A psalm of Asaph.
1 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 common human burdens;
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;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with 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 would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
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 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, 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.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Have you ever doubted God? What was that like for you?
- Often, doubt creeps in when circumstances make the goodness of God seem unrealistic. What are some of the harder things in life that you’ve been through that make the goodness of God seem unreal?
- Asaph has a turning point when he goes to the temple. The NT calls the people of God the temple. What role do you think the church can have in helping people become aware of God’s goodness?
- By the end of the Psalm, Asaph is expressing a very bold faith in God. How does Asaph describe his relationship with God? How important is God to Asaph?
- If God is meant to be our main love (ambition, goal, treasure), how can we grow in our love for God?
- How does this passage help us understand Jesus better?
A Crisis of Faith
*This transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.
If you would like to grab a Bible, we have Bibles in the chair racks in front of you. If you’d like to grab a Bible today to follow along, we’re going to be in Psalm 73, and that’s on page 500 in the Bibles that we have here. 500. We’ll also put the verses up on the screen so you can track that way it we’re going to be in Psalm 73. I’m going to read the passage in its entirety and then we’ll pray and we’ll get to work.
This is Psalm 73. Starting in verse one reads like this: 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’re 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 punishment. 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 placed 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 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.
Let’s pray. Lord, we ask right now that by Your spirit, through Your word, you would speak. We’re praying, Lord, that you would help each and every one of us go through that experience of wrestling in faith. We pray for those who are presently in a crisis of faith, and they’re wondering if they should serve and follow you. And we pray, Lord, that you would give them confidence of faith. We pray that everyone in here would come to a place of complete trust and belief in you and in what you’ve done, in the sending of your son, in whose name we pray. Amen. Amen.
I worked with youth for a number of years. I did youth ministry for eight before that. I did five years of sports ministry with youth. And one of the things that is very, very troubling now is to see how many young people have stepped away from the faith. It’s a phenomenon that’s going on in our culture nowadays. It’s often called deconstruction. People are deconstructing their faith, their belief system. Honestly, as somebody who invested so much time and energy in that generation, it’s very troubling. And I think if I could go back and make some adjustments, I certainly would. But I also trust that God is faithful. One of the things that Psalm 73 is about, according to the commentators, and you’ll see it here today, one of the things that it’s really about is a personal experience of somebody in some ways deconstructing their faith only to rebuild it. And that’s the hope that I would have for young people who went through our youth group and who were under my ministry. It’s not a bad thing in and of itself to question stuff and to process stuff and to have doubts and concerns. But the hope is that that turns into a more mature and confident faith. And I guess what I need to say to myself is, whatever God’s timeline might look like, [it] will be okay. Obviously, I’d love for people to go through it swiftly, come out on the other side, have mature faith, everything’s great, but sometimes it lasts a long time. Sometimes that season of doubt and concern can go on and on and on. Well, in Psalm 73, we have this deconstruction that Asaph is going through. If you look at the heading, it’s a psalm of Asaph, a deconstruction of his own personal belief system. And then we find him rebuilding on the opposite side of it in a way that’s better, that’s more beautiful, that’s more resilient. Walter Brueggemann calls it this. He says, it’s the tale, Psalm 73, “it’s the tale of a heart seduced and then healed, a heart isolated and then restored to fellowship. Asaph gives us the pattern that many of us experience at a personal level. It’s a crisis of faith and then a return to God. Let’s get to work.
A Crisis of Faith
Part One a Crisis of Faith, verses one to 14. What he does here is he describes the personal experience, and he’s describing it from the inside. He’s going, this is what it was like, this is what I felt, this is what I saw, this is what I observed. And then the second part is verses 15 to 28, and that’s where it’s a return to God and then a restored and renewed faith. So part one a crisis of faith. He describes the issue in verses one and two. This is after the fact. He’s writing about it now. He’s articulating what he went through. And he kind of on verses one and two, he’s kind of laying out the premise. He says, Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. That’s the premise, okay? If there is a God, and he’s all powerful, he’s sovereign, he’s in control, he’s able to wield all things for his own purposes. And if God is good, that’s premise number two. So God is sovereign, God is good. Surely, then, logically speaking, if he has a people, Israel or the people of God, if he has a people that belong to Him, here’s how it works. You would anticipate that God will take care of them. He will use his power and his goodness for their benefit. That’s the premise. And he goes, I believe that. And he’s writing after the fact, and he’s reaffirming it, but he said, I believe that on the front end. But then I experienced life. And what I found was it didn’t add up the way I thought. Look at verse two. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped. I had nearly lost my foothold. It’s a metaphor, but it’s saying, I almost lost my faith. I thought I was standing firmly on the confidence of who God is and what he’s up to and how he treats his own people. I was standing here, I thought I was on solid ground. And then, lo and behold, I realized I am falling down. I don’t have sure footing here. I’m slipping up and I’m about to fall headlong into unbelief. He’s saying, God is powerful and good and he has a people. And I’m one of those individuals that are part of the people of God. But what I was experiencing was very different. It didn’t make sense to me. And he tells us as much here in verses three and following, he describes the issue. He says, I looked at the wicked and I saw how charming life was for them. I looked at those who have no commitment to God, and I looked at how well things were going for them, and I longed for what they were experiencing. Let’s look at it. Verse three for I envied the arrogant. When I saw the prosperity of the wicked, I looked at how well things were going for those who don’t know God, and they were prospering. They’re flourishing. And Asaph is honest enough to go. What happened in my heart was I got on their Instagram feed and I wanted what they had. I looked at the beauty of the life that they’re living. They have no reference point to God. And I looked at it and I thought, that looks pretty wonderful. They’re living life without God and it’s going swimmingly. They’re happy, they’re enjoying life as it is. And so Asaph says, that’s what’s going on inside of me, brutal honesty. I longed for what they have. I looked at them, I compared it to myself. I wanted what they have. He goes on to describe it in verses four and five. He says, they have no struggles. Their bodies are healthy and strong. They’re fit, they look beautiful, they look very, very happy. Everything’s going great. Verse five they’re free from common human burdens. They’re not plagued by human ills. They’re doing life and it looks like it’s going great for them. And he’s going, I long for that. I’m envious of them. Now, you might think, well, maybe they don’t know God, but they’re just good people. Maybe they’re kind of salt of the earth people. He goes, no, these aren’t even good people. Like he describes them in verses six and seven. He says, these are prideful, violent people. Verses six and seven their pride is their necklace. They clothe themselves with violence. These are people who are living without God and it is manifesting in their actions and their behaviors so that Asaph can say, these people are a violent people. They are prideful. They’re wearing it like a necklace. They’re adorning themselves with their own pride. They’re violent to those who are around them. From their callous hearts comes iniquity their evil imaginations, have no limits. These are a people who are living in opposition to God. And in fact, they mock God. They openly mock God. Look at verses eight and nine. They scoff and they speak with malice, with arrogance. They threaten oppression. So they’re living well, but they’re living violently and they’re oppressing other people. They’re taking advantage of people. They’re predatory, they’re self-centered. They’re doing all these different things and they’re boasting about it. Verse nine their mouths lay claim to heaven and their tongues take possession of the earth. They’re doing well, they’re communicating about it. They’re boasting openly about their success. And all the while they’re doing this in opposition to God. While they’re doing this, it’s interesting and ironic that even though they’re violent and oppressive, people are flocking to them. People want to hear what they have to say. Verse ten therefore, their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. So they’re doing well, and they’re doing well enough that other people are going to them and saying, teach me your ways. I’m going to drink this up. Whatever lessons you have for me, I’m a sponge. I’m going to absorb it. I’m going to take this all on board. How can I live like you? Your life is amazing. Even though they’re violent and oppressive, people are going to them. But they are doing this with an open disregard for God. They say verse eleven. How would God know? Does the Most High know anything? So these people are living in open rebellion against God and their lives are beautiful and attractive, and more and more people are gravitating to it. And so Asaph is just looking at it and he’s going, what they have sounds pretty good. So this is the conclusion, verse twelve. This is what the wicked are like. Always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. I look at them, they’re doing great, carefree and wealthy. And I look at that and I compare it to my own personal experience and it just doesn’t add up. Which is why in verses 13 and 14, Asaph gets real about how it felt for him. And he describes it here in verses 13 and 14. In contrast to the way of the wicked, he says, here’s what I felt, here’s my life. They’re doing great. We’ve already established that. They’re doing great even though they’re rebelling against God. Here’s my life. Verse 13. 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. They’re doing great. But if you look at my life, here’s what’s going on. It’s a heap of wreckage, it’s a mess. It’s just not going well. And now I’m beginning to wonder, is this worth it? Or is my effort to follow God in vain because I’m trying my best? And what I’m getting is something that I don’t want. It’s affliction, it’s new sufferings, new punishments. Every morning I look at my life and it’s not what I want it to be. But I look at their lives and that looks fun and that looks beautiful. Now, here’s what’s going on. Asaph is going through a crisis of faith. He’s coming to an experience with God where he’s going, what do I really believe about God and how do I really want to live my life? Because I’m trying to follow God and it’s not going well. And I know an awful lot of people who don’t care at all about God and they’re living quite beautifully. What am I going to do now? We have to be a place where that sort of language is normalized. The experience that Asaph has is not unique. Now, his particular situation, I’m not sure all of us go through it exactly like this, but I would say it in this manner. Most of us will go through some sort of crisis of faith where you begin to question, what is it that I really believe? And what kind of life am I really willing to commit to God? Doubt is a part of the ordinary journey of faith. One of the commentators puts it like this. Clement says, “Doubt is something that only a believer can experience. For you can only doubt what you believe. Doubt is to unbelief what temptation is to sin.” Temptation is the opportunity to do something against God. It is not intrinsically sin, it’s the opportunity. And so what he’s saying here is, when you doubt, it’s a lot like temptation. When you doubt, that’s not a bad thing necessarily. It’s, what are you going to do with it? And Clements goes on to say, “it’s a test, not a surrender.” All of us will go through things where we second guess ourselves and we question God, and we have to be willing to say, that’s okay, that’s a normal thing for people who are journeying in faith. You will come against situations that cause you to really guess, second guess whether or not God is good to you. And that’s one of the reasons why we do Alpha, is because we want to create an environment where people can sit down and we don’t have to pretend. All too often, church is all about pretending. You come in and you put on your smiling face for the morning and you pretend everything’s going well. You pretend you don’t have any doubts or concerns about God. Church needs to be a place where you can be absolutely honest and you can say, you know what? When I look at my life and what it has become and it’s not matching up to what I expected, I’m disappointed in God. I’m disappointed in my life, I’m disappointed in God. God is big enough to handle that. As a church family, we have to be mature enough to accept that, to not shame people for being real about what they’re experiencing. Now, this teaches us then that following God can be very disorienting. Following God can make it feel like you experience disequilibrium. You’re walking and you go, I thought it was going to look like this, and it’s not that. And now I don’t know what to do. Following God can feel very disorienting. I’ve been through this a couple times in my own Christian journey where I have used this sort of language, the language of Asaph, where I have said literally to God in prayer. And I hope that this is helpful to you, that you can say, my pastor prayed like this before, so I guess I’m in his company at least. But I’ve said to God, I don’t get it, God, I’m trying to follow you and this is what my life looks like. This feels like a raw deal. It feels like I signed up for something, expecting one thing, and it was a bait and switch, and now this is my life. God, what’s up? What is the deal here? I’ve also prayed like Job. Job’s, another individual in the Scriptures who went through hell on earth, and he prayed with honesty, like Asaph, but he prayed like this. I’ve prayed this kind of prayer as well. Job prayed in this kind of way. God, can you please just leave me alone? Right? Like when your life feels like Asaph is describing, there are moments where that’s the heart language and you’re saying, I don’t get it. I’m looking at my life. It’s very disappointing. It’s frustrating. There’s affliction. There are things that aren’t going the way I expected. And so you’re praying like this, God, I didn’t sign up for this. Now, there was a course that I took on Spiritual Formation and there was a concept that was introduced there. And the spiritual writers have called it “the Dark Night of the Soul”, and it’s language from John of the Cross. But it’s a common experience in all the ages of church history where people go through seasons in their faith journey, where they feel as though God is missing and things aren’t going well. And you pray and it feels like heaven has the closed sign up and nothing’s going up there right now. You’re praying and you’re like, I’m not even sure God’s listening. And people go through this. And what’s fascinating, if you look at what the writers of Spiritual Formation talk about, is how God can use this to mature people in their faith. He can use this to take people who often deal with God in a transactional way. Like, I’ll follow you if you do good things for me, right? That’s how a lot of people relate to God. I’m on his team as long as the benefits keep coming, right? He’s God. He’s in control. He’s got all these good things. And so if good things come my way, that’s what I’m signing up for. But the Dark Night of the Soul forces you to come to a place where you have to be willing to say, I’m not just following God for his benefits. I’m following God for him. Now, that lesson is not an easy lesson to learn, but it is the difference between an immature faith and a mature faith. An immature faith is looking to God for all that he can give. A mature faith recognizes that God is everything. Now, let me just tease this out a little bit more. I’m probably doing a poor job. This was a semester long course, and I’m distilling it into a little sound bite. But think about it like this. My kids just started school. So on day one, we send them off, we pray over them. We get all excited. We take their pictures and all this stuff, all the things that all the parents are doing. Now, when Ash picks them up, she takes them to get a shake and has a little kind of reward for them. And they’re like, yes. And so it makes school better, right? They’re like, I go to school, I’m getting rewarded for it. I get a shake, I get a prize or whatever. Now, that’s a good thing to do on day one. We want it to be a positive experience. We want them to be excited about it. We want them to see that we’re on their side. If on day 22 or 100 or whatever. We wake the kids up and we go, hey, guys, it’s time to go to school. And they go, I’m not going unless I get a reward, right? I’m not going to school unless you’re going to get me a shake and a prize. You go, okay, well, you have to go to school, and you’re not always going to be rewarded for it. That lesson is something that we need to learn as believers, and this is an unpopular teaching for sure. But when you first become a Christian, it seems like God treats you like an infant, and he celebrates everything that you do, right? You pray and he answers almost every time. You’re like, god, can you help me out with I’m running late to work? Light turns green. Whoa, look at that. And you get to the parking lot and you’re like, can you give me can you help me find a parking spot? Person pulls out front row. You’re like, Following God is so rad. And you get all excited and you park there. But man, when you’re 20 years into following the Lord, I’ll shoot straight with you. You’ll be praying about very, very significant things, and you’ll be wondering, is God even listening? And that’s a hard thing. And you begin to wonder, okay, why is it that it was so easy for God to answer all of my prayers early on, and now it feels like I’m asking very important, significant things, and I’m getting no response. Well, God teaches us how to have a mature faith, and he’s showing us that he is not only here to be the vending machine in the sky, that if you punch in the right prayer, push the right buttons, he spits out the stuff you want. He’s teaching us how to see Him as God, and he’s teaching us to become mature in our faith. That’s what Asaph is going through. He’s going through a crisis of faith where he’s having to realize, I’m not just following God for his benefit. Derek Kidner in his little commentary on this passage, he says, to decide that such earnestness following God with that sort of resolve and commitment to decide that such earnestness has been a waste of time is pathetically self-centered. It’s asking the question, what do I get out of it? But the very formulation of that question awakens Asaph to recognize the foolishness of that thought and to shock him into a better frame of mind. So that’s what’s happening here. Asaph is going through a crisis of faith, and what we find is he comes out on the other side with a more mature and resilient trust in God.
The Return to God
Part Two the Return to God, verses 15 to 28, the return to God. And initially, it just shows up as this restraint. The turning point will come in verse 17, but initially, he just has the sense to recognize, I’m not going to broadcast this and try to recruit people to my experience. He says in verse 15, if I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children, meaning I went through a crisis of faith. And instead of going on social media inviting people to come and holding conferences about it and writing articles about it, he says, I just held my tongue. I’m not going to go out and try to promote this thing as if it’s a good thing. If I had spoken out like that, I would have done harm. I would have betrayed your children, God. I would have encouraged other people in that sort of posture of unbelief. So there’s restraint. But he’s honest about how hard this is. Verse 16 when I tried to understand all of this, it troubled me deeply. Asaph is not trying to whitewash the experience. He’s saying, when I tried to figure out why it felt like this for me, it troubled me in my soul. It was not an easy thing. It was a very, very challenging and difficult thing. But then he says, but there was a turning point. It troubled me deeply. Verse 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God. Then I understood their final destiny. So Asaph is going through life and he’s envious of the wicked because they’re doing great, and he’s looking at his own life and just disappointed with what it feels like to follow God. But then he goes into the sanctuary. And the sanctuary in the Old Testament, it was a structure that was designed for the people of God to come in and experience in some fashion the presence of God. It was a physical structure that God told him, build it like this, and here’s what happens in here. And God gives assignments for worship and assignments for the sacrificial system. So Asaph visits the sanctuary and he doesn’t tell us exactly what happened. But in there, by visiting that sanctuary, all of a sudden he has a new perspective. He has an awareness of God. He has an awareness of God and God’s activity and the ultimate realities standing behind the world that God has made. So now he’s able to reassess everything, to look at the wicked and to look at his own life and to come to accurate conclusions because he now has met with God. And so I want to say to us that there is an important lesson to be learned here. When we are wrestling with a crisis of faith, we better be certain that we are placing ourselves in environments where we can experience the presence of God, whether that means personal reading of the Scriptures, where God, through his Spirit speaks to you. But I would encourage you to consider how the New Testament talks about the temple now being the people of God. And you need to be with other people who are filled with the Spirit encouraging you and helping you along the way. Because in that environment, in the sanctuary, the eyes of faith are opened. And now Asaph is able to see things quite differently than before. Here’s what he recognizes. The lesson that he learns is that the destiny of the wicked is not good. Originally, he thought, they’re doing great. Their life is charming, their life is beautiful. I want their life. But now he sees it for what it really is. Verses 18 and following he says, Surely you place them on a slippery slope. It’s ironic because he says, my foot was slipping. Now he’s able to look at it and go, whoa, whoa, whoa. They’re placed on a precarious situation where they’re about to fall. You cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors. They’re like a dream when one awakes. When you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasy. So he’s using colorful language. He’s saying it’s like they’re living a dream, and their dream is like a fantasy. It’s so great for them. They’re loving it. They’re amassing wealth, they’re healthy, they’re fit, everything’s going great for them. But then the alarm clock goes off. Dream is gone, right? It’s gone. And it doesn’t matter how great that dream was. Now they have to face reality. And that’s what he’s saying here. The wicked. I was looking at life through that very temporary lens of right now. They’ve got it very good. But now I’ve gone into the sanctuary and I see the ultimate realities. Whatever they’re experiencing in this moment, this is brief. And then there’s the age to come, and that is permanent. They’re on a slippery slope, and no matter how great life is for them right now, when they have to reckon with God, it’s not going to go well if they don’t trust Him for salvation. So he looks at them and he says, the destiny of the wicked is not good. And then he says, and I came to my own senses. I began to realize what I was formulating was inaccurate. It didn’t take into account God. Verse 22 and following, when my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant. I was a brute beast before you. I was evaluating the world like an animal. I was looking at, what can God do for me? What can I squeeze out of this life of mine? How can I benefit immediately from these things? I was senseless. I was ignorant. Now I see with the eyes of faith that there are ultimate realities standing behind all of this, that there is a God and there is an age to come, and I’m going to be with Him. And even if my life on Earth looks pretty poor, the reality is I will be richly rewarded by God himself for all of eternity. God is with him. Verse 23 yet I am always with you. You hold me by my right hand. He’s walking through life and he’s feeling disappointed. But then he comes to realize. But God is walking with me and he’s holding my hand through this life. His presence is here and that is sufficient. Verse 24 you guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory. It’s like walking through this gauntlet and you’re like, I don’t want to go through here. I don’t want to walk through this experience. And then you’re going through it and you begin to recognize God is holding your hand and afterward he’s taking you into glory. No matter how hard this gauntlet might be, God is going to see you through it and reward you for your faithfulness. And the greatest reward comes in verses 25 and 26. And this is the confession of faith. This is where we got to land. What Asaph comes to believe is that God is not just the dispenser of blessings, god is the blessing. Look at verse 25. He says, Whom have I in heaven but you and on earth? Earth has nothing I desire beside you. My flesh and my heart might fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Asaph comes to the place where he says, my great reward is God, my portion. That is saying inheritance, my inheritance. So the wicked, they’ve got this huge they’re amassing all this know, they’ve got a killer portfolio, it’s looking great, they’re going on trips, they’re going to retire comfortably, everything’s going well. And Asaph goes, I don’t have any of that stuff. But then he goes, But I have an inheritance and it’s God, and that is more than enough. My portion is God himself. And then he’s able to say so I look at everything now and I try to evaluate the value of things. And he goes, I looked into heaven and the greatest thing there belongs to me. Whom have I in heaven but you’re? It God, you’re my thing. And then I look at the earth and I look at all the experiences and all the things that I could amass and all the things that I could pursue. But I’ve come to this conclusion god is what I want most of all. I want him. I want what he has done. And by faith, that is our portion. Even if our flesh is failing, even if our bodies are failing, God is the strength of our heart and our portion forever. There was a quote that I bumped into probably 20 years ago now and it arrested my attention and it continues to inform how I think about ministry. This is John Piper. In his book God Is the Gospel. He writes like this. He says, “The critical question for our generation and every generation is this if you could have heaven with no sickness and all the friends you ever had on Earth and all the food you ever liked and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted and no human conflict or any natural disasters.” Here’s the question… “Could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ were not there?” Isn’t that a great question? You could just have all the blessings, all the benefits, all the good stuff, absence of evil, absence of difficulty. If you could have all of that, but Jesus weren’t there, could you be satisfied with heaven? And Piper said, And I agree, the work of ministry is to help people say, “no way, no way.” Because the real treasure is not what God can give to you, not just the blessings that you might experience. The real treasure is God. The real treasure is Christ and what he has accomplished for us. See, for me, this becomes the dividing line of genuine faith versus an insincere or superficial faith. My job is to help people step over into that realm of if I have Christ, I have everything. There are a lot of people who come to church. Maybe some are here this morning who are here just because God might do some cool things for you. But my job is to help you cross over that line of faith, to say the thing that I most want. My greatest treasure in life, my portion, is God. I trust in Him and what he has accomplished. For me, people who have a real, genuine faith, their eyes of faith have been opened to see Jesus is better than anything. Jesus is better than any blessing that I might ever experience in this age or in the age to come. He’s it. And true followers of Him have come to that conclusion. And I hope that’s your conclusion today. He was willing to suffer and die to bring us to God and the one boast, as we’re told in the New Testament, the one boast that we’ll have in heaven, we’re not going to be like, hey, look at all my killer stuff and all the stuff I can do in heaven. We’re going to say, here’s my one thing that I boast about. It’s Jesus Christ and what he’s done for me. Have you expressed faith in Him in that sort of way? Well, the conclusion comes in verses 27 and 28. He says, Those who are far from you, God will perish you, destroy all who are unfaithful to you. He now sees with the clarity of faith that there is an ultimate destiny, that God is going to return and settle all accounts. And those who are unfaithful to God will have to reckon with God Himself. But he says, as for me, verse 28 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, Lord. He has placed his faith in God in a newfound way. Having gone through a crisis of faith, he comes out on the backside and he says, god is my refuge. I have entrusted myself to the sovereign Lord, and made Him my refuge. And now I will publish this news. I will tell of the great deeds of this God who has rescued and saved me. So, church family, here’s what we have found today. Many of us are either going through a crisis of faith or will go through a crisis of faith. And it will feel like hell on earth. And you will question God’s goodness, and you will doubt whether or not it is worth it to commit your life to Him. And we have to create a safe environment for that to occur. But our prayer and our hope is that you would come to see that God is the greatest treasure that you could ever behold. And you can place your faith in Him and experience salvation. And you can come to the place where you’re able to say, he is my portion. He is the one thing that I want in heaven and across all the earth. He’s the one thing that I’m claiming. And you can experience that and have the nearness of God. As for us, it is good to be near God, and he has drawn near to us through Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray. Lord, we pray right now that you would help those who are in the throes of the crisis right now, and they’re looking at the difficulties that they’re facing, and it’s just rugged. And so we acknowledge that, Lord. We pray that you would come alongside them and comfort them and encourage them in these moments. Lord, we pray that you would bring us through the crisis of faith to a place of maturity where we recognize who you are and what You’ve done. Help us come to a place where we arrive and we say, God is near Me, and that is enough. We thank You, Lord, for sending Jesus Christ to suffer and die in our place so that we might be brought God. So we pray, Lord, that you would give us faith, believe on Him and to experience his saving work. We pray in his name. Amen.