Audio player

Philippians 4:1-9


Audio Transcript: Good morning. Welcome to another online service of Mosaic Boston, Brookline. My name is Jan Vezikov, one of the pastors here along with Pastor Shane and Pastor Andy. Pastor Andy and his wife, Joyce, just had their baby this weekend. I think I can announce it. I don't know if they've announced it. Congratulations, Joyce and Andy. We are so happy with you, praying for you. Happy 4th of July weekend. I hope you are planning some time to spend with family, friends, enjoy some grilling, go to the beach, enjoy the good gifts from our Father. With that said, would you please pray with me over the preaching of God's holy Word. Heavenly Father, we love you and we thank you that you are a good father, that you want the best for us. And the best for us is the path that you laid out in the gospels. And at the center of the gospels is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, who didn't just walk a path, he laid the path, he ran that race for us in order to give us his righteousness and take our sins upon himself. Jesus, we thank you for that. Holy Spirit, empower us today, to learn that you call us to be people of spiritual stability, which leads to stability in every single aspect of our lives, and show us how we can be people who are no longer prone to being tossed by every wave of doctrine to and fro, but we can walk the path that you've set before us, and we can fight the good fight, and we can run the race that you call us to run. We pray that you bless our time, the Holy Scriptures, and we pray all this in Christ's holy name. Amen. The title of the sermon today is strengthening spiritual stability, and we are in Philippians 4:1-9. It's been an incredible time in the Book of Philippians. We have this week and next week, and then we are transitioning to a new series. The year was 2000. In June 2000, I was 17, junior in high school, the summer after junior year, before senior year, and my uncle came over from Estonia. And my dad, and my uncle, and I went deep-sea fishing, first time in our lives, thought it would be a great idea. It sounded like a great idea at the time. We didn't check the weather forecast, and the guys on the boat didn't care about the weather forecast because they were seasoned fishermen. So we would go deep-sea fishing. We'd leave the dock at 8:00 PM. It's a full day, from 8:00 to 5:00 PM. Sounded like a good idea at the time, again. I caught my first fish at 8:29. At 8:30 AM, I remember every single detail of this trip, because at 8:30 AM I started feeling queasy. And I go into the little room that they have, and I sit down and I sit down next to the garbage can. It was actually a bucket. It was a barrel. I was sick. I got seasick really bad, then my dad was next. And all day from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, I just remember suffering the whole time. And what I remember, to this day, is the smell. I remember the smell of the fish. I felt like a pebble in a concrete mixer for the whole day. It's all to say, that's what a lot of life feels like in this season. Everything is in flux. The world is in flux. Everything seems to be unstable, things that we thought should be stable. We feel the tossing and the turning, the vacillation, the turbulence, the turmoil. Schools are in flux, jobs are in flux, health for many years in flux, relationships are in flux, the economy, politics, world order, everything. And for many, unfortunately, faith is in flux. What do I even believe? How do I even keep going down this path of faith? And here, St. Paul gives us something that we can build our lives on. He gives us something that we can anchor ourselves to. He tells us, “Stand firm thus in the Lord.” That's the big idea of our text today. It's a text about stability, integrity, consistency, maturity. And St. Paul lived a turbulent life, but he stood firm. He never wavered. His faith was never in danger of being shipwrecked. That's a term that he uses because he was anchored. He made no compromises, even in the face of persecution. And that's what we're going to talk about today. Many, many Christians think that they enter Christianity, they repent of their sins and they turn to Christ, and then they're good, they get the get-out-of-hell free card, and then they can coast the rest of their lives. You can't coast. If you're not anchored, if you are not stabilized to the gospel, you will be tossed to and fro. So that's what we are going to talk about today. Philippians 4:1-9, we'll look at five keys to stability in faith, and ultimately in life. Would you look at the text with me? Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. Let reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there's any excellence, if there's anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. This is the reading of God's holy, inherent, infallible, authoritative Word. May He write these eternal truths upon our hearts. Five keys to stability in faith, and ultimately in life. And this is all from verse one. Verse one, stand firm, stand firm, stand firm. That's the big idea. That is the operating verb. That's the imperative. How do we do that? Here they are, the five stabilizers or shocks to provide stability in an unstable world. Number one, partner in the gospel. Number two, rejoice in the Lord. Number three, worry about nothing. Four, pray about everything. And five, guard your heart and mind. First, partner in the gospel. St. Paul planted this church in Philippi, leaves, and then hears that there's some kind of relational friction in the church, in particular between these two ladies. So he writes and says, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” This is fascinating. They worked with St. Paul. They worked with Clement. Verse three, “They labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers. Their names are in the book of life.” They're believers. And Paul leaves. So Euodia, Syntyche, St. Paul. St. Paul appears to have been the glue in this relationship, that they were willing to work together because St. Paul kept them connected. St. Paul leaves, and now they look at one another and they're like, “Ah, I don't think you're my friend. I think you're a friend of a friend, and Paul's not here. So I don't think I really agree.” So St. Paul does not say, “I want you to agree, period.” That's not what he says. And he doesn't say, “I want you to agree in me,” in Paul. He says, “I want you to agree in the Lord.” When you look at the closest relationships in your lives, you got to ask the question, “What is really connecting me to this person?” If it's just this person, when that person sins against you, when that person does something that irritates you, it has potential not just break off the relationship, it has the potential to destabilize you spiritually. You know what I'm saying? Whenever you have conflict in a relationship with a person, it always leads to conflict in your relationship with the Lord. When there's friction with the relationship with the person close to you, there's inevitable friction with your relationship with the Lord. You close off to the person, you close off your heart, and then your heart is closed off to God. And St. Paul says, “I want you to agree in the Lord.” It's the Lord that unites you. It's the Lord that by the gospel of Jesus Christ welcomes you into the family of God. And God is Father. Jesus is our older brother. And by the power of the Spirit, we can live like siblings. And he says, “I want you to continue partnering in the gospel.” Now, why is this important, the partnership in the gospel? For St. Paul, if you have friction relationally as Christians, that deters your work for the Lord in the gospel, your gospel work. And that's why it's so important for St. Paul not just to have unity in the church, but unity for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel, expanding the kingdom of God. The other thing I want to point out, this epistle is a letter. That's what the word epistle means. It's a letter written by Paul to this church in Philippi. And once received, the pastor of the church takes this letter, and on a Sunday gathering, where the church is all together, he reads this epistle. And as he gets to chapter four, verse two, Euodia and Syntyche are sitting on opposite sides of the room. And its true companion… in the Greek it's syzygos… most likely that's the pastor, my true companion. And the true companion is reading this, and calls out these ladies by name. I find that fascinating, because we live in a culture where it's incredibly offensive to tell anybody that what they're doing is wrong. The only sin that's left in our culture, in the idolatry, in the religion, the secular humanistic religion of our nation, the only sin that's left is to call something a sin. And St. Paul doesn't just say in general, “Hey, I want you guys to get along.” What he says is, “Euodia, Syntyche, I want you to get along in the Lord. Why? Because I love you.” And that's what he started with in verse one. “I love you. You're in my heart. I long for you. You're my joy and my crown. So stand firm thus in the Lord. Continue to partner in the gospel.” This is why we need one another to point out one another's sins. And we need to have the humility to welcome that criticism, and we need to have the audacity to give it constructive criticism, loving criticism, to help the person continue to stay on the path. “Look, I see that you've veered off here. Let's get back together to the path.” This is why it's so important to have a partnership in the gospel with believers in our lives that we're together with in the Lord to further the kingdom. One example of this instability, this vacillation of the faith is Genesis 49:3-4. This is the example of Reuben. Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity, pre-eminent in power, unstable as water. You shall not have pre-eminence because you went up to your father's bed then you defiled it. He went up to my couch. If you want to know the backstory, read Genesis 49, in just the second part of Genesis. The point here is, Reuben was a firstborn. Reuben was supposed to be the one who gets the blessing of pre-eminence. Instead, he doesn't. Why? What disqualified him? It was spiritual instability. He had unparalleled potential, opportunity, forfeits it all because at some point, he chose temporal pleasure over eternal blessing from God. And even St. Paul needs this community. That's why he begins the text by saying you're my brothers and sisters, in verse one, you're my brothers and sisters, my joy and my crown. We need a partnership in the gospel to keep us stable in the Lord, to keep us growing. How is your commitment to gospel community? And I ask that because we know who goes to community groups and who doesn't. And if you have stopped attending community groups, welcome back. We'd love to have you. It's important. I know it's not the best format. I know it's difficult with video chats. I know it's hard to hear one another. I know it's hard with the technical difficulties. But for now, it's all we got, so we need to continue to partner in the gospel. Number two, rejoice in the Lord. The second stabilizer in our faith is rejoicing in the Lord. That's verse four and five, “Rejoice in the Lord, always again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” He doesn't say rejoice in your circumstances. He doesn't say rejoice in your job, your career, your family, your prosperity, your health, he says rejoice in the Lord. The Lord is a God of goodness, and power, and mercy, and justice, and grace, and provision. Rejoice Lord. He is our shepherd. The Scripture says, “As we follow him, we shall not want.” He's our true security. He has solved our greatest problem on the cross by giving His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin, to forgive us. He solved our greatest problem. If with Christ he gives us salvation, obviously he'll give us everything else we need in life. And that's what he points out in verse two and three, “Euodia and Syntyche, Clement, your names are written in the book of life.” You're going to spend eternity together. So why not get along now? Whatever it is that's causing a rift in your relationship, it's a secondary issue. Go back to the gospel. Your names are written in the book of life, probably on the same page because they probably got saved in the same season. You're together, forever. Now, let's be together here and now. In Luke 10:17-20, speaking of salvation as the greatest source of our joy, because salvation connects us to the source of joy, which is God. Luke 10:17-20. Now, Jesus had sent the 72 disciples to… Jesus had 12 disciples, and then he also had an outer circle of 72, and 120, and 500. But he sends out the 72 to go preach the gospel. And they come back. The 72 returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I've given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” That should be the greatest source of our joy, my eternity is secure, “I'm going to spend all of eternity, forever, with God.” If God solved my greatest problem, why am I so worried about Him not solving my temporal problem? He's here. He's with us. He's got us. Rejoice in the salvation that God gives you, because God is a God of joy. And that's what leads to reasonableness. Verse four, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” And this an incredible word. It's translated in many ways, because it's a multifaceted word. One translation says gentleness. One translation says moderation. Another one says, “May your patience be known.” But what is this reasonableness? It's a radical evenness of temper, where no matter what happens, you are even-keeled. Whatever happens, your emotions are controlled, your emotions are anchored in a God who gives joy, and whatever happens, you still can experience joy. You can still do this thing that he tells us to do twice, it's an imperative, it's a verb, rejoice. And why? Because of the gospel. And the reasonableness, you know what this is. If you just think about the opposite, the opposite is to be unreasonable. And you've had people in your life, maybe recently, and you yourself have probably been told by other people, “Hey, you're being unreasonable.” It's when your emotions are ignited and you can't even control. You're just out of control. And at this point, St. Paul says, “Why? Because you are not anchored in the gospel.” And this has to do with the highs of life. It has to do with the lows of life. Reasonableness keeps you in the middle. 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, it gives us the same idea. “This is what I mean, brothers, the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none,” what does that mean? “…and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” What does this mean? St. Paul is saying, “You treat the physical as temporal.” You treat everything that's happening as something that will, too, pass. This, too, shall pass. And you've seen that bumper sticker. John Newton says, “If you understand the grace of God, it makes the worst bearable, and the best livable.” The worst bearable, and the best times livable. Meaning, we rejoice not because of circumstances but despite circumstances. That's what joy is, and that's how joy differentiates itself from happiness. Happiness has to do with happenstance, circumstance. Joy has to do with God. Rejoicing doesn't mean that we don't weep. Jesus wept. And we weep with the weeping, but Christian weeping is different. Christian sadness, and mourning, and sorrow is different. You say, “I'm sad. I'm sad, but this is not my route. I've lost something. It's terrible. But this isn't the core of who I am. This isn't the main thing, and nothing can touch the main thing.” So I can only be so sad. I can only be so sad. And then, by the way, when the good things happen, when you do get a promotion, when you experience success, when your relationships flourish, what does a Christian do? You say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, settle down my heart. Don't get overly happy with this circumstantial thing. It's nice, it's great, I'll enjoy it, but it's not the main thing, and I might have to leave it. I will have to leave it at some point.” And by the way, you got to preach this to yourself. When you're sad, and you're despondent, and you're anxious, you got to speak the truth to yourself. And when you're overly ecstatic with circumstance, you got to preach to yourself and say, “Hey, calm down. It's not the main thing.” And by the way, the idea of preaching to yourself has hit me in a way… I've always heard, “You got to preach to yourself.” The Psalmist preaches to himself, “Why are you downcast, O my soul.” He preaches to himself. During this quarantine, like you're watching right now on a Sunday. What am I doing right now with you on a Sunday? I'm watching me with you. I'm watching me preach to you, and I'm watching me preach to me. And I'll tell you something, the first few weeks, I was overly critical, like, “You did this wrong. You did that wrong. Too much bobbing. Too much weaving. Too much hand emotion. What are you trying, land a plane?” et cetera, et cetera, “Your hair looks…” If I listen to the substance of what I'm saying to myself, which is Scripture, which is the gospel, deeply encouraging. I do know, it's the gospel, it's the holy Word, and you preach truth to yourself, you edify yourself with God's Word, and that's what it means to grow in maturity when you feed yourself. Point three, the third stabilizer in our faith is, worry about nothing. Philippians 4:5-6, “The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything.” Worry pulls us away from God. Worry kills joy. Worry causes stress. What's worry doing? Worry assumes responsibilities that God has not given us. And that's how worry pulls us away from God, because in a sense, subconsciously, we're saying, “God, you're not doing your job. God, I can do your job better than you can.” The Scripture says, “Worry about nothing. Be anxious about nothing. Do not be anxious about anything.” If you can't do anything about it, what's the point of going around in circles? And that's what the word anxiety or do not be anxious in the Greek means, to go around in circles, like driving around in a cul-de-sac. You're not getting anywhere, so why spend your time doing it? You can't control the uncontrollable. I love the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:25-34, the words of Jesus Christ: Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on it. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air. They neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his lifespan? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. I love the quote, it goes, “Worry doesn't empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” How are your anxiety levels? How's your stress? The Scripture says, “Be anxious about nothing.” Be anxious about nothing. And here's the thing. You can't get rid of anxiety without replacing it with something else. So he says, “Be anxious about nothing.” In the same breath, he says, “Pray about everything.” And that's point four. Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Whenever God tells you to eliminate something in your life, be it sin or be it just something neutral, He says, “I want to take this from you in order to give you something better. I want to take this from, and I want to replace it with something better.” And by the way, if you're a parent, you know exactly what I'm talking about. With babies, this is the only technique of taking something from them. You can't just take something… My kids when they were really little, they would like to eat whatever's on the floor because they like to eat. If you've met Vezikov babies, we like to eat. It's our spiritual gift. I remember that Sophia, with Elizabeth, with Ekat, with Milana, whenever I got to take something as harmful from them, I always immediately got to replace it. And that's what God is talking about, “I want to take that anxiety from you. I want to take that burden from you. It's not yours to bear. And I want to replace it with something else.” And the technique to do it is prayer. Paul is saying, “Don't panic. Pray.” And the path to peace inside is always prayer. How is your prayer life going in this season? Are you spending a lot of times in prayer with God in your prayer closet, you and God? Are you sharing your burdens with Him? Are you casting your anxiety, your stress? What are you worried about? Bring it to the LORD. Pray during this time. Pray during every time. And if you say, “I don't have time to pray,” whatever time you spend worrying, stressing, in that time, if you pray, you'll have less to worry about. Philippians 4:6, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” In everything. A lot of people think about prayer as just something religious that religious people do, to say a prayer, to memorize a prayer. And that's not what prayer is in Scripture, prayer is a conversation with God. It's an outpouring to a best friend, exactly everything in your heart. And that's how Jesus taught us to pray. And that's why he doesn't just say pray about religious things, he says in everything. Pray about everything. Everything, every detail, all of the minutia, God wants to hear it. Everything. My daughter, Sophia, has started texting. She got an iPad. Actually, Pastor Shane's wife, Kelly, gave her an iPad. She wanted to read books from the library on it. And she's figured out. She got an iCloud account and she got iMessenger, and she's been texting me. And she texts me all kinds of things. She texts me pictures, and she texts me little drawings that she makes, just little updates of how she's doing, from a different room. We're in different rooms in my place. And I will tell you, as a father, I love every single one of those texts. I eat them up. “Give me some more. Give me some more artwork. Give me some more flowers. Give me some more pictures.” And God is a great father, He's the best father, and He loves to hear what's going on in our lives. And that's what prayer is, it's sending really long text messages to God. The longer, the better, if you have something to say, not just repetition, per Sermon on the Mount. He uses the word here for request, in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Not just needs. The Sermon on the Mount says needs. Here, he says request. That's another layer of our lives. It's not just needs. God does meet all our basic needs. As a good father, He wants to know what our requests are. The Scripture says, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Our greatest desire is met when we delight ourselves in Him. But there are other desires, there's dreams, there's hopes, there's goals, and he says, share that with God. Meaning specifically, like specific requests. A lot of people pray too vaguely, too general, “God bless my life.” Well, sometimes a blessing is painful. Sometimes He sends suffering as a blessing. So be specific. “God, I'm under stress because of X, because of financial issues, because of housing issues, because of relational issues. God, this is what I'm thinking about.” Me, personally, like, “I'd like to restart church.” These are the things. “Pastor Jan, what are you worried about?” I turned these worries into prayers about the church, and the future of church, and the future of the city, and the future of how this is ultimately going to impact people. So what do I do with those burdens? Or when someone sends me a prayer request, or, “Pastor Jan, I'm concerned about this. Pastor Jan, I'm having trouble at my job. I'm having trouble with my marriage. I'm having trouble with my children. What do I do?” How can I as a human being bear that weight? The only way I can is if I immediately transfer everything to the Lord. That's what he's talking about. “God, I'm under stress. I'm tense. I'm nervous.” So be specific about it. When you pray, the Phillips translation of this text says, “When you pray, tell God every detail of your needs.” Every detail. If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about. And by the way, God loves to answer specific prayer. He loves that. If you pray about something super specific and then it happens, what's your reaction? Your reaction is like, “Oh, wow!” I'll just give you one example. In our community group last week, we were doing prayer requests, and my daughter Ekaterina, number three, who's five, I said, “What's your prayer request?” She said, “I want a unicorn.” And I was like, “Well, you're not getting a unicorn.” So I had to write it down and I had to pray about it. So I was like, “Lord, if it's your will, send her a unicorn.” A few days later, someone from the community group knocks on our door, and they were at the store and there was a stuffed animal unicorn with a little notebook altogether. And I gave it to her, and she's like, “God answers prayer.” He does, and He loves specific prayers. “God, this is what I'm specifically praying about. If it's your will, may it be done.” And if that's not, His will is even better. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time, He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” I love this idea. You've got burdens on your shoulders, cast them upon the LORD. This is what prayer is. Unload your worries upon Him, because He's looking for you. This is what prayer is, is this release valve of pressure. The God who created the universe by the power of His Word, the God who made every thumbprint, every snowflake different, every voiceprint different, every face ID face different, that God cares for you and that God loves you. He made you His image, particularly. Another translation of this text says, “You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon Him, for you are his personal concern. There's no problem too big for God. There's no problem, too small.” 20 times in the New Testament we're told to ask. James 4:2, “You do not have because you do not ask.” Matthew 7:7, “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” Are you a good asker? Do you ask well? Jesus actually uses parables. He's like, “I want you to pray with impudence.” He gives a couple of examples in the parables. He says, “I want you to ask, and keep asking.” It feels like nagging sometimes. And he says, “No, I want you.” And what happens is the more you pray about something, the Lord begins to reveal to you. Is that from God? If it's not from God, he removes it. If it is from God, he begins to give you strength. I mean, how to perceive, how to act in a way to make it happen by God's grace. And I love this next verse, where he says, “Don't just pray, but as you pray, do it with thanksgiving.” Look at verse six, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” Now, this is fascinating. He's saying, “In the same breath that you ask for something, do it in a way that there's an attitude of gratitude: do it in a way where you are thinking God, already.” And you say, “How can I be thankful until I know how He's going to answer it?” And this is the point, that as you petition, as you ask, as you plead you, you thank God ahead of time for the entire range of possible responses, knowing that they from Him, and knowing that His will is always the best. Always be asking with a thankful heart. That's what he's saying. Mark 11:24, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Believe that you have received it. What an interesting turn of phrase. And by the way, name and claim it churches, the prosperity gospel, they take these verses and they build the whole theology upon them, and they don't counter it with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Let this cup pass from me, but not my will but yours be done.” You got to balance those out. But I think a lot of Christians to say we have nothing to do with prosperity gospel, we're all in the Garden of Gethsemane, they lose texts like this. This is God's Word. You ask for something, whatever you ask, believe that you have received it. And as you do, it will be yours, thanking God after he gives something. That's Thanksgiving. That's gratitude. Thanking God after is gratitude. Thanking God before, that's faith. That's faith. There's clearly a balance, and you need the Holy Spirit to help you discern, “What should I be asking for?” But I will tell you, God does give a gift of faith, an incredible anointing sometimes with faith, where you just believe. Everyone around you says, no. And I remember I had this with Mosaic in the early years in a special way, where everybody around me said, “Nope, it's not working. Nope, it's not working. Nope, you haven't raised enough money. You don't have enough of a core group. You don't have enough.” And I would wake up every day and I would thank God in advance for the church that He's building. I knew it. I knew it. And then that those prayers, by the way, motivated me to work on a daily basis. And I remember 2009, 2010, 2011, up until 2014, I was still pastoring a Russian church. We were doing four on a Sunday. I was working 80, 90 hours a week, wake up at 5:00, 6:00 AM, go to bed around 11:00, midnight. And every day, I would pray and thank God, and work. Pray, thank God, and work. And that's the combination. So where in your life are you not praying enough? And where in your life are you not taking what you pray for and working for it by the grace of God, just like St. Paul did and just like he tells us to? I'll give you one illustration from the Old Testament of this idea of thanking God for the thing that you just asked Him for in the same breath. 2 Corinthians 20, the context is the King's name, Jehoshaphat. He's about to go to war. He's about to get attacked, blindsided, by the Moabites, Ammonites, the Meunites. It's a great multitude of armies, and he's afraid. And he calls the whole nation. He proclaims a fast. He said, “We're fasting, and we're praying for God to intervene miraculously.” This is 2 Chronicles 20:6. This is the beginning of his prayer. “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” What's he doing? He's reminding God, this is who you are, but he's more reminding himself of who God is. That prayer in that chapter, I recommend that you read it. In verse 14: The Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel, the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat, thus says the LORD to you, “Do not be afraid. Do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow, down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. And you will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” Stand firm. What's he calling? He's calling that stability in the faith. The battle is not yours, it's the LORD's. The LORD will intervene. You see the next steps in verse 20. And they rose early in the morning and went into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD, your God, and you will be established, believe His prophets and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise Him in holy attire, as they went before the army and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for His steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come up against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants about Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction. And when they had made an end of the inhabits of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. What a text! Before the victory, they pray for victory, they get a word from the LORD, “Yes, victory is coming,” and they believe that word, this true, and they start thanking God for it before He even does it. That's the combination of praying for something that you know is a desire from the LORD, for the glory of God as you're seeking His kingdom, and you're praying for this. And then God confirms that, “Yes, this is true, this is happening,” through a prophetic word, and then you start thanking Him for it. And as you thank, He does it. It's an attitude of gratitude. It changes everything about our lives. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.” Can you see the combination? Prayer is the glue between rejoicing and thanking in all circumstances. Prayer, in all circumstances leads to joy, and then you thank God, for prayer keeps everything together. And finally, five, guard your heart and mind. This is the fifth stabilizer, spiritually and in every aspect of life. Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there's any excellence, if there's anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” Think about these things. Not just anxious thoughts, or worried thoughts, depressed thoughts, or negative thoughts. So I want you to replace what you were thinking about, because changed thoughts lead to changed feelings, which leads changed actions. What's stressing you out? Think about something else. Your mind is such a special gift from God. Our minds have the capacities store over 100 trillion thoughts that can handle enormous things. And you've been given by God the ability to choose what you think about, to choose what you meditate upon, what you ruminate on. A lot of people, and unfortunately a lot of Christians, you don't discriminate between what you think about and what you don't. You think about things indiscriminately. And you just allow any thoughts that come, that arise, to stay there. You need to be a referee. You need to be judge of your own thoughts. You need to be king over your thoughts, so to speak. You need to pastor yourself. You say, “No, I'm not thinking about that. No, that will not edify. No, that will not build me up. No, that will not lead to health, spiritually or physically.” So watch what you take in, thought-wise. Watch who you read, watch what you watch, watch what you listen to. Where are these things taking my mind, and are they going to lead to glorifying God and more joy? The Jerusalem Bible says, “Fill your mind with these things.” The Good News Bible says, “Fix your mind upon them.” It's done with deliberate action. It's a conscious choice, where you are thinking about something, you say, “I'm going to flip to something else. I'm going to change the channel.” And by the way, practically speaking, this is a lot easier to do if you keep yourself busy with good things. If you have too much downtime, this is harder. When you're by yourself with nothing to do, this becomes a full-time job. I've had times in life, where like you graduate college and all of a sudden you have time where you're not studying 16 hours a week, or a summer vacation. Watch out for the times when you have nothing to do. The Scripture says, “The days are evil. Redeem the time.” Redeem the time, meaning that you are in charge of your schedule. Keep yourself busy with good things, with edifying things, with things that will actually lead to health and stability. Eight words that he gives us here: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent praiseworthy, they're filters. They're filters on what we allow our thoughts to think about. My wife has been asking me, Tanya has been asking me for a couple of months, “Hey, can you change the AC filter? Can you change our HVAC filter? Can you please change it?” I'm like, “Yeah, yeah. Not that big of a deal. Not that big of a deal. Not that big of a deal.” And then I came across some vent cleaning videos. If you haven't seen these, these are incredible. Go on YouTube, vent cleaning videos. And these are videos of professional HVAC techs that come to your house. They put the snake into your vent with a little video camera and another little tube that sucks out all the nasty, whatever that stuff is. And you see bags full, barrels full of lint, and filth, and dust. I saw that. It reawakened my realization to, “Oh my, maybe I should listen to my wife and change the filter.” I went down to change the filter. First of all, it was really hard to take out because it was so chock-full of grime and dirt. And I take it out, and it's almost… I didn't show it to Tanya. I haven't thrown it out yet either. I'm going to go home, throw it out right now, so she doesn't see it. It was disgusting. I take the beautiful filter that I just got from Amazon. I take it out of the plastic, and it's pristine. It's clean. I put it back in. I'm telling you, air changed right away. We need to change the filter on our mind. Sometimes the filter gets clogged up, and it's not even working anymore. And the way that we do that is with the gospel, that we run to the Lord, Jesus Christ, say, “Lord, I can't even filter out my own thoughts. I need you. I need your strength. I repent of my sin. Cleanse me.” And the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from the inside as we internalize what he has done for us. Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” What is the filter? The gospel is the cleansing part of the filter, but what is the filter is Holy Scripture. Holy Scripture is the filter. Holy Scripture is what tells us, that's good, that's true, that's honorable, that's worthy of praise, that's not. And this is why Scripture often talks about doctrine as the foundation builder to our stability. Look at 2 Peter 2:14, “They have eyes full of adultery,” he's talking about these false teachers, “…insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!” Unsteady souls, who are not anchored in the gospel get pulled away from false teachers, false narratives, false worldviews. 2 Peter3:17-18, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Stability comes from Scripture. Saturating your mind with Scripture. Washing your mind with the water of the word on a daily basis. Holy Scripture is the filter. And then when the filter is clogged up, the gospel and repentance. And this leads to peace of mind. Verse seven, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” I love the phrase, “will guard”. It's a military term. He's talking about garrison, or sentry, guard. St. Paul is in prison in shackle to a Roman soldier. And he says, in the same way that there are guards at my jail cell. He says, “The peace of God, which transcends,” it's above our understanding, it doesn't make any sense on a physical level, “it guards your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” So when the negativity comes, when the anxiety comes, when depression comes, this peace serves as a guard. So, what are you worried about nowadays? Worried about finances, or the economy, politics, your health, world order, kids, career? Whatever is raising stress in your life, get rid of that. Replace it with prayer, and allow the peace of God to guard your heart in Christ Jesus. Isaiah 26:3, “You keep him perfect in peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Is your mind stayed on God? Do you trust in God? And verse nine, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things.” Practice these things, not those things that pull you away from. “Practice these things and the God of peace will be with you.” And by the way, this peace is part and parcel with the joy that God offers. A joyful heart is a peaceful heart. A peaceful heart is a praying heart and a thanksgiving heart. C. S. Lewis writes this. “I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever,” joy, would ever, “if both were in his power, exchange for all the pleasures in the world. But then joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.” Joy keeps us grounded, stabilized. Pursuit of pleasure at the expense of joy pulls us away from the Lord. And joy is always better. The five points, the five stabilizers that provides stability in unstable world, if you missed them: Partner in the gospel, rejoice in the Lord, worry about nothing, pray about everything, and guard your heart and mind. I'll close with Hebrews 6:18-19. “We who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” Amen. Let's pray. Holy God, we love you. Holy Trinity, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, we thank you that you give us a sure anchor to keep us connected to you, to keep us grounded, to keep us from being tossed to and fro by the waves of this world, by the waves of what's happening around us. And Lord, I pray in this time, continue to fill our hearts with joy and peace, and continue to grow us in stability. And I pray all this in Christ's holy name. Amen.


Listen to Balm Psalms: Week 3

Balm Psalms: Week 3

Listen to Jesus Roots

Jesus Roots

Listen to Balm Psalms: Week 1

Balm Psalms: Week 1

Listen to Introducing Jesus: Week 28

Introducing Jesus: Week 28

Listen to Introducing Jesus: Week 32

Introducing Jesus: Week 32