“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psa. 73:2-3)
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psa. 73:23-26)
Psalm 73 was written by Asaph, who was the leader of one of David’s three Levitical choirs. All of the Psalms from 73-83 were collected and attributed to him in some way, and either he or one of his descendants wrote them.
In this Psalm, Asaph works through his contrasting feelings of envying the prosperity of the wicked, and finding contentment in the Lord. In the particular US society and socioeconomic class we live in, this can be an extremely effective tactic of the enemy against us; and often times, our own flesh will fail us in this area of our lives.
I remember when I used to be really absorbed in things like pay grade, promotions, and status. My position at work and the accumulation of material things often had my attention, and I would compare myself to the people in my life as a measuring stick of “success”.
Only through God’s grace and His renewal of my heart and my mind through the Holy Spirit, do I feel like He’s freed me from that particular stronghold. While there are times when I may think about these things here and there, those thoughts and desires are extremely rare and fleeting these days.
And what I’ve noticed is that often when we get rid of envying others in one way, another thing may pop up to tempt us. For example, social media is filled with parents trying to compare their children to each other… their grades, accomplishments, awards, sports achievements, etc. And while there’s nothing wrong about being proud of our children, you can tell when people get into the harmful cycle of trying to “one up” each other on social media with their kids… as well as in other aspects of their lives.
Overcoming the desire to compare myself to others didn’t come easy, and it’ll probably never fully go away as it is part of my flesh. As sinful humans living in a fallen world filled with many trappings, our flesh always wants to have more and always wants to compare with others. It’s the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome.
In 1 John 2:16, the Word says, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” These types of thoughts aren’t from God. Like Paul, He wants us to find our satisfaction and contentment in Him, and not in the trappings of this world.
In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
That last sentence is the key to victory here. We can’t overcome this very common stronghold on our own, but we CAN do it through HIM who gives us the strength! So how do we do it? By focusing on the Lord, making Him the center of our lives. By dedicating everything we have and everything we do to Him.
If there is something in our life that we are making an idol, whether it be our job, spouse, children, house, social status, material wealth, etc. – give it to God and ask Him to help take our focus off of that thing and turn it instead to Him. Ask Him to renew our hearts and minds through the cleansing of the Holy Spirit.
Then, just like Asaph, we will be able to proclaim, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Amen!!
[From October 23, 2018]