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Spiritual Stability, Part 3: Humility and Faith B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 6, 2023 3:00 am

Spiritual Stability, Part 3: Humility and Faith B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 6, 2023 3:00 am

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The great weakness of the Christian church today is a lack of understanding about who God is and how God acts. They do not understand the majesty of His wonderful attributes and that is why we have such wholesale instability because we do not know God, we do not trust God to act consistently. Psalm 1 compares a stable person to a firmly planted tree.

The roots go deep, the tree has plentiful water, it can't be blown over. The question is, how can that picture of strength and stability be a reality in your life? What does it take to be an unwavering, spiritually stable Christian in every circumstance? John MacArthur will spend this half-hour getting to the heart of the question as he continues his series, Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability, on Grace to You. Now before we look to God's word for direction, I want to give you the opportunity, John, to share a word for those who, in a sense, gave us direction during the past few crucial weeks. Of course, Phil, it's a joy to be able to say your outpouring of support was generous. In fact, it was sacrificial.

We know that. Year-end giving is a very significant portion of our annual budget. It's about a quarter of our annual budget and it allows us to do everything we do—radio, books, television, CDs, the internet, everything. We can't do any of it without the support of folks like you. We just teach the Bible and you make it possible for us to spread it around the world. What an incredible partnership. Your generosity has, frankly, been staggering—an amazing outpouring of love and trust from God's people. And at the end of a very difficult year—I mean, this was not an easy year—your commitment to supporting our Bible teaching ministry says so much about you.

It says that you love the Word of God, you believe in its power to change lives, you trust us to use your gifts with integrity, and you're depending on us for spiritual nourishment and for proclaiming truth around the world. So thanks for partnering with us. Thanks for giving and getting us off to a good start in 2023. We're going to put your investment to work for the glory of God, and His Word always brings Him glory. So on behalf of all the people we'll be able to reach in the coming days, thanks to you.

Yes, that's right, friend. It is a joy to work alongside you, to use your support to spread verse-by-verse teaching across the globe. So thank you again for all you've done to help us start 2023 on sound financial footing. And now to continue his study, Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability, here is John MacArthur. Spiritual stability belongs to those who cultivate peace in the fellowship of love, those who maintain joy, and those who do not demand what they might be due but are graciously humble. Let me reduce those to three virtues, love, joy, humility.

Let's look at one more, number four. And this is at the heart of everything. Verse 5, back to it again, let's put verse 5 and 6 together. The Lord is near, be anxious for nothing. Stop there. Boy, in those two sentences there is so much to say. That's our fourth point.

Here it comes. Spiritual stability requires resting on a confident faith in the Lord. Spiritual stability requires resting on a confident faith in the Lord. And I'll say it again, I've said it before, your view of God is what stabilizes you.

This is crucial. Look at verse 5. The Lord is near. That's a great statement. The term near, Angus, can mean near in space or near in time, just like the word near can be near in space or time.

We have to decide which in this text. The Lord is near. What do you mean? He's near in time? You mean soon He's coming?

Soon He will be here? Are you talking about the rapture? Are you talking about Christ's return?

Well, that certainly could have been in His mind after all. Chapter 3, verse 20, our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly the Lord was near in terms of time. I mean, there was going to be a return of Christ sometime soon.

Soon obviously was a relative term. We still say His coming is soon relative to the history of this world and to eternity. So it could be that He's got the rapture in mind. The Lord is near.

Stop worrying. Well, maybe it's used in the sense the Lord is near in time because you're going to die pretty soon. Well, that's a possibility that He is saying, well, you're going to die soon anyway so the Lord's going to be around to take you home. He'll come and take you to be where He is and you'll meet Him face to face and all of that. So since you're going to see Him soon and He's very near, don't be anxious.

Now I don't want to say that those two thoughts are not in the mind of the Apostle Paul or the Holy Spirit because they may well have been a part of what he was saying here. But it seems to me that the real strength of this exhortation is that the Lord is near in terms of space, if we can use that concept. It's not so much that He's near in terms of His coming in the sense that He's near in terms of His immediate presence. That He's there. He's encompassing you.

Personal presence. That's what the psalmist meant in Psalm 119, 151 when he said, Thou art near, O Lord. Thou art near, O Lord. You're here.

You're near. The Lord who will come, the Lord who will meet us in death is now near. Don't you live your life in that confidence? Don't you live your life in the confidence that even when you think a thought, He's near enough to read it? When you whisper a prayer, He's near enough to hear it?

When you need His strength and His power, He's near enough to provide it? In fact, is He not living in you, providing the very spiritual life which is your life? It is the life of God in your soul? Now we are dependent on that.

And I think that's what he's saying. The Lord is near, so don't be anxious, so don't be unstable, so don't be wavering, so don't be collapsing, having a breakdown, paranoid, or whatever. Understand the Lord is near. Now we have to understand not only that the Lord is near, but we have to understand who this Lord is who is near. And now we get to the crux of the issue, because your view of God will control your conduct.

Can I give you an illustration? Turn to Habakkuk. In Habakkuk, it was an interesting prophet in Judah, and he had an interesting problem. And this will speak volumes to us about our own problems. Habakkuk, in verse 2, cries out to God. This little prophecy is very important. How long, O Lord, will I call for help? Lord, I've been calling for help for a long time.

This is a prophet who's doing more praying than prophesying. God, what are you doing? Look at your people. They're a mess and you're not listening.

You won't hear. I told you about violence and you won't save. Why do you make me look on this iniquity? Why do you make me look on this wickedness? Why do you make me look at the destruction and the violence in Judah? The strife, the contention, the ignoring of your law, the terrible miscarriage of justice, wicked surrounding the righteous people, justice being perverted. Why, God, are you tolerating this?

This is...remember us, Judah, your people. Why don't you bring revival? Why don't you cause repentance? Why don't you turn this thing around?

So God answers him. Verse 5, look among the nations, observe, be astonished, wonder, which is an old way of saying, I'm going to blow your mind with what you're going to hear. You're only going to believe this. I'm going to do something in your days that you wouldn't believe if you were told. Apparently, that's why you hadn't told him up to now.

You wouldn't have believed it anyway. I am raising up the Chaldeans, that fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth and to seize dwelling places which are not theirs. They are dreaded and feared. Their justice and authority originate with themselves.

They have no law but themselves. Their horses are swifter than leopards and this, by the way, is poetry and this entire book was meant to be played on a stringed instrument and sung. That's why it has these poetic hyperboles. The horses are swifter than leopards and keener than wolves in the evening. Their horsemen come galloping. Their horsemen come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping down to devour.

All of them come for violence. Their horde of faces moves forward. They collect captives like sand. They mock at kings and rulers are a laughing matter to them. They laugh at every fortress and heap up rubble to capture it. Then they will sweep through like the wind and pass on, but they will be held guilty, they whose strength is their God.

Here is an utter pagan nation who believe only in their own might. And they're a law unto themselves and they sweep into...he says they're going to come and just wipe you out. Now he's got problem number two. Problem number one, why doesn't God bring revival? Problem number two, how can God use a worse nation to punish Judah? How can you take the Chaldeans?

They're worse. And how can they be your instrument against your covenant people? None of this makes sense. You're a holy God, you ought to revive your people. You're a covenant God, you keep your covenant.

You're a just God, you don't have a worse people, punish a better people. Doesn't make sense. I don't understand this. Heavens are silent, no answer.

How am I going to deal with this? You say, was he seriously traumatized? Yeah, seriously traumatized.

How seriously? Chapter 3 verse 16, my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered, decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble because I must wait quietly for the day of distress for the people to arise who will invade us. This guy...this guy should be hospitalized. He's shaking on the inside, all his organs are going up and down, his stomach is in knots, his whole inside is...his heart is beating irregularly or uncommonly. His lips are shaking and quivering. His bones ache through his whole body and he's shaking from head to foot. This guy is really traumatized. Now what's he going to do?

Let's go back to chapter 1. Here stands a totally distressed prophet in a state of panic, not over an imaginary problem, not an imaginary problem, like I don't like the way I look. No, no, no.

Like I just can't cope with life, I'm overweight. No, no, no. He's talking about the wiping out of his nation. This is a real problem. God I'm...I'm not understood at work. No, no, no. This is a real problem, major problem.

What am I going to do? I'm shaking all over. I can't deal with it. Here's what he does. He starts to remind himself about his God who is near.

Look at verse 12. And he''s in the form of questions. He's asking questions of himself.

This is a catechetical exercise. He's going to develop a catechism of theology proper and try to respond to himself so he can get back on the rock. And so he starts to talk about God. He says, verse 12, aren't thou not from everlasting? God, aren't you eternal? You are, is implied.

You are. You're eternal, which means you're before history, you're after history, you're above history, you're outside of history, you're independent of time, you're independent of history. You reign in eternal timelessness. You're bigger than this little deal. You're way beyond this little thing. There is a massive eternal plan that is way bigger than what I'm seeing here.

I feel better already. Somehow this fits the eternal perspective, even though I don't understand how you can do it this way. And then he says this, O Lord, He uses Yahweh, my God, O Lord, my God, Yahweh. That means I am, the eternal I am, the uncaused cause of all causes and effects. You are the eternal is, no beginning, no end. You are self-existent.

That's what he's saying. God, you are eternal, above, beyond, outside of time and history and you are self-existing. In other words, you are uninfluenced.

Did you know that? Did you know that God by nature is uninfluenced? He is uncreated. He is unperturbed.

He is the God who exists in perfect, unperturbed tranquility, uninfluenced by anything or anyone. You're self-existent. So you're're not falling under the spell of someone who's giving you bad information. Then he says this, my Holy One, you're also holy. That means you don't make a mistake.

You're too perfect to make a mistake. In fact, you're also so holy you have to deal with sin. Down in verse 13, your eyes are too pure to approve evil and you can't look on wickedness with favor. So this has got to fit your holiness.

I know you're punishing us because of our sin and if I follow that, you'll punish them because of their sin too. God, you're eternal. God, you're self-existent. God, you're holy. And then He says, we will not die.

God, you're faithful. He's reminding Himself that God made a covenant. We won't die.

We can't die. God had a covenant. God is true. God can't lie.

Then He says, thou, O Lord, hast appointed them to judge. You're almighty. You're using them for your own purpose. You're sovereign. You're in control.

You're never a victim. You see what He's doing here? God, you're eternal. God, you're self-existent. God, you're holy. God, you're faithful.

God, you're almighty. Everything I know about you tells me to quit worrying about this problem even though I don't understand it. I don't have to understand it. In the first place, my mind is too small to understand it.

What egotism that I should be even trying to understand it. So Habakkuk's starting to feel better. Just saying that made him feel a lot better. Chapter 2 verse 4, he puts it into a principle. The end of verse 4, the righteous will live by his what? Faith. There's that wonderful statement, the just shall live by faith that Paul uses. He's starting to say, I'm just going to have to trust God for this one. I'm just going to have to believe even though I don't understand. Go to chapter 3 verse 17, see how strong his faith was. Chapter 3 verse 17, well, he says, I'm going to trust God even though I'm shaken.

I'm going to trust my glorious, self-existent, eternal, sovereign, holy, almighty, faithful God. So, verse 17, though the fig tree should not blossom. Not likely.

Fig trees blossomed. That was normal. And there be no fruit on the vines.

Not likely. That was normal. Lots of fruit, lots of vines. And though the yield of the olive should fail, boy, that would really have been abnormal. He's saying, look, if all the normal things of life you always count on all of a sudden stop and the fields produce no food and the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no cattle in the stalls, what's the next verse say? Yet I will exult in the Lord. I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength and He has made my feet like the feet of mountain goats and He makes me walk on my high places.

Ooh, boy, that's confidence. He says, I don't care if the whole world goes wacky. I don't care if everything I always depend on falls apart. If everything is reversed, if everything you can always count on you can't count on anymore. If all of nature is skewed completely out of its normal course, I will still rejoice in the Lord. I will still put my hope in God and God will give me the ability like a mountain goat to walk upon the precipices along the cliffs of life confidently.

That's what He's saying. That's a stable man. That is a stable man. And His stability was directly related to His assessment of His God.

Now let me tell you something, folks. The Lord is near and this is the Lord who is near, the capable God of the Scripture. And if you will delight yourself in Him and if you will meditate on His law day and night, on His Word day and night, you will then know the God that He is and you will know how He acts and that will be the source of your own confidence. Now what is the result of knowing the Lord is near? Be anxious for what? Nothing.

What am I going to be worrying about? Something God can't handle? Wait a minute, that's blasphemy. If you fret, worry, are in trauma, are unstable, if you launch off into everything from anorexia to schizophrenia and all kinds of things, you are really saying, I can't cope with life.

I can't handle life. And if you...whatever mechanism you use to manifest that inability, the real demonstration, and I want to say this with love and graciousness, the real underlying demonstration is you really don't trust whom? God. That's a form of blasphemy.

Two ways. One, if you imagine that God can't help you, then you have created a God other than the true God and that's blasphemy. You have created a God who is not God.

Two, if you believe that God could help you but won't, that's blasphemy too because you're questioning not His character but His integrity and His Word. So the key to a stable, firmly planted life, back to Psalm 1, is to be delighting in the Lord. I delight in who He is and meditating on His law, I become very familiar with how He acts. And as I understand who He is and how He acts, I can look at my life and say, that's the one who's near, this is who He is, this is how He acts, I'm not going to worry.

And again I go back to what I said. The great weakness of the Christian church today is a lack of understanding about who God is and how God acts. They do not understand the majesty of His wonderful attributes and that is why we have such wholesale instability because we do not know God, we do not trust God to act consistently with His revealed character and His revealed history of acts.

So what do we do? In the church we get all these unstable people with all their problems instead of giving them God and His character and His attributes and the history of how He functions and how He acts and the amazing integrity of all of His acts. We try to give clever human solutions to the instability which in the long run projects that instability into a way of life and gives no solution at all. In the last generation, A. W. Pink in his book, Leanings in the Godhead wrote, the God of this century no more resembles the sovereign of holy writ than does the dim flickering of a candle resemble the glory of the midday sun. The God who is talked about in the average pulpit spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school class and mentioned is so much in so much of the religious literature of the day and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences is a figment of human imagination and invention of maudlin sentimentality, end quote. We aren't even giving people a knowledge of the true God in His character and His works.

As a result, there is tremendous lack of confidence in Him. No wonder people have guilt, fear and anxiety. They have an inadequate knowledge of God and an inadequate trust in God. Both are blasphemous. If you imagine God to be other than He is, that's an idol, that's blasphemy. If you imagine God to do other than what is consistent with His own character and promise to His people, that too is blasphemy. It questions His integrity. And instead of teaching God and getting people into the Word of God, most churches are trying to patch up the unstable by giving them human solutions and worst of all, psychology.

It has no answers. There's only one resting place for the soul and that's in God. We stand fast in the Lord. We stand firm in the Lord.

Back to verse 1 where He said that. And as a result, be anxious for nothing. Be anxious for nothing. Stop worrying. Don't get knocked over by trials and temptations.

And the fact that your little world isn't absolutely perfectly the way you wish it was. That's a form of unconscious blasphemy. Don't worry. Can I close with this text, Matthew 6?

By the way, this teaching of Paul is consistent with the teaching of Jesus, so let's see what our Lord said, Matthew 6, 25. For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life as to what you shall eat or what you shall drink nor for your body as to what you shall put on. Don't worry about that. You say, we don't worry about that.

No, we're a long way from that kind of culture. They were worrying about where am I going to get something to eat? Where am I going to get something to drink?

And where am I going to get something to keep warm? We don't think...the only time we think about eating, we're worried about eating too much. Our society is worried about drinking too much.

The only thing we have to worry about with clothes is not will we have some, but which ones do we choose to wear? But they had real basic problems. We got people today who get all kinds of apoplexy in our world where they have all of that stuff. They're not even struggling with anxieties over real needs.

They're only perceived and imaginary peer pressures. They aren't even real needs. Those people had real needs, food and drink and clothing.

And Jesus says, hey, look at the birds of the air. They don't sow. Neither do they reap nor gather into barns. I mean, they don't work to provide for themselves. Your Father feeds them.

Aren't you worth more than they? Then in verse 28 He says, you're worried about your clothing? Why don't you look at the lilies of the field?

They don't toil and they don't spin. But even Solomon in all his glory didn't clothe himself like one of these. And then in verse 30, the sum of it all, if God is so concerned with the plants of the field which are alive today and tomorrow are thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you who will live forever, O men of little faith? Your problem is you're anxious because you don't believe God.

That's the bottom line. So don't be anxious then, verse 31. Don't say, what do we eat? What do we drink?

You know, what do we clothe? That kind of fretting that's behind so many contemporary phobias and anxieties. That's what the pagans seek. But your heavenly Father knows you need all these sayings.

Just seek His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Do not be anxious for tomorrow. Tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Now, boy, that is a great point. Look, you've got enough trouble, why add anxiety to the trouble? Now you've got double trouble. Then you've got to go to the counselor, you've got triple trouble.

It's going to cost you 75 bucks a week. Look, just take the trouble, will you, and leave it at that and trust your God? How can I be stable?

Love, seeking peace and harmony and the fellowship of love, joy, cultivating a joy that I have that is deeper than my circumstances, that it's in my relationship with the living Christ, and then not only the graciousness but the graciousness of humility that demands nothing, accepts anything, commits it to God, and then that great confident trust in the Lord that knows that He's got it all under control. That's how to have a stable life. Let's pray. Our Father, we do thank You for such a clear passage to put us back on course that we might be stable. Help us to know that our stability comes from You. We don't want to be the product of a confused culture.

We don't want to get diverted down tracks that don't lead to stability but just lead to increasing instability. We want to be where You want us to be. We want to be delighting in You, and we want to be meditating day and night in Your Word. And we want to be every bit the biblical Spirit-filled Christian that You want us to be who can be stability to those around us, who can be firmly planted like a tree by the streams of waters, flourishing with fruitfulness, prospering, not withering, in the midst of a world of chaff blowing in every direction. Make us stable, Lord, not for stability's sake but that being firmly planted, we may bear fruit to Your glory. In Jesus' name, amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John is a pastor, author, and chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Today's lesson is part of his series that is laying out seven steps to spiritual stability. Now friend, if I could ask for a favor. If you share our passion for God's Word, or if John MacArthur's teaching has helped you go deeper into Scripture, would you let us know? Your letters encourage John and the whole staff, so when you have a minute, jot a note and send it our way. Our address is Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. Or you can send an email to letters at

Again, to let us know how you're benefiting, write to Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412 or send an email to letters at And if you'd like more help in understanding how you can trust God in any circumstance or how to know God's will or really any other biblical topic, let me encourage you to download our app, simply called the Study Bible. It's a free app that gives you the full text of Scripture in the English Standard, King James, and New American Standard versions, along with access to thousands of free online resources. And for a nominal price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible. The Study Bible app is free at Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to take some time and watch Grace to You television this Sunday, and then join us next week when John looks at one of the biggest hindrances to trusting the Lord and how you can overcome it. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Monday's Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-06 11:14:07 / 2023-01-06 11:25:14 / 11

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