I was listening to this sermon today and was encouraged and thought I would share it with you! Here are my notes on the sermon, I hope you are encouraged and challenged by the Word as I was.
Sermon: Tom Mercer
Text: Psalm 73
Trying to reconcile the sovereign goodness and power of God with the suffering, injustice and pain that we experience in this life has always been a great theological question. The non-Christian doesn’t struggle with this — they can just reconfigure God. But for the Christian, we are left with the question of, if God is sovereignly good and powerful, why is there such injustice in our lives?
Psalm 73 is a testimony of a man struggling with this issue and it has led him to crippling doubt — he is questioning God’s goodness, but he comes out on the other end rejoicing in the goodness of God. The psalmist illustrates how he began to slip in his faith in the goodness of God — “But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73:3) His life has gotten so difficult that he has started to waiver in his faith. He talks about the way he saw the evil prospering while he has been trying to follow God even as he suffers.
Tom reminds us in the sermon that while he acknowledges the problem here, we don’t want to end up where Asaph is in the Psalms. In verse 16 Asaph says that he was brought to despair when he tried to understand this in terms of human reasoning, he despaired until he went into the sanctuary of God. Trying to understand the injustices in our lives looking at simple cause and effect and logical deduction will bring us to despair.
How can we live with joy in the midst of this?
1) Face injustice with joy, consider the importance of the community of faith.
vs 15: “I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have betrayed the generation of your children.”
Be considerate to those around you. This man was beginning to understand that he had a responsibility to not speak in a way that might undermine the faith of those younger and less mature than him. This isn’t to say that we don’t talk about or discuss the trials and doubts, but it means that our feelings must be tethered to the Word of God. Feelings do not equal truth. Often times we think that if we just vent we’ll feel better, but that’s not true. Hold your tongue, venting only exacerbates your feelings and drags others down with you.
2) Consider the importance of worship. vs 16: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.”
The only way to face injustice with joy is to regularly come into the sanctuary and worship. In worship you are seeing things and hearing things that you don’t get other places. Every terrible situation that you are in is only temporary. When you see the eternality of God and that all men are contingent upon God, and that every situation you are in is temporary and has God as the backdrop you are given great hope, confidence, and joy in the injustices that you face.
“In worship we discover that light that surprises the Christian while he sings.” — William Cowper Put your situation in the context of the glory of God and you find balance.
3) Consider the nature of things.
When you are in the midst of injustice and trial, you have to remember that the nature of trials are short term. When others get things that you envy, their things are temporary. (see Psalm 49) When others get things that you envy, those things will not last. Don’t envy the wicked, the rich, but fear God. When injustice comes or you are jealous of the affluence of your neighbor remember that it will not last, it’s short term — it’s going to be hauled to the junkyard, it has no lasting value. It will not change your soul or satisfy your deepest needs.
4) Consider the reality of judgment.
The reason that you can face injustice, even while you suffer physically, emotionally and mentally is because of the reality of judgment. You do not need to respond in anger because you consider the reality of God’s full, impartial and eternal judgment. The timing is uncertain, but the resurrection of Christ is the proof that we need to know that judgment will come. Judgment is to illicit pity and compassion — they will stand before the holy judge and face their sin. This should generate softness in our souls, we can forgive those who have hurt us. Romans 12
5) Consider the promises of God.
“You hole me with your right hand.” The psalmist was so caught up in the injustices in his life that he forgot the reality that God was always with him and that God’s counsel guides him. Because, you the Christian, have been assured of the resurrection, you can kill doubt. Because you know that you will stand before God, not in judgment, but in glory, you can endure anything.
John Paton, a missionary to the South Pacific in the 19th century was preparing to minister to a tribe of cannibals to the great dismay of a friend who cried, “Cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” To which Paton responded saying, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”
He was taking the resurrection and it was giving him strength and boldness to face whatever might come his way.
6) Consider the value of the gospel.
25-26: The Psalmist comes to understand God as his portion. He sees the altar and that he should have been on it, yet there was a lamb in his place. We don’t have the altar anymore, we have a cross. The only way to face injustice is to go to the cross. There was no greater injustice than the cross. He did nothing, but he bore our sins — that is unjust, that is mercy.
I hope this encouraged your soul. I was reminded that often times we have to fight for joy and consciously remind ourselves the good we have in the gospel. Our circumstances don’t always make it easy to be joyful, but the good news is that our joy will never be rooted in the temporal circumstances we find ourselves in–whether happy, sad, painful, etc, our joy is rooted in the goodness of God at the cross. Here are some ways that you can fight for joy from John Piper.
1. Realize that authentic joy in God is a gift.
2. Realize that joy must be fought for relentlessly.
3. Resolve to attack all known sin in your life.
4. Learn the secret of gutsy guilt – how to fight like a justified sinner.
5. Realize that the battle is primarily a fight to see God for who he is.
6. Meditate on the Word of God day and night.
7. Pray earnestly and continually for open heart-eyes and an inclination for God.
8. Learn to preach to yourself rather than listen to yourself.
9. Spend time with God-saturated people who help you see God and fight the fight.
10. Be patient in the night of God’s seeming absence.
11. Get the rest and exercise proper diet that your body was designed by God to have.
12. Make a proper use of God’s revelation in nature.
13. Read great books about God and biographies of great saints.
14. Do the hard and loving thing for the sake of others (witness and mercy).
15. Get a global vision for the cause of Christ and pour yourself out for the unreached.