Guest Blogger: Zachary Ethridge
Have you ever been at a place in your life where you’ve wondered, “Is it really worth it to follow God?” Have you even felt like quitting on God and just living like the world? In Psalm 73, that’s where the Psalmist was in life. Asaph is struggling with envy, because he is looking at the world’s prosperity. “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked (Ps. 73:2-3).”
His heart is in the wrong place because he is focused on the wrong thing.
Eventually, this frustration and envy leads him to a terrible conclusion – “All in vain have I kept my heart clean (Ps. 73:13).” He wonders if it’s even worth it to follow God. Anger, envy, and resentment poison the soil of the heart. They choke out faith and trust and hope. But something happens that changes everything. He writes, “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end (Ps. 73:16-17).” Everything changes when he encounters God!
When your focus is on the wrong thing and your heart is in the wrong place, the only solution is an encounter with God.
But what does it mean to go into the sanctuary of God in the 21st century? The Gospel of John teaches that Jesus is the true temple. The only way to encounter God is to come to Jesus. But how do you encounter Jesus in the 21st century? Here are 3 ways. First and foremost, you encounter Him through the gospel. The gospel is the good news that we can know God through Jesus because He died for our sins and rose from the dead to give us eternal life. If we skip the gospel, the rest is futile. But second, you can encounter Jesus through the church. The Bible teaches that God is building His church into a spiritual temple by the Holy Spirit. Third, we encounter Jesus through the Bible, because the Bible is ultimately about Him. And when that happens – when we encounter God in Jesus Christ – we gain an eternal perspective.
Encountering God gives you an eternal perspective.
The Psalmist says, “then I discerned their end…Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory (Ps. 73:17, 23-24).” He found that it’s always worth it to follow God. His eyes were opened to the words of Jesus, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” The Judge of all the earth will see to it that all accounts are settled, and all wrongs are made right, so living for Christ will always be worth it. Will it feel worth it all the time? No. Is it perplexing to see the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? Certainly! But this is not the end. God isn’t done! Your story isn’t over! We serve a God who sees everything, the faithfulness of his servants and the wickedness of the world, and He will never forget. So, don’t give up and don’t lose heart. God hasn’t forgotten you, and one day it’s all going to be worth it. In the meantime, here’s my challenge to you: Don’t sacrifice your future on the altar of your present desires. Don’t lose focus, envy the wicked, and turn away from God. You may want their present, you don’t want their eternity. So, don’t give up your inheritance for a bowl of soup. Remember that God is with you, walk with Him, be guided by His counsel, and set your eyes on eternity. And as you do that, like Asaph, God will change your heart.
Encountering God re-shapes your desires.
Asaph says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you (Ps. 73:25).” What do you want more than anything else? What is the one thing you think you have to have to be happy? Now, that can be a hard question to answer. It’s difficult to search your heart and discover your greatest desire. It’s abstract and immaterial. But an easier question to answer is this – what are you focused on? What occupies your thoughts and daydreams? That is the thing you desire most. Is it Christ? If it’s not, there is hope. He concludes by saying, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26).” The struggle for an eternal perspective and God-shaped desires is a daily struggle. You will never outgrow your need for God, but God is willing and able to be your strength. We need Him to open our eyes again and again to eternity. We need Him to shape and reshape our desires, so that we can overcome envy and find lasting joy and satisfaction in Him.