Spirituality is the Priority

TEXT: Psalm 73

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire beside You. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (verses 25 to 26)

INTRODUCTION

The New Year is a time to reflect on what should be our priorities. The world of course desires material prosperity as evidenced by the kind of New Year greetings we give one another at this time. But that should not be the case with us. We belong to God, our hearts belong to him; therefore, spirituality, not material prosperity, should be our priority.

I. PREMISE: GOD IS GOOD (verse 1)

Psalm 34:8 – Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Matthew 5:45

[45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (ESV)

This is supposed to be uncontroversial, except for the following:

2. PERPLEXITY: IF GOD IS GOOD WHY DO THE WICKED PROSPER AND THE RIGHTEOUS SUFFER? (verses 2 to 15)

Because of envy, Asaph became cynical and bitter. If being righteous doesn’t guarantee prosperity – if you can become prosperous without being righteous – what’s the point to being righteous? He was guilty of unspiritual thinking.

Firstly, he wanted to control God. He thought that by living a righteous life he could obligate God to give him a comfortable and prosperous life. In other words, God was someone who could be manipulated by pushing the right buttons, by applying the right techniques, and by following a sure-fire formula.

Secondly, it turns out he wasn’t really interested in God at all, but only in the blessings God could bestow upon him.

John 6:24–27

[24] So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

[25] When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” [26] Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. [27] Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (ESV)

1 Timothy 6:3–5

[3] If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, [4] he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, [5] and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. (ESV)

3. PERSPECTIVE: THE IMPORTANCE OF SPIRITUAL THINKING (verses 16 to 22)

In the sanctuary, meditating in the presence of God, Asaph regained his spiritual composure.

“Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)

Asaph’s unspiritual thinking was a result of earthly mindedness. It was in the course of meditating on God in the sanctuary that his mind was renewed, and he began to see things in the right way, i.e., from a spiritual perspective. He realized —

A) Sooner or later the wicked will come to ruin.

Hebrews 9:27 – And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

Psalm 1:5–6

[5] Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; [6] for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (ESV)

B) It was foolish of him to be bitter towards God.

Isaiah 55:8 – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.

In the case of Job, for example, God allowed Job to suffer in order to train Job to treasure God’s person more than God’s blessings. In other words, in God’s eyes, spirituality is more important than prosperity.

C) At the end of the day, all that matters is God and having him by your side.

Someday, we will either become sick or grow old and eventually die. Our flesh will fail. Someday, we will leave everything behind – all our medals, all our money, all our material possessions, everything we thought would give us happiness and satisfaction. Our hearts will fail. On our deathbeds, what will matter most to us is not the size of our bank account, but our relationship to God.

Matthew 6:19

[19] “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.

Job 1:20–21

[20] Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. [21] And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)

Hebrews 13:5

[5] Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (ESV)

“What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

4. PRIORITY: NOT PROSPERITY, BUT NEARNESS TO GOD.

Why does God often withhold material prosperity from his faithful children?

A) Because He knows it can cause them great spiritual harm.

I Timothy 6:9-10 NLT

(9) But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

Luke 12:15

[15] And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (ESV)

Proverbs 30:7–9

[7] Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: [8] Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, [9] lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?”or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (ESV)

B) Because he wants them to experience true prosperity.

Genesis 15:1

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (KJV)

Philippians 3:7–8

[7] But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. [8] Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (ESV)

Knowing God in the person of Jesus Christ is true prosperity.

John 17:3

[3] And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (ESV)

Church, our task is not to teach people how they can become materially prosperous. Our task is to help them draw near to God through Christ in the power of the Spirit. Spirituality, not prosperity, is the priority.

“The greatest of all blessings is to know God and to be in his presence.” (MLJ)

(Manuscript basis of a sermon preached to the congregation of Ikthus East Bacolod last January 1, 2023)

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