“Give It A Try”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Do you ever find yourself wishing you were like someone else? Sometimes I do. I see the prosperity, and the good life, and the special blessings others seem to enjoy and I wonder why those things have not come my way. I suppose that is only natural. We look at the life of certain people and wonder if what they are doing and the way they are living is really the better way to go. Now certainly I'm not complaining, because God is very good to me and I am richly blessed. And yet every day, as we focus on loving the Lord and being obedient to Him, we look at how others are living and we wonder if we are missing out on something else. In our lesson today on “Key to the Kingdom” we will discover, those were the thoughts of one who wrote part of the Bible. He looked at the life of others and wondered if it was time for him to switch sides. He loved the Lord and spent time worshiping Him but the lifestyle of those who did not do that appeared quite attractive. In the next few minutes we will find out what he did and how it turned out. I hope you will stay tuned and listen to his story, and while you do think about making it your own.
Perhaps the one question that has been around longer than any other is this. Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? Oh, for many years we have looked for answers to that question and have come up with pretty much nothing. It seems, as we look at the world, we desperately want to know why things work the way they do, and sometimes the way we don't think they should work. Now obviously there are cases where the righteous do not suffer and the wicked do not prosper, but when they do we want to know why. A man named Asaph asked that question in a poem that is found in the Old Testament book of The Psalms, Psalm number 73. He was looking for some kind of focal point that would bring significance and meaning to his life. It's only natural for us to do that, even still today. We seek meaning and significance for our life. We want to have a basis from which to work. Sometimes we put our trust and reliance in our military powers, or perhaps our financial security, or maybe even in our own personal righteousness. And yet, no matter who or what we put our trust in we will always come up short unless we find our significance in God centered living. And that is exactly what Asaph found, in Psalm number 73, and there he tells the story of what happened to him. Oh, Asaph’s faith was shaken as he went through very trying experience in life. He looked at the people around him, living in all kinds of wealth and prosperity, and he realized that many of these people were wicked and they were taking advantage of those who were less fortunate and did not have as many opportunities. And he wondered if he had been wasting his time walking with God. He was doing what was good and right and yet he was not as prosperous as some of these other people. But he experienced something one day as he went into the temple, or the sanctuary, to worship God; and that changed his life. It changed his perspective on things and now he wants to share his story with other people, and that is the story that we look at in our lesson today. What happens in these 28 verses of Psalm 73 demonstrates that even though we may have some doubts in life that God is patient with us. He can help us through those doubts, and through them our faith can be strengthened. In the first 14 verses of Psalm 73, Asaph reflects on his own problem and he contrasts his problems with the prosperity, and the success, and all of the good things of the wicked around him. And then, in the second 14 verses, he tells us how he gains a new perspective on life after spending time worshiping with God. And so, his story naturally falls into 2 parts; in verses 1 through 14 he questions the way things are, and then in verses 15 through 28 he realizes that God centered living is most important. And so with that in mind, let's begin looking at his story as we read the first 14 verses of Psalm 73. Asaph writes – Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like- always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. – At one time, Asaph's feet almost slipped away from God, and in the midst of his many troubles he set his sights on the wealth and the prosperity of the people living around him. And he thought for a moment; I'm missing out. Maybe it's time I jump ship, and go over to the other side, and see what it's like to live like them. They experience all of the prosperity and wealth and I'm overlooked. And this observation almost caused Asaph to lose his faith in God. He even admits, in verse 2, his feet almost slipped. Oh, he had worked hard to keep his heart pure and clean. He symbolically washed his hands to declare his innocence in the sight of God. And all of these things seem to be in vain when he experienced a great illness. Oh, he questioned whether-or-not walking with God was really all that important and he was playing by the rules, but it really wasn't getting him anywhere, or at least that's what he thought. He looks at the wicked living around him, and here's his description. Did you notice it as we read? They have good health, verse 4. They are free from trouble, verse 5. They grow richer and richer, verses 7 and 12. They boast about their successes, verses 8 and 9. They enjoy the respect of others, verses 10 and 11. And, their wealth is gained by oppressing the poor and the unfortunate. Asaph looks at all of that and he concludes, they have it made. They've got life figured out. They have nothing to worry about and they don't have a care in the world. In fact, others are afraid of them and so they want to join their side. They want to take part in all of the prosperity and the good they seem to be missing out on, as they believed God won't notice. Yes, these people believe that God won’t intervene in the way they are living. That He is out to lunch, He is oblivious to what's going on in His world and He doesn't see it. And as a result, these people are getting away with just about anything. Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt as if God is out to lunch and He is oblivious to what's going on in the world? That people live any way they want to live, they get away with anything and God really doesn't care, it doesn't matter to Him, and yes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, but that seems to be overlooked by God. And that's the way Asaph was feeling, here in Psalm 73. And so the success of the wicked makes Asaph envious. He's a little bit jealous. He wants to be where they are and he's tempted to become arrogant, and prideful, and join the other side, and do whatever it takes to receive that wealth, and that prosperity, and the praise of other people. We might say, Asaph wants to be like them. And again, I wonder sometimes if we don't feel a little bit like Asaph. We look at all of the people around us living without any regard or respect for God. They pursue success, and wealth, and prosperity, as they hurt and run over other people. And we wonder if that's the better way to go. We wonder if that's the way that we need to be living our life. Everywhere we look there is wealth and prosperity, except in our house. Wicked and prideful people are getting further ahead in life and they seem to be leaving us in the dust. But then on the other hand, what do we do? Well, we worship God. We do what is right. We keep our heart pure and we symbolically wash our hands. But yet, none of it seems to accomplish anything. I suppose there's a little bit of envy in all of us. We sometimes want what other people have and enjoy. We want that for ourselves. We think about jumping ship and join the other side, just like Asaph did. We question all of the effort and the love that we have put forth for the Lord over the years. And we ask our self the question, what's the use? Oh, I don't know about you but I've been there before. I have had those feelings. I have wondered if I was doing right by walking with God. I see the success, and the wealth, and the prosperity of other people around me and I wonder if that isn't the better way to go. And like Asaph, my feet almost slipped out from under me. I almost jumped ship and went over to the other side. I struggled with that. And perhaps you are struggling with that even now. You're wondering which side do you land on. What are you going to do? That might be a hard decision for all of us to make. In fact, that might be where we are. And that's a scary place; as we think about putting ourselves in the shoes of Asaph. And that's where Asaph was, in verses 1 through 14, but now, in verses 15 through 28, he tells us how he gained a new perspective. He gained some new insights into how things really operate in this world, when he went to the temple to worship. And this is part number 2 of Asaph's story, the second part of Psalm 73, and I want us to pick up with the reading of verse 15 and go to the end, verse 28. He writes – If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed Your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely You place them on slippery ground; You cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when You arise, Lord, You will despise them as fantasies. When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You. Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from You will perish; You will destroy all who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all Your deeds. – In the midst of his struggle, Asaph keeps his thoughts to himself. He doesn't want to share these thoughts with other people in fear of it damaging their faith, but he struggles with these thoughts. He considers his situation and it's almost too much for him to handle. He simply cannot figure it out. But, it becomes clear one day when he goes to the temple to worship. Yes, up until this time his attention has been upon himself and his bad situation, his health problems, and the way the wicked are living in the world around him. But in verse 17 he begins to realize the final outcome of those who are wicked. He sees the picture much clearer now. It dawns on him that sometimes things are not really as they appear to be, and the truth is the wicked are really in a very bad situation. Yes, the wicked are the ones walking on slippery ground and they are about to crash. Their future is uncertain and they might be destroyed at any moment. And what they consider to be their good fortune will only seem like a dream, as very quickly it will come crashing down and end in a nightmare. Have you ever had a nightmare? In the middle of the night you have a dream. And it seems to be going quite well, but somewhere in that dream it begins to turn and before you know it, it is a scary ending and you wake up screaming, or in a cold sweat; and you realize that was a nightmare and you don't want to go back to that dream again. And that's what Asaph begins to realize. These people might be living a dream for the moment, but in due time it will all come crashing down and become nothing more than a nightmare. Now, having realized this, and reflecting on his own secret desire to go over to the side of the wicked, what does Asaph do? He repents. He makes a confession. He says, I was totally ignorant and stupid, or I was senseless and ignorant. Well, Asaph’s season of doubt caused him to question his faith in God. But yet in the end, it caused him to come out with a much deeper faith in God. It made him realize that even when he tried to turn away from God and go to the other side, God wouldn't let him. God was always there holding onto his right hand. And even though he almost fell to the level of a dumb ox, or a brute beast somewhere out here in the field, God would not let him go. And God overcame Asaph's foolishness, and bitterness, and arrogance. He guided him through these perilous times in his faith and He brought him to a better conclusion. And then did you notice what Asaph does, in verse 25? He cries out, “You are all I want in heaven and on the earth, nothing else matters.” Yes, Asaph realizes nothing is more precious than a daily communion and walk with God. In another version of a different Bible, I have circled verse 25 and out beside it and the words ‘this is it’. And perhaps, this is it. Let me read this verse again, verse 25 – Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. – God is all Asaph desires in heaven and upon the earth. And indeed, that is true for us, today. If God is all I have then God is enough, and we are to be content with that. When Asaph comes to that realization, and out of his own personal relationship with God, now he is anxious to tell others what he has learned, and about God's wonderful deeds, in verse 28. I wonder if it's time that we give that kind of lifestyle a try, ourselves. Take a moment to watch this short video clip. I hope you'll stay tuned and listen to the final message.
2 to 3 times every week people walk up this sidewalk, after parking their cars in the parking lot, and they come in this church building. And they gather for one primary reason; that is to worship God. And the people who come into this building come from a variety of different backgrounds; some are rich, some are poor, some are older, some are younger, some of different ethnic backgrounds. Different experiences all bring them to this church building. Some come on a regular basis, 2 or 3 times a week, while others, maybe 3 or 4 times per year; but they all come to worship God. Some of them have wonderful backgrounds and experiences, and they come with hearts full of praise and thanksgiving for what God is doing in their lives, and how He has blessed them, and taken care of them, and answered the prayers of the past. But yet, there are others who come with hearts full of sorrow and sadness, because of some difficult situations which they are trying to deal with and overcome. Some even come with lots of questions, wondering who God is and why things are the way they are in this world; and they wanted to have some kind of explanation as to what's going on in the world around them. But yet, they come. They come to encounter God, to experience that worship experience. I don't know about you, maybe it's been a while since you've been to a church building to worship God, and I understand that. Maybe it's a little bit intimidating. Maybe you feel they will ask too many questions. Perhaps that's true. Or, maybe you had some bad experiences in the past, and I understand that. But maybe it's time for you to come back, to try it again, to come with an open heart. To come with a Bible in hand seeking to meet God. To have some questions answered and to worship God. To recognize that He is the God of this world. To remind yourself of who He is and what He has done in the past, and what He can do for you. And, as you come down the sidewalk, and enter into a church building, there's one thing I want you to remember. God is ready to meet you; no matter what your past experience might have been. No matter where you are in life, what situation you're struggling with today, know that God is ready to hear from you. He's ready to meet you, and to love you, and to pour out His blessings upon you. But, the thing is for you to come. Come back to the Lord and receive His blessings once again.
Maybe some of us, at one time or
another, have felt like Asaph of verses 1 through 14, or perhaps we still feel
that way right now. And yet, the goal is to feel like the Asaph of verses 15
through 28, to get to where he finally arrived. And the question that presents
itself, how do we do that? How do we move from point A to point B? How can we
see the foolishness of pursuing our own selfish interests? How can we overcome
having the attitude, and the desire, and the envy to be like the wealthy and
prosperous in the world around us? Well, in order to do that it takes one who is
growing in his or her faith in God. It takes one who sees the folly of not
pursuing God in his or her daily life. It takes one who sees beyond the
temporary and the short lives that we live upon this Earth. And we begin to look
at life from a different perspective, understanding that sometimes answers don't
come to our difficult questions. Yes, the Asaph of verses 15 through 28
resembles a mature disciple who is growing in his or her relationship with Jesus
Christ and obedience to Almighty God. And some of us have been where Asaph was,
there is no doubt. We, perhaps, are still there; questioning and wondering why
the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. We wonder if it wouldn't be better
if we jumped ship, and went over to the other side, and began to live like them.
But, hopefully we get to the point of the Asaph in part 2, verses 15 through 28,
as we see life from a different perspective and we realize the most important
thing is to walk with God. And isn't that our goal? To realize that pursuing the
wealth and the prosperity of this world, while taking advantage of other people,
really doesn't bring true life. In fact, it is no life at all. To boast about
our successes and prosperities while taking advantage of others really
accomplishes nothing. Rather, I believe true life can be found in, perhaps, the
summary statement of Psalm 73 going back to verse 1. Asaph begins by saying,
“Truly God is good to those who are pure in heart.” And that is the challenge
for us today. To be pure in heart. To wash our hands symbolically and to present
ourselves clean and holy in the sight of God. To not put our trust in the
successes, and the prosperity, and the wealth this world might have to offer. To
not be envious of others who do that, but rather to find our satisfaction in God
alone and to realize that He is all we need, in heaven and upon the earth. When
we realize that, the slippery slope of greed and envy will not take us away from
our every day walk with God. I encourage each one of us, today, to give that
lifestyle a try; give it a try. Try walking with God and do not be consumed by
the way the world around you is living.
Thank you for joining us for another message from God's word. I do hope it blessed your life and encouraged you to think about walking close to God. While you are on our website, keytothekingdom.com, you may want to take advantage of some free offers including a free Bible study, daily devotional thoughts, and short inspirational messages. We would also like to hear from you by way of an e-mail. Recently we were able to add “Key to the Kingdom” to all Android and Apple iPhones. I hope you have taken a minute to download this free app onto your phone. If not, why not do that? Once again, thank you for being with us for today's message and I hope you will join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”