Thursday, October 27, 2016

Psalm 37 – The Inequities of the Christian Life

Psalm 37 – The Inequities of the Christian Life
Have you ever felt like life isn’t fair?  Like, it always seems that the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer?  

Many times we will see things that just don’t add up – I mean - IF we are the blessed children of God and IF God hides His face from the wicked – then WHY does it seem that they have such an easy go of it and WE so often struggle???
David talks about this in Psalm 37.  I’ve selected a few verses from it for your consideration:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord
shall inherit the land.
Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
   and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
   you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
   spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
But he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
   though I sought him, he could not be found.
Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
   for there is a future for the man of peace.
But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
   the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
   he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
   he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
   because they take refuge in him.

I have had to do many funerals in my time of ministry… from the very young to the very old.  Some died tragically – for others death came as a relief.
Out of the 250 funerals I’ve conducted, I’ve had two, that, to this day, stand out in my mind as more difficult than the others.  Oddly enough, they were both 38 years old.  One was a young woman, Judy, who became a friend of our family after I led her and her husband to the Lord.  
The OTHER was a young man in our church named Ralph… but all of his friends called him “Moe.”
Judy wasn’t able to have children, so as an outlet for her maternal longings she would often do things for our kids as if they were her own. She would take them on girly shopping trips and make them feel special.
She and her husband were blessed with the opportunity to adopt.  They adopted two children taken by the state from their mentally handicapped mother unable to properly care for them.  For Judy, adopting those two kids was an answer to prayer. She was soooo happy.
The evening before her first Mother’s Day, after the kids went to bed, she sat on the coach folding the baby’s laundry while her husband, Art, half-watched TV and half-slept in his chair.  Later that night when Art got up to go to bed for the night, he found Judy slumped over the baby’s laundry – dead.

How could this 38 year old, seemingly healthy woman, die without warning on the eve of her first Mother’s Day?  The autopsy showed that she had contracted chicken pox from her baby, and the virus attacked her heart and killed her without warning.  

The very thing she wanted more than ANYTHING – a child - wound up killing her.
That was one tough funeral, folks.  As I, through tears, had to help her newly saved husband understand something I didn’t even understand.
For Moe, it was different.  He was a physical-fitness nut – muscle bound, the picture of health.  He exercised every day. He ate right.  He would eat a bowl of carrots like I would eat a bowl of potato chips.  He raised his kids to love the Lord.  He was as good a young man as you would ever meet.  A hard worker, a helpful neighbor and friend.
When Moe got sick – doctors found he had cancer.  And within a couple of weeks, he was gone.
Hundreds of people came to his funeral.  After the service and standing beside his grave, an older man came up to me and said,
“Here you have a young man who lived right and raised his family right – known by all as above reproach and something like THIS happens to him WHILE there are young men who aren’t worth their salt, living in open sin, who are the picture of health.  It isn’t fair.”
And you know what?  He’s right.  It isn’t fair.  LIFE isn’t fair.
All of us have gone through situations and wondered, “Where is God in this?”  
  • The death of a child,
  • the loss of a job,
  • the repossession of a house,
  • an unforeseen divorce.  
Blind-sided by some tragedy - our pain moves us to ask questions we wouldn’t normally ask:
  • “WHY??”  
  • “Lord, where are you??”  
  • “I thought serving the Lord meant I would be SPARED from life’s injustices!?!?”
Ever felt that way?  I know you have. I have.

It’s helpful for us to turn to God’s Word when we are confronted by the harsh reality of living in a broken, messed up world.
David wrote two Psalms that deal with this topic – Psalm 73… written from the perspective of a young man in the middle of suffering injustice.  

And our Psalm this morning, Psalm 37, written from the perspective of an older man who has had time to think about things
  • who has seen what happens AFTER the storm passes…
  • who has witnessed the wheels of justice CATCHING UP to those who have forgotten God.
Like you, David had experienced terrible injustices too.  
  • Two different times, he, a God-called, Spirit-anointed KING, had to run in fear for his life.  
  • His best friend and closest advisor betrayed him.  
  • His own son wanted to murder him.  
  • The KING was forced to beg for food and hide in caves.  
  • Longing to return to the house of God even more than the comforts of his own palace… all the while, his two enemies, men who had NO fear of God, slept in the king’s bed, ate his food, and plundered his wealth.
  • He lost a child.
  • His daughter was raped.  
  • His son overthrew him and wanted him dead.

YES - He had seen a lot of trouble in his life.  

So much in fact, that he began to wonder WHY God was allowing all this to happen.  This ‘leader-of-worship’ – this man who DANCED before the Lord – and wrote songs that move us to tears - began to question whether or not it PAYS to live for God.
So, in THIS psalm, he speaks to us as a wise, compassionate friend, who knows what it is to struggle, puts his arm around our shoulder and says, “Don’t FRET over evildoers – don’t you envy those who do wrong!”  

He THEN offers three bits of wisdom that will help us navigate the injustices of this life.  When you go through inexplicable difficulty, remind yourself of these 3 truths…
1.  First, remember that God always keeps His Word.  Always.  All those promises he has made to those who LOVE Him… he’s gonna keep them.

Repeatedly in this psalm, David reminds us that our God is trustworthy … that he KEEPS his promises.  Whether it be the promise that evil-doers will eventually face judgment  OR that believers will experience His support and help – God always keeps His Word.
When injustice prevails – Satan will invade your thoughts… or will instigate the bad counsel of a friend that will add to your discouragement.  Satan will convince  you that
  • God isn’t good…
  • or worse, that there is NO GOD at all.  
  • He will convince you that life has no purpose – and that there is nothing good that could possibly come from this.  

When those attacks come – your only recourse is to go to the Word of God.  When you feel alone and discouraged – go to the Word.  Study it.  Commit it to memory.  Rehearse it again and again.  The Holy Spirit will help you recall those truths and it will comfort you.  It will change your perspective.  

Turn off the TV – put down the smart-phone.  Get into the word of God.
  • It will give you peace in the middle of the storm
  • It will convince you of the faithfulness of God
  • Your despondency will give way to dependency.
It is NOT in God’s nature to be uncaring or aloof.  He is passionate about you.  And His word will remind you of that when your thoughts turn dark.
So - When you find yourself going through hardship, and you wonder if you have been abandoned, remind yourself – God always keeps His Word.
2.  Secondly, Trials for the Christian are temporary and we shouldn’t base our view of life on them anymore than the lost man should think his temporary fortunes insulate him from future calamity.

Let that sink in.
What we have in the Lord cannot be taken away through circumstance.  
  • We have joy and peace based upon a personal relationship with God.
  • We have heaven to look forward to.  
  • We have a Father who has promised to provide for us.  
The lost man has only destruction on his horizon – rather than envy him, we should pity him.
If you are anything like me – you paint in broad strokes.  When things are going your way, you see nothing bad.  But when bad things happen, I tend to see ALL OF LIFE as bad.  I can’t see the blessings.  I get discouraged and see everything through the prism of negativity.

But my own experience proves – even when TIMES are bad, God is good.  
  • He has never failed to provide exactly what I need.  
  • He has never abandoned me to my own devices.  
  • His grace has been sufficient every time and in every way  –
  • and His strength will help me THIS TIME TOO.
Trials are temporary.  Sooner or later this thing is going to end.  And when it does, have I conducted myself in a way that I will be closer to the Lord?  Or will I be ashamed at my fleshly reactions?  Will I be a good example to those who are weak?  OR will the lost man come away thinking that my God has failed me?

I know it’s a lot of pressure to put on you, but those who are lost really DO formulate their ideas about God by watching Christians.

But not only does this psalm remind me that
  1. God always keep His word … and
  2. trials are temporary…
3. THIRD, We need to cultivate a thankful and trusting spirit regardless the situations of our lives.  

  • When times are GOOD ⇒  praise Him.  

  • When times are BAD  ⇒ praise Him.  

The Lord is good even when times are bad – and certainly, if we have practiced thanking Him in the good times – it won’t be so difficult when bad times come.
One of the most beautiful traits of a spirit-filled Christian is thankfulness.  When we aren’t ‘prima donnas’ who have to have everything our way to be happy and committed.  Rather than spoiled and pouting, we are to be humble and gracious – even when life throws us a curveball.
That ‘thankfulness’ is attractive.  It’s one of the reasons FALL is my favorite time of the year.  With Thanksgiving only a few weeks away – we get to celebrate the goodness of God as a NATION.  People ALL OVER will be gathering with family - expressing thanks - food - football!  

Expressing thanks. Food. Football. 😊

But I shouldn’t wait until a national holiday rolls around to express my appreciation to God for His many blessings.  It should be instinctive – natural – for me to have a song of praise on my lips for all that God has done for me.

I shouldn’t have to be prodded to praise.
I love it when my children are thankful.  I love it when they show their love to me.  It blesses me.  It helps me feel valued… like my sacrifices and efforts MEANT SOMETHING to them.  

Now there's NO WAY they can fully appreciate or understand the depths of sacrifice - all the prayers - all the tears… all the things we've done until they have their OWN children.  But STILL, I love it when they are thankful.
And while I KNOW that God is NOT a man – I can’t help but feel that He loves thankfulness in HIS CHILDREN TOO.  In fact, Psalm 22:3 tells us that God is “enthroned on the praises of” His people.

I don’t know much, but I will tell you honestly, the Christian life has many blessings – but it can be hard too.  Life isn’t fair.  Sometimes you will feel like the injustices you face are the direct result of living for God.  But I want you to remember :
  1. God always keeps His word
  2. Trials are temporary and should not be allowed to define you OR God. This WILL pass.
  3. And we should be thankful in ALL seasons – because even when times are bad – God is good.

Are you struggling with discouragement today?  Why not bring that discouragement to the Lord?  Empty your heart out before Him.  You never know, that meeting MIGHT just be the beginning of change.