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Spiritual Stability, Part 3: Humility and Faith

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 5, 2023 3:00 am

Spiritual Stability, Part 3: Humility and Faith

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 5, 2023 3:00 am

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Some people live and die in that revolving door of listening to what everybody says about them and if it's wounded them in any way, they're in immediate instability, anxiety.

You can't be knocked off balance by inequity, injustice, unfair treatment, lies, humiliation if you're not the issuer. That's humility, humble, graciousness. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. When you find out you've been laid off from your job or your child is diagnosed with a rare disease or a parent passes away, how do you go through that trial with consistent faith and a strong trust in God? John MacArthur is helping you answer that question today on Grace to You as he continues his series, Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability. But before we get to the lesson and before we get any further into the new year, John, give us an update on what the coming year looks like for you and for the ministry of Grace to You, and talk about how our listeners are going to intersect with it. Well, for one thing, in 2023, we're going to continue publishing the study guides, really republishing the beloved study guides from the past. And coming up next is a very important study guide called An Uncompromising Life. It's based on the book of Daniel and the experience of Daniel.

So we want all of you who are on our mailing list to be watching your mailbox because we're going to send you an offer to receive a free copy of the study guide, An Uncompromising Life. We'll also have much to say about it in the coming weeks on this radio broadcast. And then a very important study, and one that really comes from way back in our archives but is so very important, titled God, Satan, and Angels. And that's going to look at everything the Bible says about God, Satan, and angels, and how they interact. And that hopefully will be available in May. And then we're going to come out with a new study guide in addition to that one called Security in the Spirit from Romans 8.

That's scheduled for September. So up next, an uncompromising life study guide followed by God, Satan, and Angels study guide in May, and then in September, Security in the Spirit. I want to mention also that we continue the expansion of what we call Grace Reaches Out, replicating what Grace To You does in languages other than English. And our goal has been to translate about 600 of Grace To You's most foundational sermons into other languages in both audio format and written transcript. The first four languages we've done, French, Arabic, Portuguese, and Chinese, almost completed. French is nearly done, and the other three actually are complete. And you can hear messages in those four languages at our website. Go to and look for the Sermons tab.

In production, currently Italian, Russian, Farsi, and Romanian, and sometime during this year we're going to get started in Korean as well. So thanks for praying for God to work through these endeavors in 2023 and beyond. That's right, friend. Your generosity has opened so many avenues for us to get biblical truth, both to English and non-English speakers. Thanks for all that you do to connect people with verse-by-verse teaching that changes lives for eternity. And now here again is John MacArthur with today's look at seven steps to spiritual stability. We are considering the theme of spiritual stability, and we are looking at the text of Philippians chapter 4 where the Apostle Paul gives us the principles that create or generate a spiritually stable life. You know, this entire society in which we live struggles with the matter of stability. It ought to be obvious to all of us that we live in a very unstable world, and we are in the midst of very unstable people.

Our world is filled with anxiety. It is filled with an inability of folks to cope with circumstances in life. There are a myriad of solutions, but not many that work or any that work apparently as the society continues to escalate in its instability. Sad to say our particular culture and maybe even sadder to say the church itself continues to direct people in the wrong direction to find the solutions to their anxieties and their instabilities. We have bought into the psychological lies that indicate that man can solve his problems through certain psychological principles, certain introspective self-adjustments, and those have proven not only to be unsuccessful but to be diversionary so that people pursuing the wrong thing and the wrong area come up with the wrong answer, and not only that, but they then therefore miss the right answer.

The legacy of philosophy and psychology to this particular day and age has been to sell a whole generation snake oil, which doesn't do anything that it promises to do. Where do you go to find stability in life? Where do you go to learn to cope? Where do you go to learn to deal with anxiety? Where do you go to deal with circumstances that you find debilitating you and pressuring you? Where do you go to get your life really stabilized?

You hear people all the time say, Well, I just got to get my own life together. We are literally living in a sea of people who are emotionally unstable. Let's look at a biblical illustration of stability. Psalm 1. This is one of the first Psalms I ever memorized as a child. It is the foundation song of the Psalter. It is the foundation psalm, and it speaks directly to this issue of stability.

It says in verse 1, "'How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does he prospers.'" Now that is the kind of life that most people would really like to live. They would like to be firmly planted in a place that flourishes with all the delights of life. They would like to produce significant fruit. They would like not to dry up and wither away, but to flourish throughout their lives and whatever they do to prosper. I mean, that is the scenario that anybody could paint for his own life. That's the stable life. That's the spiritually stable person.

Look at the contrast. Verse 4, "'The wicked are not so.'" They're not firmly planted. They're not benefiting from life. They're not producing fruit. They are withering, and what they do does not prosper.

They're not like that. But rather, they are like chaff, which the wind drives away. And anybody in an agrarian culture who knows anything about chaff knows it is absolutely worthless. And what is the psalmist saying here?

This is remarkable. He is saying there is a man whose life is deeply rooted and firmly planted, who sucks up the pure water of life, a man who is productive, a man whose life is sustained in its flourishing capability, and a man who does things that really count and prosper. And then there is a man who's just like chaff, just blowing around without purpose, without value, shapeless, worthless, rootless, unstable, good for nothing.

Now which would you rather be? The first one is the one who walks with God. The second one is the wicked man who rejects God.

Would you notice that the key to the first life is found in verse 2? His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law He meditates day and night. Two things contribute to a stable life, delighting in the Lord, that's having a living relationship with the Lord, and then meditating in His Word so that life is viewed from a divine perspective. On the other hand, you have the shifting, blowing, useless, worthless, flotsam and jetsam, the chaff of this world headed for judgment.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather be that productive, stable life. And that is offered every Christian. That is God's desire in salvation is to root you and to make you productive. It's a marvelous description of the godly, of what God wants you to be, spiritually stable. Now we're learning how to be spiritually stable here in Philippians 4, so let's turn back to it. Would you notice Philippians 4 verse 1, and let me briefly review. In Philippians 4, 1, the key statement is, stand firm in the Lord. That means be spiritually stable. Don't be like those who are tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Don't be like the man in James who is unstable in all his ways, wavering like the sea. Be firm, be strong, be stable in the Lord. We ought to be the very demonstration of spiritual stability. But how?

That's the little word, so. Thus, or in this way, stand firm in the Lord. Here's how.

I'm going to tell you how. Here's what it requires to be stable. Now what we already learned, I briefly review. Point number 1, spiritual stability demands cultivating peace in the fellowship of love. Spiritual stability demands cultivating peace in the fellowship of love. And we noted that in verses 2 and 3, two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were causing discord in the church. Paul exhorts them to harmony in the Lord in verse 2.

Then he asks Cyzagus, which is the proper name translated true comrade, he asks Cyzagus to help those women who have been a help to him and, among others, been a part of his ministry. And what he's saying here is, look, if you're going to experience firmness and stability, you've got to be in a stable environment that is not being ripped by conflict. Where you have a church environment that is in conflict, you will not only have an unstable environment but you will have unstable individuals who will literally be affected by that instability. But where you have harmony and unity and love and peace in the environment of the church, it becomes the strength to the individual and so they experience personal stability. Harmony in the church is a great stabilizer. The unity of believers stabilizes the individual. So if I want to experience spiritual stability, then I want to be a peacemaker. I want to demonstrate love.

I want to eliminate discord. I want to do all I can to cultivate peace, to cultivate harmony, to cultivate unity in the fellowship of love so that I become a strengthening, stabilizing influence so that the environment begins to produce a stabilizing bond among Christians who can stabilize one another. The second thing we talked about, the second principle, if we are to be firm in the Lord is not only to cultivate peace in the fellowship of love, but secondly, to maintain a spirit of joy, verse 4. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. This too is directly related to spiritual stability, cultivating an attitude of joy, maintaining a spirit of joy, incessant joy, independent joy in the sense that it doesn't depend upon circumstances. Please notice, rejoice in the Lord, not in your circumstances. You can't always rejoice in your circumstances, but you can always rejoice in the Lord in your privileged union with Him.

That's the idea. That's a joy no circumstance can touch. So to be spiritually stable requires maintaining the habit of constantly expressing joyful wonder when contemplating an eternal, unchanging, enriching relationship with God through the living Lord Jesus Christ. Great truth. As long as I contemplate the Lord and what He's done for me and is doing for me and has planned to do for me, I find my joy there.

By the way, that is a command. It is no less a sin not to rejoice than not to repent or not to do anything else God commands you to do. We rejoice in the Lord. You remember in Luke 24, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus met with them, talked with them out of the Scriptures describing the things about Himself. Finally they came into the house and in the breaking of bread He revealed Himself to them and it says their hearts burned within them.

What is that? That's the burning heart that is the result of a relationship with the living Lord. It was in the joy of His presence that they experienced the burning heart. Stable people are people who bring peace to situations, who create in the fellowship of love a unity, who are a stabilizing influence in discord. And the spiritually stable are those who in the ebb and flow and rise and fall of circumstances in life always maintain joy. Joy is at the heart of stability. Let's go to the third principle. Spiritual stability also requires learning to accept less than you might think you're due.

Learning to accept less than you might think you are due. Verse 5, let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. Now that's a very, very important statement and a very important element in this matter of spiritual stability. It is really speaking about contentment.

It could read, let your contentment be known to all men. In fact, I suppose that for every translation of this text there is probably a different word used here because this is one of those almost untranslatable Greek terms, epiakes. It's practically untranslatable if you're talking about translating it one word for one word. It means more than any one English word can capture. If you've studied it long enough, you get the feeling of what this word means. For example, it has the sense of sweet reasonableness, that you are responsive to an appeal, that there's a gentleness about you when someone asks you something, you're sweetly reasonable about it. It also could be translated big-heartedness.

Not only are you sweetly reasonable, but it goes beyond that, you are very generous. It could be translated good will. Since you only wish good or will good on others, you tend to almost bend beyond what would be expected to grant them good. Some have suggested it could be translated friendliness.

That seems a little bit thin when compared to the others. Some have chosen the word magnanimity. Let your magnanimity be known to all men. In other words, your over-generosity. Some have suggested it means charity toward faults of others. Some have said mercy toward failures of others.

Some have said the best word is leniency. Some have said it should be indulgence. Let your indulgence be known to all men, not your personal indulgence in sin, but your ability to indulge all of the failures of others and not be personally offended or unkind or bitter, retaliatory or vengeful. It is a kind of patience which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, mistreatment, without hatred, without malice, without retaliation, without bitterness, without vengeance. Now if you add all that up at the risk of standing against a lot of better Bible scholars than myself in the translation process, I would suggest the best word I can think of is graciousness...graciousness.

Let your graciousness be known to all men. Certainly in sweet reasonableness there is grace. Certainly in big-heartedness there is grace. Certainly in good will there is grace. Certainly in forbearing there is grace. Certainly in friendliness, magnanimity, charity, mercy, leniency, indulgence. You're demonstrating graciousness. And that word probably in a Christian sense embodies it.

But there's another element to it that we have to go into to understand it. It is the graciousness of humility which basically says, you may have offended me, you may have mistreated me, you may have misjudged me. Worse than that, you may have misrepresented me. You may have maltreated me. You may have not given me what I deserve. You may have given me what I do not deserve. You may have ruined my reputation with some. You may have acted in hostility against me unjustly. I may be the recipient of your inequity, injustice and mistreatment, but I humbly and graciously accept it.

That's what it means. And again, isn't that exactly what the grace of God is like? You may have hated me. You may have been my enemies, God could say. You may have shaken your fist in my face. You may have blasphemed me. You may have mistreated me, misjudged me.

You may have done all of that and I still reach out to you in love. Boy, when you have that kind of an attitude, you're a stable person. Spiritual stability belongs to the humbly gracious, let's use that phrase.

Let your humble graciousness be known to all men. You don't demand your rights. You get into that kind of mentality and you will become an unstable person. The philosophical mindset of our day behind, say, the contemporary psychology that's infiltrated not only our country but the church, the philosophical mindset is primarily the mindset of existentialism. And existentialism basically says, bottom line, every man has a right to do whatever feels good.

That's existentialism. By the way, existentialism is a reaction to humanism. Humanism made man a machine. Humanism says we're nothing but biological machines and we really don't have choice and we really don't have solutions to problems.

We just function like an animal. And in a really a reaction to the humanistic, that's a materialistic humanism. Materialism says man is a machine. In a reaction to materialistic humanism came existentialism which says I don't buy that, man. I got dignity.

I'm somebody. And so existentialism says you are somebody and you ought to feel good about who you are and you ought to do whatever feels good. And so we talk about human dignity as a reaction to materialistic humanism and we talk about the fact that man ought to be whatever he wants to be and do whatever he wants to do and whatever feels good, you ought to do it. And therefore what you get is massive self-centered pride and ego.

With everyone wanting to react to materialistic humanism philosophically they don't see it as that. And be someone and be who they are and that's who I am and I have a right to what feels good to me. That's what existentialism says. That's the only value in existentialism is do what feels good. And the only rule is if what feels good to you hurts me, you can't do it. But if it doesn't hurt me, what's the difference?

That's why you have homosexuals saying why is homosexuality against the law? It doesn't hurt anybody. That's existentialism. That's philosophical existentialism. If it doesn't hurt anybody, what's the difference?

If it feels good to me and doesn't hurt you, then forget it. Well, AIDS has shot that argument down. It could end up destroying a whole generation of people. Sin always eventually hurts somebody else. But that's what's the mindset of our day.

You got to feel good about yourself, elevate yourself, love yourself, develop yourself. And that kind of thinking is in the church to an incredible degree. I was listening to a tape today of a friend, Dr. Paul Brownback, and in this tape he was saying, and I hate to say this, but he said, I believe this is true, that if you and I went into a Christian bookstore and we pulled off the Christian books that are being written today and took highlight pins and I highlighted everything that came out of Carl Rogers' self-love theory and you highlighted everything in those books that came out of the teaching of Paul, I would run out of highlighters before you would. That's how insidious this is and how far into the church it's come, the cult of self-love, which means whatever feels good to me, whatever satisfies me, whatever builds me up, whatever gets me over my inferiority complex, whatever gives me a better self-image, whatever gives me a better self-esteem, that's what I do. On the other hand, what Paul says is be humble, gracious, don't demand anything, give charity to those who are committing crimes against you, give mercy toward the failures of others, you'll be a stable person. You see, you cultivate all that self-stuff and you don't create stability, you give them a never-ending trail to greater and greater instability and unfulfillment.

Tragic. We are to be characterized by the right virtues. Spiritual stability comes when I have no demands for myself. Then if I get something, fine. If I don't, fine. If I'm treated a certain way, fine. If I'm treated this way, fine. It doesn't really matter to me. I'm not concerned about me. That's what makes Paul say, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be what?

Absolutely content. Why? Because Paul's not the issue. I'm not an issue. So I can have a forbearing spirit.

I can have a gracious, big-hearted, magnanimous, humble, charitable spirit. That's stability. Well, you can't get knocked off your pins. Some people live and die in that revolving door of listening to what everybody says about them and taking in personally every single thing that ever happens in their life and filtering it through their little ego process. And if it's wounded them in any way, they're in immediate instability, anxiety.

You can't be knocked off balance by inequity, injustice, unfair treatment, lies, humiliation if you're not the issue. That's humility, humble graciousness. So, 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. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. He has titled our current study, Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability. And now, friend, before too much of the year goes by, let me suggest you get a copy of the MacArthur Daily Bible. It will take you verse by verse through the entire Bible in a year, and it's a great resource for anyone who wants to read God's Word more consistently in 2023. You can order the MacArthur Daily Bible by contacting us today.

Call toll-free 800-55-grace or go to our website, Each day, the MacArthur Daily Bible gives you a portion of Scripture to read from the Old Testament, from the New Testament, from the Psalms, and from the Proverbs. It's also a great tool to use for family devotions. Again, to order the MacArthur Daily Bible, call 800-55-grace or go to our website, And when you visit, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources available there, including GraceStream. GraceStream is a continuous loop of John MacArthur's sermons starting in Matthew going all the way through the end of the book of Revelation. Takes a couple of months to get through all of them, and then the sermons repeat. You can jump into the GraceStream today and anytime for verse by verse encouragement from the New Testament. You'll find GraceStream at Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day. And join us tomorrow when John looks at how to trust the Lord, even in the most difficult circumstances, as John continues his study on building spiritual stability. Be here for another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-05 07:26:20 / 2023-01-05 07:36:00 / 10

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