Hello, my name is Asaph and I am angry. I lived during the times of the great Psalmist of Israel and cherished every minute of learning how to lead worship from the king. David was a wordsmith who wonderfully expressed the whole spectrum of how prayer and praise intersect in the heart of man, calling out to give glory to God. The king proclaims how Jehovah was his rock in Psalm 18 and exposes his own spiritual struggles in Psalm 42 in asking himself why his soul was cast down. David was a man of intense spiritual passion. I saw it and if you read the Scriptures you knew that as well. Passion is like fire. It is good and beneficial to man when under control, but destructive when fueled by the flesh (another Davidic lesson). I certainly can identify with human passion as well. I wrote songs to Jehovah pleading for Him to vindicate His wrath upon the nations and His enemies. I also implored the Lord for His watchful care over the weak and needy. What a joy it was to be afforded an opportunity to minister in the Temple leading the people of God to praise the faithfulness of the God of Israel. Yet many times a very real dichotomy existed between what I knew to be true about God, and the wrong expectations of what the life of faith looked like in reality. It was much like what you experience in the time in which you live. In the morning I would sing praises to God in the temple and in the afternoon curse the carefree life that the superficial worshipers of Jehovah seemed to enjoy. How could I faithfully praise the Living God while at the same time resent Him for their carefree secular attitude, ‘…they have no pangs until death,” Psm. 73:4
Now back to 2021…My name is not actually Asaph. I am a pastor. I feel the inward pull to trust the Lord while wondering why my circumstances many times are less than ideal. If you are a committed Christian, you have most likely felt a twinge of resentment when you compare the normal state of Christ’s servants to the average casual Christian. This condition is far more prevalent in nations where western Christianity exists. I’ve noticed that those who live in poverty stricken corners of the earth not only pray more but they seem to complain less. Mirroring this truth is the presence of an undercurrent of resentment with us who live in the middle to low income spectrum of the population. We justify the idea that if we are faithful to Christ he will reward us with an ease of life. Especially with those who seem to get close to ‘arriving’ (whatever that may be), but seem never to actually arrive. I can easily look past the joy of children and focus on their developing smiles. In my head I calculate with each overbite and crooked tooth their future orthodontic work. Why does my mind’s natural default gravitate to the cost of spacers, braces, and retainers? Just when it seems that my blessing meter seems to start rising and I am advancing in my station of life, my necessity meter rises as well. Whatever ground I thought I had made was quickly lost by potential future difficulties. Broken down cars and furnaces that die in October seem to be the natural bane of life for all of us. Maybe what God is concerned for pastors, and congregants as well, is for them to articulate their idea of what success looks like!
How are you faring in this, my friend? Do we share the same dilemma? I know my pastor friend’s in India do not share this same dilemma with me. They are simply grateful for the Lord’s provision in the simple things like being able to feed their family. They truly cannot identify with the difficulties we Americans experience. Capitalism, ingenuity, motivation, and the periodic alignment of stars brings success. Now mind you I don’t minimize college and other formal training that also helps us to reach our full cultural potential. With the Lord’s blessings, of course, we can bring about a state of ease for our children that perhaps we didn’t have. That is what good parents do, give their kids things that we didn’t have. Right? Millennials certainly know nothing of the difficulties of growing up when sharing party telephone lines and only three network channels. I have been a good father, providing my older children with IPhones (that I bought) and hundreds of television channels for them to watch, though I don’t. It would seem that with our help our children have a great life. After all, that is what the American dream is all about. This seems to be the common pursuit of all of humanity throughout all of time to some extent. Is not David relevant to us when he speaks saying, “Deliver my soul from…the men of the world whose portion is in this life…they are satisfied with children; and they leave their abundance to their infants.” Psm. 17: 13-14. I also vaguely remember the Lord himself speaking of the folly of laying up treasures in Heaven that are not destroyed by rust and moth.
There is an abundance of people who verbally profess allegiance to Christ while at the same time are consumed with this terrestrial life. The truth of Scripture seems to be absent in their religious equilibrium. They are ignorant of the massive bulwark of biblical warnings within the Word of God which highlight the danger of gaining the world at the forfeiture of one’s soul, to be crucified with Christ, and looking back from the plow makes one unfit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Why is it that the concept of eternity seems to be lacking in the minds of many church goers these days? Sure they acknowledge the afterlife, but there are other pressing things in this life to be busy about. Are we to think that besides Asaph’s temple duties, perhaps he considered a side-hustle to make ends meet so his family could serve God and yet enjoy a little more of life as well?
God was gracious with Asaph. He was a man of passion, but he was also a man of context. He objectively came to the right conclusion of those he was looking at when he saw the futility of their life’s goal. “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psm. 73:17 If you allow the world to dictate success, death will expose your failure. David stated that the men of this world find their portion in this life. However, David said, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness when I awake, I will be satisfied with your likeness.” Psm. 17:15
Eternity should define the proper values of this terrestrial existence. You cannot praise God for His goodness while resenting the easy life of the unbeliever. Asaph learned a lesson three millennia ago that we all need to understand today. Chances are if your pastor preaches the Scriptures, he’s addressed this subject numerous times, and he may be frustrated if not downright angry that you haven’t mastered the basics.