prayer—thanksgiving. We must give thanks in everything. Christ told the story of ten lepers who wanted healing. He sent them to show themselves to the priest. While on the way, they all were miraculously healed. However, only one of them, a Samaritan, came back to tell Christ, “Thank you” (Luke 17:11-19). Many times we are just like the lepers. God saved us and daily provides for us, but we often forget to say, “Thank you.” Personally, I am constantly convicted of this. I will pray for grace for a sermon, an important meeting, or something dealing with my future, and when God answers my prayer, I forget to thank him. Many of us are just like the nine lepers. We fail to give God thanks for his continual blessings.

This is a secret to standing firm. We must develop a spirit of thanksgiving. This is not only true for when God blesses us but also for the trials of life. Again, Paul said “in everything.” We must learn how to give thanks even in the midst of the storm. This is exactly what we saw in the story of Job. After he lost his family and his career, he cried out, “The Lord gives and he takes away. Blessed is the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Job gave thanks in everything and that allowed him to stand amidst the attacks of Satan and the trials of life.

How often do you give God thanks? Do you give him thanks every day and in everything? This is a necessary discipline that will help us stand firm in the Lord. On the reverse, a grumbler and complainer will not stand. In fact, grumbling and complaining will only bring the discipline of God in our lives and make our situation worse. Listen to what Paul said to the Corinthians:

We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:9-11)

If we are going to stand, we cannot grumble and complain. We must instead be full of thanksgiving. It is in thanksgiving that God’s grace becomes available to us. His grace is upon the thankful believer, and his discipline is upon the grumbler and complainer.

In order to live in prayer, we must start to see God’s hand in everything and his hand must prompt us to prayer—adoration and praise. It must draw us to petition for our needs and the needs of others, and ultimately it must draw us to thanksgiving.

Observation Question: What is the result of a lifestyle that rejects anxiety and instead lives in prayer (Phil 4:6-7)?

Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Paul promises that the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. John MacArthur said this about the phrase “will guard”:

Phroureō (will guard) is a military term used of soldiers on guard duty. The picture would have been familiar to the Philippians, since the Romans stationed troops in Philippi to protect their interests in that part of the world. Just as soldiers guard and protect a city, so God’s peace guards and protects believers who confidently trust in Him.4

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by the peace that transcends all understanding?

What is the peace of God? Scripture says that when we accept Christ as our Savior, we have “peace with God.” Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We were once enemies of God because of our sin and rebellion, but now because of Christ, we have a right relationship with him. We are no longer enemies but friends and sons of God. We have the Spirit of God in us, and he makes us cry “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15).

However, not only has our relationship with Christ given us peace with God, Christ has also given us the ability to have the “peace of God.” This is an inward peace of heart and mind regardless of the storms of life. Jesus said in John 14:17, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” One of the inheritances of every believer that Christ left us is the very peace he had while on the earth. This was the peace that allowed him to sleep while a storm threatened to destroy the boat he and the disciples were sailing in (Lk 8:23-25). This was the peace that enabled him to go to the cross and endure the suffering. He had a settled peace and confidence in God. He knew that God was ultimately in control. He cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46). He invested his life and death into the hands of God, and this gave him peace. This is the very peace we can always have, no matter our circumstances. In fact, we are called to let this peace rule in our hearts. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Again, this peace comes as we refuse to be anxious and live in constant prayer. When we do this, the peace that passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds.

What does Paul mean when he says this peace passes all understanding? This means that the peace God gives does not make any sense, and it is beyond human understanding. How could Paul, who was in prison and on death row, write a letter about joy to the Philippians? How could he say in the opening of the letter that he always prays with joy when he thinks about the Philippians (1:4)? Any normal person would be full of anxiety while on death row. The only reason this was possible is because he had the peace of God that passes all understanding. Others will not understand it, and when we have it and are letting it rule in our lives, sometimes we won’t understand it. We will say to ourselves, “Why am I not angry about this situation? Why am I not worrying?” The reason is because we put ourselves in an atmosphere where God’s peace could rule our hearts. We rejected anxiety and lived in prayer. It is there where God sends this supernatural soldier named “Peace” to guard our hearts. And it is in this peace that we are commanded to stay. We must let it rule in our hearts at all times. We should always check our hearts by asking ourselves, “Do I have peace? If not, why not? What is God calling me to do in order to live in his peace and let it rule?”

Is peace ruling your heart (emotions) and your mind (thoughts)? Peace is a promise to those who choose not to be anxious and instead choose to live in prayer.

Application Question: Have you ever experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding? When did you experience the most peace of God in your life? How is God calling you to cultivate this peace and let it rule in your life?

Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Right Thinking

Finally, brothers, 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 such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me (Philippians 4:8-9)

Next, Paul teaches that we must have right thinking if we are going to stand firm in the Lord. “The word finally indicates that Paul has arrived at the climax of his teaching on spiritual stability. The principle that he is about to relate is both the summation of all the others and the key to implementing them.”5

Satan’s primary place of attack is the mind—the thoughts of a believer. At times he attacks the body and other times he works through other circumstances, but even in these attacks, he always prioritizes the mind. He does so because the mind affects the feet—how one lives. Proverbs 23:7 in the NASB says, “For as he thinks in himself so he is.” Scripture says that whatever we continually think on is what we are or what we will become. We become what we think on, and Satan realizes this. If we continually meditate on music or TV shows that teach sexual immorality, rebellion towards authorities, the pursuit of money and power, anger, or murder, then we will become like these things. This is scary considering the fact that most Christians watch the same TV shows, the same movies, and listen to the same music that the world listens to. No wonder most Christians look no different from the world. When they think on the same content the world does, it creates a lifestyle that is sub-Christian. These believers will virtually become just like the world. Therefore, the enemy continually seeks to bombard the mind of each believer with ungodly thoughts that will affect how they live and who they will become.

With these things in mind, Paul calls believers to continually think on right things. He gives a list of qualities that should dominate the thought life of every believer if they are to stand firm. The word “think” is the word “Logizomai.” “It means ‘to evaluate,’ ‘to consider,’ or ‘to calculate.’”6 It is the word “from which we get the mathematical word logarithm. Paul commands the same deliberate, prolonged contemplation of these virtues that it takes to weigh a mathematical problem.”7 The believer is not called to passive thinking but to active thinking, where he is not only testing each thought but rejecting bad thoughts. This is how a person becomes anxious for nothing. Like one calculating a math problem, they know that worry, anger, insecurity, or depressive thoughts are not the right answer, and therefore, they reject them. But they also reject many other thoughts. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that in our warfare, the battle of the mind, we must “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Interpretation Question: What does Paul mean by thinking on, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy”?

Sometimes the best way to understand something is to ask the question, “What is the opposite of it?”

  1. 1.To think on what is true means to reject what is false. If it does not align with the teaching of Scripture which is truth (John 17:17), if it does not align with the person of Christ who is the truth (John 14:6), then we should not meditate on it.
  2. To think on what is noble, or it can be translated “honorable,” means to reject what is dishonorable. If it dishonors God or others, then we should not think on it.
  3. To think on what is right means to reject what is wrong. The word “right” should probably be translated “righteous.” If it propagates sin and ungodliness, then we should not meditate on it.
  4. To think on what is pure means to reject anything that is mixed. In 1 Timothy 5:22 (NASB), the same word is translated “free from sin.”8 A lot of what we are exposed to is a mixed bag of evil and good. That is how Satan works. He puts enough truth in a lie that many believers will welcome it into their homes and eventually into their hearts.
  5. To think on what is lovely means to reject what is unlovely or unattractive. A lot of what our minds focus on is full of the ugliness of the world instead of what reflects the beauty of God.
  6. To think on what is admirable means to reject what is not admirable. “Admirable” could be translated “commendable.” This means if we wouldn’t brag about it or recommend it to others, or rather if God wouldn’t brag about it or recommend it (cf. Job 1:8), then we shouldn’t think on it. We should always ask ourselves, “Would God recommend this?”

As a summary of these six qualities, Paul says, “if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.” Believers should only think on what is best for them and others spiritually.

Therefore, believers must continually “guard their hearts” (Prov 4:23). How many Christians have been destroyed in part because of the music they listened to? They may have been unaware of it, but it was part of the process of leading them into sexual immorality. It was part of the process of changing their language. It was part of the process of leading them into depression or away from God and his Word. How many have been detrimentally affected by the movies they watch, the books they read, and the conversations they entertain? If we are going to stand firm, we must guard our minds.

David said this in Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” David essentially says the beginning of losing the blessing of God begins with what we are listening to—the counsel of the wicked. For many of us we need to be violent in the removal of what is ungodly in our lives. Christ said this: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). The eye is the doorway to the mind. Christ said if your eye causes you to sin pluck it out. Get rid of the TV, throw away CD’s and the DVD’s, turn off the Wi-Fi, stop hanging around certain people, do whatever it takes to keep a pure mind. Are you willing to be violent in order to be holy and have the blessing of God on your life? As we will see later, the blessing of God for a godly mind is his very presence (Phil 4:9).

What do you continually think on? Are you thinking on what is godly or ungodly? There are consequences to our thinking.

Observation Question: How do we think on things that have the godly virtues that Paul mentioned so that we can stand firm in the Lord?

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me...” (Philippians 4:9).

1. We think on right things by thinking on God’s Word.

Paul says, “whatever you have learned or received or heard from me” (v. 9). This undoubtedly is referring to what they learned from his teachings in person and specifically the letter to the Philippians. If we are going to have right thinking, it must be thinking saturated with the Word of God. We should listen to it, study it, memorize it, and teach it. When Christ was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he confronted every lie with the Word of God (Matt 4:1-11). David said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). In the same way, we will not be able to stand if God’s Word is not hidden in our hearts. If we are not memorizing and meditating on it, we will not stand.

David described the man who meditates on the Word of God day and night like a tree planted by the river. Its leaves are evergreen, and it produces fruit in its season (Psalm 1:2-3). The leaves do not fade because of the constant nourishment and strength that comes from the nearby water system. During a storm, the tree will stand because of its deep roots. Trees can live for hundreds of years. They stand through the storms, and that is a picture of people who live in the Word of God. They stand and produce fruit, even in the storms of life.

2. We think on right things by thinking on the godly examples God has given us.

Paul says whatever you have “seen in me.” The Philippians saw Paul personally when he started the church in Acts 16, but they also saw his example through the letter (Phil 3:17). He was a man who rejoiced even while in prison (cf. Phil 1:4, 2:17-18). He was a man consumed with knowing Christ and being like him (Phil 4:10-12). Christ was his one thing (Phil 3:10-16). In fact, he called for the Philippians to follow his example (Phil 3:17).

By walking with and keeping our eyes on godly Christians, we will find that those relationships enable us to stand firm in the Lord. “As iron sharpens iron so does one man sharpen another man’s countenance” (Prov 27:17). We stand firm by focusing on godly examples.

But it also must be said that bad examples will keep us from standing (Prov 13:20). Paul said, “Bad company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor 15:33). The enemy is aware of this as well. Therefore, he ardently seeks to destroy generations through the bad models he propagates in the media. The media frequently promotes movie stars, rock stars, or professional athletes who are committing adultery or getting a divorce. They are continually shown partying, getting drunk, or using drugs, and these are the examples daily promoted in our societies. Many of them have their own reality TV shows. Satan knows that if he can fill people’s minds with these ungodly examples, he can lead people to destruction. Therefore, as Christians, we must reject bad examples and focus on godly ones.

What godly examples are you keeping your eyes on? The writer of Hebrews said this about the godly examples in Scripture:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

The great cloud of witnesses refers to the many great men and women of faith in Hebrews chapter 11. By looking at their lives, by continually thinking on Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and others, we will find the ability to persevere in the race marked out before us and also get rid of everything that holds us back. We must consider and think on godly examples if we are going to stand firm.

Application Question: In what ways is God calling you to change your thinking in order to think on godly things and godly models? What makes this discipline of godly thinking so difficult? Who are the godly models God is calling you to think on?

Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Right Practice

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9)

After calling the believers to think on godly things, he commanded them to put the godly truths or principles into practice. It is not enough to simply think on or listen to right things; we must put them into practice if we are going to stand. Christ taught the same thing. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, he described a person who listened and obeyed his teachings and another who only listened. He described the person who heard and practiced his teachings as the one who built his house on the rock, and when the storms came, the house stood. However, he described the one who simply listened as building his house on the sand, and when the storm came, the destruction was great (Matt 7:24-27). In order to stand in the storms of life, we must practice holiness. We must be doers of God’s Word and not hearers only deceiving ourselves (James 1:22). Are you building on the rock of Christ’s Word?

Paul calls for the believers to put into practice the righteous virtues they should be thinking on. Paul had given them a model of right thinking in his teachings and his living. The word “practice” “refers to repetition or continuous action. The English word can have the same connotation. We speak of a lawyer or a doctor as having a practice because their profession maintains a normal routine. Christians are to make it their practice to lead godly, obedient lives.”9

The believer is not only to have orthodoxy but orthopraxy—right thinking and right practice. This must be his daily endeavor. They must develop a consistent walk of righteousness in order to stand. This is important because Satan always looks for little compromises in the believer’s life in order to destroy him. This is why in Ephesians 6:14 Paul calls for believers to put on the breastplate of righteousness in order to stand against the attacks of the enemy. Compromise in the life of a believer can ultimately lead to his destruction. We protect ourselves by daily practicing righteousness and opening no doors for sin.

In fact, Paul says that righteous thinking and righteous living will lead to the very presence of God. He says the “God of peace” will be with us when we practice right thinking and right practice. God’s manifest presence will not be with those who continually think on ungodly things—those whose thinking is worldly. God’s presence will not be with those who continually practice sin. However, his manifest presence is with those who both think on and practice righteousness. His presence is there to strengthen and encourage them. Listen to what Paul shared about his experience of God’s presence in the midst of his trial.

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. (2 Timothy 4:16-17)

When everybody else had left him while imprisoned in Rome, God’s presence was with him to stand firm and preach for Christ. That was Paul’s desire for the Philippians. If they were going to stand firm amidst the persecution they were encountering (Phil 1:29), the false teaching that had entered the church (3:2), and the discord threatening to divide them (4:2), they needed God’s manifest presence to strengthen them. This presence only comes to those who practice right thinking and right living.

Beloved, this is how we stand firm in the Lord. Are you living a faithful Christian life? Are you putting your faith into practice? If not, you will not be able to stand.

Application Question: How would you describe your experience with the “presence” of God? Are there times when you have felt nearer or farther away from him? What seems to affect those seasons?

Conclusion

How can Christians faithfully stand in the Lord? How can we stand against the attacks of the enemy and no longer be tossed to and fro like the waves of the sea? In Philippians 4:1-9, Paul teaches us truths about spiritual stability.

  1. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Pursuing Intimacy with Christ and Christlikeness
  2. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Fostering Harmony in the Body of Christ
  3. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Maintaining Our Joy in the Lord
  4. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Practicing Gentleness
  5. Spiritual Stability is Developed by Maintaining a Constant Awareness of the Lord
  6. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Rejecting Anxious Thoughts
  7. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Constant Prayer
  8. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Right Thinking
  9. Spiritual Stability Is Developed by Right Practice

1 http://biblehub.com/greek/3309.htm

2 Teacher's Outline and Study Bible - Commentary - Teacher's Outline and Study Bible – Philippians: The Teacher's Outline and Study Bible.

3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, pp. 94–95). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

4 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (p. 284). Chicago: Moody Press.

5 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 284–285). Chicago: Moody Press.

6 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 284–285). Chicago: Moody Press.

7 Hughes, R. K. (2007). Philippians: the fellowship of the gospel (p. 177). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

8 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (pp. 289–290). Chicago: Moody Press.

9 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2001). Philippians (p. 291). Chicago: Moody Press.

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