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Read: Philippians 3:7-14

 

Today I want to talk about two enemies that defeat
the saints: exhaustion and stagnation. How many
people who have sat in these pews over the past years
have been brought down by one of these enemies!

When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to
follow - not just for six months or a year or two -
but forever.

 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them
and they follow me; and I give them eternal
life, and they shall never perish, and no
one shall snatch them out of my hand
.

 

Eternal life doesn't die out,

               doesn't stagnate,

               doesn't burn to ash.

 

When a man follows Jesus, he mounts up on wings as the
eagles, he runs and does not grow weary, he walks and
does not faint. But time and circumstances sift the
saints to find the ones who really are waiting on the
Lord - mounting up on wings.

 

Not everyone who starts as a ball of fire finishes the
race as a ball of fire. There are saints who work,

and pray, and testify, and do good deeds, then suddenly
one day they've had it - they're sick of it all.

 

- They can't stand the thought of going
to another Bible Study.

 

- They have a revulsion against prayer.


- They're turned off by all their naive
  brothers and sisters who still have enthusiasm.

 

What happened? Why are they suddenly so depressed?

 
Because they're exhausted - they're drained! They
drew their strength not from the Spirit of God but
from their own soulish energies until there was nothing
left.

 

When you're running on the steam that comes from your
soul and your flesh you can't run far. Peter was drawing
on self, not on God, when he promised he would die with
his Lord rather than forsake him - when he pulled out the
sword and lopped off the ear of the servant of the high
priest. And soon, shivering, scared, and bewildered, he
denied his Lord, because Peter was exhausted within.

 

There are those who fall away through exhaustion
and there are those who fall away through
stagnation.

 

Stagnation is the thing to watch out for when we're having
a little success. Things start going good, and instead
of pressing on we settle down and get comfortable and
soon we're fast asleep.

 

The man who works hard to get his shoe store going -
burns the midnight oil for seven years until his business
is on its feet - may very well ease up and enjoy himself
now that he has a chain of twenty stores around the state.

 

But following Jesus does not work that way,

 

- you never ease up

- you never get comfortable.

 

If you think you can lie back and take it easy now that

you've got your faith rolling, now that everyone knows

you're a dynamic saint, you stagnate! Your faith rots!

 

Did you ever see a ball of fire turn into a lump of lard?
It happens every day among professing believers.

 

The minute the fire thinks of itself as successful,

 

The minute the fire thinks it has enough
momentum to coast,

                                          the fire turns
to flab, and the flab goes on quoting scriptures and
talking, but there's no heat,

                                      no flame,
                          no life,

The trick is to keep going on and on and on, always

burning, always getting brighter - never drained out,
never stagnant. I look at some of these saints who
have been in this world 80 years and more, still shining
 - out-shining the brightest young flames around.

And young saints too who have that same Spirit within
them - on and on they go. The seasons change, the
years roll
by, circumstances boil and heave - they
never tire.

 

These people aren't something special. They're normal!


They're what God calls every saint to be. In Philippians

Chapter 3, Paul is giving us, out of his own experience,

the cure for these two enemies that defeat the

saint: exhaustion and stagnation.

 

 

1.    The cure for exhaustion: is to fix the heart on
       one thing: Jesus Himself.

 

- not Jesus along with three dozen other

  things,

 

- not Jesus, Moses and Elijah - just Jesus.

 

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss
for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count
everything as loss because of the surpassing
worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For
His sake I have suffered the loss of all
things, and count them as refuse in order
that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.

 

Paul has been a missionary for years. But he doesn't
say, "Man, I know Christ. Now I can concentrate on
other things". After all these years the one thing
that matters to Paul is still the same: to know Christ.
I want to know Him.

 

We become exhausted when we get taken up with things
other than Christ. Religious things, legitimate
things, visions of Moses and Elijah, but not Christ -
then the flame starts going out. As long as we live,
and through all the eons beyond death,

 

- Jesus is the anchor.

- Jesus is the rock on which we build.

- Jesus is the sun that shines in our sky.

- Jesus is the bright star in the night.

 

     That I may know Him in the power of His resurrection.

 

- Not interesting things about His life.
- Not just chapter and verse references
  to His doctrine,

 

but Jesus Himself, alive from the dead, shining with all
the glory of His Father.

 

Jesus the life-giving Spirit whose very
voice wakes the dead.

 

Jesus who knows me by name and speaks to
me and causes me now to live in the power
of His resurrection.

 

You won't burn out so long as you know Jesus in the power
of his resurrection and reach out to know Him more and
more and more.

 

      That I may know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings.

 

The longer we walk with Jesus the more we understand
that it is necessary to share in His sufferings. We
only really get to know Jesus when we start to suffer
with Him - when we begin to get a taste of the rejection
and spite that they aim at Him.

 

You won't have to go out and look for that suffering, it
will look for you and find you - if you're following
Jesus. And when that suffering comes,

 

- don't run away,

- don't water down your message,
- don't compromise.

 

Rejoice! No one ever got exhausted when he was having
fellowship with Christ in his suffering.

 

We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that
suffering produces endurance.

 

That I may be made like Him in His death.

 

Paul's ambition is,

- not to establish 25 churches before he dies,
- not to found a university in his own name,

but to be made like Jesus in his death.  To die for the

name of Jesus.

 

Paul wanted to die at Jerusalem for the name of Jesus.
God had other plans - Paul died in Rome for the name
of Jesus. But he was indeed made like Jesus in his
death.

 

May God give us that Spirit of the Cross which lays
down its life every day for the name of Jesus and
covets the chance to die in this body
for that name -
for we're going to need that Spirit in the days ahead.

 

It has never been more true than it is now that when
Jesus calls a man or woman to follow Him, he's calling
that person
to come and die.  0 God - remove the fear.

 

The cure for exhaustion: know Jesus.

 

 

2. In the next few verses of Philippians 3 Paul gives
    us by his own example the three-fold cure for stagnation.

 

    a. Beware of the thought that you've already arrived -

 

"Not that I have already obtained this
or am already perfect.

 

There are people in this gathering right now who would
never come out and say it
in so many words, but the
way they
live says those words in a thousand ways.


"I've made it! I've arrived!"

 

- They're not pressing on.

- They're not seeking.

 

They have an answer for everything - it's all figured
out and settled.  Nothing more to do but lie back and
wait for the trumpet and go to church once-in-a-while.
 

  
But listen to Paul,

 

Not that I have already obtained this or
am already perfect, but I press on.

 

"I haven't arrived.  I've got to be pressing on."

 
Watch out when deep within your heart you start think
ing you're already there.

 

b. Beware of getting taken up with past victories.

 

"Forgetting what was behind us", says Paul.

 

Many a saint has been ruined by his victories. He's so
busy thinking about the great things he did last year,
that
he cannot hear what God is telling him to do today.

There is this chap who was a tail gunner in the R.A.F.
who lived recklessly and dangerously for a few years in
World Par II, and for 30 years he has been living in
the past.  He has destroyed his wife, ruined his children,
still trying to be the tail gunner in an old British bomber

that no longer exists.

 

One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind,
and straining forward to what lies ahead....

 

You can't strain forward to what lies ahead or press on
toward the goal so long as you're all hung up in your
past achievements.

 

Forget what lies behind!  Leave it with God
and go on!

 

c.   Get your eyes on the goal of being fully the

         son/daughter of God Jesus calls You to be and press on.

 

Straining forward to what lies ahead, I
press on toward the goal for the prize of
the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

We're not there yet.  The City that we're seeking is up
ahead, so let's keep going. All the goodies that stand
by the road urging us to turn aside and take a little
break are illusions.  Those warped mirrors that make
our past achievements look ten times bigger than they
really were are tricks to make us look back.  The cares
and the riches and the pleasures of this life are passing
things.

 

The one thing that matters is the goal up
ahead: The crown of righteousness which
is laid up for those who finish the race.

 

To follow Him, not for six months or two years, but
forever?
 And He gives you the power to stick with
Him all the way to the gates of that shining City.  He
renews your strength every day - makes you fresh every
morning.  If you keep seeking to know Him, you'll
never be exhausted.

 

And, if you turn your eyes away from past achievements
and fix them on the prize He holds out to
you and
press on, you'll never stagnate.

 

God give us men and women who can last! Who keep going
on and on and on - never weary and never turn to flab.

 

They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.

          They shall mount up on wings as the eagles.
They shall run and not be weary.

            They shall walk and not faint.

 

They shall press on until the Master Himself places
the crown on their head.