A Song For Tomorrow
It occurred to me the other day just how much God loves music. Think about this â€“ the only art of earth that we take to heaven is music. I don't know what all we are going to do in heaven, but if you sing or play an instrument already I know one of the things you are going to be doing. Even if you don't sing and you don't play, you are going to learn very quickly - perhaps to do both. The Bible makes it very plain there is always music in heaven. Of all the arts and crafts that human kind has learned over the last several thousands of years, the only one we are told specifically in the Bible we will take from earth to heaven is music.
We are continuing a series of messages that I am calling "Soul Music." Soul Music is just that â€“ it is music that speaks to the heart, music that speaks to the soul and music that speaks to the spirit. I've given you "A Song For Yesterday" that deals with your past. I've given you "A Song For Today" that helps you face whatever problems may be in your life right now. Today, I want to give you "A Song For Tomorrow. It is the very first Psalm and the very first song in the Book of Psalms, because you remember the word "psalm" means "song."
This psalm tells us how to approach tomorrow. How to make sure if indeed we do live to see another day, we can ensure that tomorrow can be successful. That word, "success" is one of the most used, misused, and mis-abused words that I know. What the world calls success is not necessarily success. Let me give you two kinds of successes that people have.
1. Success that dies with a person
2. Success that outlives a person
The first psalm was written to show us the way to true success. True success makes you not only emotionally happy; it makes you eternally happy. The first five words say, "How blessed is the man." Another translation puts it this way, "How happy is the man." We know that this psalm is God's blueprint for blessing. It is God's hallway to happiness.
The word "blessed" is actually in the Hebrew language a plural word. It refers to the intensity and the multiplicity of the blessings that await anyone who will do what this psalm tells them to do. In the Old Testament, blessing would be synonymous with what we would call "success" today.
Now in the right way get into your heart and mind that God wants you to be successful. Psalm 35: 27 says
"The Lord ... delights in the prosperity of His servant. (Psalm 35:27, NASB)
The Apostle John even said to some of his friends,
"I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers." (3 John 1:2, NASB)
Every parent has the desire that his children be successful. I am no different from any other parent. Let me share with you one of the greatest fears I have for my three sons. It is not that they will not succeed; my greatest fear is that they will succeed in things that really don't matter.
Anyone knows that real success always means being prepared for tomorrow. You don't focus on tomorrow, because tomorrow may not come. If tomorrow does come, you should be ready to make tomorrow the greatest today of your life. The psalmist tells us exactly how to do that.
I. Stay Away From Bad Company
I love the way the message translates verse one.
"How well God must like you â€“ you don't hang out at Sin Saloon, you don't slink along Dead-End Road, you don't go to Smart-Mouth College." (Psalm 1:1, MSG)
The psalmist describes three groups of people that you could call "the skeptic", "the sinner", and "the scornful".
They are all very different. The first person we call, "the skeptic", the person that hangs out at "Sin Saloon." He is referred to also as "the un-godly." The prefix "un" means "not". If you are unafraid that means you are not afraid. If you are ungodly, it simply means there is no room for God in your life. Very few people are really "anti-godly". They are just ungodly. Most people don't go around talking about how they hate God. As a matter of fact, most people believe in God. The problem is they just don't have any room for God in their life. We love to trumpet the statistics here in America that 96% of all of us believe in God. The only problem with that is at least 80% of us live as if there were no God. We may not have many intellectual atheists, but we are full of practical atheists.
The word "ungodly" literally means "wicked." We often times think of wicked people as people who murder and lie and steal. Wicked people can wear tailor made suits, go to church every week and give money to charity.
Then we move from the sinner to the skeptic. What is the difference? The wicked person is ungodly, but the sinner is unholy. The sinner is someone who not only lives as if there is no god, but knows he lives that way and it doesn't bother him. As you now know, Hollywood not only flaunts fornication and pre-marital sex both in its lifestyle and in it movies; it actually brags about it. The Hollywood mentality is described perfectly in Proverbs 30: 20,
"Equally amazing is how an adulterous woman can satisfy her sexual appetite, shrug her shoulders, and then say, "What's wrong with that?" (Proverbs 30:20, NLT)
Finally, we come to the scornful or the scoffer. This is a person that is unruly. The word refers to "a dog snarl" and it literally means to "make a face at." This is a man who is not only a sinner and wicked, but laughs about it. He mocks God. He mocks sin. He makes fun of the whole concept. Proverbs 14:9 speaks of,
"Fools [who] mock at sin." (Proverbs 14:9, NASB)
If you want to be successful, you've got to stay away from the bad company represented by these kinds of people. First of all, you cannot listen to their counsel. You've got to turn a deaf ear to the counsel of this world. The world is the devil's psychiatrist and you don't need to be lying on her couch.
I had a man come to me one time who was having severe marital difficulties, who was trying to get his marriage back together and as we talked I asked him how I could pray for him and his wife. Do you know what he said? He said, "Would you please pray that she would reject ungodly counsel?" He then told me how she was getting counseled from a woman who had been divorced several times and she was advising her to also get a divorce. You would be better off getting advice on brain surgery from an automobile mechanic than you would to listen to the world's advice.
Think about it. Why would you listen to a world full of sin advise you on how to deal with sin? It is like a man who had a sick mule and he went to his next door neighbor and said, "Sam, my mule is sick. When your mule got sick what did you do for it?" He said, "I gave him a quart of kerosene."
The man went home and gave his mule a quart of kerosene and the mule died. He came back and said, "Sam, didn't you tell me to give my mule a quart of kerosene?" He said, "Yes I did." He said, "I did that and my mule died." The man said, "Don't feel bad, mine did too!"
There are people who are dead today, in prison today, people who are on the junk heap of life today, people who are eaten up with sexual disease today, because they listened to the wrong crowd.
Then we are told not only not to listen to bad company, but we are also told not even to hang around them. Verse 1 says,
[Do not] stand around with sinners. (Psalm 1:1, NLT)
Do you see a progression here? Once you begin to believe bad company, you then begin to behave like bad company. Action always follows advice. What will get into your head will always get down into your heart. What you believe will determine your behavior.
That is why if you feed your mind mental junk food you will live a junk yard life. If you listen to the wrong crowd and you hang around the wrong crowd, then you will start acting like the wrong crowd.
Then you pass into the third phase where you "Join in with scoffers." (Psalm 1:1, NLT)
This is the worst stage of all. This is when you are really fully trapped with the wrong crowd. First you accept their advice. Then you imitate their action and then you adopt their attitude. That is exactly how the wrong crowd gets into a person's life. First they entice you, then they engage you and then they embrace you.
All the psalmist is doing is simply telling us what we already know. The best way to deal with a potential problem is to stay away from it. The best way to deal with alcohol (in my opinion) is simply not to drink it. The best way to deal with drugs is don't take them. The best way to deal with pornography is don't read it. The best way to deal with profanity is don't use it. The old saying really is true, "bad company corrupts good morals", so stay away from bad company.
II. Study God's Word
I know there are a lot of people who think their success is tied to the Wall Street Journal or to Money Magazine or Forbes Magazine or some other publication, but I don't mind telling you that the only type of success that will outlive you is the success you will find in the Word of God. In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that God blesses a person directly and in proportion to their relationship to God's Word.
Here is the person who God blesses with a type of success that outlives them. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord. (Psalm 1:2, NASB)
That word "delight" literally means "pleasure." I really believe when you are close to God and right with God, nothing will give you more pleasure than reading the Word of God. One of the things I pray for every day in my own life and for my family is that we would have a hunger for God's Word.
King David, who wrote many of the Psalms, had a literal love affair with God's Word. Listen to these words, "I delight far more in what you tell me about living [in Your Word] than in gathering a pile of riches." (Psalm 119:14, MSG)
He said again, "Truth from Your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine." (Psalm 119:72, MSG)
"Oh how I love Your law! I think about it all day long." (Psalm 119:97, NLT)
I love this one. "Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking." (Psalm 119: 103, MSG)
Finally, he said, "I pant with open mouth because I long for Your commands." (Psalm 119:131 HCSB)
Let's all be honest. Do we have that same delight? That same desire? That same dedication? That same devotion to the Word of God? I just want to make a statement and move on. I think sometimes we delight too much in the preacher of God's Word, rather than in God's Word that the preacher preaches.
It is not enough just to read the Word of God, we also are told,
"And in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2, NASB)
There is more to the Bible than just reading it or even studying it; we are to meditate on it. That word "meditate" literally means "to speak to yourself."
It has the overtones of "humming". Have you ever listened to a tune and the tune just stuck in your mind and you caught yourself during the day humming that tune? That is the picture that is painted here. We should constantly be humming the tune of God's Word to ourselves; meditating on it day and night. It is like a song you can't get out of your mind.
Let me tell you why so many of us read our Bibles almost in a grinding sort of way, but then we will say to each other when no one is listening, "You know, I read my Bible, but I don't get anything out of it." May I tell you why that is true for a lot of us? You read it and then you forget about it. For some of us, reading our Bible is just another thing we check off of our to do list and we walk away from it and never really think about what we just read.
Let me give you a very easy example â€“ take John 3:16. Have you ever really thought about John 3:16? Took time to work through it? "For God so loved the world." Wait a minute - that means God loves me! It not only means God loves me, but it means God loves everyone else, regardless of who they are. Regardless of whether they believe in Him or not, regardless of whether they accept Him or not. That means I am to love other people just like that.
"That He gave His only begotten Son." Loves gives. If God loved me so much that He gave His Son for me, then if I really love Him, shouldn't I give things like my money and my time and my talents back to Him?
"Whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life." All that is necessary to receive eternal life is to believe in Jesus Christ and commit your life to Him. I believe in Jesus Christ and I've committed my life to Him and God says I have eternal life. If I have eternal life I can know for sure when I die that I am going to heaven. If I can know for sure that when I die I am going to heaven and know that because God loved me so much that He gave His Son for me that ought to fill my life with joy no matter what else is going on. Do you see the awesome power of meditation? That is why success is tied to God's Word and it is not enough just to stay away from bad company; we must study God's Word.
III. Stand For What Is Right
When you do these two things here is what you will be like.
"He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers." (Psalm 1:3, NASB)
Why did the psalmist compare successful people to trees?
Think about it. A healthy tree stands firm. Look at the words again. "He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water." (Psalm 1:3, NASB)
When you are planted by God and He plants you beside the river of His truth, you will be unshakable in what you believe and therefore you will be unwavering in how you behave. Jesus made a statement that really makes sense in this context. He said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted." (Matthew 15:13, NASB)
What does that mean? That means when a person is planted in the truth of God's Word and has chosen to abide by what God says, he will not have to read the latest public opinion poll or put his finger to the wind to know what he believes. When you stand on the Word of God, it doesn't matter what anybody else says or what everybody else believes. Righteous people are not guided by polls, by pundits, or by the public. They are guided by principles based on the Word of God.
If you study history, you will find that the people who have truly moved this world have been men that the world could not move. Where on God's earth would we be today in America, in our racial relations, were it not for Martin Luther King? How could one African-American man move an entire nation in a way that a civil war could not? The reason he could move this nation is because this nation could not move him. That is the mark of a tree; it stands firm.
A tree also bears fruit. Verse 3 goes on to say, "Which yields its fruit in its season. (Psalm 1:3, NASB)
Every life is a fruit bearing tree, but there are only two kinds of fruit bearing trees in this world; trees that bear ripe fruit and trees that bear rotten fruit. That is why we go on to read in verse 4,
"The wicked are not so, but they are like chaff which the wind drives away" (Psalm 1:4, NASB)
That verse is hard to understand unless you understand the agricultural life of Palestine back in Bible days. Threshing floors were located on hills that would catch the best breezes. Grain would be brought, crushed by animals or by the threshing instruments that they had and then it would be pitched where the wind would blow the chaff away. The wheat, which was the heavier grain, would fall back to the threshing floor to be collected. The chaff would be scattered and then it would be burned, because chaff is worthless and waste.
The truly successful person bears fruit that lasts. Jesus said in John 15:16, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit â€“ fruit that will last." (John 15:16, NIV)
Finally, the truly successful person will bear fruit that remains fresh, because this tree has - "A leaf which does not whither." (Psalm 1:3, NASB)
Here is a tree that is always green. Its leaves are always fertile. Its roots are always fruitful. That is the way God wants us to be; fruitful in season and fresh in all seasons.
There is a Christian college in the mid-west where there was once a large lovely tree that was a central part of the landscape. It was one of the places that students would love to come and meet and talk. For decades that giant oak brought beauty to the campus and shade to thousands of students. One day a loud crack echoed across the campus and that tree, under which so many conversations had taken place and so many memories had been built, crashed to the ground.
When they examined it, they noticed that disease had been growing within that massive tree to the point where all that was left was the outer trunk. Inside was nothing more than an empty shell, so when the harsh wind blew that day, the hollow tree fell over.
I just described to you the vast majority of people that live in this world. On the outside they look happy and many of them are happy. They look healthy and many of them are healthy, but spiritually they are as dry as dust and as dead as a graveyard. If there is anyone like that here today, who maybe has everything money can buy, but you don't have the one and most important thing money can not buy which is a relationship to God, a home in heaven and a purpose to live that will outlast you, this song is for you.