We are living in a new world, a post corona virus world in which we have to socially distance, deal with our fear of infection and survive in economic limitations. Added to that: we miss family and friends; have not been to church in a while and deal with our fear, feelings of depression, anxiety about the future. Trusting God and maintaining our faith is done with a new dependence on the Holy Spirit, rather than relying on our traditional circles to stake up our faith.
During this time, seven areas of our spiritual lives need to be strengthened, which if they are not healthy, will eventually undermine the strength and stability of our faith.
They are described for us in Phil 4, just after Paul exhorts us to “stand firm in the Lord” in Phil 4:1
“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”
To “stand firm” means to be spiritually stable, not blown and tossed about by circumstances, opinions, changing doctrines or ideas. Not being like the man in James who is unstable in all his ways, wavering like the sea.
Here are seven areas of our spiritual lives that undermine our spiritual stability:
- Not cultivating peace in our relationships (Phil 4:2-3). Here Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to make peace, both being fellow workers in the church. His desire is for reconciliation and unity in relationships is echoed in other scriptures: Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But Jesus himself describes this as an attitude of believers in the beatitudes: Matt 5:8-9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” In Heb 12:14 peace and holiness are closely linked together: “Make every effort to live at peace with everyone and to be holy…” Anger, jealousy, greed, offence and bitterness can creep into our relationship’s unseen, conflict established, is quick to develop division and ultimately break down relationships.
- Not maintaining a spirit of joy (Phil 4:4) This is so important to Paul that he says it twice. Rejoice in the Lord. Joy is not dependent on circumstances, or emotions, but on the quality and nature of God. Expressed joy changes perspective and refocuses the eyes on Jesus; it is an inner attitude that does not reflect outward circumstances. Rom 15:13 (AMP) “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing (through the experience of faith) that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises.” Joy is at the heart of stability.
- Not being willing to accept less than you are due (Phil 4:5) The NIV calls it “gentleness”, the KJV “moderation” and the AMP describes it as “graciousness, unselfishness, mercy, tolerance, and patience.” So many different words because the original Greek is so hard to translate to English, but in essence: It is a kind of patience which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, mistreatment without hatred, without malice, without retaliation, without bitterness, without vengeance. But with a huge dose of humility and contentment in there too, to surrender your rights. Followed by a reminder that “The Lord is near.” Personally near to everyone one of us and more than capable of taking care of our needs.
- Not maintaining confident faith that the Lord is near to you and thereby not being anxious (Phil 4:5-6). Bearing in mind that “The Lord is near,” confident faith does not wallow in fear, anxiety, worry, panic and anger but translates all of those feelings to confident prayer, presenting requests before the Lord. It is the Psalmist who prays in Psalm 31:1-5 “In You, O Lord, I have placed my trust and taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness rescue me. Incline Your ear to me, deliver me quickly; Be my rock of refuge, And a strong fortress to save me. Yes, You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake, You will lead me and guide me. You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength and my stronghold. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth and faithfulness.” It is the person who knows my God is in this, and He will fulfil His purpose.
- Not reacting to situations with thankful prayer (Phil 4:6-7) Prayer is not a panicked call for help, but quiet confidence which is characterized by a thankful heart. 2 Tim 3:2 tells us that in the last days’ people will be characteristically unthankful, too overly focused on what we do not have, as opposed to focusing on our blessings. A confident heart knows where it’s help and provision comes from, is grateful even as they pray being convinced of Rom 8:28 that God “works all things for my good.” The result of this thankful heart is peace. A peace that comes from God and is maintained by God in our hearts, which guards our hearts against fear, worry, panic, anxiety etc. and is not understood by the world. Peace brings stability to our hearts (the seat of our emotions) and our minds (the seat of our thoughts).
- Allowing unhealthy and negative thinking patterns to dominate our thinking (Phil 4:8) Here, Paul tells us where to anchor our thoughts, starting with truth, the Word of God. It is the source of all that is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and of good repute. It is excellent and praiseworthy thinking (not that it is good thinking, but that it results in all praise to God, focused on His attributes and actions in our lives.) Good thinking based on the word of God develops the mind of Christ in us, cleans out wrong or sinful thinking and meditates on God’s word daily. Anchoring the focus of our thoughts on God’s Word is foundational to stability in our walk with the Lord. (Isaiah 26:3)
- Not putting into practice that which God has shown you, and you have understood (Phil 4:9) Not practice, as in “give it a try to see if it works”, but practice in that it has “become your practice to live this way.” An important distinction as James says in James 1:22 “be doers of the Word, not merely hearers of the Word.” Developing godly thoughts is of no value if what one has learned, received, seen and heard does not become the practice of your life. Thoughts can never be separated from actions. Same as 2 Peter 1:10 “be diligent in making your call and election sure, for if you practice these qualities, your will never fall.” Isaiah 32:17 tells us that where righteousness is practiced there will be peace forever: contentment, calm, comfort, quietness, peace, tranquility …stability.
” Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matt 24:12-13)
“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8)
Father God, help us to recognize where we are spiritually unstable and make the necessary changes to stand firm in this difficult season. We want to come out of this time spiritually stronger, more mature in our walk with You and stable in our faith. Help us to examine our hearts and minds and identify areas which need to be strengthened so that we may hear the words at the end: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” I declare that I will stand firm to the end as God strengthens me in every area and completes the work He has started in me.