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Sample Sermon

When You Feel Like Throwing in the Towel

By Ronald O. Bearden

Psalm 73

Readings from the NIV

(read vs. 13 – pray)

13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?

Jesus once described life as two roads.

One road is: wide

It’s Easy

And there are lots of people on it

But, it’s a road that leads to destruction.

 

And then there’s the other road.

It’s narrow —It’s straight

It’s not as easy, but it leads to Life!

And Few people are on that road.

 

But I’ve found there’s a sad thing about this narrow road that leads to life.

Sometimes, among those who are on this narrow road, some of them stop, and begin to wonder if they took the wrong road.

They begin to question the wisdom of that decision. It seemed so right before, but now they’re not so sure.

And sometimes, …….. sometimes, someone changes his mind and turns back.

This morning, we find a godly man — not a pagan—– but a godly man named Asaph on the narrow road to God, and he pauses on that road…… and he thinks about going back.

And Friends, I don’t mind telling you, this is a rather frightening picture.

He starts out with his eyes on God. (read vs. 1)

1 Truly God is good to Israel,  to those whose hearts are pure.

but by verse 13, he’s discouraged and he’s almost ready to throw in the towel. He’s thinking about quitting!!

Now, what would cause such a spiritual person to turn his back on his faith and his God?

I’ve known a few people like this over the years. Sometimes it’s someone who’s angry at God for the death of someone very close and precious to them.

Sometimes, it’s someone who’s been hurt by people in church. The church is called to be a redemptive body of love, but sometimes we hurt those who come to worship with us.

Sometimes pastors hurt people. Oh I’m not talking about the touchy person who eventually gets offended by every pastor the church has ever had. I’m talking about pastors who, in sin, deeply hurt those under his or her care.

Sometimes…… people ponder the possibility they made a mistake in taking the narrow road by shallow thinking. They’ve been listening to others in different religions, or cults, or those who (with some apparent degree of persuasive force) make a mockery of Christianity.

Sometimes people listen. Really listen…… and they get to thinking. And their thinking gets all twisted.

(pause)

Asaph tells us in verse 2 what caused him to look back.

(read vs 2 – 7).

2 But as for me, I almost lost my footing.  My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.

3 For I envied the proud  when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.

4 They seem to live such painless lives;  their bodies are so healthy and strong

5 They don’t have troubles like other people;  They’re not plagued with problems like

everyone else.

6 They wear pride like a jeweled necklace  and clothe themselves with cruelty.

7 These fat cats have everything  their hearts could ever wish for!

Have you ever had those kinds of thoughts? Be honest now.

Have you ever noticed how the godly often struggle and the wicked sometimes seem to have it all together.

Have you ever wondered how a person can abuse his or her body with bad living FOR YEARS AND YEARS and then die of an old age…..

While a godly person, who’s tried to take good care of himself, ends up dying young?

Some things just aren’t the way they ought to be!

(pause)

Asaph looks around him at all the wickedness of others.

He sees those who:

Are Rich and oppress the poor

Who Scoff at God

Who Wallow in their pride

And he wonders why they prosper, while the godly are sometimes in need.

Surely you’ve had those thoughts. Surely they’ve entered your brain before.

But in Asaph’s case, these thoughts almost wrecked his soul.

(read vs 13 – 14)

13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?  Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?

14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;  every morning brings me pain.

Can you hear his despair?

He’s preoccupied with these thoughts.

He begins to wonder if it’s worth it!

He says in essence:

I’ve kept my heart from sin –

….. well, maybe I shouldn’t have!

 

Someone might say…..

I remained a virgin ……. And what did it get me!?

Or ….I did business honestly …. And my business is failing!

Or…. I told the truth ……. And it’s costing me dearly!

I’ve kept my heart from sin – ….. but maybe I shouldn’t have!

Maybe it’s not worth it!

 

Friends, this is a spiritually dangerous point! When a person begins to buy in to the lies of the world and begins to stand on his or her head and think that sin looks good for you and God’s plan looks bad for you.

 

And How did Asaph get there?

By looking at others …… instead of looking to God.

And that will get you into trouble every time- when other people become your reference point, instead of God Almighty, then you’re on slippery ground, and you’re in trouble!

 

But thank God Asaph reaches a turning point in verse 16

(read vs. 16 – 17 )

16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.

17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, And I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.

Notice that when he comes to God, then things change.

He sees things differently with the Spirit. And that’s always the case!

The Apostle Paul taught that spiritual truths just could not be understood by people who are lost—who have, what he calls a Natural mind.

I’ve seen this happen over and over again, where someone who becomes a Christian, who’s born again and now has the Spirit of God living inside him or her, suddenly understands parts of the Bible and spiritual truths in a way that never made sense before.

“I once was blind, but now I see!” That’s always the way it is!

Asaph began to see the wicked from God’s eyes.

He saw that this world is not all there is.

All we see is a moment!

But God sees eternity!

For example:

We see a man in a restaurant, sitting down to a meal.

Another man comes in. Steals his food, robs him, beats him, laughs. And then walks out.

If that were all we ever saw, we’d complain about the injustice of it!

But we don’t see the big picture. We don’t see the cruel man:

–arrested

–charged with other crimes

–we don’t see him receive 3 life sentences

All we know is what we saw, but that’s not the end of the story.

Asaph saw a future judgment where EVERY wrong is accounted for. He began to see things from God’s point of view.

And when he began to see things from God’s point of view, then he saw himself in a new light.

(read vs. 21 – 22 )

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.

22 I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.

Asaph says- when I was thinking those things earlier, God, I was just like a dumb cow or a dumb ox trying to figure things out– at least that’s the way I must have looked to you, O God.

You see, Asaph has a new view of himself. He’s more humble.

-Peter had the same experience. When he first understood who Jesus really is, he fell down and cried out, LORD, get away from me for I am a sinful man.

The prophet Isaiah had the same experience when He saw the Lord, high and lifted up in His temple in Heaven.

Friends, I’m here to tell you today, that if grasping a deeper vision of the King of the Universe leads to a more Humble heart in you and me, then that’s’ a good thing.

Look at verse 25. With a humble heart, Asaph now has a new desire.

(read vs. 25 – 26 )

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth.

Oh, this is a great verse! These great thoughts are coming from the same guy who was standing on the narrow road looking back and wondering if maybe he had made the wrong choice.

But NOW that his eyes are back on God, he realizes the truth! The truth is—there’s no place to go!

But it’s more that that. It’s not just that there’s no other place to go, it’s that the Lord is Asaph’s All in All.

Look at verse 25 again….

(read vs. 25- 28 )

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?  I desire you more than anything on earth.

26 My health may fail, and my spirit may  grow weak,

but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

27 Those who desert him will perish,  for you destroy those who abandon you.

28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!  I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

Did you hear it friends?

Vs 25 Whom have I in heaven but You?

Vs 28 It’s good to be near God

To be near God.

That’s the difference! That will change the way you look at worship.

I didn’t come here to sing songs and to simply be entertained. I came here to meet the living God.

To be Near God! Friends, That will also change the way you look at problems.

Everybody has problems of one sort or another, but the thing that makes all the difference, is someone who comes along side to help me.

You can live for Heaven all you want. But what I want is a God who loves me and will come along side me to pick me up and strengthen me when I’m down.

And If I know that I have someone walking beside me, helping me, then I know I’m going to make it all the way to then end.

No wonder we can be more than a conqueror through Jesus.

You see, THAT’s the point of the Christian life. To know, Love and Serve the Living God.

The goal of the Christian life is not heaven,

or happiness, It’s Jesus.

 

To Him, be Honor and Glory!

Amen.