Tuesday, October 25, 2016, midnight – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 73 (Select vv. NIV).
God is Good (v. 1)
A psalm of Asaph.
Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
When you think of God as being good to us, what comes to mind? Do you, or do I think only of the many ways in which he blesses our lives with the things we enjoy? – With things which make us feel happy? Or, can “good” mean something other than just what is pleasant or agreeable to our tastes, or just what fits with our personal preferences? Can “good,” for instance, have more of a connotation of what is just, right, holy, beneficial, and/or appropriate to our situation? If so, that might be a “game changer” for some of us, i.e. that knowledge might be something “that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something” (Google).
Romans 8:28-29 says this: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”
The psalmist said that God is good to Israel (to God’s chosen people), to those who are pure in heart, i.e. to those who have genuine faith in God – in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives – who are walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (See: Ro. 8:1-14). In Romans 8 it says that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. The Bible teaches us that to love God means to obey his teachings, not in sinless perfection, but consistently and persistently (in lifestyle).
And, what are God’s purposes for us? That we be conformed to the image (likeness) of His Son. And, how does God conform us to the likeness of Jesus? He brings into our lives what will be beneficial to us in molding us into Christ’s likeness. Sometimes that means adversity, pain, trials, and difficulties, because these types of things teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves, they help mature us in Christ, and they teach us perseverance.
Self-Pity (vv. 2-3, 13-15)
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…
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.
If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
Sometimes, though, when we are going through trials, we don’t realize that God IS being “good” to us. And, we might even begin comparing ourselves to others and wonder why others are not having to suffer like us, especially if we have been walking in obedience to Christ, and others have not. And, we might even feel that God is being unfair or unjust to us who do love him, and who are walking according the Spirit and not according to the flesh. And, if we have a wrong perception of the “good” God does bring into our lives, we may feel cheated, and feel like it profits us nothing to obey him. We call this self-pity, and any of us can get there if we are not careful, and if we have wrong perceptions of the goodness of God to those who love him.
I believe this can also happen if we get our eyes off Jesus and on to our circumstances, but especially if we do not have a correct understanding of the goodness of God in our lives, that his goal is to conform us to the likeness of Christ. That means he will have to prune us and discipline us sometimes, and that is painful, but the purpose is that we might share in Christ’s holiness, and that when we are trained by it, it will produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness (See: Heb. 12:3-11).
So, you see here that his “good” to us is to do what is necessary in our lives to fulfill his purpose for us, which is to make us more like Jesus, that we might share in his holiness. And, to be holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from this sinful world, because we are being made into the likeness of Christ.
Until I Entered (vv. 16-17)
When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
So, when God is being “good” to us by taking us through life’s difficulties in order to prune and purify us, and to make us more like Jesus, but we aren’t getting it, and we are feeling sorry for ourselves, the only way in which we are going to gain the right perspective of all that is going on in our lives is to get alone with God in prayer, to pour our hearts out to him, and then to hear what he has to say to us through his Word concerning our circumstances. Then, he can teach us what we need to learn, and we can rest in him, trust in him, and believe he truly knows what is best for us, even if right now we might not see all the reasons or the benefits of what he is taking us through.
You Hold Me (vv. 21-28)
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.
Part of God’s goodness to us is that he is always with those of us who truly love him, who have been called according to his purpose. He will never leave us or forsake us. He won’t abandon us in our times of difficulty. He will not let us go. He is holding on to us. And, he is there to give us everything we need in the way of counsel, direction, encouragement, strength and endurance to get through these difficult days, and to come out shining like gold, i.e. he will see us through to victory. And, victory does not necessarily mean that our circumstances will change, but that God will change us through our life’s situations. After all, that is the object. So, trust him. Rest in him. Call on him in your suffering, and let him make you to be like HIM.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph M. Scriven / Charles C. Converse
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee;
thou wilt find a solace there.