What an incredible journey I have been on. I just got back in town from a 20 plus day road adventure with my lovely wife Suzanne and three handsome sons; Zachary, Nathan & William. And trust me.. nothing says adventure like a twenty-two hundred mile road trip in a sedan, with 3 boys under the age of 11… and in the dessert, you can’t roll the windows down.
We drove to visit my family in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My last visit there was ten years ago and the weather reminded me why. We experienced just a taste of their record breaking 40 plus consecutive days of triple digit heat. The days were a lovely 115 degrees and at midnight, it cooled down to a refreshing 92. And that is NOT a dry heat. I affectionately call the midwest, “God’s Sauna.”
Now what I have found is that on any journey you take, you will always find plenty of roadblocks, speed-bumps, and crossroads. Of course, when you have a GPS named Mandy to guide you through unfamiliar roads these obstacles mean nothing, but the journey of life is a lot more difficult than my journey to Oklahoma.
Maybe you have noticed, but the funny part about life is that one day you wake up and find you are not where you thought you would be. In my trip back to Tulsa, I tried to connect with some old friends from my Seminary days. My one friend Mike, for example, has been on a crazy journey. We were good buddies in Seminary and we were both on a journey to go into full time pastoral ministry. Now, 16 years later, my friend is divorced and agnostic.
Have you ever done one of those “Life Plans”? You know the ones where they ask you to draw out a roadmap of where you will be 5 years from now… 10 years from now… did you ever notice that nobody writes down “divorced from my wife, estranged from my friends, balding, overweight, losing my house, huge credit card debt, and running away from God.” But I could list for you today no less than 15 good friends who are on that very journey.
And although your mileage may vary, I would bet that some of you here today are on a journey like that.
But my real question is this, how do you get there? How do you start off one day, doing so well and the next day you find yourself living at the cross-roads of faith and doubt? Hurting? Questioning? Alone?
That is where my friend Asaph comes into the picture. Go ahead and open your Bibles to Psalm 73. For those unfamiliar, that is in the Old Testament between Psalm 72 and Psalm 74.
Asaph was a well respected guy. He was the chief musician for King David. In our modern terminology, King David would be like Pastor Phil… only King David had a lot more money and wives. Thankfully, Phil is happy with just one wife… although I am sure he wouldn’t mind more money. Asaph was like Aaron here at Pathways who heads up the music teams. Only Asaph was the head musician for the entire nation of Israel… its a great job if you can get it.
But here in Psalm 73, Asaph, a man of great success, shares with us a very intimate roadmap of his personal journey of faith and doubt. Psalm 73 is a beautiful peace of Hebrew poetry. And as I was reading through this poem, I discovered that Asaph uses what is called a Chiastic literary structure. Now what that means is that the first half of this poem in Psalm 73 gives us a map of all the speed-bumps Asaph faced in his faith, but we don’t get the directions for how to avoid them until the second half of the poem.
So today, I want to try and be faithful to Asaph’s story and take you along his journey to the crossroads of Faith and Doubt.
Speed-bump #1: God is good; but maybe he does not care for ME? (v.1-2)
Psalm 73:1–2 (ESV)
1 Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2 But for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.
Detour #1: God is good; and he gives me STRENGTH! (v.27)
Psalm 73:27–28a (ESV)
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God…
Speed-bump #2: Does God really care about what happens in the WORLD? (v.3-12)
Psalm 73:3–12 (ESV)
3 For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. [heart]
4 For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5 They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8 They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9 They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11 And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12 Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.
Detour #2: God’s goodness is ALWAYS evident in this world. (v.20-26)
Psalm 73:20–26 (ESV)
20 Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. 21 When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22 I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Speed-bump #3: Is LIVING, and SACRIFICING, for God worth it? (v.13-15)
Psalm 73:13–15 (ESV)
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
Detour #3: Prosperity in this world is a DREAM; the life to come is REALITY! (v. 17-19)
Psalm 73:17–19 (ESV)
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18 Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19 How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!
Crossroads – I find strength in putting my HEART and MIND on God!
Psalm 73:16 (ESV)
16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task,
Fast Pass: I find strength when I put my thoughts into ACTION.
Psalm 73:28 (ESV)
28 But for me it is good to be near God… I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
- TELL people about God
- LEAD people toward God