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STAND FIRM Philippians 4:1 February 7, 2010 Given by: Pastor Rich Bersett [Index of Past Messages] Introduction Slogans are great things: they send a message about who we are and what we do—they advertise; they remind us of who we are & what we stand for; they serve as great reinforcement of identity and purpose. Who isn’t familiar with such inspiring slogans as “Semper Fi” – “Remember the Alamo” – “A mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste” (or as our friends who owned a landfill used to put it: “Waste is a Terrible Thing to Mind”); “Finger Lickin Good” “Snap Crackle Pop”. Do you recognize these slogans? See if you can recall, as victims of the onslaught of modern media advertising, what company’s slogans these are: Have it your way – Burger King; No rules, just right – Outback Steakhouse; Do What Tastes Right – Dairy Queen Try it, You’ll like it – Alka Seltzer; It’s all within your reach – ATT; Because you’re worth it – Loreal; Life is short, play hard – Reebok; Enjoy – Coke. How about “Stand Firm”? Where does that slogan originate? That one was made famous by the apostle Paul, who twelve times used this short command. But he’s not the only one; no less than 25 times others in the scripture encouraged listeners to stand firm, including David, Solomon, Jesus, and the apostles James and Peter. Review of what makes us stand firm We all know that we need to stand firm. We’ve just finished learning two important ways to help us stand firm in chapter three of Philippians. Now in the first verse of chapter four, Paul says, Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! Maturity, maturing By this time in the study of this letter we are well-taught by Paul that there is one primary goal for the believer. And that is to press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus. (3:14) Paul claims that as his own personal life mission, and he calls others to it in 3:15 - …all of us should take such a view… The first way the Christian stands firm in his faith is by maturing, growing. As we’ve seen from Paul’s example and exhortation it’s all about a relentless pursuit of Christ-likeness. In his progress up a sheer cliff, the mountain climber uses equipment to advance. There are ropes and hooks and pitons and clamps. But none of those things is any good to him if he isn’t able to establish a firm foothold. You can’t drive a piton or do anything to advance if your legs are dangling in mid-air. You need a firm stand so your hands are free to do other things besides save your life. Well, put it this way: would you rather be the guy on the left or the guy on the right? So here we are with another of those reciprocal truths from God’s Word. If we are to grow into Christlikeness we need to be in a standing firm posture. But it’s also true that to stand firm we must maintain a strong determination to grow in Christ. So Paul makes his point—let us live up to what we have attained (3:16). That is, when you get so far, stand on what you know at the very point that you have achieved, and from there press on to new heights of maturity. That is how you should stand firm in the Lord. Our Blessed Hope So the first basis of our standing firm is our resolve to grow, to mature, to relentlessly pursue our goal of Christ-likeness. There is a second basis of our standing firm that we encountered in chapter 3 – and that is our future hope—the promise of what is to come for those who trust in Christ. We’re going to heaven! In fact our citizenship is already provided, the papers have been stamped and we’re just waiting for our ride. That’s what 3:20-21 is all about. Paul reminds believers that the Lord will transform our earthly bodies into glorious bodies outfitted for eternity. We’re citizens now, but fully then. Titus 2:13 calls our “heaven-to-come” promise our blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We not only await that blessed hope, we have been given God’s Spirit in our present lives and bodies assuring us of that eventual salvation that is full and perfect. Paul urges the believers to live in the knowledge of our true citizenship, and now says, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! So, the importance of standing firm being true, we should raise the question of against what exactly do we need to stand firm. Standing firm implies that there will be some sort of resistance. And that is true. There are things we as believers in Christ will face that will threaten to make us unstable in our faith. We have an enemy—in fact, enemies—who would love to bring us down. And that is precisely why we are so emphatically called to stand firm. So that we are forewarned and thus forearmed. There are a couple I’d like to consider, and, in keeping with the metaphor of standing firm, I’d like to refer to them as “de-stabilizer's.” De-stabilizer's 1. Enemy Attacks Satan is a very real enemy. The Bible makes that absolutely clear. He is determined to destroy us, and all the more so if we are Christians. It behooves us to be aware of him and his plans. The Battle of Antietam in 1862 lasted for 12 hours and ranks as the bloodiest day of the Civil War. 10,000 Confederate casualties and even more on the Union side. One historian described that day’s sunset: "smoke heavy in the air, the twilight quivering with the anguished cries of thousands of wounded men." Though militarily a draw, the mediocre Union General George McClellan was able to end the brilliant Robert E. Lee's thrust into Maryland, forcing him to retire across the Potomac. How did he do it? Two Union soldiers had found a copy of Lee's battle plans and had delivered them to McClellan before the engagement. We are no match for our adversary, Satan, but our enemy's plans have fallen into our hands. We know his strategies—to entice us with lies, lust, greed, and the like. We understand he comes to steal, kill and destroy. Stand firm against the enemy—you have the Spirit of the Living God, the wisdom of the Word of God and the faithful, undeniable promises of God. Temptation Your enemy the devil is not happy that you are a committed Christian. He is going to do everything he can to disrupt and discourage you. He is coming after you with lies, distortions tricks designed to destabilize you and distract you from your calling to grow into the image of Jesus and bring others with you. C. S. Lewis says that Satan doesn't mind whether we totally ignore him or we're totally obsessed by him. Those who are totally obsessed by Satan, are paralyzed with fear, paranoid. On the other extreme, those who are totally ignorant of Satan -- those who simply ignore him or don't even believe he exists -- are easy pickings for him. We are informed by God of his ways, and we are called and equipped to Submit [our]selves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Stand firm in the face of temptation because the God of the universe has sided with you and thoroughly equipped you for the battle. As Jesus stood firm against the devil in the desert, so we His followers are divinely enabled to conquer the enemy. The Word says there is no temptation that has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide you a way out so that you can stand up under it. Stand firm. Trials There will be trials that come our way. They’ll be the normal problems that everyone faces in life; they’ll be results of poor choices we have made; they’ll be attacks from others who hateus as Christians; and some will be special delivery direct from Satan. Here is what you are to do: withstand them. Trust God and His power to keep you in the midst of any storm, and rely on His promise that in His strength you can make it through anything. Trust God’s promise that in ALL things, He is able to work it out for good because you are committed to His will. Trust His Word: NOTHING can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The trials you face really don’t matter. Look to Paul who wrote: “I have worked hard, been flogged severely, been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” Yet he stood firm and rejoiced in the Lord. I want to urge you to remember these things whenever you are in the middle of the trials. Too often we panic and go berserk if something seems to go wrong as if God doesn’t care anymore, and we go into temporary amnesia about God’s promises. He can keep you in the midst of any trial. Make an effort now, in advance of your next trial, that you will lay hold on His Word, His promises and His Spirit DURING the trial, not waiting till it’s over to say, “Wow, God got me through another one!” Tell the devil “You can’t harm me to destroy me. The One who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world.” And stand firm! 2. Discouragement It is not only the attacks of the enemy that come against us as followers of Christ. We are also vulnerable to waves of discouragement. Times when we will feel really terrible. Many Christians wonder at such times, “Am I even saved? How come I am down and not victorious like I ought to be?” If fights with depression and discouragement mean you’re not saved, then I’m as lost as a goat in a hailstorm. Jesus said, In this world you will have tribulation. Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. Feelings of Failure or Fruitlessness Nobody could be sadder than I that this church family has not grown more than it has. There’s no one in this room who has wept more and felt worse than I when some promising family leaves MECF to move to another church where the crowd is bigger, or the band is louder or the program is busier. Most of the time I just hate the fact that people reject the gospel, and that small is the gate and narrow the path that leads to life, and only a few find it. In fact, this is a topic I am hoping to address this Wednesday evening. Here’s what I’ve learned, though. There just isn’t anything as important as knuckling down and doing what God tells you to do, and there is nothing that heals discouragement like obedience. I’ve learned that there comes a point of self-wallowing when you have to quit whining, suck it up and move on. If kingdom living were always easy, anyone could do it! Stand firm, press on! If feelings of failure or fruitlessness have never come against you, I dare say you’ve never given your heart to the real work of God. If your heart is beating and you’ve tried your best to reach people with the gospel, to help disciples grow in their faith, and you’ve never been discouraged, then, brother, I’d love to trade places with you. But, do you know what you do when discouragement and disappointment come to you? You stand firm! You stand back up, recommit yourself to His work in you and through you, you lay hold of your blessed hope, and you press on, that’s what! Feelings of Alienation or Loneliness When you make your commitment to follow Christ, you agree to a lot of separation. Some witness their families divide because of issues of Christian faith. Your dedication to Jesus will send many if not most of your friends packing. You’ll often be a stranger at work, left out of the fun, last to be invited, first to be ridiculed. You will not be popular in 99% of this world’s groups. Jesus even said that He brings to our relationships not peace but a sword. And He told us that if you put your hand to His plow, don’t plan to look back. You seasoned believers know that following Jesus can be a mighty lonely road. It’s no wonder that the longer we serve Him the more we are driven to cling to Him alone. It’s no wonder those who are serious about serving the kingdom don’t have to be told to go to church meetings—you can’t keep them away. It’s their lifeblood being connected to a fellowship of people with kindred spirit and commitment. They have no problem obeying Hebrews 10:25 about not forsaking the assemblies. They know they need—not just like, they need—the comfort and assurance of believers like them who understand and share their hope. And it is in fellowship where we lonely sojourners find the company we need to help us fend off the de-stabilizer's of our faith and to stand firm. I recently read a true account written by a man who was a police officer in a native settlement in northern Canada. One day a rabid wolf wandered into the aborigines’ settlement. This officer was the one who eventually shot it, but not before it attacked a young boy and his grandmother in their home, making kindling out of a wicker chair with which the boy tried to protect himself. There were about 150 sled dogs in the village—more than a match for one sick wolf—but the intruder was left alone to do her work. Why? The officer explained that in order to prevent the dogs from fighting and wounding each other, they had each been tied to wooden stakes spaced far enough apart to prevent them from reaching any neighboring animal. Because of this, the wolf was able to walk freely among the dogs, killing some and badly wounding others. In isolation these strong sled dogs were no match for their maniacal foe, and they suffered terribly for it. What a picture of the need for Christians to belong, truly belong, to a body of believers. Alone and isolated, believers present themselves as much easier prey for the schemes of the Enemy of our souls. We do need help in order to stand firm. Conclusion Let me just close these thought out with the words of 1 Peter 5:6 and following, which is all about standing firm when it’s tough, and all about the grace of God for His children. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.       [ Back to Top]          
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