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But God is the Strength of my Heart

But God Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  50:24
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(Opening Illustration about the Injustice in Washington, Government Officials, all for political gain and power, driven by money and greed, the guilty go unpunished while the innocent are accused as guilty.)
We're in series, But God... And this morning, we're focusing on Psalm 73.
What we are going to see is that this is a psalm that deals with our raw emotions when life isn't fair and clean and neat as we think it should be. When our hearts and minds believe in a just God and we look around at our world and see anything but fair, we are confused. This is a psalm that deals with the complex matters of life as they really are. Not as it is pretended to be.
The word ''psalm'' means songs or poems. With more than 150 chapters of poetry and praise to God, this book will transform your life. This book is filled with songs meant to be sung and cherished. Each Psalm is intentionally written to engage your emotions.
We discover that a person named ''Asaph'' is the author of these words in Psalm 73. Asaph is the one who is struggling with injustice in His day. If you were to simply flip through the next few chapters in the Psalms, you would notice Asaph's name appears above the titles of Psalm 73-83 as well as Psalm 50. Asaph is a Levite, part of the priesthood of ancient Israel. He was also the musical leader in David's day (1 Chronicles 15-16).
Do you know any of the injustice that Asaph is dealing with? Have you experienced the pain of your mate walking out on you? Or, the betrayal of a business partner? Perhaps you have given the best years of your life to raising your children, only to see them indifferent and ungrateful for all you have done for them? Have you experienced the shock and bewilderment at being cut out of your inheritance? Or perhaps you have worked harder and longer in your job, only to watch others get a promotion? Perhaps your child is twice as good as the children starting the Little League game while your child sits on the bench? Whether it is politics at the ball field, the church, or at the office, life hurts when you get a raw deal. Some have seriously questioned God as they have seen their hard work and sacrifice rewarded with injustice and pain.
Some who are angry with God go so far as to deny His existence. Here's a question to ponder: How can you be mad at someone who doesn't exist? If you do not believe that there is a God at all, then you have no right to mad about injustice. For there is no such thing as justice or injustice without God. All you have is Darwinian evolution where the strong eat the weak.
Still others are confused by their anger and are not sure what to believe about God. Some doubt not because of any evidence they have examined but because of their emotions. Your doubt stems from your anger. You are angry at the way God is running the world.
1. My Belief: God is Good.
Psalm 73:1 NKJV
1 Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart.
This is a proverb in Hebrew culture. It was something that every child would have learned in school. It was something that every person in Hebrew synagogues would have repeated often. Much like our modern day proverbs such as ''practice makes perfect,'' everyone knew verse one. Each person throughout Israel would affirm that God is good.
We even see evidence of this in the New Testament as Jesus said: ''...No one is good except God alone.'' (Luke 18:19) Or, ''Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.'' (James 1:17)
Verse one both creates a crisis of faith for Asaph but it also marks a returning point for him. His faith will be severely doubted in the verses to come. Yet, verse one, the belief in God's goodness, acts like a boomerang. Asaph's faith will return here.
2. My Experience: When Life and Faith Conflict.
In the verse following verse one, Asaph is honest with us. This Psalm represents a crisis of our faith. He shares with everyone his personal dilemma. Here our deepest problem is no longer the boss, the Little League coach, or the spouse that has left us... Our biggest problem is God. And for many of you, the pain of injustice is a personal problem - a problem where the character of God is called into question. Can He be trusted? He has seemingly failed us and we are left with despondency.
Asaph is the author of these words. He speaks of these doubts as he says that his ''feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.'' (Psalm 73:2)
Psalm 73:2 NKJV
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped.
The words ''nearly slipped'' literally mean ''poured out.'' Asaph is saying that he began to question God's goodness and he almost lost his faith.
Lets continue reading...
Psalm 73:2–13 NKJV
2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. 3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men. 6 Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment. 7 Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. 8 They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. 11 And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. 13 Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence.
Asaph uses word pictures that communicate down through the corridors of time to intricately describe the wicked. He describes what they are wearing as they wear pride and arrogance for jewelry in verse six. Instead of a shirt and pants, they wear violence to cover themselves in verse seven. They may believe in a God but God is not examining carefully the details and days of men's lives (see verse eleven). God is a remote deity that has better things to do than to care what the wicked are doing.
Notice carefully how God confronts each of Asaph's doubts.
Doubt #1: I'm Being Punished for Being Good.
''All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.'' (Psalm 73:13)
Asaph not only sees the prosperity of the wicked, but he sees those committed to God openly experience great distress in life. What is the advantage of being a Christian if those who are not Christians get what I want and I don't get anything? I'm being punished for being good. Yet, note the contrast in verses two and twenty three:
''But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.'' (Psalm 73:2)
''Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.'' (Psalm 73:23)
In the beginning his envy almost caused his faith to slip. In the end, it was God's grip on Him that kept him upright.
Doubt #2: I Don't Understand How God Can Reward the Ungodly
''For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.'' Psalm 73:14
Asaph began this Psalm by talking about God's goodness. Yet, when he reflects on this he sees the misery of people all around him. He experiences this on a daily basis. This is spiritual and mental torment for him. His faith is not a source of comfort for him but it is a source of perplexity. It is easy for us to think of faith only as a ''problem solver.'' There are times that our faith in God poses greater problems for us. Yet, in Asaph's near tumble from a firm faith (verse two) is later matched by a conviction that the wicked would slip and fall fatally at God's hands (verse eighteen): ''Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin.'' (Psalm 73:18)
Psalm 73:18 NKJV
18 Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction.
A wordplay reinforces a reversal that would incur. The prosperity of the wicked (verse three) would be turned to ruin: ''For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.'' (Psalm 73:3)
Psalm 73:3 NKJV
3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Psalm 73:19 NKJV
19 Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors.
Lurking around the corner for the wicked is terror.
Doubt #3: I Can't Let Anyone Hear Me Talk Like This
If I had said, ''I will speak thus,'' I would have betrayed the generation of your children. (Psalm 73:15)
Asaph had to reign in his emotions. Notice that even at this low point, Asaph is still a believer in God. One way he shows this is by what he says in verse fifteen: he doesn't want to harm other people's faith. Asaph begins to realize that if he voices his deep concerns, the he will be seen as a traitor to the faith. He looks around at the people who have taught him and nurtured him in his faith. He doesn't want to hurt them nor does he want his friendship with them disrupted. Perhaps he also begins to draw strength from their faith. They have no doubt had doubts like this. They have not given up even though they have experienced deep distress. When the going gets tough, we can draw strength from others.
This is a very good reason to belong to a church. Having doubts like Asaph doesn't mean I am not a Christian. Doubt does not have to lead to denial.
Doubt #4: God is a Mystery
''But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task...'' (Psalm 73:16)
God was clouded in mystery. He was unable to comprehend any order out of life. Yet, everything begins to change in verse seventeen. Whereas, everything until now has been a rollercoaster ride downhill, verse seventeen marks the ride of life is about to go up.
(Psalms 73:16-17)
Psalm 73:16–17 NKJV
16 When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me— 17 Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.
Verse seventeen turns the corner for us. His faith has been vulnerable. Yet, when he is in presence of God, he realizes that God's grasp on him is strong:
Psalm 73:23 NKJV
23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand.
Once he is in God's presence, he realizes how foolish envy has been. He compares himself to a brute beast:
Psalm 73:22 NKJV
22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You.
Our problems with God are often not intellectual problems. Though we often express our unhappiness with God in this way. However, our problem is that God is not treating us the way we think He should treat us.
Look closely as Asaph's problem as it is found in verse three:
Psalm 73:3 NKJV
3 For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
And in verse 12:
Psalm 73:12 NKJV
12 Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches.
We see other people seemingly doing better than we are and we struggle. The wicked often enjoy more of the blessings of this life than those committed to God.
We struggle for a living and they are coasting without any obvious trouble. Our problem is envy. Our envy is criticizing God. This is sin.
The problem for Asaph and the problem for Americans is that we are measuring God's goodness by the wrong ruler. You are using the ruler of luxury and riches and success in order to test God's faithfulness.
Proverbs 23:17 NKJV
17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day;
3. My Desire: Faith Makes a Comeback
Psalm 73:21–28 NKJV
21 Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. 22 I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. 23 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. 24 You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.
His desires were wrong. He desired to get rich, thinking that money would solve his problems (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10).
1 Timothy 6:9–10 NKJV
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
In the first half of the psalm, Asaph went astray because the Lord had not given him the things that he wanted. He wanted enough money to enjoy the good life that he saw the wicked enjoying.
You and I need to realize that when we are mad and angry at God, it's because there is something you want more than God Himself. You are angry because you are single and alone. You are angry because of your health. You are angry because of your bad career.
Imagine your son calling home from college only when he needs money. Or, imagine you are engaged to be married when you discover that you have a huge trust fund coming your way. You and your finance begin to dream about all the places you'll travel and all the things you'll do because of the money you're about to receive. When you and your spouse discover the trust fund has vanished, he calls off the engagement.
In both of these stories, you and I can easily see what is wrong with such an attitude. Watch how Asaph comes back to the right attitude.
Although Asaph has doubted God because of his envy of the wicked. He now comes full circle. His faith boomerangs. And when his faith has fully come around, Asaph points to us the very reason God has created us.
Psalm 73:25–26 NKJV
25 Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. 26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
A diving accident in 1967 left 17-year-old Joni Eareckson a quadriplegic in a wheelchair, unable to use her hands. I quote her when she says: ''60 years of inconvenience has served me to know Christ better and give God glory.''
Godly people arrive at verses 25 and 26 for their life's aim. When you have God, you have it all. When you have everything else and don't have God, you have nothing.
You'll prefer God above anything else in heaven. The main reason heaven is so attractive is because God is there. If Jesus Christ were not in heaven, there is no reason to seek heaven. There is no reason to long to go there. If heaven were empty of God, would you still want it? If you could live on earth in riches and in great luxury forever, yet you would be without the presence of God, would you? Offer a believer whatever you wish, but if he doesn't have God, he is miserable.
To make you happy, God doesn't offer you treasure. He doesn't offer you silver or gold. He offers you Himself.
(Psalm 27:4)
Psalm 27:4 NKJV
4 One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.
Psalm 42:1–2 NKJV
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 63:1–3 NKJV
1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.
Philippians 3:8 NKJV
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
Psalm 73:26 NKJV
26 My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
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