Today, I want us to address a mindset, a dark fear and anxiety, that has probably taken hold of most people here at some point in their walk with Christ. If this has not been a problem for you, it is only a matter of time before Satan attempts to use this tactic against you. Some of you, if you were honest, have been plagued by this issue for some time—having your joy, and maybe even your faith diminished greatly because of difficult events in our lives. Or sometimes, just because we watch the world around us, as we are trying to serve Christ. Many of us, if not all, experience times when we just don't think things are adding up the way they should be.
If God is real, and God is good, and God loves me, why do I have some of the terrible problems that I have, just like the rest of the fallen world? Why does a world that seems to thumb their noses at God seem to be doing just as well, and very often much better than me? In our minds, this is how we feel it should be if God is in control: The plans of the wicked should be quickly squashed every time. Mean people should never be allowed to be successful, powerful and happy. Those who hurt others should be immediately and openly punished to show God's will and sovereignty. Godly people should be protected and successful to prove God's existence and love, yet people around us who couldn’t care less about God, party hard, live selfishly, seem so happy and successful. And here we are, living for Jesus, missing out, getting nothing special in return for all the sacrifices. Where is He? What is the point in doing good and living for others?
You are not alone, and it is not wrong, to feel the need for assurance in the fact that: God is real; God does actually love me; He has His arms around me, and cares what happens; He IS a just and fair God.
We are going to look at a Psalm that so incredibly addresses these feelings, it will astound you. God's Word is so complete, if we will just study. He does not leave us unaddressed, or without comfort in anything that we could face. This Psalm is written by a man named Asaph, who lived under the reign of King David. He was of the Levite tribe, so he was a worker in the Tabernacle at that time, directly for God. He was like a David to David. David chose Asaph as one of the main leaders to minister in the Tabernacle before the Ark of the Covenant as an incredibly gifted singer, musician, song writer, poet and prophet of God. Some of those who carried on Asaph's musical work later, even adopted the name in Scriptures of, "The Sons of Asaph!" Asaph was the writer of about 12 Psalms, including Psalm 50, and 73-83. So, if this incredible man, who was completely given to serving God, and who obviously had God's Spirit on him as he prophesied and wrote Psalms and songs could express honest words of frustration, doubt and despair over this topic, don't feel that you are evil, rejected, or alone when you admit to the same. Satan's favorite attack is to make you feel guilty and abnormal in your fears and worries. Instead of feeling guilty and doing nothing, just address your fears and face them head on.
Let's walk through this incredible Psalm together, and have an, "Honest Moment" with God today.
Psalm 73:1-28 (HCSB)
1 God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray.
This opening tells us two things 1) Asaph knew that God was real and that He was good. Asaph wanted to expand on this fact before opening up with his fears and doubts in the Psalm. He somewhat presents the conclusion of his thoughts as a prelude to how he got there. (As a writer or movie opening) 2) Asaph was writing this Psalm after he had walked through his time of struggle and was again restored to faith and peace. (Past tense opening)
3 For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Asaph honestly admits what many here are doing right now—envying the lost as they live fun, carefree lives and seem to be doing great. Every time we glorify entertainers, or covet what lost friends around us are doing, we are in this mindset.
4 They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well fed. 5 They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people.
Here we see that Asaph is just as human as the rest of us. In his mind, the facts are greatly exaggerated about the lost and the Godly. Of course, the rich and successful have troubles and afflictions. But to those on the outside, they seem untouched by life.
6 Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment.
Do we not see the pride and arrogance all over the successful of our age? From the entertainment industry, to the open, prideful people who not only flaunt their sin, but dare anyone including God, to do anything about it, to those who are springing up everywhere, growing more and more violent against anyone who opposes their warped, selfish worldview.
7 Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild. 8 They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression.9 They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth.
Here, Asaph expresses that the out-of-control influence of their arrogant lies and sin against God, His people, and His ways are spreading to the masses. [Wow, is all of this not where we live?] But realize that Asaph could see this happening in a Monarchy led by a Godly king. (It is not about the laws or government!)
10 Therefore His people turn to them and drink in their overflowing words. 11 The wicked say, “How can God know? Does the Most High know everything?” 12 Look at them—the wicked! They are always at ease, and they increase their wealth.
Lastly, Asaph tells how even God’s people are drinking in the seemingly incredible lives of sin these people emanate, all the while, mocking their beliefs and saying in ridicule, "Where is your God that we are suppose to be offending?" Then Asaph comes to a logical, and scary conclusion in all of this observation and pain, asking himself a question many here may ask right now.
13 Did I purify my heart and wash my hands in innocence for nothing? 14 For I am afflicted all day long and punished every morning.
Have you not asked yourself the same things? "Am I living this entire life of servitude and abstinence for nothing?" "Have I followed a false God in a wasted lifestyle?" Have you not felt the same unfairness in it all? "My life really stinks, and they are doing great!" "If anything, God has put even more on my plate because of my beliefs, and as a 'thank you' for my servitude!!” At least Asaph had the wisdom to keep these things to himself as he pondered his own doubts and fears...
15 If I had decided to say these things ⌊aloud⌋, I would have betrayed Your people.
Asaph explains that his care for others kept him from puking his feelings everywhere as he pondered. (Counsel is ok!) He did not want to hurt the faith of others as he suffered through. [I so wish that we could take in this big lesson from Asaph!] When you are hurt or doubting in your life, it is not wise or caring (rather selfish) to put God on trial on your Facebook page while you try to sort out your injustices in life. Constantly talking about your, "woe-is-me" predicament. Constantly crying about the unfairness of your righteous suffering. Hurting the cause of our Sweet Savior and pouring water on the faith of others. What a strong faith you must have. This attitude could possibly be part of the whole reason you have a trial in your life in the first place. Then Asaph shares the incredible moment, in the middle of his pain, when he was enlightened. Listen to when and how it happened!
16 When I tried to understand all this, it seemed hopeless 17 until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood their destiny.
Asaph got an epiphany when he went into the House of God (The Tabernacle, at that time) He went to Church. I lovingly and honestly want to tell some of you, if you were in God's House a bit more, hearing His Words, talking with His people, instead of missing every lesson, and asking about the exact same problem covered ten times, after you have fallen into trouble, instead of showing up at the last second each week you do come, and not sharing, caring or loving on another individual—you may get an epiphany once in a while from God. His epiphany seems to be so simple, yet it is deep and profound, addressing a core struggle in each of us, that changes everything. "Then I understood their destiny..." Suddenly his thoughts shifted from the here and now, the me and mine, mentality, to the realistic picture of what is really going on around us, and of what God is really trying to do through us. If we are completely focused on our lives right now, as everything that is important, as everything there is, it is obvious and reasonable that we would be totally frustrated and doubtful about our whole walk, because nothing is fair, fun, or just. But if we truly believe God is real, and we understand the reality that puts us into; if we see their destiny and ours, we will realize this. According to God's own Words, is this world controlled by sin now? Broken and lost? Favoring the forsaken? Then what do we expect it to look like? How do we expect sinners to fair? How do we expect to fair? We realize those who seem to be happy in their sin, are facing all we face, and don't have the joy or assurance in their lives that we do, to help them face it. We realize we are living in a world that is fallen and sinful, so, does it not stand to reason that the world will favor them in lifestyle and happiness? We realize that we eventually see people's lives bring addiction, depression, and dissatisfaction in the end, proving that a life serving others is the only true joy. If we will get out of our self-pity long enough to see truth over our exaggerated despair (like Asaph's), we realize the fact that, if our strong "here-and-now" focus on life, has become our everything, it proves just how shallow we are spiritually, and in need of God's Grace (Just as Job in his trials),
and we begin to see that God has much wisdom, in letting the sinner live their lives; letting them see the futility in their striving and goals; hoping His long suffering will eventually bring them to repentance; knowing this is their closest time to true happiness for eternity, and not wanting to send them to their final destiny. (As we should be feeling, if we were Christ-minded) Allowing those who won't change from their ways, to grow the seed of their selfishness into a plant of full proof to them and the world, and using everything that comes from this fallen world in our lives as believers, to truly teach us as nothing else can, through trials of faith, pain, patience, and self-sacrifice; to make us see that loving and saving others is more important than the riches of this world; to make us really learn to love, as we choose to care for and serve an undeserving world, instead of chasing selfish desires. Maybe if we were more Christ-minded, the world and it's seeming, "unfairness" would not give us such a fit. This is Asaph's great epiphany. "Then I understood their destiny..." Everyone here has the same first thought with one phrase: “The Titanic” Rich and successful living it up in the most extravagant of times—but what is the future lurking just ahead? Would you envy them? Want to be on that cruise? Do you realize that some of your views of life in the here and now, reflect wanting to be on the Titanic? Fretting because you are not one of the, "lucky ones?"
18Indeed, You put them in slippery places; You make them fall into ruin. 19 How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors. 20Like one waking from a dream, Lord, when arising, You will despise their image.
(How quickly reality changes) Whether by their own fall from their slippery lives, or by suddenly finding themselves before a Righteous and Almighty God, at the entrance to eternity, their seemingly trouble-free lives become horrors. Destroyed lives and marriages, addictions that steal all joy from life, total loss of identity, purpose, or desire, selfish wants that destroy everything, realizing they have traded a few years of false joy for unlimited love and purpose. Would all of the joy this world has to offer, be worth that moment we stand before God at His Throne, and have the realization that it was all for nothing? To suddenly understand this is the reality behind our created world? Now here is where Asaph is possibly different from some of us in this room today, different from many Christians today, because in his new understanding of God's Word—his new view with God's perspective. He confesses his ignorance before God and changes his way of thinking. (This is nearly impossible in some of your pride today!)
21 When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, 22 I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You.
Asaph gives a perfect example of how we must act and look to God, just as a family pet has no idea of the intricate details of your financial, vocational or emotional life, and they go around ignorant and clueless in their everyday little lives—so do we behave in the events of this world in God's eyes. Not a clue as to the reality of the things around us in His Plan, reacting only according to what we can see and understand around us—happy or sad based on our little solitary focus of life. And yet in all of this, God does not look down on us condescendingly. Remember, He went to great lengths to understand our weaknesses and pain. He stands with us, and holds onto us through all of our ignorance, as He waits for us to grow in maturity and love.
23 Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory.
God is lovingly with us in our worst of behavior, and our lowest of understandings. Every step He takes in your life is to patiently bring you into knowledge and love. Trust yourself to Him and His ways—as a brute beast would trust his master. After Asaph recognizes the reality of life again, and sees God in all of His faithfulness and love again, he falls deeper into love and devotion with Him.
25 Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You.
And then he realizes that, even though he may physically and emotionally fail God, that only God will never abandon him, but rather be the strength he lacks until he recovers.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. 27 Those far from You will certainly perish; You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
Then Asaph gives his final thought as a result of God's truth applied to all this pain.
28 But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord GODmy refuge, so I can tell about all You do.
That thought is being close to the One who has given everything for me; serving the One who has given me life; suffering for the One who suffered; making my life count for more than the emptiness of my own pleasure; just having Him with me, loving me, walking with me, and knowing He is my strength and protection whatever comes—not when I get to Heaven, but here and now. That is what makes life good and purposeful. (God's Presence is my good) And I want the world to know what they are missing.
When things happen that you don't understand, remember all of the things that you do know and understand about God, and His incredible love for you, and "Don't give up on what you DO understand, for something in life you simply don't understand yet." The most miserable place, at least on this earth, is not the place of the unbeliever. It is the place of the believer who sits on the fence with his convictions, because he sees this world with the same limited view and selfish motives of a nonbeliever. (Doesn’t work). The fence is not safe, because Satan owns the fence. We are in a fallen world, serving a rejected God, but if we keep His heart and His perspective, we will have joy in every minute of the ride, even here. We will have love and pity for the lost, rather than envy and anger. And we will find our peace and excitement, just knowing we are in His Presence and Plan.
It is not that we have to be willing to give up all of these treasures to love and serve our Jesus; it is that none of these things were ever treasures to begin with. Have an Honest Moment, and ask yourself, "How long will I remain a brute beast before God?" Admit your ignorance, and then come home!
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