Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. 11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” 12 This is what the wicked are like — always carefree, they increase in wealth. 13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus, “I would have betrayed your children. 16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 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. NIV
So here we are in this Average to Awesome series and I come up here and read a Psalm…not just a Psalm but a really crazy Psalm written by a dude that you may have never heard of before. I’m sure this leads to some questions…and I’m hoping by the end of this talk we will have answered them. Here’s the deal, when it comes to transforming your life from that Average, I’m getting up each day, paying the bills and going to bed life; to that Awesome- life and life to the full, that Jesus told you He came to provide, it is really going to require something of you. This is why we have spent this whole series trying to speak to you on Sunday’s and put out Daily Challenges all week long, because this is more about you engaging God on daily basis than anything else. You must engage, and Ken came up here last week and told you, that when you engage there is a crushing coming. He talked about his own, and maybe you left wondering what got him through those moments. Well a large portion of what gets us through is really where I want to focus this talk today. Today I’d like to really engage the foundation of your life…because in the end, as life squeezes in on you, and it will, the foundation of your life is what is going to come out of you.
You are only transformed by God when you spend time with Him. If you aren’t spending time with Him (entering into a relationship with God) in the good times, it certainly won’t happen in the bad times. You cannot be transformed by God if you aren’t spending time with Him. The reality is that where you are spending your time is shaping the person you are becoming. It’s your foundation and it is formed in where and in what you are doing with your time. 99 days out of 100 you may not care what your foundation is or what it is you would fall back on, until tough times hit. It’s in the tough moments of life when you need that foundation, it’s on that 100th day when the crushing comes that your foundation will come into play. It’s in the moments when you having nothing left when you need strong fundamentals to fall back on…but what is interesting is we typically don’t have a lot of urgency to engage God…until we really need him. I have always said it is amazing how focused people seem to be on God in a hospital.
Why is that? Why is it that we can’t seem to stay focused on God unless we are in a tough spot? I will tell you why, because you have an enemy who is doing his best to keep you from engaging God. He never wants you focused on God, and let’s face it when times are good…the bills are paid, the family is doing well, you got the nice house, the nice car, a good job, it is hard to see our urgent need of God. So we don’t engage our heavenly father, then something bad happens…and God comes rushing back into the forefront of our minds doesn’t he? We come about this pretty easily, because we have an enemy doing whatever he can to keep you from focusing on what you should be focusing on! Remember Paul’s warning from the last time I spoke?
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. NIV
Let’s face it; that is pretty hard to do in this world, especially when things are going well.
Many, many people want to live the “Awesome” life we keep speaking about but they don’t want to engage God in a real way. Especially when life is going as planned, but what happens when it’s not going as planned? What happens when a crisis hits? Forget a single moment of crisis, what happens when life happens? When you get busy, when you get that promotion, when the kids are getting older and start needing to be more places than you can get them to? What happens when you engage everything, and have time for nothing? What happens to you then? When there is no time to think, and you are out of energy, out of life, and ready to just give up altogether? That is when you will fall back to whatever to your foundation.
Last week Ken came up here and talked about this idea that you will be crushed as you engage the God mission. I know it was so encouraging to think that we will walk through a crushing as we engage God, and somehow that is right where we are supposed to be. But you know what he nailed it, and it’s through these tough times that we become the people that God wants us to be. But and it’s a pretty big but, it’s in the middle of the crushing that the foundational parts of your life will come out. I think this is where this crazy Asaph Psalm can really help us.
The first thing we need to do is figure out who in the world is this Asaph dude is because as you read through what he is writing he is pretty open and honest and let’s face it…he seems really messed up doesn’t he? We need to see who he is and what he did, to totally understand what he was going through in Psalm 73. The second thing I kept thinking of was, how did he make it through this difficult time of his life? He made it through life because of his foundation, because of his daily behavior, so when the crushing came, he ended up better for it.
So first things first, who in the world is this Asaph guy? Well you know what, he does show up somewhere else in the Bible! In Chronicles we learn what he did, and this is really important…
1 Chronicles 15:16-17
16 David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.17 So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his brothers, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their brothers the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; NIV
So Asaph was a worshiper. He was appointed by King David to worship…to be in God’s presence and help others enter God’s presence. This is where he spent his time, and this is the foundation in his life…God worship. That is really important for us to remember as we move forward through this talk. Asaph spent time with God daily. That really is the foundation of his life. If there is one thing I want to get to the bottom of today it is this. You want your life to go from Average to Awesome, you must engage God daily. Think this through, what is your foundation? What do you practice on a daily basis? Because that is what you will fall back on when life gets tough? Because we all know that life does get tough…even for a person who has Jesus in their life! Wait, what…I thought if I asked Jesus into my life everything gets easier!?!?!? No, Jesus never promised you an easy life and while that could lead into a whole other sermon for a whole other day, I will just say this. Don’t slide into that trap that life is easier for Christians…read your bible! It never says that, what is promised is a life with God in it! What is promised is that life to the full that Jesus told you that he came to provide!
Life will come at you fast and it will come at you hard. It is in those moments that you will fall back on something…so what is it? What daily practices do you have? Where do you spend your time? This is very important because when the crushing comes, that is what you fall back on!
Let’s get back into the Asaph’s Psalm…so here is a man who worships God for a living. He spends his time in the presence of the Lord, every day and the breakdown of all breakdowns hits in his life. This is such a raw, heart felt thing to share and to learn from.
Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. 5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.11 They say, “How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?” 12 This is what the wicked are like — always carefree, they increase in wealth.
Tell me this has never happened to you? Life hits hard and you look around and everyone around you seems to live care free. Everyone around you seems to get ahead. Mostly because they are cheating, and there you are, trying to do the right thing every day and the wicked of the world get everything, while you get nothing. What has happened here? This man of God who spent days, and weeks and years in the presence of God now wishing he was like the rest of the world. Wow!?!?!?
Look at what happened to Asaph, he tells you that he lost his focus. He allowed his eyes to drop from God to people. That is easy to do isn’t it? Remember Paul’s warning? Keep your focus on things you can’t see, not the temporary things you can see?
His pursuit of God kept him pure from all the nonsense of people and life but somewhere along the way his eyes dropped from God and onto the people around him. That will always get you into trouble. I think it’s important to point out that this is a good, God-filled man who is now at a point of complete exhaustion, ready to quit everything. This is what life does…it squeezes you. This is what happens in a world full of imperfect people, they take from you. They will hurt you. They will let you down. Life will absolutely press in on you, as Ken told you last week there is a crushing coming and through all of that God is teaching, training, and stretching. Remember just because you have asked Jesus into your heart does not mean that life will just ease up on you! The bible does not promise you an easy life. The key is your daily walk with Him. The key is your foundation. Because when life hits you, when you feel like giving up…you will fall back on what you are practicing every day.
I love verse 12 because I can see myself doing this at times…look at all the cheaters of the world, they have so much, and I have nothing. It is easy to do that isn’t it? How about in the work place. You see a lot of moral behavior and character at work? Doesn’t always seem like there is a lot of honest, character filled moments is there? Yet those people seemed to get rewarded for it. It can be frustrating and it is exhausting to feel like you are doing things right and the cheaters of the world seem to get ahead. You see, that is where our boy Asaph is, and it’s not a good place to be sitting in a good place at all.
What got him in trouble was that his focus shifted from God to people. Remember Paul’s warning? Funny how easily that can happen. It’s almost like you have an enemy, who wants your focus on anything but God. It is a deliberate attack to get you off the rails and it’s easy to fall into because we live in such a world of clutter, full of distractions. Your enemy wants you focused on anything but God. God focus brings peace. People focus brings total chaos, because people are imperfect and will take from you. Your job, your friends, your material possessions, your hobbies will let you down. God focus brings joy, peace, life, and all that comes with it. When your focus is on God, the world’s troubles just aren’t as magnified. Let’s read on…
Psalm 73:13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. 14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
This guy is not in a good place is he…and he is screaming to God. Why have I tried to walk this path when in the end they all get ahead of me!?!?!? Ever felt this way? Then it happens…the foundation of his life comes starts to come out. When the going gets tough, you fall back on your practice time…
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! 20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies. 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
It is amazing to me, that when you spend a period of time stuck in this type of season like Asaph was, this is where you end up. You spirit takes a hit. You see no positives in people and life…in many ways you automatically see and assume the negative. You will begin to lose faith in people all together…and if you aren’t careful, you will end up all alone and secluded. (Right where your enemy wants you by the way!) When you are tired, frustrated, and holding no margin in your life it is amazing how the little things become enormous things. How a hurt person can be hurt more, and how senseless we can become. Asaph now engaging God again can see that in his life…I was senseless and ignorant…a brute beast before you. It is all coming clear again.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. 28 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.
How powerful is this? Asaph has come full circle. Yes he walked through a difficult time but he was never really alone was he? He was walking in a relationship with God all along. Life had come hard at this man…and he fell back on his foundation…which was his relationship with God. There were daily practices that he was placing in his life that got him through the crushing. He saw a time where he desired the things of the world. He wanted to get into the rat race of life. He wanted what all people around him seemed to be getting…but in the end realized that the only thing that matters is God…
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
He realized something that we all need to see…in the end our flesh and our hearts will fail…but God never will. God is the rock, God is the foundation…God is the source of all strength, peace, energy. He got himself into trouble by allowing his focus to shift…now we don’t know why exactly. Maybe his kid made the premier soccer team and he had to run him around. Maybe work was getting harder and harder. Maybe he was overly stressed because of problems at home…we don’t know what caused the tough times, but we know this. He was serving God, helping people enter into worship, which in reality makes him a target of the enemy. Ken told us last week, you will experience a crushing as you engage the Jesus mission. Asaph was crushed and he came full circle. He came all the way back to God. He did this because long before he “needed” to fall back on God he was spending time with Him daily. This is the foundation of his life…and it needs to be ours.
I’d like you to take a real look at your life right now. What is your foundation? What are you doing daily to prepare for the tough times? What are you doing daily to engage a loving Father in heaven who wants to engage you? What is it that you will fall back on when tough moments hit your life? I am convinced of one thing…if your foundation isn’t God who is perfection, at some point the building will come crashing down. Perfection isn’t your family. It isn’t your money. It isn’t your home. It isn’t your job. It isn’t your friendships. It isn’t your spouse. Perfection is only found in God. What is it that you will fall back on when life happens? If it isn’t God in the good times…it won’t be God in the bad times, and we know this life isn’t all lollipops and gum drops is it? Life will happen. Do you see where your foundation is being built? If it isn’t God it’s time to make some changes…I know, I know, you go to church on Sunday…but a person transformed by God is in an active relationship with God, spending time with Him each day…pursuing God.
The reality is we want you to have that Awesome life that Jesus told you He came to give you…but that just will not drop into your lap. You must change your daily behaviors and engage Him on a daily basis, so when the crushing comes, you have your foundation to fall back on!
So please take a moment today and think about where you are in life. How are you practicing? What is your foundation! The last big decision is to engage and please hear me now, the most important thing you will ever do is engage God daily. Ok, so you today there is no urgency, I get it…the reality is that life is coming, and when life hits you need to have something to fall back on. Asaph spent time engaging God every day, and when the crushing came He had a foundation of God worship to fall back on, what will it be for you?