SUCCESSFUL SINNERS AND SUFFERING SAINTS
Introduction: Psalm 73
1. It is interesting to note that Psalm 73 and Psalm 37 both deal with basically the same theme. Both deal with envying evil doers. (It might help us to remember this by observing that when you turn the number 37 around it is 73.)
2. The problem of why bad things happen to good people has haunted man since the beginning of time. And the reverse is also true, why do good things happen to bad people?
3. The book of Job is probably the oldest book in the Bible and this is the problem that Job’s three friends could not understand. (See Job 4:7-8 & 8:6).
4. In fact, Job himself struggled with this problem. Observe what Job said in chapter 21:7-15, “Why do the wicked live and become old, yes, become mighty in power? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull breeds without failure; their cow calves without miscarriage. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They sing to the tambourine and harp, and rejoice to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us, for we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him? And what profit do we have if we pray to Him?’
5. Solomon said, “I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishesin his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.” (Ecc. 7:15).
6. So the problem of “Successful Sinners and Suffering Saints” is a problem that we all face from time to time.
7. In Psalm 73 God uses a saint named Asaph to help us have the proper perspective in considering this age old problem.
8. In this study we will observe:
I. HIS CONVICTION
II. HIS CONFESSION
III. HIS CONDITION
I. HIS CONVICTION
1. In the first verse we have Asaph’s conviction. Conviction means “the state of being convinced.” His conviction is that God is good to His people. Regardless of how it may seem otherwise, God is good “to such as are pure in heart.” (Ps. 73:1).
2. We teach our children to pray, “God is great. God is good.”
3. God is too loving to be mean. God is too powerful to be manipulated. And God is too wise to be mistaken.
4. According to Psalm 100, we should “be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good: His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Ps. 100:4-5).
5. God is good, yes He is, He’s good all the time. God is good, yes He is, and we must all keep this in mind.
II. HIS CONFESSION
1. First, he talks about the Boastful (vs. 2-9). Then he talks about the Believer (vs. 10-21). Then he talks about the Beast (vs. 22).
2. He confesses that he had almost fallen. He had almost slipped away.
3. Then he tells why. “For I was envious of the boastful…
4. When he thought about the boastful, or wicked, he almost let it get to him. It looked as though they had it made. He saw their:
a. Prosperity. “I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (vs. 3).
b. Painlessness. “For there are no pains in their death…” (vs. 4).
c. Peacefulness. “They are not in trouble as other men…” (vs. 5).
d. Pride. “Therefore pride serves as their necklace..” (vs. 6).
e. Plentifulness. “They have more than the heart could wish” (vs. 7).
f. Perversion. “They make fun of others and speak evil; proudly they speak of hurting others.” (vs. 8, NCV).
g. Profanity. “They set their mouth against the heavens..” (vs. 9).
4. He also saw the problems that the people of God were having and how they wondered whether or not God knew what was going on. (vs. 10-12).
5. He even wondered whether or not it pays to do the right thing. (vs. 13-14).
6. When he sought to understand this it was “too painful” for him. (vs. 15-16).
7. He had this problem “until” he went into the “sanctuary of God” and “understood their end” (vs. 17).
8. He knew that, in the end, they would be “utterly consumed with terrors” and “brought to desolation, as in a moment”. (vs. 19-20)
9. A good illustration of this is the parable that Jesus told about the “Rich Fool,” who seemingly had it made, but died in a moment and without warning. (Lk. 12:16-21).
10. The psalmist further confesses that he had been “foolish and ignorant” when he had felt and thought the way he did. He admits that he had been like a “beast” in thinking as he had thought. (Note: A beast is only concerned with the here and now.)
11. When the wicked seem prosperous in spite of their sin, do like this psalmist and think about their end.
III. HIS CONDITION.
1. After thinking about his foolishness, he then starts thinking about his condition as a believer.
2. In doing so he thinks about:
a. His Favor. “I am continually with you, you hold me…guide me… (vs. 23-24a).
b. His Future. “And afterward receive me to glory” (vs. 24b).
c. His Father. “Whom have I in heaven but You, and none upon earth that I desire besides You” (vs. 25).
d. His Faith. “But God is the strength of my heart…I have put my trust in the Lord God. (vs. 26-28).
3. If we ever find ourselves in this envying position, it is then that we should think about our spiritual condition.
CONCLUSION: In this study we have observed at least one solution to the problem of envying wicked people when good things are happening to them. It is a problem that we all have probably had at one time or another. And if we haven’t, we probably will. However, many of us might not be honest enough to admit it. But Asaph did admit it, and we can profit by considering what he had to say. And remembering what we have learned from Psalm 73 can help us, and can help us to help others. It’s all about having the proper perspective. It is all about how we look at things and what we focus on. Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Thank God for Jesus! (2 Cor. 9:15).