Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Believers are told to give thanks in everything. Some will say, do you mean I'm to be thankful for calamity? Today, we'll sharpen our focus on why we can and must be thankful and why and how we can rejoice no matter what the circumstances.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, take us again into Philippians chapter 4 as you teach us why and how to rejoice in the Lord. Well, Dave, the first thing I'd like to say is that rejoicing in the Lord when you're going through difficulty is not easy. And the reason it's not easy because our minds always gravitate to the problem, to that which gives us concern, and what we have to do is to bring those thoughts back in obedience to Christ. And I maintain that one of the best ways to do that is to give thanks to God. There's something about thanksgiving that enables us to see the grand picture that God might be doing and to trust him in it. That's why I believe that this message can be so transforming.
I encourage every listener to begin to apply it and you'll discover that God is as good as his word. You rejoice not because of what is happening to you necessarily. You don't rejoice in the pain and the hard things. They're not the source of your joy.
In fact, as we mentioned, they're oftentimes the source of our complaint. But rather what you do is you rejoice in the Lord. Now, if you're here today and you're investigating Christianity, or maybe you're a visitor, maybe you're a regular attender, but you do not know Jesus personally.
You may be religious, but you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You can't understand that phrase because it is only when we know him personally, when we can come into his presence, when we connect with him and we know that we're connecting with him because he's forgiven our sins and we belong to him forever. It is in that set of circumstances we rejoice in the Lord.
We rejoice in who he is and we rejoice at times when rejoicing seems to be the last thing in the world. We as Christians should be like an oasis in the desert. I've been in a desert. I've been in the Sinai Peninsula many years ago.
You go day after day and then suddenly you see some trees and because you see trees, you know that there is an oasis there because there must be hidden streams feeding that clump of trees and there are hidden streams feeding it very same way. Your circumstances at work in the office are just like everybody else's, but you're not overcome by them. You don't complain like the others.
Why? Because you have a hidden source of strength and faith and you rejoice in the Lord always. That's what the text says. Now then also it says let your reasonableness be known unto all men. Reasonableness we could also use the word patience. Let your patience be known to all men because you see you don't always have to get your way.
You don't always have to win. The stress is off because you have resources, inner resources. You know God and so as a result of that you can be patient and then you'll notice it says do not be anxious about anything. Well I have to read that again. Does it say that?
It does. Don't be anxious about anything. You say anything? I don't know. I'm just reading the text.
It includes your circumstances, your health, your relationship, your future. That's what the text says and then it says with prayer and supplication and appreciation, thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. It doesn't make sense. You should be tied up in a knot just like everyone else should be.
You should be filled with anxiety like all of the people of the world should be filled with anxiety and you're not. So it surpasses all understanding and Paul says it may keep your heart and your mind in Jesus Christ. It guards actually.
That's the word. It guards it. Now you've seen I'm sure perhaps you've been in cities that have walls and that's the imagery that's here. And in Europe today there are still some cities like that even though they've outgrown their walls. The walls are oftentimes there and they would have centuries of soldiers that were looking out.
For what? For enemies. They were guarding the place that the peace of the city might be maintained and they were guarding it against enemies. How does giving thanks to God with prayers and supplications but with thanksgiving, how does it guard our mind? From what does it guard our mind? It guards it from the enemies of the mind and the enemies are fear, dread because of the future, anger because of circumstances and injustices, guilt that can destroy you if you don't take care of it and then accept God's forgiveness and God's peace. And so what happens is the peace of God acts as a guard to keep us from all of the things that want to disrupt us in the midst of circumstances that we can't control that break in upon us without warning and there's nothing we can do about it and notice the thoroughness of it all.
I love it it says he will keep your hearts your hearts so that you may feel the right things and not feel the wrong things and your mind so that you might not think the wrong things and there you are as a bird nestled in the barrel of a cannon with your nest surrounded by circumstances that you do not understand and you can't control but you are at peace. I remember going through a trial in which my peace was disrupted, hugely disrupted but the verse that kept coming back to me is this that thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee and this is what I discovered. What I discovered was that if I gave thanks to God for what was happening even though what was happening was I believe unjust. As long as I was giving thanks peace came but giving thanks was difficult because of the unpredictability of God. Just because you're trusting God doesn't mean how that you know how it's going to turn out. That's why the Apostle Paul here doesn't say that you pray and supplicate and give thanks to God and whatever it is you ask God for he'll give you, not in the text. He's going to give you peace but he's not necessarily going to give you what you ask for and this unpredictability of God can destroy us and as a result of that we can find ourselves filled with fear and anger and all of those other things that erode the soul but the bottom line is when we give thanks we are affirming the sovereignty of God. We are affirming the wisdom of God. We're affirming as we've learned the goodness of God and in that it changes our entire perspective.
It changes everything. You're going through a trial, first thing you ought to do, first thing is to bow and to say thank you Father for this and then live that way. Now a couple of practical observations here, number one, you know what if you're a complainer and you know there are some people who are, I don't want to pick on women but I do remember one who said pastor she said if I gave myself to God like you're speaking about and get rid of all of my anger and all of my complaining she said my problem is I'd have nothing to think about all day. Some of you it is in your DNA, it is part of who you are, it's your personal identity, complain, complain, complain, complain. We can take care of that right here, I'm serious, here's what you do, every time you hear a complaint come out of your mouth ask the Holy Spirit to rebuke you and you turn it into a praise, always do that.
Everything that happens, you don't like the food, remember Israel in the desert. It's God who says you're complaining against me, this is what I gave you, you don't like it, hey don't complain, you're complaining against me. Now what you need to do is every time you want to complain, even about the weather in Chicago and that's coming, what you say is Lord thank you and then fill in the blank, you fill in the blank.
I've given this illustration before but it is so good that you need to hear it again, I needed to hear it again. You remember Matthew Henry who was a commentator, wrote a commentary on the whole Bible but he was robbed one night and a thief grabbed his wallet and when Henry got home that night he wrote in his diary four things to be thankful for. Number one, this is the first time I've been robbed, that's good to be thankful for. Number two, even though he took my wallet he did not take my life, that's something to be thankful for. Number three, even though he took all that I had it wasn't much. And then he said most profoundly, I thank God that it was I who was robbed and I was not the robber.
Isn't that great? Lisa Beamer is a name that you'll all be familiar with, it was her husband Todd you remember as the plane was going across Pennsylvania that her husband Todd evidently said let's roll and it was some people on the plane that overcame the hijackers so that the plane went down in the fields of Pennsylvania rather than hitting the White House or some other building in Washington. She wrote a book entitled Let's Roll based on her experience and what her husband endured and the interviews that she gave later. She said that when Todd's birthday came around she was very sad and we could understand that so she decided to take her children to a play just to do something a little bit light-hearted for Todd's birthday.
And then as she was coming home her son David and I don't know how old he was maybe seven or eight she he said to her mommy why are you so sad and she said well I'm so sad because your daddy isn't here so that we could celebrate his birthday together and David said as only a child would but mom we can still have cake can't we? I'm speaking today to some of you who've lost a loved one you don't know how you're gonna go on. You miss them very deeply and well you might and you don't thank God that they're gone at least I hope that you don't thank God that they're gone but maybe you can still have some cake. There's always something for which we can thank God the Bible does not say for everything give thanks but in everything give thanks.
Best illustration Job loses 10 children 10 fresh graves on the hillside imagine that praise that night and says the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away blessed be the name of the Lord. Christians are a thankful people they thank God they aren't a bunch of whiners and complainers they thank God. Just this morning I was thinking of all the things that I could thank God and I just ran out just thinking about that I could get up in the morning that I had clothes to wear that I had food to eat I mean you just begin to praise God and you begin to realize we have more things to thank God for and yet what do we do we complain.
Thanksgiving changes everything. Also what we need to do is to look beyond the present this is the Christian hope we look beyond the present to the future and that's why we are able to endure that which comes to us because we believe that eternity is coming and Paul says that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us and so no matter how hard it is eternity is coming time is short eternity is long so we are a thankful people because we know things that perhaps others don't that in God's Word it has been revealed to us what God will do and we are grateful because we have so committed ourselves to him we are living for his glory and the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. Perhaps the name Martin Rinchert doesn't mean much to you but he was a pastor in Germany during the 30 years war in the 1600s. For some time he was the only pastor in the walled city of Eilenburg in Saxony.
Many people in this city were casualties of the war or victims of hunger and illness. During the great pestilence of 1637 Rinchert ministered to the people of the city and it is believed catch this I can't get my mind around it that he conducted as many as 4,500 funerals sometimes as many as 40 or 50 a day. One of them was for his wife.
He was a man of frail body but heroic character Rinchert faithfully served the people of his congregation and community there in Eilenburg from 1617 until his death in 1649. One day he wanted to write some words for his children for devotions at suppertime. These are the words that he wrote. Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices who wondrous things hath done in whom this world rejoices who from our mother's arms have blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is ours today and we still sing the words. Why could he write that?
He believed in a God who could be trusted with power and goodness and wisdom and he also believed that eternity is coming. Thanksgiving changes everything. It'll lift your burdens. It'll free you from anger from fear in everything give thanks.
Now there's some of you who you you need to begin at the beginning of this because you say boy this is more than I can handle. Maybe you don't talk to God like I'm suggesting that we as believers do. What you need to do is to thank God for something. You need to begin by thanking him that Jesus died on the cross for sinners so that our sins could be taken away so that we can be reconciled to God and in that reconciliation to know him so personally that we can thank him and rejoice in him even when things go bad. Anne Frank and we know her story said I do not think and dwell on the misery but on the glory that remains. She was thankful in the midst of her persecution in the midst of her story and in the midst of her death.
Today changes everything. Let's pray. Receive now Lord God our thanksgiving. We have nothing to say to you except thank you. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for your grace.
Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you that you bear burdens. Thank you that you care about us. Thank you that you don't forget about us when we're going through hard times. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the reversals because when things are going bad we thank you that for the Christian they're actually going very good because you're working them to your purpose. Thank you and thank you that you're trustworthy. We thank you for your faithfulness in Jesus name.
Amen. Well this is Pastor Luther and I certainly hope that you begin a life of thanksgiving and the time to begin that life is now. But what is it that is attracting our attention these days at least in my life? It's the fact that Christmas is just around the corner. And you know during the Christmas season we lay aside many of our differences. We give thanks to God. We're reminded of the fact that the word became flesh and dwelt among us and we begin to concentrate on Bethlehem, Jesus the baby. It's a time when we have the opportunity of giving special praise to God knowing that this baby is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That's why we are making the Messiah available to you. This Messiah Handel's Messiah is the complete work the Cambridge Singers, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by John Rudder. No better way to celebrate Christmas. No better way to realize that we cannot stay in Bethlehem we must go to the New Jerusalem than to listen to the Messiah.
For a gift of any amount these two discs can be yours. Here's what you do go to rtwoffer.com or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's rtwoffer.com. Thanks in advance for helping us with this ministry or you can call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Betty listens to Running to Win in Indianapolis and she needs some clarification on an issue that's divided Christians for centuries. She writes, I am confused about the concept of predestination. If God predetermined who he would save before the beginning of time then how can he say salvation is open to all?
Betty I want to commend you for jumping into the deep end of the swimming pool. As you know predestination has indeed divided the church as Dave has said it has been a point of controversy so my answer is going to be very brief. I hope it will be helpful but I also hope that it will encourage you to continue to study this doctrine. First of all let me begin by saying that indeed salvation is open to all. The invitation is given to whosoever will. Whosoever desires to come to God can come and is invited to come and is urged to come. Now where it gets tricky is that the Bible seems to indicate that the desire to come to God is God implanted. This is where predestination comes in. So all that we can do is to say at this point that the invitation is for all but as Jesus said many are called but few are chosen. The call is to all but some come and some don't and the Bible seems to indicate that this is dependent upon God and his working. But don't ever let that become a stumbling block to your witness because God not only ordains the end of how things are going to turn out but also the means and therefore God uses us to fulfill his purposes. We have to do our side and we have to trust God to do his. Thanks for listening Betty and keep listening, keep studying, keep praying. Let's never forget that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
Repairing sin's damage means re-establishing contact with God and rebuilding relationships with those we've hurt. There is a way to come home. Next time on Running to Win, a series on what to do after you've blown it. Plan to join us. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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