160. WHEN SERVING GOD DOESN’T SEEM TO MAKE SENSE
(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 3)
In Psalm 73, Asaph writes: “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency. For ALL THE DAY LONG have I been plagued and chastened EVERY morning…”
I will admit that sometimes I feel this way. It is easy to get tired of doing the right thing and serving God faithfully, when you remain stuck in your problems and the devil keeps on attacking. It is easy to find yourself tempted to give up, to throw in your towel of faith because the more you try to please God and to maintain your integrity in this crooked world, the more the sufferings come, including God’s own hand of chastening upon you, when you stumble, disobey him or fall.
Yet, thankfully, in Asaph’s writings, he does not stop there. After bewailing the sufferings that he has endured when trying to live right and to please God, he remembers that God is a God to be trusted, no matter what he is going through or what he is called to endure. He remembers that God’s hand is strong enough to uphold him during his weary seasons.
- “Nevertheless, I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever…it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.”
What can we learn from this experience?
Asaph was plagued and chastened EVERY morning as he sought to live right, YET he knew that God was with him continually and that God was the one that held him up through the many afflictions he endured, by HIS right hand.
He was plagued and chastened every morning, YET he knew that God was the one guiding him (even when God ordered or allowed trouble in his life), that he would continue to direct his path and give him advice according to HIS wisdom and then, even if no major blessings were to ever materialize and his heart’s desire was to never be granted on earth, that afterward, when life was all over, God would receive him to glory.
Admittedly, he was weak, tired and in physical and emotional pain, so much so that his flesh and heart failed but YET, he knew that God was the strength of his heart and his portion for ever. His inheritance was in God and nothing in this world.
Equipped with this knowledge, he knew and was convinced that despite the arrows and darts that life had thrown at him, it was STILL good to draw near to God and he STILL put his trust in him.
We should do the same, no matter what we face in life. As it states in Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at ALL times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.”
(Written on 18th January, 2017)
Life through an EARTHLY perspective vs a SPIRITUAL lens
It dawned on me this morning as I randomly read this scripture again some four years later, that as Christians, we can sometimes get distracted and lose our focus on Jesus, like Peter did when he looked away and at the storm, while walking to Jesus by faith on the water. When we do this, we see the storm around us, we forget that we are in the presence of God, we drift, begin to sink and fall into feelings of sadness and depression.
When we look at things through an EARTHLY LENS, as Asaph did initially, all seems well in the world of the ungodly. They do wickedly, live unto themselves, do what they want without any accountability to God and yet they seem to prosper. Their careers are soaring, their bank accounts are bulging, they build relationships founded on sin and yet end up with what ‘seems’ to be a happy and contented family.
Yet, when we look at our lives, although we have been trying to serve God, we sit in the same, seemingly sterile place that we have been for years, chastened by God whenever we mess up and plagued sore. Life for us seems like an uphill battle and the ‘good’ things that we desire to have, seem to elude our every grasp.
Like Asaph, when we look at life solely through an earthly lens and we see how easy life seems to be for the ungodly, we may sometimes be tempted to conclude as he did, that “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.”
For, when we look at our life and compare it to that of those who do not know God and live life rebelliously against him, it sometimes looks like they are unaffected and are enjoying the best of life anyway, whereas we are continuously afflicted by trials, temptations and tribulations and remain stuck. Indeed, the ungodly sometimes even cast their noses down at us, as if to say, where is your God that you have so often boasted about? Why are you still in your same predicament? How is it that I am living unto myself and am enjoying life when you claim to be living for God and are suffering so much and for so long?
All of this, as it was with Asaph, can be painful for us to bear.
Yet, when Asaph went into the sanctuary, when he ignored these distractions and went into the presence of God, when he meditated upon his Word and truth, he began to see things differently. He took off his earthly lens which was limited and skewed and put on SPIRITUAL LENS which enabled one to see life crystally clear. He began to see things the way they actually were without any blinders, without any fog. He was enlightened and through wisdom imparted by God, realized that he was tremendously blessed, whereas these people who did not know God were horribly cursed.
For, despite all that they acquired in this life and how wanton they lived without any regard for the true and living God, despite how much he Asaph and the people of God were suffering at the moment, all of this was temporary. There would come a time where there would be a change, where the tables would be flipped!
Whereas he would be received into glory when this life was over, the ungodly would be cast down into hell forevermore. Whereas life’s comforts seemed nice to have in this life therefore, Asaph realized that they were temporary and when compared with matters of eternity, if to procure them, one had to turn their back on God and compromise, then they were a waste of time. They had no significance. In short, it was not worth it to gain the whole world and then a person lose his own soul.
It was as if the ungodly were on a path and enjoying themselves. They were filling their bellies with the best of life’s pleasures and food and dance and strong drink. They were being merry and as they would put it, ‘living life’ but on a slippery place, not knowing that they were doing so at the very end of a path that had a steep precipice. They therefore dance and dance, drunken by the world’s intoxicating influences, until they suddenly and unexpectedly slip and fall down that slope, to their perpetual destruction.
Asaph commented of God, “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrrors.”
Asaph on the other hand, realized that he was no where near that slippery slope at the end of that precipice. He was far on the other side where it was safe. He may not have had the dainties and niceties of the ungodly where he was and they may have well considered his life to be boring but it was not. For, he was in a place of stability and love because he was safe in the arms of God. This God, the only true and living God was continually with him, upholding him with His right hand, guiding him in the right way and into safety with his wise counsel and this God who never breaks a promise, promised to one day receive him to glory.
When Asaph considered his positioning spiritually and thought on the real meaning of life, he remembered that his soul was destined to partake of an internal inheritance in heaven, which is the best gift ever, whereas the soul of the ungodly (he that does not have relationship with God) would suffer eternally in hell, which is the worst punishment ever.
He realized that, despite all of his suffering and deprivation here on earth and how difficult life had been for him thus far, it could not compare to the glory that would be one day revealed and which he would benefit from. He realized that he was blessed beyond measure, as his soul was secure in the Lord.
In the same vein, he realized that the ungodly, though seemingly living ‘their best life’ while here on earth were to be pitied, as the devil had blinded their eyes to think that this was all that there was to life and that there was no judgment and damnation to come. In short, they would all receive a rude awakening one day if they died outside of the safe-house of Jesus Christ and in their sins.
In recounting how foolishly he had thought when he had lost focus and was seeing life only through a limited earthly lens but then thankfully, how, in spending time in the presence of God, he refocused and readopted a proper spiritual perspective, Asaph said in verses 1-24:
- “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
- Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
- When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
- Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
- Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 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 thy works.”
(Addendum written on 3rd June, 2021)