This past Sunday’s sermons on wrestling with prayer seem to have struck a chord with most of us. I hope if you were not able to hear these messages you will listen online at our web site or ask Jo to make you a CD. Both messages will hopefully encourage you; the evening message may especially challenge you. Though God does not always answer “Yes” to our prayers we have the comforting assurance that He can be trusted, even when we don’t understand how He is working—or not working—in His world; in our world.
It’s not the “Oh, if you will just go to church all the problems in your life will go away” kind of thinking. That’s just not true. And that’s what we affirmed in the messages on Sunday, that sometimes following God in obedient faith makes your life more difficult, not less. At least as far as externals go, the way the world measures those things.
Praying the Psalms will help here. If you want to give your prayer life and your faith a boost, pray through the Psalms, and listen to what the psalmists were going through as they wrote these words. Psalm 73 is a great example. The psalmist questions God’s action and inaction in his own life.
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.
I’m sure you’ve felt like that at times, haven’t you? We all have. Looking at the easy, carefree life of the wicked, while we trudge on with great difficulty in our obedience, we too wonder, “Have I kept my heart pure and innocent for nothing?” But for the psalmist, this was not the last word. He needed a healthier perspective. And there was only one place he could find it.
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…
You see spending time with God and “going to church” doesn’t take away your problems. But, like the psalmist, sometimes the perspective and assurance we need can only be found when we focus on God and when we meet with God’s people—worshiping together; encouraging one another. And so as with the psalmist once again our lives make sense, and we are reminded that it is better to believe, to “trust and obey,” even if it doesn’t seem to make much sense right now.
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.