This morning, we’re continuing our new message series entitled, “Understand” where we’re learning just how powerful and critically important understanding truly is. This becomes the foundational requirement to fulfilling our vision this year. After all, we cannot truly connect with someone unless we understand them and we cannot begin to understand someone until we connect with them.
We learned so far that to truly understand someone requires humility on our part; to lay down our pre-conceived notions and assumptions and to ask questions to learn about someone. In the same way, we must humbly lay down ourselves and choose to tell others what is happening inside us and not expect them to know otherwise.
Last week, we learned about how God is our protector yet why He sometimes chooses to withdrawal His divine guard over us. This helped us to understand sometimes why bad things happen to good people looking to the life of Job as an example of exactly this.
This week, we’re diving into another time when it can be difficult to understand God. This struggle is revealed by the fact that God is both patient and gracious as well as just and righteous. This paradox that exists within God create situations for us that are downright frustrating.
We try our hardest to do what is right, to honor God in every area of our lives. We live with integrity and honesty and treat others fairly. However, our lives are often filled with hardship and struggles. It seems like you make one unintentional mistake and you’re punished severely for it. It seems that you can never seem to get things right or get ahead no matter how hard you try.
Then there are those that we know who lie, steal, and cheat and seem to always get away with it. Their lives seem to prosper at every turn despite the wicked way in which they live. They seem to get promoted and blessed while we are mistreated and cursed. We cry out to God for His justice and His deliverance, yet it feels that our prayers are falling on deaf ears.
Has anyone here ever been in this frustrating place in life? Sure, most of us have been.
This morning, we turn to a powerful and skillful man of God who was chosen to be the chief priest who lead worship to the Lord regularly. In fact, His legacy endured as many of his descendants were chosen for the same task for generations after him. This man was Asaph and he can well relate to this time when it is difficult for us to understand God. He wrote a Psalm about it which can help us in this season of life.
A psalm of Asaph.
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
When we feel like we’re keeping ourselves pure in vain, when we feel that every day is afflicted and every morning brings a new punishment, when our spirits become embittered and hearts grieved by the prosperity of the wicked, there is one place for us to turn; the sanctuary of God. When we enter into the Lord’s presence, we begin to understand His ways.
The Lord is patient with everyone, not wanting anyone to perish. That means that for a temporary season, justice may appear to be a bit off-balanced. Wickedness may appear to prosper and righteousness appear to suffer. However, there is coming a day when all things are made right. There is coming a day for all of us when our integrity will earn us a rich reward that can never fade. There is also coming a day when all of the worldly prosperity that the wicked have earned are destroyed and they are left before the Lord with nothing.
Jesus said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
Peter also wrote to give us this same warning so that it should not be a surprise to us when we see such apparent injustice for temporary seasons in life.
2 Peter 3:3-13
3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
There will come a day when righteousness fully dwells and the promises of God are all fully realized and experienced. Knowing that this day is coming should give us a whole new perspective on such injustices in life. Instead of becoming embittered toward such people, we should become heartbroken for them. God is patiently waiting for them to come to their senses and live the life that they ought to. Their prosperity is evidence of God’s grace and mercy and not of their own righteousness. Jesus said:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Knowing that much more will be required of them before the Lord should be even more of a motive for us to try to reach them with the good news of the gospel that they might come to the Lord and change their ways.
For us, we should keep a healthy perspective toward the temporary troubles that we face in this world. Even as Peter asked, “What kind of people ought we be?” We ought to live holy and godly lives as we look forward to the day of God when He sets all things right. Though we may suffer for a little while, we’ll rejoice forever free from all suffering! Though wicked people may prosper for a little while, we’ll prosper for all eternity! Though life may not be fair for a little while, God will set all things right forever!
1 Peter 5:4-7 (MSG)
4-5 When God, who is the best shepherd of all, comes out in the open with his rule, he’ll see that you’ve done it right and commend you lavishly. But all of you, leaders and followers alike, are to be down to earth with each other, for—
God has had it with the proud,
But takes delight in just plain people.
6-7 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.
God sees every sacrifice that we make and every move of integrity that we live. At just the right time, truth will be revealed, justice will be administered, and promotion will be given. Rest assured that choosing to live a godly life and walking in the path of God’s word is not being done in vain and will not be without reward. Even as the Proverbs remind us:
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
Or as John Mellencamp wrote, “An honest man’s pillow is his peace of mind. So suck it up and tough it out and be the best you can.”
God is faithful and trustworthy, so don’t give up doing good and don’t compare yourself to others because it may cause bitterness to take root in your soul. Instead, live your life in the audience of One; Jesus to whom is the only one that you’ll have to answer to for your life lived. Honor Him in all you do and work hard with all you’ve got. Your reward is coming soon, it is a promise of God who is faithful!
23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.
God is rooting for us to be rooted in Him. His desire is that we endure each and every season drawing ever closer to Him. Yes, we will endure frustrating seasons where justice seems fleeting and it feels like choosing to live with integrity is pointless. However, if we choose to cling to God’s word and promises and brush off these feelings, we will certainly prosper in due time. God is rooting for us to be rooted in Him!
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
Let’s choose in every season to praise God who is faithful!