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Spiritual Stability, Part 4: Thankful Prayer B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 10, 2023 3:00 am

Spiritual Stability, Part 4: Thankful Prayer B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Grace To You
John MacArthur

But what Paul is saying is instead of crying out to God in your difficulty with doubt, with questionings, with dissatisfaction, with discontent, blaming God, cry out to God with what attitude?

Thanksgiving. There are courageous testimonies of Christians who remained faithful through persecution, resentment, and even death because of their beliefs. They had heroic, unwavering faith. Now, in your own life, how can you display that kind of God-glorifying obedience? How can you maintain a resolute love for Christ, whether you're facing persecution and death, or just the daily trials of life? John MacArthur is helping you with that in his current study on Grace to You, titled Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability. John has already looked at the importance of harmony, joy, humility, and faith, and today's lesson focuses on how prayer can bring you stability.

And with that message, here is John MacArthur. We're studying the fourth chapter of Philippians and we're learning about spiritual stability, what it takes to be strong in the trying times, times of great temptation, times of great trial, times of persecution, times of great loss in our families, times of confusion, times of distress and illness. How can we be spiritually strong? How can we have that stability that looks death right in the eye and doesn't flinch and doesn't waver and doesn't equivocate and doesn't doubt? How can we have that kind of calm, that kind of contentment, that kind of peace in the midst of grave difficulty?

I think every Christian hungers for that and that is precisely why every one of us should learn the great truths in this fourth chapter. The way you handle problems, temptations, trials, difficulties, is a reflection of your view of God. If you understand the Lord and who He is and all His power and all His promise and all His resources and purposes and plans toward you and you also understand that He's always near, then where's the cause for anxiety?

What are you going to be anxious about? If you understand that God is sovereign, God is loving, if you understand that God is in control of everything in your life for His glory and your good, if you understand that nothing is beyond the purview of God's control, if you understand that He's orchestrating everything for eternal purpose and you can rest in that confident faith, then you're going to be stable in the most serious times. The psalmist really extols God as the strong protector and emphasizes his faith in many of the psalms, but perhaps none more strongly and firmly than Psalm 31 where he writes, In Thee, O Lord, I have taken refuge. Let me never be ashamed. In Thy righteousness deliver me. Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly. Be Thou to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me. For Thou art my rock and my fortress. For Thy name's sake, Thou wilt lead me and guide me. Thou wilt pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me. For Thou art my strength. Into Thy hands I commit my spirit.

Thou hast ransomed me, O Lord God of truth. In other words, you're true to what you say and I trust in you. That confident faith is the bottom line in your ability to deal with difficulty. When people have difficulties that they can't solve, when they get into problems that debilitate them and raise their anxiety level and cause all kinds of personal trauma, the right answer isn't you need to go to someone who can talk about your problem. That is not the right answer. The right answer is you need to better understand the God who is sovereign over your problem. That is the answer.

It is a fallacy to assume that some kind of careful human analysis of the problem is going to provide the solution. The solution is to understand I am a fallen person. I live in a fallen world. It is cursed and I bear the mark of that curse in my own fallen flesh.

This is what is to be expected. I will rest in the confident faith that my God is sovereign over all this fallenness to effect His own eternal purposes. That's the solution to the problem, that perspective. Inadequate knowledge of God is essential in the matter of spiritual stability.

The Scripture, for example, is the revelation of God so that in knowing Scripture we know God, in knowing God we can predict how He is acting, we can predict what His purposes are and thus be content. In fact, in Ephesians 6 when the believer gets into intense spiritual combat with the forces of the enemy, spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies, principalities and powers, when we're in hand-to-hand battle with demons, it says that our feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. The feet of a Roman soldier had to be prepared with something and they wore a hobnail boot. This boot was leather and nails were driven through from the inside. Those nails would grip the ground like a football or a baseball or a track shoe would grip the ground in athletics. Only in that particular situation you were in hand-to-hand combat for life and death.

It wasn't a game, it was real. And so they had these boots that were able to anchor in the soil and not slip and slide and thus cause a great amount of vulnerability. Now what Paul says is that what makes you stand firm, what anchors your feet is the gospel of peace. What do you mean by that, Paul? What I mean is that you are a participant in the good news that you are at peace with God. Another way to say that, God's on your side. What anchors you in battle is the confidence that God is on your side.

He's not your enemy, He's your friend. Spiritual stability comes to those who understand their God and understand that He is near and that everything is in His plan and there's no anxiety. So, spiritual stability is the result of strong peace in the fellowship of love, the result of a rejoicing heart in all situations because of our relationship to Christ, the result of humble acceptance of every difficulty and inequity because we know we don't deserve anything anyway and the result of a strong, confident faith in our great God.

Number five, this fits. We've already talked about the virtues, peace, love, joy, humility, faith. Here's another virtue of a stable Christian, gratitude. This point is spiritual stability calls for reacting to problems with thankful prayer, reacting to problems with thankful prayer. Verse 6, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

We'll stop at that point. Here is the antidote to worry. Here is relief from anxiety. By the way, this section does not emphasize the theology of prayer, it emphasizes the importance of prayer and the attitude of prayer. It's not really a study of the theology of prayer. There are three different words for prayer used here. They're translated prayer, supplication, and request.

They all have to do with petitions. And the assumption is that when you get into a problem, you're going to cry out to God, right? I mean, that's natural. You're going to cry out to God. But what Paul is saying is instead of crying out to God in your difficulty with doubt, with questionings, with dissatisfaction, with discontent, blaming God, cry out to God with what attitude? Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving.

Well, you say, why? Well, because you know that He's the God of promise who has promised that nothing's ever going to come in your life that's too much for you to bear. That He is the God of promise who is working all things for your good. He is the God of promise who is causing you to suffer a while in order that you might be made perfect, that you might be settled, that you might be established, 1 Peter 5.10. In other words, you see, in all the difficulty, God's purpose, and you thank Him, and you thank Him for the available power you know is there, and you thank Him for the promises which He never will violate. Instead of questioning God, doubting God, sort of shaking your fists at God, He says, in everything.

That's like 1 Peter 5.7, casting all your care on Him. In everything, when you pray and supplicate and request to God, in the process of doing that, do it with thanksgiving, thankful for His purposes, thankful for His providence, thankful for His power, thankful for His promise, thankful for His perfecting work, thankful for the hope of relief, thankful for the hope of glory, thankful that it is His will, thankful that He's doing exactly what He wants in your life to accomplish what He wants, thankful for past mercies that are the foundation of future blessings. You see, prayer should always be with thankfulness. This immediately releases me from fear and worry because I see God's purpose in it. I never question His purpose.

I know my God is sovereign. I know He orchestrates all things for my good, Romans 8.28, and His glory. I know that whatever may come, He can turn to His own praise and to my growth, and so I'm thankful. I'm thankful that He knows the problem. I'm thankful that He can deal with the problem. I'm thankful for His knowledge, His power, His promise, all of that.

All three of those words, by the way, refer to specific direct requests, prayer supplication requests. They all assume that in difficulty you go to God, but the issue here is the thankful heart. And if you really know your God and you can thank Him in the midst of all of this, you have spiritual stability.

This is so basic, folks. I watch people who are worried and fretting and anxious and troubled about everything, and the bottom line is they do not trust that everything is under the control of God for their good and His glory. They can't handle that. Either they don't understand their God or the sin in their life has caused them to have a weak faith in the God they do know to be a sovereign God. If you understand that my God shall supply all your needs, if you understand that God knows everything in your life and cares about it, if you understand that God has the power for every difficulty, if you understand that God is perfecting you to be like Christ, if you understand that nothing escapes God and nothing is outside of His tolerance and His purposes, then why would you fear and be anxious about anything?

I mean, get in touch with the reality of it. Now, what is the result of a thankful heart? Verse 7. Verse 7, And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. I would venture to say that everybody with a problem would like to find peace, right? We'd like to find tranquility. We'd like to find contentment, some kind of inner calm in the midst of the difficulty. Would you please note that that's precisely what verse 7 promises? Now, I need to just give you a little bit of a thought here. In the middle of difficulty, when you're pleading and supplicating and praying to God and you have a thankful heart, the answer is not the issue.

Did you hear that? The answer is not the issue. It doesn't say that if you will pray and you will supplicate and you will request to God with thanksgiving, God will answer your prayer the way you want.

It doesn't say that. It says nothing about the answer. It says whatever the answer may be and whenever the answer may come, God will give you what? Peace.

That's the issue. What is the peace of God? Well, it's the peace which God possesses and gives to us. It's inward peace, God-like peace given to us. That's what provides the calm.

Would you please note again? It is a gift from God to one who prays thankfully. This is building to a spiritual crescendo. As you exist in an environment of love and peace, be a peacemaker, as you focus on your relationship to the living Christ, as you have a humble heart not demanding anything, as you begin to know your God, understand your God and trust your God so that in the middle of grave difficulties when you're pouring out your prayers before that God, you can do so with thanksgiving. God in response to that kind of heart attitude dispenses His peace.

That's the promise. He grants you His peace. Listen to Isaiah 26, 3. The steadfast of mind, thou wilt keep in perfect peace because he trusts in thee.

That's it. You trust in God, you get a steadfast mind, God keeps you in peace. That's how to face life with stability. So much wrong advice, so much trust in man's ability, so much distrust in God's sovereignty that we have sent people down the wrong path. Beloved, I don't care what the problem is in your life.

I don't care what the difficulty is that creates anxiety, psychosis, neurosis, whatever it is. If you understand who your God is, if you can take every issue of life with a thankful heart as you pray and ask Him for deliverance, in the midst of it all, the promise of the Word is that God will give you peace. Now what kind of peace is it? Please notice verse 7. It is peace which surpasses all comprehension.

What does that mean? It's not human. It's not rational. It transcends intellectual powers. It transcends analysis. It transcends man's insights. It transcends man's understanding, man's definition, man's explanation. It is not human. You don't go to man to get it.

Did you hear that? You go to God to get it. There's no counselor in the world that can give it to you. There's no therapy in the world that can give it to you. There's no technique in the world that can give it to you. It is a gift of God to a believer who so confidently understands and trusts his God that he is thankful in the trial and out of his thanksgiving God responds by granting him peace, supernatural peace.

Boy, are there a lot of cheap substitutes being offered for that today. It is beyond any approach that attempts to reason your troubles away. It is superior to human scheming, superior to human devices, superior to human solutions, superior to any so-called human security. I can simply sum it up by saying the real challenge of Christian living, please note this because it runs cross grain to our culture. The real challenge of Christian living is not to see if you can eliminate every uncomfortable issue in your life.

The real issue of Christian living is to see if you can trust your infinitely holy, sovereign and powerful God in the midst of every situation and have his perfect peace. People are running around trying to create a perfect world, so they'll be happy. They don't like the way they look. They don't like the way they're shaped. They don't like the way their mother treated them. They don't like the way their father treated them. They were abused.

They were misunderstood. They weren't treated properly. They don't like the way their husband treats them. They don't like the way their wife treats them. them. They don't like the way their kids are turning out. They don't like the place they live.

They hate their job. And out of all of these things come all these petty anxieties. Sooner we should learn we are fallen people, we live in a fallen world, that's the way it's going to be. And the great reality is that our glorious, sovereign God has overruled our fallenness.

It says it, doesn't it, in John 16, 33, in this world you shall have tribulation but be of good cheer, what? I have overcome the world. When are we going to start living on the supernatural plane and accepting that we live in a fallen world and wait for the overcoming God to do His perfect work in us here and someday in the glory to come? I must accept the fact that I am a fallen person living with fallen people in a fallen world and there are manifestations of that fallenness all over the place. There will never be the tranquility I would like circumstantially in this world, but I will find my peace from God as I entrust everything confidently into His care. Now notice what this peace does, verse 7, the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Guard you from what? From anxiety, from doubt, from fear, from distress?

This is a great truth. That term shall guard is a military term. It literally means shall keep guard over, shall protect. The Philippians lived in a garrison town where Roman soldiers were stationed to watch out for the Roman interests in that part of their world.

They knew what a sentry was, what a guard was, what a garrison was, a protector. And what Paul says, look, he says, if you know your God and you know your God is near and you confidently trust your God in the midst of any trial, knowing that it is affecting His purpose, and then being thankful in the midst of that for the purpose of God even in the difficulty, you are granted the peace of God. That peace will guard you and protect you from anxiety, difficulty, distress, dissatisfaction, discontent, doubt.

Bunyan had a beautiful picture of this. You remember in Holy War he has the picture of the city called Mansoul and it's representative of the soul of man. And he has the prince, Prince Emmanuel, who of course is Christ. And then he has this special character called Mr. God's Peace. And Mr. God's Peace is in the town of Mansoul.

He's on patrol and his job is to guard the town. Bunyan writes, nothing was to be found but harmony, happiness, joy and health so long as Mr. God's Peace maintained his office. And Bunyan talks about how the town Mansoul grieved, Prince Emmanuel, Prince Emmanuel left, and Mr. God's Peace laid down his commission and chaos resulted. That's what happens in the Christian life. When Christ is out of our thoughts, when we no longer see things in the light of how He views them, when we no longer are under, as it were, the confidence in His sovereignty, then all of a sudden Mr. God's Peace doesn't function anymore and we're left with troubled minds and troubled hearts. But where we have that confident trust in the Lord so much so that we can thank Him in the midst of our petitions, then we have Mr. God's Peace on duty and He is the protector of the peace of our souls. That couldn't be a clearer perspective for all of us to understand. Now why does he mention hearts and minds? Some say, well, there's a distinction.

I think not. I don't think he's trying to delineate between the heart and the mind, he's just trying to make a comprehensive statement. He could say the heart is the seat of personhood and the mind is the seat of thought and whatever, but I think he's just saying your hearts and minds in a general sense, saying he'll guard your whole inner person, this Mr. God's Peace, you'll guard them in Christ Jesus. Because you're in union with Christ, you have this guardianship. So spiritual stability, how can you face the inevitable day of your death? What if you have a coronary? What if you're told that you have cancer?

What if one of your children is tragically taken from you? What about the difficulties that you face right now in your life? How do you face them with spiritual stability?

How do you stand your ground? First of all, it requires, I believe, the stability of the church. I believe we all have to hold each other up and where you have a strong, unified, peaceful, loving church, you find great strength in the individual members. Secondly, you must maintain a spirit of joy and that means constantly cultivating your relationship to the living Christ so it's the source of joy for you all the time no matter what may be going on around you.

Thirdly, you have to learn to be humble and not expect anything because we don't deserve anything anyway and not feel like you got cheated or dealt a dirty deal or that God gave you the short end of the stick, we who are so utterly unworthy of anything. And then you must rest on a confident faith in the Lord you understand and trust Him to be consistent with Himself as revealed in Scripture and then react to your problems with thankful prayer and the promise of God is that peace will guard you, peace, tranquility, contentment. Let's bow together in prayer. Our Father, we thank You for the confidence we have, confidence in You. I thank You also for the lack of confidence we have in ourselves. We thank You for the shattering of our own trust in ourselves that causes us to totally trust in You. Oh God, we do commit our lives to You and we do long to pray with thanksgiving no matter how difficult that might be because we know that You have an overarching purpose that is coming to pass for our good and Your glory and thus to know the peace which You alone can give. Give us that stability to stand confidently, joyfully, thankfully no matter what.

We love You. We entrust ourselves again to You for the outworking of Your holy purpose. In the Savior's name, amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for being with us. John's current study is focusing on seven steps to spiritual stability. John is also a pastor, author, and chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. Now, John, in this series, you've made the point that there is no circumstance that should ever make a believer anxious. And I can imagine most of our listeners already understand that in principle, but with all the ups and downs of life, does it surprise you that even longtime Christians do have times when worry gets the best of us?

Well, it doesn't surprise me because we are susceptible to the weakness of the flesh, and life can deliver some pretty severe blows, and we would understand that any normal person would be crushed by the death of a spouse or the death of a child or some very severe trial. But at the same time, the Bible tells us, don't be anxious for anything. Don't worry is essentially what that is saying. And of course, our Lord says, well, why are you worrying? Matthew 6, the Lord provides everything for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and He's going to take care of you.

But even with all of those injunctions and all of those promises in Scripture, we are susceptible to human weakness when we are dealt very severe blows. And along that line, we have had a ministry for many years through a book called Anxious for Nothing. It's a book about worry. It takes you into the Bible, and it directs you to the things that the Word of God says that you need to know when you face the troubles of life. And we have heard from, I don't know how many, tens of thousands of people through the years who have battled with fear and worry, and we've pointed them to this book, and many of them have written back to us through the years letting us know how that book has made a profound difference. And it's because the book connects them with divine truth, and because the Spirit of God uses that truth to calm their troubled hearts. The book will help you see that defeating anxiety often comes down to this, being content with the circumstances God allows in your life, even hard circumstances, because they are the best thing for your spiritual growth and His glory. Again, the book has made a huge difference in many lives.

It's affordable. If you're going to add any book to your personal library this year, Anxious for Nothing would be a good choice. Order your copy today and free shipping on U.S. orders.

That's right, friend. Anxious for Nothing shows you how to attack stress at its roots and how to fully trust our all-powerful, all-loving Creator. To pick up Anxious for Nothing, contact us today. You can call us at 855-GRACE or go to our website,

When tragedy hits or when you're tempted to worry about relationships, health, finances, or whatever the future holds, Anxious for Nothing can help you find profound strength. Order a copy for yourself or maybe for a friend who's struggling. To do that, call 855-GRACE or go to And if you're enjoying John's current study, Seven Steps to Spiritual Stability, remember there are thousands of sermons covering virtually every biblical topic available at You can download popular series like Spiritual Boot Camp or How to Study the Bible or The Sufficiency of Scripture. You can also search for sermons by topic, by date, or by biblical passage. All of John's messages, more than 3,500 total, are free to download in MP3 and transcript format. The sermons and many other resources are yours for free at Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to tune in tomorrow when John looks at how to protect your mind from Satan's attacks and how to cultivate godly thinking. Don't miss the next 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-10 20:03:01 / 2023-01-10 20:14:06 / 11

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