Psalm 37: How to Future-Proof Your Life

The Right Thing

“So, what’s my reward?” he asked expectantly. “Well,” the reply came, “your reward is knowing you did the right thing.”

Have you ever had someone say that to you? Have you ever said that to someone else? Perhaps your kids?

While the sentiment sounds good, deep down hearing, “doing the right thing is its own reward” isn’t what we want. We would rather get something tangible for doing the right thing, but often we just get a nice saying to cherish.

The Hardest Thing

The Fray sang a song with the lyrics, “The hardest thing and the right thing are the same” which rings true. Doing the right thing can be hard. Sometimes doing the right thing means sacrifice of our comfort, resources, or energy.

wrong-way-429723_1920On the other hand, the wrong thing can be easy. Parking in a handicapped parking space so we don’t have to walk as far to the store is easy, but if we are not handicapped, parking in that space is wrong. There are some who do anyway and, as long as they don’t get caught, could care less that they are doing the wrong thing.

Perhaps we have thought at one time or another, “What’s the point? I do the right thing and life still doesn’t work out. Where’s my reward for doing good? I guess that’s what they say…‘No good deed goes unpunished…’” When we gaze at those who care nothing for doing good or God, and it seems like they have all they could ever want…or at least all we could ever want, we wonder why we even try to do the right thing.

Now and Later

The Psalmist argues we shouldn’t be concerned, or envious about the prosperity, success, or advantages of wrongdoers because they will soon be forgotten. They only concern themselves with what they can get now. Whether it is cheating, disobeying laws, or living selfish lives, doing the wrong thing may work out now, but the Psalmist sets his gaze on the future.

The Psalmist encourages us to not be short-sighted. Yes, wrongdoers may have advantages now, but he writes, “they will soon fade like grass…” He knows that in the future, they will regret their actions.

Following

The Psalm reminds us that those who trust in the Lord find security. Those who delight in the lord receive the desires of their heart. Since fulfillment of our desires may come at a later date, he encourages us to wait on the Lord in patience and to not fret over those who are prosperous. Ultimately, the godly are blessed, their children are blessings, and they will not be forgotten by God.

Often doing the right thing requires us to denying ourselves. Jesus talked about “listening” to his words which means obeying his words. Those who “listen” to Jesus’ words are those who put his words into practice. Jesus said that to follow him meant we would have to deny ourselves (Mark 8:34), which is a hard practice.

Jesus said, those who “listen” build their house on rock rather than the sinking sand of those who do not. Choosing to follow Jesus means difficulty and sacrifice in the present. We will have to move out of our comfort zone and do things we may not want to do. We may need to sacrifice our comfort, our resources, our time, and our energy, to fully embrace Jesus and his will.

Future-Proof Your Life

Talk of sacrifice and moving out of our comfort zone doesn’t sound very appealing, especially when we see those who throw caution to the wind and do whatever they want, even when their actions come at the expense of others. The Psalmist counsels us not to envy the prosperity of wrongdoers, or focus on our short-term losses and difficulties. No. Our faith reminds us that regardless of our current situation, our lives are future-proofed through the love of God revealed in Jesus.

The Psalmist knows that following God and doing the right thing, in the end, brings joy unspeakable, so he says with full confidence:

“It is better to be godly and have little than to be evil and rich. For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,but the Lord takes care of the godly.” (Psalm 37:16-17)

Our reward is more than “knowing we did the right thing.” Our reward is God himself revealed through Jesus, his love, presence, peace, security, joy, and blessings poured into our lives. You can future-proof your life as you embrace Jesus, looking to his provision rather than the prosperity of wrongdoing!

Kingdom of Hope

Lately I’ve found myself hopeful. This is unusual. I’m not usually that hopeful. In fact, I’m usually kind of a cynic. After all, what do I have to be hopeful about? I’m involved in a denomination that is struggling to survive. We don’t understand the culture. We can’t seem to figure out what we are doing wrong, yet we continue to offer up grand plans and ideas of structural changes (some drastic) that we believe will make a difference in, what I believe, is an ontological problem.

I find myself serving a church that has a wonderful history, but finds it difficult to reach outside the walls. The people are wonderful and loving, yet they find themselves fully involved in their own survival. The church struggles to make ends meet and has been doing so for at least the past 12 years. People continue to give more money each year, but the increases in insurance, energy costs and salaries leaves us wondering how we will continue from year to year. Leaders are difficult to find and it seems once leaders are found they are relocated for employment purposes. Yet, our church seems to be fairing better than the majority in our denomination.

So, where do I find hope? Where do I find consolation? To be honest it is a place where I wouldn’t have guessed. I shouldn’t be surprised, yet, I am. For I am finding hope in the parables of Jesus.

I find hope when I read that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It is so small…the smallest of all seeds, yet, from that seed a mighty shrub grows. One where the birds can find protection from the storms. One that is stronger and bigger than any other. When I read that, I have hope.

I have hope when I read of the farmer going out and sowing seed. He sleeps, he awakes, he sleeps again and that seed sprouts and grows. He doesn’t even know how it is happening, but it is. Then, at the right time, the harvest comes. When I read that, I have hope.

I have hope when I read about the man who found a treasure in a field and hid the treasure. He went back home and sold everything he had! Everything! He then we back and purchased that field and he was overjoyed. He gave up everything he had so he might embrace the one thing that could bring him joy. That brings me hope.

Jesus says God’s kingdom is like plants that grow, even though we don’t know why, and the smallest seed becoming the largest shrub, and a man giving up everything he has to embrace the One Thing that brings joy. I’m realizing that the kingdom of God isn’t about me. It is about God and what God is doing in this world. I can’t orchestrate it. I can’t control it. I can’t even really understand it or at times even see it happening. It’s okay when small things happen. It’s okay when I don’t understand where I’m being called. It’s okay that I am being asked to give up all that I have, so I might embrace the kingdom God invites me too. It’s okay, because God’s kingdom brings hope.

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What to Do Now….

 

The question then I wish to pose is— if Christians should give up the quest to ‘get back to Christian America’, what then should we do? I would suggest we should go forward towards a Christianity in America that does a better job of being an advocate for its own position in all spheres of life and public discourse, not retreating into the narrow bubbles of holy conventicles, churches, home schools and the like.

If we really want to help our nation to go to Hades in a handbasket more quickly we can continue to retreat into our holy huddles, counting on the separation of church and state to protect us— when ironically there is no such written down principle in our founding documents.

[Ben Witherington]

 

A great post from New Testament scholar Ben Witherington from Asbury Theological Seminary. The question he poses is a wonderful one. Perhaps it is time to get away from trying to go back (to a time that probably never really existed (read the post)) and start moving forward. I believe that is what those of the “emerging” church are trying to do. They (we??) are trying to discover an authentic faith and live it out in the time period and place we find ourselves. All to the glory of God.