I’ve been listening, more and more, to John MacArthur (‘Grace to You’) and finding it extremely useful — his six-part series on ‘Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability’ especially so. It’s from 1989, but as with all good, expository preaching, it is truly timeless. (See below for links to the free audio downloads. Each runs ~45-60 minutes.)
Part 1: Introduction – Philippians 4:1
Part 2: Harmony and Joy – Philippians 4:2-4
Part 3: Humility and Faith – Philippians 4:5-6a
Part 4: Thankful Prayer – Philippians 4:6b-7
Part 5: Godly Thinking – Philippians 4:8
Part 6: Obedience – Philippians 4:9
Some key points I’ve taken away so far, in my own words (including things I already knew, but which were reinforced and enriched in my understanding by the way in which he stated them):
Knowledge of the sovereignty and character of our God and His salvation through Christ should bring joy irrespective of circumstance. (Imagining that there is some circumstance beyond his purview, or which we should be able to ‘fix’ on our own without His guidance is a form of distrust and pride — and a sure course to spiritual instability. His explanation of why Arminianism is not just a red-team vs. blue-team intellectually plausible alternative to Calvinist Sovereignty-of-God doctrine, but a rampant disease and sure road to ruin is one of the clearest I have yet heard.)
This knowledge of God requires study. In the body of the church, this common knowledge implies and drives towards harmony. Those with the Holy Spirit should naturally be in harmony with others in the same Spirit. Not as clones but harmony — like an orchestra. A lack of harmony suggests the presence of competing (un-holy) spirits.
If we recognize our true position as sinful creatures — i.e., not deserving anything — we will be much more stable when life deals us hardships (i.e., when we get what we do deserve: nothing), and we will be much more thankful when we get something, recognizing it as a gift from God.
(This perfectly describes the attitude I recall my grandparents, and my wife’s grandparents, having after living through the Great Depression and WWII. They weren’t perfect by any means, but they were each thankful for things that would deeply irritate or unsettle most of us if they were taken away. I suspect most of you of a similar age can relate.)
Our reaction, from a position of heart-felt and well-reasoned humility and thankfulness, is naturally that of constant prayer to our Sovereign and loving God. (See how logical this all is?)
Faith is ultimately a matter of the mind… of learning, of thinking, of focus, discipline and deciding — and not just once (e.g., ‘deciding for Christ’) but on an ongoing basis throughout the days of our lives. This ability differentiates us sharply from animals which operate according to a stimulus-response dynamic. Focus on junk is like eating junk food. (This is my ‘spin’ on what he said re. v8.) Boy does this ever change how I think about what blogs to read and how much time to spend looking at the news vs. reading my Bible!!
God did not leave us a music video or set of images (in fact, just the opposite: see commandment #2), nor was he big on miracles for their own sake. (Plenty of people saw them and still were not convinced, or else drew entirely the wrong conclusions.) Instead he gave us His Word. We cannot trust our emotions except to the degree that they are filtered through the known truth of that word.