One of the many evils of the heresy known as prosperity gospel is the unrealistic expectation put upon God by those who follow this teaching. A person who “accepts” Christ on the condition of receiving material wealth and earthly blessing will soon be in for a very rude awakening.
I can tell you for certain that prosperity is not a guarantee in the Christian life, but persecution is (2 Timothy 3:12). The tragic reality is many of the people who fall prey to prosperity teaching walk away from the faith when they find out they have been lied to—that the life of ease they were promised was a mirage.
Like the seed sown on the rocks—that was swept away when persecution comes—those who demand prosperity from God are using God the same way Aladdin used the genie: grant me my three wishes and give me what I want.
Asaph, the author of numerous Psalms, confesses to God that he almost walked away from the faith when persecution came upon him and when, even more troubling to him, he saw the prosperity of the wicked! How unjust it seems to us when those who are most defiant toward God are the ones showered with glory here on earth!
You struggled through a class and worked hard to prepare for the test, but the student you know was cheating got a higher score than you.
You see your coworker lazily wasting time at their desk while you grind through your tasks, but they get the promotion you wanted.
You are driving the exact same speed as the car next to you—and you have a fish bumper sticker while they have a “coexist” sticker—but you’re the one who gets pulled over for speeding.
Here’s what Asaph confesses to God: “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, and my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3).
Do you notice how blunt Asaph is in his prayer? I was jealous of the success of the wicked around me and that almost caused me to walk away from you, God.
There is no prayer too blunt for God to hear. He already knows what you’re thinking before you say it.
Too many people are “deconstructing” their faith away from God, using mental reasoning, cultural morality, or the opinions of others. Beloved, in times of doubt, bring your struggles to God and allow Him to reconstruct His purposes and His plans back into your life.
As God reveals Himself to Asaph— which Asaph then composes into this song of prayer—we learn two important lessons about how God works on earth.
GOD’S JUDGMENT TOWARD SIN MAY BE DELAYED, BUT IT WILL NOT BE DENIED.
Asaph is complaining because he doesn’t see the wicked being punished for their sinfulness, while he is being persecuted for his righteousness. But God reminds him that while we may not see the judgment of sin immediately, God is justice and justice will be served.
“Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!” (Psalm 73:18-19).
Understanding this truth changes the perspective of the believer toward wicked people. While their earthly prosperity can stir up jealousy in our hearts, their eternal judgment causes us to pity them and should spur us into gospel-centered action! Asaph continues: “For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you” (Psalm 73: 27).
The lesson that Asaph is learning— and teaching us to sing—is that we are to submit to God’s timing. Judgment will come. Therefore, we don’t envy the wicked, we pity them; we grieve over their future judgment and eternal separation from the Lord. We earnestly share with them the truth of the gospel— the truth that saved us and the only truth that can save them.
GOD MAY SEEM INDIFFERENT TOWARD OUR SUFFERING, BUT HE IS NEVER ABSENT.
Asaph says to God, “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:23b-24).
Notice first, Asaph believes that God is with him always, even during times of difficulty. And second, Asaph understands that glory is not guaranteed on earth but is received “afterward.”
In 1945, Eric Liddell—the Olympic gold medalist and missionary to China—died in a Chinese prisoner of war camp, after suffering fits of choking and coughing, paralysis, trouble speaking and constant searing headaches.
On a piece of paper, dated the afternoon Liddell died, he wrote the first line of his favorite hymn. When life seems unfair, when persecution is great and God seems absent, let’s write this hymn in our hearts and live it out in our lives:
Be still, my soul! The Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain. …
Be still my soul! The hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forget, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul! When change and tears are past,
Safe and blessed we all shall meet at last.