July 20, 2007

True Prosperity

Lately I’ve been bothered by injustice. People seem to get away with everything. In some parts of the world, terrorists are killing children simply because they are in school and the terrorist is against education. Armies are sent to try and stop this, but people in the sending countries are screaming to bring them home so their soldiers will not die, as if oppression and terrorism should go unchecked.

We have injustice at home too, in a different form. Here, a person can use a car to kill someone and be sentenced for less than five years, but someone else can embezzle funds from A Rich Company, Inc. and is put away for twenty-five.

In our prosperous and wealthy city literally thousands of women are turned away from shelters for battered women because there is no room. While they suffer without a home or any care, what is happening to the men who beat them?

These women are not the only homeless in this booming economy. People move here in droves thinking the boom will bulge their pockets, but they come in empty-handed. This is folly, yet little is being done to help them. They live in tents in the parks, without work and rapidly fading hope.

In all of this, many may have more than we need, but even then, a few fall into another clash; the conflict of trying to live a godly life in the midst of those who don’t give a damn about God or justice or even goodness.

I suppose I feel something like the author of Psalm 73 in that I too am perplexed by “the prosperity of the wicked.” I don’t envy them though. I used to, at least the prosperity part, but not anymore. Back then, as the psalmist says in verse 22, “I was so foolish and ignorant.”

It takes awhile to learn the advantages of being a child of God in comparison to those who abandon God and goodness. They seem to do well. They are happy and “Have more than heart could wish.” They scoff, speak wickedly and in pride,“set their mouth against the heavens.” In their minds, God either doesn’t know what they are doing or doesn’t care. They are at ease as they increase in riches and in their unjust and unfair ways.

I have felt as the psalmist did in that living a clean life is in vain. What is the point? God is always dealing with me. He chastens me for the slightest sin, and every morning I hear Him speak about my need to change, but those who don’t know Him, or care to know Him, never hear any correction or His rebuke. They go on their merry way, doing whatever they want. If I didn’t know better I would be as the psalmist, bitter and envious.

Yet he learned, and I learned from him. He “went into the sanctuary of God” and there learned about God. He says, “Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”

He knew the powerful presence of God, a presence that makes the circumstances of life easier to bear, even seem as nothing. If I am a victim, I have Almighty God with me. Who can over-power me with Him right here? I don’t go through life needing lawyers, guidance counselors, therapists, and so on, because the Lord holds me and guides me into glory.

One commentary says about this: “‘Into glory’ could also be translated ‘with glory,’ meaning that God would guide him (the psalmist) through his troubles so that he would enjoy honor (and not shame; cf. 4:2) in this life. Since ‘glory’ for individuals in the Old Testament seldom meant heavenly glory the psalmist was probably looking for deliverance in his lifetime. This would demonstrate that he was in God’s favor.”

In other words, ‘glory’ (which signifies the attributes and qualities of God), is on me when I walk with Him. I’m hardly a loser for being “not of this world” but have gained something far more precious than the prosperity and ‘freedom’ enjoyed by those who hate God. I have His favor!

The psalmist expresses the bottom line of his tussle with what seems like injustice. He says to God, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Where would I be without faith in Jesus Christ? I might be more prosperous. I might be free to do whatever I felt like, free to enjoy all sorts of indulgences and free to sin without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but the psalmist knew and I know too: “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.”

The supermarket of life contains all sorts of goodies, and we are free to pick up whatever we please, but everyone of us must go through the checkout. There we pay the price, and unless that price has already been paid for us (by the death of Jesus Christ, which also affects what we pick up), the bill will be costly indeed.

With the psalmist I have to say, “It is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God.” Prosperity, freedom to sin, all that may seem good to those who are indulging in it, yet they are “set in slippery places . . . utterly consumed with terrors” and not able to know or enjoy the incredible right hand of God who will eventually make all things right.

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