(Note: While this is a sermon, it addresses key issues of how we defend the truth of Christianity. Questions of evil, injustice, and God frequently arise in conversations.)
There are different genres of psalms, different kinds of literary formats. God has revealed His word to us in literature, and in literature we have to seek to understand it. But lest that sound difficult, today’s psalm is one that will resonate with all of us. None of us are unaccustomed to the topic that we will see today, because today’s psalm deals with the wickedness in the world. It deals with seeing injustice. It deals with suffering and affliction and wondering, “Where is God in the middle of all of that?”
I’m sure that you are not unacquainted with those questions. To be a human being on the planet today is to have to think about those questions. But it might look like some type of personal evil that has been done against you, or maybe it’s a struggle with sickness or illness with a loved one. Or heck, maybe you just sit and watch the news and you wonder, “Gosh, where could God be when wicked people seem to be successful and the people who are striving to live righteous lives seem to be afflicted?” How does that work?
Walk Through the Text
That’s the situation of the psalmist in Psalm 73. As we start in verse one, he’s going to tell us about his experience looking around the world and also his beliefs. We’ll see that they don’t necessarily sync up very well. He starts out saying,
”God is indeed good to Israel, to the pure at heart. But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray. For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
He has this belief, this intellectual commitment, you might say, that God is good to the people that He loves. The people in this psalm, as it’s referenced, is Israel, who is not a noteworthy nation among the other nations of the world but God, solely due to His good pleasure, took them out from Egyptian captivity not because they were better or bigger or anything like that compared to other nations, but solely to set His love on them. The psalmist affirms this. He believes this. But he’s saying, “My feet almost slipped. I almost went astray because I looked around and I envied the state of other wicked people. I envied how much material possessions they had accumulated. I envied their easy life.”
By extension, the question is, “Where is God in this?” But one of the interesting things we all have to confront is that we seem to have this implicit belief that if we behave righteously, if we strive to live good, moral lives, that God will bless us with what looks like material, Western success. Yet the teaching of the Bible and the grace of God unhitches those ideas. There is no continuity between living a righteous life and Western, materialistic prosperity. I would actually say often the opposite is the case. It doesn’t have to be the case, but it doesn’t work like that.
Now, one can actually somewhat understand where the psalmist is coming from because in an Old Testament, Old Covenant context, one of the ways that God did show His favor and blessing to people was with blessing them materially. But the New Testament shows us that that’s not ultimate. None of the notable figures of faith in the New Testament were wealthy and often they had very poor health. The Bible doesn’t reinforce this idea that living righteously leads to material blessings.
Another question that we’re going to have to confront as we go throughout this psalm is, “Do we have a category in our mind for a ‘wicked person’?” Is that a term we ever use? Is that a term we feel comfortable using? If I had to hazard a guess in 2018, I would say, “No, that’s probably not a term we’re very comfortable with.” We often believe that people are not wicked. They might do things that are wrong or inappropriate, but they’re not wicked.
Well, biblically speaking, the Bible’s very comfortable with the term “wicked.” All of us before we were in Christ and all of those who are not in Christ now fall into that category. There are two categories: living for God or living for yourself. Wickedness is a real thing and the grace of God does not look as beautiful and stunning as it is if we do not first stare into the depths of the wickedness in the world (and in us).
The other question we’re going have to confront as we go throughout this psalm is, “How do we respond to the sin of others?” Isn’t that the tension that the psalmist is living in? He sees sin in the world. He sees wicked people and their success. What does he do in response to that? He covets what they have. He responds to sin with sin. That is a grave temptation for all of us.
Now, the psalmist is going to go on in verse four to tell us about just what the prosperity is that the wicked people have. What is he seeing and envying? He says,
”They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well fed. They’re not in trouble like others; they’re not afflicted like most people. Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment.”
I find it very interesting how he says that. It’s almost like they’re prideful about their pride. They wear their pride like a necklace. They just are kind of strutting around like they’re untouchable. As if something out of the documentary “Supersize Me,” he says, “Their eyes bulge out from fatness.” Isn’t that quite the picture? Now, the psalms are poetry. They’re written with poetic, figurative language. But what’s the point here? They have so much excess, so much excess. That doesn’t just pertain to food. He goes on to say, “The imaginations of their heart run wild.”
They are never satisfied. They have insatiable appetites. Their heart is not fixed on and contented with God. No, they want more and more and more and the only thing more that they want is more. That’s the state of the wicked he is describing. But it’s more than that.
”They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression.”
What do you have to have to do that, to arrogantly threaten oppression? You have to have power. You can behave without fear of consequences, with impunity. That’s what they have, also. It’s not just wealth and good food and comfort, they have power that they abuse.
“They set their mouths against Heaven and their tongues strut across the earth.”
They even mock God. What type of pride does someone have to have to actually mock God and think they can get away with it? He says,
”Therefore, they have more than enough food to eat and they even suck up water from the sea. And the wicked say, ‘How can God know? Does the Most High know everything?'”
It’s a rhetorical question. The answer they’re giving is, “No, God doesn’t know everything.”
I mean, if you thought God knew everything you’d probably not mock Him, right? The psalmist concludes the section by saying,
“Look at them, the wicked. They are always at ease and they increase their wealth.”
The wicked people, among other things, are living as practical atheists. The reason I say that is because no one in the ancient world was actually an atheist, maybe with few exceptions. There wasn’t that formal category like there is today. Everyone believed in a god or many gods, but this idea of denying the existence of all gods didn’t really exist like it does today.
But they certainly live like atheists, don’t they? They mock God, thinking He can’t hear. He’s powerless. He doesn’t care about injustice in the world. The psalmist seems to be resonating with this. The wicked are mocking God and He’s not doing anything, so maybe He doesn’t care. He actually ends this section with something that sounds a lot to me like envy. “Look at them, the wicked. They’re at ease. They increase their wealth.” That’s kind of a positive way to say it, isn’t it, in some ways?
While it’s understandable that the psalmist would look at them and struggle with this and say, “Gosh, it might be nice to be like that.” That doesn’t mean it’s excusable. I think all too often today, we find that things are understandable, as in ‘we can understand how they would occur,’ and we think that makes them excusable or okay and it doesn’t. In this case, it’s actually understandably wrong. But nonetheless, I think we have to see how this could occur so we can spot this tendency in our own lives.
Now the psalmist is going to give his personal reaction. How is he responding to seeing this wickedness and prosperity in the world? He asks,
“Did I purify my heart and wash my innocence for nothing?”
In other words, have I been pursuing righteousness and it just didn’t even matter? It’s not worth it.
”For I’m afflicted all day long and punished every morning. If I had decided to say these things aloud, I would have betrayed your people.”
That’s an interesting sentiment in the middle of all of this, isn’t it?
He’s got this inner turmoil. He’s struggling to be convinced that God is good, but he cares enough about the people of God not to share these doubts and sins with them. He doesn’t want to disrupt their faith. He’s got some major cognitive dissonance going on. He even goes on to say,
“When I tried to understand all of this, it seemed hopeless.”
I have been in a similar place to the psalmist at one point in my life.
When I looked around the world, I did not see how it was possible that God existed, or if He did how He could possibly be good. I didn’t share that with other people. I didn’t want to tear them down. I had a massive case of cognitive dissonance going on. You look around and you think, “Gosh, it seems hopeless. How does all of this fit?” But what does the psalmist say?
”It seemed hopeless until I entered God’s sanctuary. Then I understood the destiny of the wicked.”
I think as the psalmist is writing this, we’ll go on to see he gets some perspective. But this is a reflection and a confession. He’s confessing that he has not responded well to seeing the wicked or their prosperity. He has doubted the benefit of the pursuit of holiness. He has envied the success of people who probably gained that success through immoral means. He feels the immense emotional turmoil of living in this tension. He’s probably asking the question, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?”
But he does still have a great concern for God’s people. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around all of it. I think he’s probably struggling with questions like many of us do. If God is just, why does injustice seem to reign? If God is good and loves His people, why do His people suffer? He had an unsettled heart. It seems like his mind knew truths that his heart just couldn’t accept or believe or embrace. But it ends with him understanding the destiny of the wicked. It says that he went into the house of the Lord and then he understood.
Now, I don’t think that means he walked in the door and a light bulb went off and he’s like, “Oh, I get it.” Okay, this is a shorthand. This is his kind of poetic way of saying, “I went, I learned about God, I worshiped Him, I read His word”, and it totally changed his view of his circumstances.
This is a common thing, actually. We have our experiences in life and we see things from a very limited perspective as through a glass dimly, you might say. The Bible routinely tells us the other side of the story.
Someone in first century Israel may have looked at the cross when Jesus was crucified and thought, “Well, there’s a fool. He claimed to be God and he’s dying on a cross.” Yet the Bible tells us the other side of the story, that the cross was the predetermined plan of God before the foundation of the world. Yes, it still sounds like foolishness to those who do not believe, but nonetheless the Bible tells us so often the other side of the story. It is the necessary counterpoint to our experiences.
Now the psalmist, in light of this experience, is going to go on to affirm God’s justice, which he now believes in. He says,
”Indeed, you put them, the wicked, in slippery places; you make them fall into ruin. How suddenly they become a desolation! They come to an end, swept away by terrors. Like one waking from a dream, Lord, when you arise you will despise their image.”
There’s no hesitancy here in how he speaks, is there? There is a confidence about the justice and judgment of God. But compare that to verse two where we started, where he says, “My feet almost slipped. I almost went astray.”
His implication is that the grace of God kept him from that. But what does he say about the wicked person? “It’s not that you keep their feet from slipping, you actually put them in the slippery place. You make them fall into ruin.” God is judging the wicked person in that way. He saves the people He loves, the people who love Him, from judgment, but He actively judges others. The psalmist actually comes to have a conviction about this, not a hesitation, not a lack of trust.
Now, verse 20, when we read that, that may have seemed hard to understand. If that was your thought, I’m with you on that. Another way to translate that would be, “The wicked are like a dream after one wakes up.”
How long does a dream last when you wake up? Well, if you’re like me, not very long. Now, I was talking with my wife last night at about 5:00pm. She was telling me about a dream she had the night before. I had to stop her and say, “You’re really ruining my sermon illustration for tomorrow!” But all too often, our dreams do not last long.
You wake up and you think, “Oh, that was great” or “That was terrifying. Wait, what was that dream again?” Dreams don’t often last long, and I think that’s what the psalmist is saying here about wickedness and wicked people in light of eternity. They’re like a dream after one wakes up. It will not ultimately persist. We have a very finite understanding and viewpoint on the world where our 30, 50, 70, 100 years seem like a long time. They can be. But when you look at that from God’s perspective, which the Bible helps us to do, you see that it is but a momentary time. That doesn’t mean it’s insignificant.
But what it does mean is God has a much larger plan of achieving justice than we can often see. While it seems like often there is no end to evil and wickedness and the prosperity of the wicked, in reality it is short-lived.
The psalm pivots here. The first half was about the struggle and envy of the psalmist and now he’s going to go on to have much more confidence in God. He’s going to evaluate how he responded initially to seeing the wicked.
In verse 21 he says,
”When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand. I was an unthinking animal toward you.”
He reflects on his state and he has a rather sobering take on it. Envying worldly success, the easy life and the wicked, and doubting the faithfulness of God is both foolish and stupid. He likens it to being like an animal. By extension, if he was like an animal, what would he say about the wicked person?
You see, I think we’re very uncomfortable in 2018 saying that someone is an animal. Aren’t we all created in the image of God? Well, yes. But the Bible in numerous places likens people who do not live like they’re created in the image of God to living like animals. Numerous times, it’s either just an animal in general that someone is called or a specific animal, like Jesus calling people vipers or wolves or bears. But the fundamental point, though, is that we were created to live a certain way as human beings. We were given a job and endowed with an image that no other created thing has, the image of God.
That’s not just an attribute, it’s how we’re supposed to live. We are supposed to actively image God. When we don’t do that, we are living more like animals than we are like human beings. We are not living how we were designed to live. Animals think, “I want food. I’ll eat food. I want that thing so I’ll take that thing.” They don’t want to be tamed. They don’t want to be led. They have a desire and they live for it and enact it. When people live like that—for themselves as opposed to living for the glory of God—this description likely fits them.
But at this pivot point, the psalmist comes to see something. He comes to see that the wisdom of the world which led to the success of the wicked person is actually foolishness in the eyes of God. In so realizing, he starts to become wise. He’s going to go on to talk about his new set of desires. He used to have desires for the success of the wicked and how he has a very different set of desires.
He says of God,
”Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in Heaven but you? And I desire nothing but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Sounds like a different person from the beginning of psalm, doesn’t it? The person who doubted the justice of God, the person who wanted what the wicked had. Now what what does he say? God is my portion forever. My heart and my flesh, they may fail. I don’t need other things. What I need is God and His faithfulness.
What was different? Did his circumstances change? Did he suddenly come into a great deal of wealth such that it evened the playing field? No. He even says, “I don’t desire that anymore. I just desire God.” Did his health suddenly improve? Did he stop being afflicted? No. He even acknowledges that his heart and his flesh will fail, but God is what he needs. His circumstances didn’t change. His heart changed. He came to know God more fully and have a deeper trust in Him and it changed how he saw the world. He doesn’t sound like someone who’s suffering anymore, not because his circumstances changed, but because his heart changed.
He spent time in the presence and in the word of God and came away seeing the world as it really is. That is what the Bible does. It shows us how the world really is. Christianity is a picture of reality. There are competing pictures out there today. How you see the world will greatly affect how you live in the world.
Now, there is a Gospel distortion that we might call the prosperity gospel today. It’s becoming very popular. It says that if you live a certain way, if you love God, if you have a certain type or amount of faith, God will bless you with material things. He actually wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and successful. That is a false gospel. No one needed Jesus to want those things. Every single person on the planet wants those things without Jesus. It turns Jesus and God into a means to things. But the blessing of God is God Himself. The psalmist comes to affirm that here.
Envy is actually one of the attitudes that the psalmist includes in his animalistic thinking, and yet what does the prosperity gospel do? It teaches you to want things. It actually, as a part of religious dogma almost, makes envy a good thing. Now, they might not affirm that, but practically when you look at it, that’s how it works out. Yet the psalmist comes to say, “I desire nothing on Earth but you.” Far from claiming that those who love God and act righteously will be healthy, he even says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my life. God is my portion.”
God is exactly what he needs. God is sufficient. I don’t think we like the word “sufficient” today. After service, if you go to your mother’s or your grandmother’s house and she makes you dinner, let’s say it’s really good. She says, “How was it?” You say, “That was sufficient.” She may not have you back. Why is that? Because for some reason today, sufficiency seems like not a good thing. Biblically speaking, sufficiency is an excellent and marvelous thing. Having exactly what you need, having every need met, not having desire for more things, contentedness, it’s a beautiful thing.
Yet even our language reflects, and how we respond to that example, reflects the fact that we really struggle with this. We don’t think sufficiency is a good thing. We think it’s the baseline to want more and more. That’s the way my heart often goes, too.
Now the psalmist is going to tell us about his new experience and his new hope. He says,
”Those far from you will certainly perish. You destroy all who are unfaithful to you.”
This is an unequivocal affirmation of the judgment of God for wickedness and sinful people. He used to have questions about it. He used to think God just let them do whatever and now he comes to be very firm in his commitment that that is not the case.
”But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord my refuge so I can tell about all you do.”
He has been changed. We saw that in the middle of this psalm when he goes into the house of the Lord and he learned more fully who God is. His trust deepens in the Lord. It changed everything. It sounds like a different person at the end of this psalm than at the beginning, and that’s what a knowledge of God and a trust in God should do for us. It should fundamentally change how we see the world.
Context and Reflections
I want to give us some context for as you’re reflecting back on later. The first is that it is not inherently sinful to be wealthy, and it is not a lack of God’s favor that leads to someone being poor. The economy of the kingdom of God unhitches those concepts. Now, I do think it is very precarious to be wealthy. The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that for the Christian, wealth is not a blessing but a test.
It doesn’t mean having wealth is inherently sinful, but what it does mean is in some ways you will be faced with more and more choices that the person who doesn’t have wealth does not have to think about. In some ways, it’s more spiritually precarious to have wealth than not to have wealth. Now, you might think, “Well, isn’t life easier if you have wealth?” Well, if you can’t afford food and now you can afford food, yes, life is easier and that’s a good thing. I’m not downing that by any means.
But if you have much more than you need, it’s easier to keep desiring more and more and more. In our comfort, in the bubbles we erect for ourselves, it is very easy to become very self-sufficient and not rely on the goodness of God. Remember, the psalmist’s situation didn’t change. His heart changed and it totally changed how he saw the world.
Something else to think on is the fact that evil, suffering, and injustice are universal problems this side of Genesis 3. There are two chapters of the Bible where that is not the case. The whole rest of the Bible is fleshing out how God is interacting with evil and injustice and what He’s going to do about it.
The Bible is not unacquainted with this question of, “What’s happening to wickedness in the world? What is God going to do about evil? What about my suffering?” The Bible routinely addresses this. But it often doesn’t address it in the way we would like, does it? It doesn’t give us the specific answer, that “this circumstance happens to that this would happen, so that this would happen, so that this would happen.” It doesn’t flesh it out that way.
But what it routinely does, time and time again, is call us back and point us to the love, faithfulness, and sovereignty of God. It is those things, I believe, that the psalmist becomes convinced of and fundamentally changes how he sees the world.
There were two aspects to the psalmist’s suffering. There was the objective aspect of him being afflicted. He seems like he had a hard life. But there was a secondary aspect of that suffering which was avoidable. He had a deep emotional and existential pain from not realizing and being convinced of the goodness and faithfulness of God. That made his suffering worse. Think back on all the descriptors he gives. His suffering is almost more emotional in this psalm, not because his life is hard but because he doesn’t trust that God is actually working everything together for his good and that He will ultimately judge evil.
This type of struggle with suffering is usually related to a lack of faith or trust in the goodness of God. Now, I’m not trying to kick anyone while they’re down by any means, and I’m not saying that difficult situations won’t be difficult if you do have a deep knowledge and trust of God. But the question is, when we suffer, when we go through trials, do we do it as those with hope and conviction or do we do it as those with no hope and no conviction in the goodness and faithfulness of God?
It’s really a question of how deep your roots go. Consider two trees. One tree has deep roots and another tree has shallow roots. The tree with deep roots is a person who has deep roots of knowledge and trust in God, and the tree with shallow roots is someone who does not. Now imagine that some wind comes along, where it threatens to maybe blow one of the trees over. If that’s Tallahassee, it’s 10 miles an hour and half the trees go down and there’s no power for weeks. You can still tell I’m a little jaded about some of those hurricanes.
I grew up in Central Florida where a Category One was something you went to the beach for. You actually had waves then. Very different up here.
Anyways, consider those two trees. When the storm comes, the one with shallow roots is likely to get blown over. The one with deep roots is likely to still be standing. It’s not because the circumstances were different. The storm was the same, but the tree with deep roots, the person with deep roots of knowledge and trust in God, is much more likely to still be standing.
There is a sense in which those who have a more firm conviction and trust in God suffer less in how they receive it and think about it than those who don’t, not because of their circumstances but because they don’t have the added emotional and existential problems working out, “Where is God in all of this and can I trust Him?” They had worked that out before.
You will almost never exit a trial with better theology than you went in. You will almost never come through a trial, unless you are sufficiently grounded, with a deeper trust in God. The storm that hits the tree with shallow roots often knocks it over.
We have to be preparing before we get there. Our minds have to teach our hearts continually. As author and speaker, Jen Wilkin, has said, “Our hearts cannot love what our minds don’t know.” It is hard to have a deep knowledge of God and trust in God and love of God if you don’t know much about God.
I understand that this is probably unpopular and it probably doesn’t sit well with us, but consider: if we actually think of and react to suffering and the prosperity of the wicked and our own prosperity the same way as the world, we’re probably doing it wrong. The kingdom of God fundamentally turns things around.
Here are some things I’m not saying. I do think that’s important to clarify. I’m not saying that having these deep roots of knowledge and trust in God means life will be easy. Far from it. Difficult times will still be difficult. I’m also not saying that we will always get this right or, heavens, that I always get this right. But it is a goal to strive for. We may understand how we would fail, but remember, being understandable doesn’t mean excusable. It doesn’t mean good. We have a goal to shoot for.
I’m also not saying that asking questions of God is wrong. But there is a difference in asking questions of God and questioning God. When we question God, we are implying that He did something wrong or should have acted differently. Far be it from us to do that.
The psalms routinely deal with some of the most difficult, emotional, and existential problems that people face. But what are our takeaways?
In our Suffering We Must Not Sin
Well, the first is that in our suffering, we must guard ourselves against sin. In our suffering, in our affliction, when we look at trials and injustice, we must guard ourselves against sin. There are some actions and responses that are very common for us, myself included, that are not good ways to respond to sin and wickedness.
We can often have a “woe is me” or self-pity type of attitude and neither of those glorify God. We can respond to anger against us with anger towards the other person. Not a good response. Often, today, I think we respond to seeing greed and envy with coveting with our own greed and envy.
There are whole philosophical systems that are built on saying that some people have a lot of stuff. (We don’t necessarily care how they got it. It could have been moral. But they have a lot of stuff.) That’s unfair, so we should take it and give it to ourselves or other people. Consider that that is most likely a form of coveting.
We also often struggle when we are sinned against with bitterness and resentment, perhaps towards the other person or perhaps towards God these are things we must watch out for in our lives. Often, as we go through difficulty, we might struggle with a lack of faith. These are all things to watch out for. Is there grace and forgiveness when we repent of our sin? Yes, most assuredly. But that’s not an excuse not to try and look out for the sin and prevent it. Once again, understandable doesn’t mean excusable.
All of these are sinful and unbiblical responses to sin and injustice. I’m firmly convinced that one of the hardest things for the maturing Christian to do is not sin when they’re sinned against. Consider any close relationship you have with a person that just knows how to push your buttons, whether intentionally or not, and consider how you respond when you do that.
Do you respond to sin with sin? That’s our first point. In our suffering, we must guard ourselves against sin.
Justice Will Be Done
The second point is that, as the psalmist comes to say, justice will be done. Guard ourselves against sin and trust and be convinced of the fact that justice will be done. The Bible routinely says that vengeance is the Lord’s. In fact, when Paul is writing to the church at Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians, he’s writing to a church that has been afflicted and suffered persecution. Here’s how he sees fit to encourage them.
“For it is right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” People have afflicted you unjustly, it’s right for God to afflict them back. It’s not right for us to do that and it’s not something we should be gleeful in. But the fact of the matter is that time and time again, the Bible points out that God will be the ultimate judge of sin. People like to say that Jesus doesn’t judge. A god that doesn’t judge sin is not worthy of the name. He’s not holy and he’s certainly not loving. It is not loving to let sin go unpunished.
As Acts 17 says, “God has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness.” We can be convinced of, and should be convinced of, the justice of God, that all sin, all wrongdoing, all evil, all injustice will be punished. But the catch there is that we like to talk about injustice out in the world and sin out in the world, and yet often we fail to realize the fact that we do injustice, that we commit sin, that we, before we were in Christ or maybe now, are actually the wicked person.
The truth of Scripture that confronts us all is that all sin will be punished and all of us are sinners. The ground is level in that way. None of us can claim, “Well, that wasn’t me. I didn’t do that thing.” The fact is that since God is just, we will either pay the punishment for our sin or Jesus will have paid it for us. Everyone who repents of that sin, changes their mind about it, and comes to Christ in trust will find Him to be a perfect Savior, whosoever comes to Him and places their faith in Him will find Him to be a perfect Savior because God is just. If Christ does not pay for your sin, you will.
Our first point, in our suffering we must guard ourselves against sin. We must be convinced of the justice of God.
We Find Strength As We Hope In The Lord
The third point, as the psalmist, we must find strength as we hope in the Lord. We must find strength as we hope in the Lord. He used to say, “When I tried to understand all of this, it seemed hopeless.” Hopeless. He didn’t get it. It didn’t make sense. His worldview had large cracks in it. He didn’t see how God and injustice and God’s love and sovereignty fit together.
But what changed? He came to understand more fully and more deeply who God was and it changed everything. We are rarely given a detailed answer about our circumstances and why they occur, but we are repeatedly pointed back to the fact that we should trust God and His faithfulness and His love and His justice. We are told in Romans 8:28 that, “Everything for the Christian works together for their good,” which looks like their conformity to Christ, not Western success, not the American dream, but conformity to Christ. I want to encourage you just to consider the fact that in today, especially, those things may be much more different than we’ve ever considered.
A question we can all leave with today is, “Can I pray the words of the psalmist? If I can’t pray the words of the psalmist, do I at least desire to be able to pray the words of the psalmist when he say, ‘Who do I have in Heaven but you? And I desire nothing on Earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever?'”
Can we pray, “As for me, God’s presence is my good. I’ve made the Lord God my refuge so I can tell about all He has done?” There’s a helpful test there for us in terms of where our heart is. We know what that ideal looks like. Will we strive towards it? Do we want God to be our portion forever? I think, like I said, for the Christian wealth is more of a test than a blessing. It can accomplish some very good things for the spread of the Gospel, and it can destroy lives. As those in American where the vast majority of us here are so much more wealthy than the majority of the people on the planet, we have to consider what is our heart longing for. Can we pray the words of the psalmist?