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Triumphantly Living

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 10, 2024 12:01 am

Triumphantly Living

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 10, 2024 12:01 am

We have no power in ourselves to obey God's will, yet the Lord strengthens His people to live joyfully and triumphantly for His glory. Today, Steven Lawson explains how this truth enables us to be content in all circumstances.

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Steven Lawson is founder and president of OnePassion Ministries in Dallas. He is a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow, professor of preaching and dean of D.Min. studies at The Master's Seminary, and teacher for the Institute for Expository Preaching. He is author of many books, including The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Knox: Fearless Faith, and The Moment of Truth.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Paul says, when I'm weak, then I'm strong.

So we can all relate. We're all frail. We're all jars of clay. But it is in our weakness that His strength is made strong. The longer that I walk with Christ, the more aware I become of my weakness, my utter dependence upon Him.

Isn't that your experience as well? We are all jars of clay. Yet the apostle Paul reminds us in today's text that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. Welcome to the Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind as we conclude a week in Philippians with Stephen Lawson. The messages you've heard this week are from Dr. Lawson's 42-message overview of Philippians.

And today is the last day to request the series on DVD and in the Ligonier app when you give a donation of any amount at So what does it mean that we can do all things through Him who strengthens us? And how does that relate to our contentment?

To conclude this week's study, here's Dr. Lawson. Well, once again, I want you to take your Bible and turn with me to the book of Philippians, Philippians chapter 4. And in this session, we're going to take in several verses, believe it or not. We'll see how far along we are able to advance. I want to begin reading in verse 10, and I'm going to read through verse 14.

We'll see how far we can work our way into this. These are great verses. And Paul writes, But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me.

Indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. The background for this is the church at Philippi, which Paul founded over a decade earlier, has received the news that their beloved founding pastor, Paul, is now imprisoned in Rome.

It is an imprisonment in which he is in house arrest, and because it's in a house where he's chained to guards and access to him is somewhat restricted, he is forced to pay his own rent for this house. And so the church at Philippi has taken up an offering, and they've given it to Epaphroditus to travel 800 miles from Philippi to Rome to hand to Paul the gift that will enable him to pay, I guess, the Roman government or whoever's house this is in order to cover that expense. So Paul writes the book of Philippians in response to this for multiple reasons, but one of which is to thank them for this gift.

So men do write thank you notes. The book of Philippians is Paul's expression of deepest gratitude to this beloved church and congregation for sending this gift to help him in his time of dire need. There will be other reasons that he writes the book of Philippians as Epaphroditus will also bring him updates on the spiritual life of the church in Philippi, and Paul will bring correction, exhortation that is directed at some of the specific issues that are going on in the church at Philippi that will be relevant for every church down through the centuries. So as we look at these verses, it becomes somewhat understandable why Paul says what he says. So he says in verse 10, I rejoiced in the Lord greatly.

I mean, this is Paul, is it not? He's just always rejoicing, and it just bleeds through the pages of this book. As I've mentioned 14 times in this letter, Paul either says, I rejoice or I have joy. And then there is a triumphant note about Paul's Christian life that is sending out, emitting a sweet smelling aroma of joy to people who are around him. And he says, I rejoiced in the Lord, not a little bit, but greatly, super abundant joy.

And he tells them why. He says that you have revived your concern for me, that they have not forgotten Paul, who has, it's been a long time since he founded that church, but they have revived their concern for him because they have been made aware of his need. He says, indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. And what that means is they had received reports previous that Paul had certain needs, and they wanted to meet those needs with a financial gift. It's just they didn't have the ability at that time. They didn't have the opportunity. It may have been that they lacked the resources, or it may have been they lacked a messenger who could take it to Paul where he was, or it may have been there was political government interference. We don't know why they lacked this opportunity, but it was in their heart, and they wanted to do this.

They just providentially were hindered from doing this. It was like David wanting to build the temple, but he couldn't because he was a man of war. Nevertheless, God knew what was in his heart and remembered him for that. Well, Paul is saying something of the same, thank you. It was an enormous encouragement to Paul to receive this gift.

And what meant more than even the gift was the thought that was behind it and the revived concern. It just so greatly encouraged the Apostle Paul. I can relate to this as a preacher and as a minister. So many times after a service, someone will come up to me and they'll say, now pastor, I don't want to give you the big head, but… And I know how this is going to go. They're wanting to give me an encouraging word, and I have to stop them and say, it's okay to encourage me. Don't hold back.

Please encourage me. And Paul is being encouraged. So he says in verse 11, not that I speak from want, for I've learned to be content. And Paul is saying, God has stood with me and God has met all of my needs. And Paul is also growing as a Christian. And Paul is also maturing as a believer.

And so he's learning. That's what he says in verse 11, I've learned to be content. And the word content here means literally to be self-sufficient. And the idea is you're not looking somewhere else to have your needs met, that you're at peace with your lot in life. You're at peace with where you are and what has been entrusted to you.

And the word was used really of a country, of a nation, that did not need to import product into the nation, that everything they need is within their own boundaries, within their own borders. And Paul is saying, I've learned to be content with what the Lord has put in my hand, and I have a peaceful, calm acceptance of what the Lord has provided. And he says, in whatever circumstance I am, and Paul was in all kinds of circumstances, good circumstances, troubling circumstances, and it was a part of his maturation to learn how to be content in whatever the setting, whatever the circumstance was. He says in verse 12, I know how to get along, and that means I know how to be content with humble means, and the word humble means speaks of financial shortage, base poverty, physical affliction, Spartan accommodations, physical need, suffering that humbles us. And he uses the word humble as just an overarching one-word description of those difficult times in life when you go without, and you extend an empty hand, and the empty hand remains empty. And then he says, and I know how to live in prosperity, and prosperity is a Greek word here that means to have a surplus. It means to have over and above what you need.

It means to have more than what's required, to have more left in your pocket after you have paid your bills. And we learn here that it's not a sin to live in prosperity any more than it is a mark of sin to be in humble circumstances. So whether Paul is on the mountaintop or whether he's in the valley, whether it's prosperity or poverty, he says in any and every circumstance, and that just covers the whole gambit. He says, I have learned the secret. Now, Paul, you're going to have to tell us what the secret is.

I want to know the secret. He says, I've learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, and the idea here is to be content when I am filled and to be content when I am hungry. And the word hungry here obviously means to go without, to go without the resources to be able to provide the food that you would need or even the medicine. He says both of having abundance and suffering need. So, Paul, how can you live like this?

Because it's a challenge, certainly for me, to be content when I'm going without, and it can be a challenge to remain humble when you have more than what you need. So what is the secret? Well, Paul does not withhold the secret.

He gives it in the next verse. It's verse 13. This is a very precious verse. When I was in college, I was a long ways from home and was on a college campus with 30,000 students.

I didn't know one single person. It was quite an adjustment for me, and I had this verse calligraphied, and I put it over my bed so that every night as I would come to bed, I would see this verse, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. When I would wake up in the morning and get dressed, I see this verse, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. It's a very important verse, I think, to all of our Christian lives.

So let's look at it carefully. First of all, he says, I can do. And the idea there is, I can be made strong. I am made strong. I have the power and the resilience. I can do all things.

Now, all things need some qualification. Paul is not given strength from the Lord to do all sin. He is not given strength from the Lord to veer outside the will of God. He's not given strength to do all things that are in violation of Scripture. He can do all things within the will of God. He can do all things in compliance to the Word of God. He can do all things as God opened doors in front of him, and he senses that this is the way of the Lord. Walk in it, that he can do all those things, that there will never be a demand upon Paul's life within the will of God, but that he can do it.

Now, let's continue to look at this. This internal enablement does not come from Paul himself. He says, through him who strengthens me. The him refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. It refers back to verse 10 when he says, I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, and in the book of Philippians, the Lord always refers to the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, Paul is saying, I can do all things that God requires me to do through Jesus Christ, who is all sufficient in my life, who is all powerful. He says, who strengthens me.

And this word strengthen comes into the English language in part as a compound word, but dynamite is in the middle of this, is the main root word for strengthens. That there is a dynamic power that is so great in my life, that is released within me as I move forward in the will of God, that I can do anything and everything that God requires of me to do by the strength that God provides. What kind of God would he be if he calls us to do something, but leaves it up to us to do it?

We would fall flat on our face every time. Jesus did say in John 15 verse 5, apart from me, you can do nothing. That's not a whole lot. Nothing of any eternal value, nothing of any lasting significance, nothing of anything within the will of God. Apart from me, you can do nothing. Abide in me and I in you. And yet, everything God calls us to do, he strengthens us to do it. Men, has God called you to love your wife as Christ loves the church?

You say, how could anyone live like that? Well, the bar is set so high we'll never perfectly meet it, but we can do this through the strength that God provides, regardless of how she is to me, God can enable me to be this to her. And wise, how could you possibly submit to your husband and yield yourself as Christ submits to the headship of God the Father as he came into this world?

Well, the answer is right here. If God opens up a door of ministry for you, or if you're asked to do something to serve in the church or in a ministry and you may say, oh, I just feel so inadequate. Well, that's a proper assessment. I mean, you are inadequate, but he makes us adequate if it's his will for us to move forward. And so, he provides a strength that enables us to do everything that he calls us to do, that our duty will never exceed his dynamite, that our responsibility to do something will never be greater than the reservoir of his strength and power that he provides for us. It will always far exceed whatever is required of us to do his will and to carry out his work.

This should be of an enormous encouragement to us today. We all need to have this verse calligraphied and put hanging on a wall in our house to remind us of God's powerful activity at work in our lives. A great cross-reference is Isaiah 40, 29 to 31. Isaiah 40, verses 29 to 31.

You'll immediately recognize this passage as I read it. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might he increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary. Bottom line, you supply the weakness, God supplies the power.

We don't supply the power. God is omnipotent, that means all powerful. The only power that you have is what is given to you by God to do his will and to do his work. But he always gives a vastly sufficient strength and power to do what he calls you to do, to endure, to persevere, to be steadfast, to press on, to be resilient.

And there are times when we all want to just throw up our hands and walk away from something. But if it's God's will that we press on, he will give us the endurance. He will give us the strength to press on. 2 Corinthians 12, 9 and 10 must be heard at this point. Paul asked that God remove the thorn in the flesh, and God responded, my grace is sufficient for you. My grace is sufficient for this thorn in the flesh that is crippling you and crushing you.

No, I'm not going to remove the thorn in the flesh. No matter how many times you entreat me to do this, and Paul entreated three times, because it was crippling Paul and making him weak, which was the greatest thing that could happen in his spiritual life. Because when he is weak, that's when he becomes strong.

So God was using the thorn in the flesh for a far greater good in Paul's life. So listen to this, my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. God's power perfected in our human weakness. He goes on, most gladly therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Verse 10, therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties for Christ's sake. Everything that the devil is throwing at him, including the kitchen sink, assaulting the apostle Paul, and that was part of the thorn in the flesh.

I think it was the ringleader in the church at Corinth that rose up in rebellion against the apostle Paul and tried to drive him out of the church. Paul says, when I'm weak, then I'm strong. So we can all relate to the weakness, because we're all fragile. We're all frail. We're all leaky vessels. We're all jars of clay.

We're all cracked pots. But it is in our weakness that his strength is made strong. And it does not mean that we sit back in passivity, just waiting for him to plug in some power. No, it's as we step forward in trust and reliance upon the Lord that he empowers us. That's why he said in Colossians 1 29, I labor striving according to his power, who mightily works within me. So, the secret is Christ.

The secret is my weakness and his strength. Therefore, I can be content in whatever my circumstance, whether it's health or illness, whether it is prosperity or poverty, I can be content because the Lord will give me the strength to go through this time. Again, this is easier to teach and preach on than it is to live it. But the Lord uses these trials to make us weak so that we will rely on his strength. So, verse 14, Nevertheless, you've done well to share with me in my affliction. And so, in the midst of Paul's tribulation, imprisonment, distress, oppression, and difficulty, he commends the Philippians, you've done well, well done, to share with me this gift that you have sent.

And it really is the giver, the Philippians that meant the most to the Apostle Paul even more than the gift that they sent. I don't know where you are in your Christian life and what are the circumstances that are swirling around you. But there could not be a more relevant passage for us to look at in this session than this glorious text in verse 13. May you be encouraged. May you know that the Lord will send the wind of heaven to fill the sail of your ship, to propel you forward and to keep you going and to give you supernatural endurance and steadfastness even in the midst of difficult times. You now know the secret to be content in the Lord. What an important text for us to meditate upon, no matter the circumstance or trial that you may be facing. That was Stephen Lawson encouraging us today from Philippians 4 and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. If you'd like to go back to Philippians chapter 1 and walk through this letter verse by verse, Stephen Lawson's series is 42 messages. It also has an extensive study guide to aid you in your study. You can call us at 800 435 4343 or go to to give a donation of any amount and we'll send you the DVD and give you lifetime digital access to the messages and study guide. This is the final day for this offer. Only hours remain so go to and make your donation today. Ligonier Ministries seeks to help you know what you believe, why you believe it, how to live it and how to share it. Next week you'll hear select messages from a teaching series designed to do just that. So join us beginning Monday here on Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-10 02:16:00 / 2024-05-10 02:24:29 / 8

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