Envy for the Wicked?

Envidia / Envy: Inequidad flickr photo by NeoGaboX shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 “John’s been promoted again,” Maria sighed to herself. “This is the third time in six months. How does he get ahead like this?”

Then Sarah, the recently hired office assistant, raced into the room and leaned over into Maria’s cubicle, saying “Maria, Maria, guess what? Jessie just made me the assistant logistics coordinator!”

How?” exclaimed Maria, incredulous. “You’re twenty years old and have only been here three weeks!”

“Well…” Sarah paused, ”I kind of offhandedly mentioned to Jessie that my brother is a venture capitalist who’s been eagerly looking for some companies to invest in, and…” Sarah paused again. She moved away from the cubicle while looking back and forth quickly in each direction.

“And what?” Maria raised her voice. Sarah moved slightly and then leaned over on a different side of the cubicle.

“Well, I sort of hinted that he just might possibly invest in our company if things look favorable enough around here, and…” Sarah’s voice almost squealed, “a few days later, here I am in logistics!”

“But your brother works as a driver for a waste collection company; he doesn’t know a thing about investing,” Maria countered.

“I guess it’s all in what you say and how you say it,” Sarah responded with a sinister smirk. Then she strutted off with a slight skip in her step.

Maria began fretting to herself, “Why can’t I be rewarded like they are? I do what is right. I follow the rules, and yet, here I am in the same position for the past twelve years. Sarah brazenly lies, and then acts so innocent and cute. With John, I shudder to even consider the evil he performed to advance so quickly through all these positions.”

Meanwhile, Reba in accounting strolled by Maria’s cubicle, flaunting the latest outfit she had recently acquired. “And Reba,” Maria continued with disgust, “I just don’t see how she buys all these new outfits. She and her latest husband bragged about having already declared bankruptcy twice. Then she boasts of all of these credit cards and even the second home they recently purchased. I can’t even borrow five dollars without a backlash, it seems. Oh, how I envy them all!”

Maria is not alone in feeling this way. For centuries people have been struggling unsuccessfully with envy. But there was one man named Asaph who found the solution. He was a worship leader in the Temple for the Israelite people, a skilled musician who also wrote several of the psalms in the Bible. He was one who knew about the blessings and the mercy of God. He also knew that God is able to supply the needs of His people, and can bring them through any situation they encounter. In spite of all this, he became envious and downcast. It bothered him so much that he wrote about it in a psalm:

For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me (Psalm 73:3-16).

Asaph saw how the wicked and the foolish were prospering. It appeared to him that doing what is right and holy did not pay off. Everywhere he turned, he saw that the ungodly were successful in their endeavors. Yet they were also corrupt, oppressive, and full of pride. They held the position that, since they were so prosperous and well off, God must therefore approve of their acts. Surely He would have responded if anything they did was wrong. This was the reason Asaph became very downcast and distraught. He just could not understand why the righteous suffered while the ungodly prospered.

So Asaph “went into the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17a). He did the right thing. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he took his struggle and outcry to God.

He could have continued on in pain and agony over the prosperity of the ungodly. He could have moaned before God and anyone else who would listen about his struggles. He could have even gone to “professional help,” but he went before God instead, and “then understood I their end” (Psalm 73:17b).

God made it known to Asaph’s heart that He is fully aware of their evil and is not pleased with it. He showed just how their evil mortal lives could come to an end in an instant. Then Asaph began to realize that this life is all they have. In just a moment’s time, all of their prosperity, success, and scheming would be gone forever and of no benefit to them.

Asaph was grieved in his heart initially. The Spirit of God convicted him of his foolishness and his envy of the wicked. Then he said, “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (Psalm 73:22). Asaph began to see that trusting God really is the only way. He realized indirectly that the means of the wicked would only let them down in the end, and there would be no eternal hope or happiness for them. He also began to see that God is to be his source of success and eternal life.

“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works” (Psalm 73:24-28).

In the end, Asaph no longer envied the wicked. He came to realize that following the path they were travelling leads to judgment and destruction. Although he knew he would continue to have trials and tribulations, he could now truly say “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:26b). His heart was changed and his burdens were lifted because he took them before God instead of fretting over them himself. What a change in his countenance there must have been toward the end of this psalm!

For any child of God who wants to grow closer to Him, there will be tribulations. There will be struggles. There will be challenges that have to be overcome and there will be times when he will feel that the path the ungodly follow is much better than his own. Dear believer, do not envy the wicked. Do not allow Satan the latitude to make you feel like you should have never followed Jesus in the first place. The more you focus on the lives of the wicked, the more you will feel like Maria or Asaph. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:29).

When feelings like these come upon you, the best thing you can do is to go “into the sanctuary of God” like Asaph did.

Commit your concern to the Lord, and leave it there. Seek the Lord and allow Him to speak to you. Let His Spirit work in your heart and bring out your feelings and attitudes that hinder your relationship with Him. Don’t indulge yourself in self-pity over the prosperity of the wicked. “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:25). The wicked have their only reward right now, but you have a much better reward coming that will last for all eternity!

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Floating or Sinking?

boat in water

Have you ever watched an object float on the water? All it will do is float along and it won’t sink—unless water is allowed to come inside. It doesn’t matter whether it is a huge ship on the ocean carrying hundreds of containers of cargo, or just a plastic bottle cap on top of a puddle—both float on the water. Yet, when water gets an opportunity to come inside, both will stop floating and sink to the bottom, either slowly or very quickly, depending on how much water has been allowed in.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are like a ship floating in the ‘sea of humanity’. You have a responsibility to maintain your buoyancy in order to stay afloat. You can’t allow your exterior to deteriorate or corrode. If you do, holes will develop, or you may become structurally unstable and your ‘hull’ (a boat’s outer covering) will weaken and collapse or burst, allowing the water of godless humanity to enter in. This will cause you to sink. When you are floating in this ‘sea,’ you are in the world of the ungodly, but when you allow the water of this ‘sea’ to enter your ‘ship,’ you become full of this world of the ungodly. Then you will be liable to sink. Jesus told us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15, 16). The more of the corrupt system of this world you allow into your heart, the more your ‘ship’ fills with water and starts to sink. A sunken ship seldom has value to anyone.

sinking sailboat

The ways that the ‘water’ of this ungodly world can come into you are not always obvious, since Satan, the prince of this world, usually operates in subtle ways. One of the simplest ways he likes to use is to get you to decrease your desire to pray, to the point where you eventually stop praying altogether. Satan likes to use this method, since prayer is your communication with God and it is where He aligns you with His will. Regular communication is essential for a lasting bond to develop, whether in a marriage relationship, or just between two close friends, but especially in your relationship with your heavenly Father.

Satan absolutely hates it when you diligently continue to pray to God with all your heart.

Satan also likes to discourage you from reading the Bible each day, or, better yet, he tries to bring you to the point where you stop reading it altogether. The Bible is God’s standard for your life. It shows why we are all sinners in His sight, how you can obtain His mercy, how you can be redeemed from the bondage of sin, and that forgiveness for your sins is available because of His Son’s sacrifice of His own life on the Cross on your behalf. It also tells you how to live a righteous life that is pleasing to God by coming to Him through His Son (and only through His Son). It shows us the consequences of our past, and the future of everyone who does not believe in and obey God by accepting His Son and the ultimate sacrifice He made on their behalf into their heart.

Satan likes to lure you away with the things you used to do in your ungodly past. He might also try to distract you with things that, while not outwardly sinful, will still succeed in removing your focus from Jesus. Whenever Satan can get you to focus on yourself and not Jesus, then those holes start rapidly appearing in your ‘ship’s’ hull and let water rush inside. He may even get you to become so focused on what you want, and not what God wants, that you will actually start letting in water on your own, without the need for any holes or corrosion at all! God does not want you to ever lower yourself down to the world’s standards. He wants the world to come up to the standard you are to be following, which is Jesus Christ.

cross

The best way to be in this world of ungodliness, and not become full of it, is to put Jesus Christ at the center of your faith. Stop trying to operate your ‘ship’ by yourself and place it in His hands instead. Then you will no longer give Satan the freedom to force ungodly water inside as a result. If you take your focus off of Christ and all that He accomplished for you on the Cross, you will create openings that give Satan the legal right to work in your life. In other words, the ‘water’ of the world begins entering inside you. You can’t freely mingle with the sinful world as a child of God and still walk away afterward unaffected by it. Jesus told us to Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 emphasis mine). Fill your ship with God’s word instead. Keep your ‘hull’ strong by prayer, and you will be able to keep the ‘water’ of the world from causing you to sink, through Jesus Christ!

Our Little Bebop

We carefully backed our camper van in among the trees of our new campsite, which was elevated on a ridge about four feet beside a lake. The local ducks and geese soon found us. After welcoming us to ‘their’ lake, they told us they were ‘starving.’ Squirrels quickly descended from the live oaks draped with Spanish moss shading our lot.

One seemed to live in the tree beside our van, because he came several times every day to request a handout. We handed out saltine crackers, having nothing else a squirrel might desire.

He’d hold them in his front paws like a pizza box, and then spin them around from corner to corner, nibbling as he turned. We named him Chester.

The ducks and geese received carrot and potato peels. They gladly gobbled them up, being the freeloaders that they are, and immediately asked for more. After receiving the same thing morning after morning, they soon tired of the peels and demanded ‘real’ food. Chester continued coming down and asking for another saltine. Then he’d run back up the tree, returning two seconds later to ask for one more. How could he eat a cracker in less than two seconds? One day we spotted him stashing the latest cracker on a high limb before he ran back down. We also noticed that he was gaining quite a bit of weight. His name was soon changed to Chesterina, because ‘she’ was heavy with child(ren)!

We put our slow cooker right outside our van at night, so our food would be done cooking when we got up the next day (and to keep it from heating up our van as we slept!)

Another ‘woodland creature’ appeared not long after we started using it—a little calico cat with no tail. She was smaller than the average cat and did not have enough to eat or a home.

She was afraid of people, and would very cautiously approach our campsite hoping for a handout. But she’d run off out of sight if we approached her to offer something. We began leaving a bit of food for her on a picnic table at another site. Then we’d leave and watch and wait. She came around when the coast was clear to claim her handout. But the irresistible smell of cooked meat in our slow cooker every morning began drawing her a little closer to our van every day. One morning we found her hiding under our van, hoping something might fall out of the slow cooker and become hers!

The weeks went by, and she played in the leaves and caught lizards to eat because she couldn’t find anything else. Her generic name around the park was “Bobtail.” A large male calico cat, who was more adept at getting handouts, started coming around our site—drawn by the odor coming from the slow cooker. He would intimidate Bobtail and push her aside to claim whatever we might be offering that day for himself. She was too small and timid to fight back. So she would back off and let him have whatever he wanted. Hence, her lizard diet.

My husband noticed her dilemma. He would yell at the male calico to leave when he saw him coming around and would chase him away if he wouldn’t go. After a few days, Bobtail caught on that she now had a knight in shining armor who would defend her! She was really warming up to us and becoming less timid all the time.

One day she stood between my husband’s legs as he was threatening the male cat, and did the cat version of sticking her tongue out at him, saying, “So there! You heard him! Now don’t come back!” Then he ran off.

After a month or two, we moved from the tiny lot beside the lake to a larger site within the park. Before long, a little calico bobtailed cat came timidly creeping up to our patio! We introduced her to the novelty of dry cat food and put some out for her regularly. She decided that she didn’t need to be afraid of us anymore. We wanted to give her a name that was not so generic, but similar to the one she already knew, so we settled on “Bebop.” Since she had never lived with people, everything we did for her was a new treat. Sometimes we’d pour some liquid from a can of tuna into her water. She’d gingerly walk over and try it, then say, “Wow! They even have flavored water here!” What a delight she was!

Once Bebop began to know and trust my husband, she relied on him to protect her. When she stood between my husband’s legs, she had faith in him that he would look out for her.

She only weighed nine pounds, but the bigger cat would turn and run off. He was not afraid of her—he was afraid of what my husband might do to him if he hurt or mistreated her! She was no longer timid and afraid around that cat, because she knew that her ‘knight’ would take up her cause and defend her! She stood up to her bully (as long as he was there over her), although there was no way she could protect her little self on her own if the bigger cat came after her.

cross at sunset

Paul writes that we are to “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).” (Notice that we are to put on God’s armor, not our own.)

Being “strong in the Lord” means that we believe that God is our source of strength, and then rely on Him and the promises He has made to us so we can stand against the devil’s attacks.

It does not mean being strong in our own self, but only through the One in whom our real strength lies (literally, “Be strengthened with power.”) Apart from Him we can do nothing. By having faith in Him, we can “…do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“…in the power of His might” refers to …the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). Your own strength is really weakness when battling the devil, but the strength of Jesus Christ’s power is almighty.

To the devil, we are timid little nine pound nothings. He is not afraid of us in the least.

But when we put on the armor of God and stand up to him relying on God’s strength, he runs off! He knows he cannot take on God and win! Bebop would say, “I can do all things through my hero who looks out for me!” And I say to you, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

The Lonely Ones of God

young Japanese woman looking over railing

Many people fear loneliness. But for a child of God in His service, being alone is a necessity—because God’s way is a lonely way. If you are going to lead others as God directs, it requires a certain amount of loneliness. You cannot take friends along with you, even though they may provide you a great deal of comfort.

Anyone can go with the crowd. But how many can turn and go in the other direction—alone? Nothing but God’s grace can make it possible for a man to face any obstacle—alone.

You need to be able to stand like a solid rock that nothing can move, even if the whole world pushes against you! It is boldness like this in the name of the Lord that is worthy of His grace. Do you count all the difficulties that you encounter? You don’t need to. Why not count how many times God has gotten you through difficulties you considered insurmountable instead! In fact, it is better to have more difficult situations, and fewer friends, because more grace will be poured out on you to help you stand firm in your lonely situation—with your faith resting solely on God.

O man or woman of God, don’t think of yourself as alone! God never leaves you unprotected. You would be amazed if you could see all the mighty angelic bodyguards surrounding you all the time!

You have no right to complain of loneliness, therefore, because you never really are alone. Nor do you have to fear evil, because “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). When you know the Lord is with you, you will be able to go through loneliness, illness, grieving, poverty, and even terrifying torment. Yet you never need to doubt the Lord, or give up on Him, in spite of what you may go through. In fact, your song can still be full of joy, even if you have to pass through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). This is the victory that your faith in Him provides!

man sitting on bench with distant mountains

Are you a child of God in some remote place, far from any friend, known by no one? Even if you have only a hut to live in, and are not near any group of Christians, don’t let your spirit be down. Lift up your voice and sing to God! He will hear you and comfort you and remain with you. Maybe you rent a room in the middle of a crowded city, without even one person you can call a friend. The Lord sees you and can help you to thrive in the midst of your loneliness, even in a crowd. He has not forgotten you and is not neglecting you.

You can’t see God’s presence when He is working on your behalf. But those who know Him and fellowship with Him can sense His presence, nevertheless.

When your ears have been constantly trained by faith, you will hear God’s ‘footsteps’ nearby. Do you ever sit in sorrow, feeling all alone at times? Every so often, lift your head and listen for that gentle whisper telling you “It is I; be not afraid” (John 6:20). “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him…” (Psalm 25:14). Instead of trying to avoid loneliness, retreat every once in a while to a private corner alone. Tell your heart to rejoice, and then break into a song of praise unto God.

 

woman standing water at sunset

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs you inside, calling you to come away and be alone with God. Do not take your own good time responding to His call. If you are truly born again, you need private prayer time just to live! The Spirit calls you to spend much time in loneliness. This is to your advantage, so you will have a chance to prove whether you are truly trusting only in God. There are also times when you can get very alone, and then discover that no one will be kind to you. At times like this, lean solely on the Lord. He has the power to provide the comfort you need and He will prove it to you. Then you will discover more of what God is to His people. Get alone with God and the damage done by the noise and worry and shouting of the world will be repaired in your life.

Man of God, woman of God, you don’t need to feel the pain of being lonely. No matter where you may be at any given time, God is there. All you need to do is to pray, and you and God will be together. Bring Him to mind, and you’ll find Him walking with you that very moment. Go to Him with all your needs and He will lay His hand upon you. He is your dependable, inexhaustible source of supply and support. Devote yourself to Him and you will find that lonely, narrow path which leads to His unending love.

man looking out window

No one who ever lived experienced more loneliness than Jesus did. He knows just what it’s like to be lonely and forsaken—even by His own brothers. Therefore, His sympathy is endless for all who feel alone and forsaken. But who did Jesus turn to when He was afflicted and set apart from others? Who could He uncover His innermost feelings and thoughts to? No one but His Heavenly Father. He prayed and asked for His assistance humbly and earnestly, time after time. All of His sorrow and complaints He brought to Him. And His heavenly Father answered them all and comforted Him.

Lonely one, you are not truly alone. The Spirit of the One crucified on the cross of Calvary is with you right now, whispering gently in your ear: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). He “is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He promised that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Let Him be your source of comfort whenever you are in danger of succumbing to the pain of loneliness.

The Wrong Piece

colored puzzle pieces

It is annoying, downright annoying, when assembling a jigsaw puzzle, to find that a piece is in the wrong place. One part of the piece that connected to the other pieces fits correctly. And it seemed to match the corresponding picture. Yet when you try to connect the other pieces to it, they just will not fit. You analyze the region around the problem area, and the picture the puzzle is cut from, and then go back to the offending pieces. You begin to grow frustrated with what should be working out just fine. The other pieces connect to each other without any problem. Why can’t they connect to this piece? They fit all of the other pieces around this problem piece. You eventually succumb to brute force. With the bottom of a heavyweight cup, you pound the offending areas into place. Problem solved! you gleefully think to yourself. But, wait, now the result doesn’t match the rest of the bigger picture! After some careful inspection, you realize that you were wrong and that one problem piece did not belong there all along. With a little more searching in the vast pile of untouched pieces, you find one you had overlooked. Then, much to your delight, it all works out fine (until it happens all over again in a different place).

How often in your life’s puzzle does a particular piece not quite fit right? No matter what you do, there ends up being a portion that won’t connect to the other pieces. So you analyze your life thus far, and conclude that everything seems right. Well, maybe, not one hundred percent. Actually, it is more like eighty percent—although it really could be only sixty-five percent complete—but it is getting better all the time, you tell yourself. Yet, in reality, your life never will be complete. Why? Because you are trying to solve it all yourself and make everything fit your way.

God did not design you to solve the puzzle of your life by yourself. He did not create you to be self-sufficient and completely independent. He wants you to be dependent on Him for everything. God is not a crutch for the weak and ignorant.

“For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect…Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great” (2 Samuel 22:30-36).

When you start trying to solve all of your problems by yourself, you are working in your own fallible strength. You begin putting wrong pieces in place thinking that you doing the right thing and conclude that the correct pieces you inserted earlier are now wrong. You continue this cycle over and over until you reach a point where you are weary in your own strength and give up. You might also reach a point where you have become so accustomed to having the wrong pieces in place that you begin forcefully trying to make the surrounding pieces fit too, only to find that now none of it looks right. It is then that you go for help outside of your self. Yet you find that the problems are still not solved; instead, they are just adjusted so that they appear to be solved, leaving you with hidden pain.

So what is the solution? How can anyone get the ‘wrong’ pieces to fit in to the right places? Where do you go for help when all of the ‘help’ is struggling with wrong pieces in their own lives (and many times not even aware of it)? Who can take away the pain, both inward and outward, that these wrong pieces are causing in your life?

The answer is very simple—it is Jesus Christ. When you turn all of the issues, pain, and problems over to Him, and let Him take care of them, you will find that the pieces will start to fit correctly again. But if you take over your own life again, and return to assembling your puzzle by yourself, or you become proud of the picture formed by your life’s puzzle, that is when you will find those wrong pieces reappearing. It is only when you surrender your ‘puzzle’ over to Jesus, and let Him do the assembling, that the pieces will fit where they belong each and every time. Jesus loves you more than you could ever know. He wants to assemble your life’s puzzle correctly. But it will only happen when you let Him. You need to “Draw nigh [near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a). All it takes is a simple prayer like this:

Jesus, I am sorry for running my life in my way and in my own strength. Please forgive me for sinning against you. I now give my heart and life over to you, and will stop trying to force the wrong pieces in my puzzle to fit. Please come into my heart and assemble the puzzle of my life with the right pieces in the way that You know is best. I am tired of the hurt and pain that I battle with. I lay it all in Your arms and I surrender my will over to You. Please use me and direct me in the way that You know is right. Amen.

Remember, what you thought was right all along turned out to be the wrong piece. Sure, it seemed right when you first placed it in the puzzle. The colors and pattern appeared to be right, but it was still the wrong piece, and the surrounding pieces will never fit properly with it there. As long as you continue trying to assemble the puzzle of your life and to make it complete in yourself, in your own strength, you will always have wrong pieces in place. You must turn over the assembling of your puzzle to Jesus and let Him put in the right piece in the right place. Jesus knows your life better than you ever will. He is the only one who can remove the wrong piece and replace it with the correct piece at the appropriate time. Don’t let the pain and frustration of having all of these erroneous pieces in place get you down. Give your pieces over to Him and He will make a way for you.