Where do you feel like you’ve gotten a raw deal? Where have you gotten injustice? And then I want to develop four life lessons or four principles to help you walk through how to deal with the raw deal that you appear to have. Okay?
Well, let’s look at that together. Principle number one or life lesson number one: If you want to overcome the raw deals in your life, and that’s God’s will, here’s the first thing you need to do – Asaph models it for us – pour out your heart. Face it. Share it. Get it on the table. Tell God about it.
I don’t know about you, this is so encouraging, even godly people struggle with doubts and confusion when God’s truth and their experience don’t mesh. It’s a fallen world! If you haven’t got it yet, life is not fair! Until Jesus comes back, it’s not going to be fair! You know what that means? That means bad things happen to good people and the converse, good things happen to bad people.
And when that happens, don’t stuff it, don’t repress it. What’s Asaph show us? Take it to God! It doesn’t mean you’re ungodly. It’s okay to be mad with God. Now, do it reverently. Don’t do it like I did it. I think I was such a young Christian, God kind of winked at how I talked to Him.
You be honest and you share it and you get it out on the table and let the full vent of your emotions say, “God, I am upset! This stinks! This is raw! This is terrible!” And if you never get it there, you will put it down inside and it’ll come out. I guarantee it’ll come out in very unhealthy ways.
What did Job do? I mean, this is Job’s whole life. Job does what’s right: Negative, negative, negative. So he does more of what’s right: Negative, negative, negative. And, you know, the book of Job is Job saying, “Hey, God! What is the deal? I’m up to here with this!” And when God finally reproves Job, does He ever reprove him for being angry and sharing his heart? Answer: No. He only reproves him for his arrogance, of defending himself.
I was as angry with God as I’ve ever been in my life and in response, God could not have manifested Himself in my dorm room in a physical appearance and spoken actual words and spoken more clearly than Psalm 73.
I had a sense, literally, of goose bumps on the back of my neck as I read that passage and as I would go through verse after verse, it was like a videotape in my mind was playing of pictures and things that were revealed right out of that passage. God was speaking to me.
What I’m trying to tell you is: Pour out your heart, get it out there, share it. Verses 2 through 14 we have one of the most godly men in all of Israel telling it like it is to God, venting his emotions with at least a significant amount of reverence but he puts it out there. Have you ever done that? Or are you holding it in? You think it’s more “godly” to hold it in.
Now, by the way, don’t go pour it out to everyone else, pour it out to God. Tell Him. Let Him be your counselor.
A lady last night, neat lady, she came up after the Saturday night service and we gave people some time to respond and to pray and she said, “This was one of the greatest nights of my life.” She had a horrendous, you talk about unjust life, raw deal, a horrendous childhood. And her mother did and said things to her that no human being should ever do to any other human being.
And she’s a mature Christian and she knows what’s right and she knows that it is God’s will to forgive her mother and she has never done it. And last night, after the service, she said, “I did it. I felt like the world is finally off my shoulders, I finally got it, I poured out my heart, and I let it go. And I forgave my mom tonight.” And she was beaming. That’s principle number one if you want to overcome, if you want to experience God in the midst of your raw deal.
Principle number two, life lesson number two is: Consider carefully your choices. When you get angry, when people do you in, I don’t know about you, but injustice… You know, everybody has a button. It’s one of mine. I mean, there are certain things I can endure and say, “Yeah, it’s a fallen world and we’ll work through it.” Injustice just makes me nuts!
And it makes me nuts when it happens anywhere but it makes me absolutely crazy when it happens to me! And so I am tempted to do very stupid things when I get a raw deal, to say things, and to act in ways that will really, really be harmful to me and to others.
I mean I was ready to quit the whole Christian life because my girlfriend walks out the door with another guy? I mean think that one through a little bit. “Yeah, ruin your whole life because of a twenty year old girl that you’ve known for two years, yeah, don’t go there, Chip.”
Asaph realized his quitting would do what? Did you notice? Look at verse 15. He said, “If I would have spoken thus I would have betrayed your children.” And I remember that night. I remember I was meeting with six guys in a Bible study, I had the privilege of leading about four or five of those guys to Christ. And as I sat there, what I realized, “If I jump out of the Christian faith, if I quit because of this, what do I tell them?”
And then I thought of the closest friends I’ve ever had, the most vulnerable, open, loving relationships I’ve ever had was with God’s people and if I jump out of the Christian life, I lose all that.
And all of a sudden I realized, “Wait a second.” See, consider your choices carefully. When tempted to throw in the towel, we must weigh the impact it will have on others.
When you get a raw deal, you can react and, boy, you can burn some bridges and hurt a lot of people.
We, as elders, Thursday night we met and this is one that, I think it has huge implications, and I realized there are lots of people that have gotten a raw deal and this could be very emotional. And so I thought, “You know, I need some, a lot more wisdom than I have.”
So, we studied this passage for about an hour, as elders, and then we went around the room and I asked them to share when they’ve had a raw deal and how God had worked it out.
One elder really had some great wisdom about making wise choices. He said, “You know, I was involved in business and we had six partners. And I was the principal partner, I owned thirty percent of the business.” He was in a location that was desperately affected by the Asian economy a couple decades ago.
And he said, “Everything came to a standstill, cash flow came to a halt.” And he said, “I was the only one with the resources, I had a considerable amount of equity in my house. I pulled out all the equity of my house and got a loan based on that, to float the business. And we all made a business agreement, signed, legal document, that, should this thing go in the tank, we would share, I was going to underwrite the business, but we would share the loss.”
He said, “Well, it went in the tank.” And he said, “It was like watching rats run off of a ship.” Tchoo, they’re gone. He said, “I lost the business, I lost my home, I lost everything that I owned. Everything.”
And then he said, “You know, I had to work through…” and he said, “I had walked with the Lord for some time and,” in fact, he was an elder in a church at the time, another church, another location many years ago. And he said, “I worked through the part where my goal wasn’t vengeance. And I had to make wise choices.”
And then here was the balance. He said, “I had one Christian partner and I had five non-Christian partners. The one Christian partner, on a handshake we agreed, that we would do what God wanted us to do, that we would model, that we would not fight, that we would assume losses together and whatever God would bring back we would assume gains together.”
And he said, “Then, under control, not out of malice, as I’ve worked it through in my heart, then, at the same time, while submitting to and saying, ‘God is sovereign and God is good and this is what has happened,’” he said, “I pursued justice through the legal system.”
And he ended up going to court with all five of those, won a judgment, and got sixty-five cents on the dollar.
See, here is what I want you to hear carefully. Two extremes happen. The extremes, when you get injustice, is to bury it or go irrational or to think, “Okay, God is sovereign, I’m a doormat. I guess life really stinks and God will make…” There are times when you’ve been abused, when you’ve been lied to, when you’ve been cheated – under control, not out of malice – to pursue justice is a very right course to bring about righteousness in the world. Do you get that?
So, the first step is what? Pour out your heart. Second step, really think through, carefully, your response. Third step is: Get the big picture. Verse 17 it says, “When he entered the sanctuary of the Lord,” bang! “then he understood their end.” He worshipped. He got an eternal perspective.
When we see life through an eternal perspective we then begin to realize what’s important and what’s not. That happens when you meet with God. See, Asaph’s whole world turned around, my whole world turned around because I went back to my dorm room and I opened my Bible and I said, “God, speak to me! Speak to me! I’m mad, I’m hurt, it’s not fair. Speak to me!” And He did. And He’ll speak to you.
Verse 17, he enters the sanctuary. Notice then he gets eternal perspective. Verse 18 to 20 he says, “You know, in the final analysis, the wicked don’t prosper.” And then verse 21 he says, verse 22 he says, “Wait a second. I was thinking irrationally. I was depressed. I was into self-pity.”
And then he looks back and he gets the big picture, he says, “Wait a second. Big picture, whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I don’t desire anything else. You are my strength, You’re my portion, You have been faithful, You are my only real source of joy, You’re the only one I could ever count on. You are eternal, You are good, and You are sovereign.” You get it?
Now here’s the question: How do you get that? How can you get an eternal perspective? How do you get the big picture instead of getting your emotional radar locked into, “That person, that’s what they did! Here are the consequences. I’m not dealing with this in a negative way. I don’t have a problem. I’m not angry about this. I’ve dealt with it.” And all the rest of us are saying, “You know, have you thought of a good counselor?” “I don’t need any counseling! This isn’t a problem!” Been there and done that, huh?
Let me give you three ways to get God’s perspective. Number one, focus on God’s character. Read through the Psalms, buy A.W. Tozer’s book, a little, thin book, The Knowledge of the Holy, read or pray through the Ten Commandments and ask, “What attribute of God does each commandment reflect?” His justice, His goodness, His holiness? But the three attributes you have to focus on: God is good, God is sovereign, and God is faithful.
What you’re experiencing did not catch God off guard. “Oh my gosh! Look what happened to poor, little Chip! Gabriel! Did anybody know this was going to happen?”
“Oh my gosh! She ran out! He ran off! They cheated so and so!” I mean, God didn’t get surprised. He is sovereign. He is in control. That means not only does He know about it, but He will turn it around and use it for good if you don’t bail out of His plan. He is good. He has your best interest in mind.
People can try and do negative things to you, they can try and hurt you, He is bigger than they are, He is more powerful than they are.
And He is faithful. Every promise He has made to you, He is going to come through. In your timing? Probably not.
And in the process, as you struggle with it, it’ll probably make you a lot more like Christ, which is the big plan anyway.
So number one, focus on the attributes of God. Number two, get into the Bible. Scripture will give you perspective. In fact, that’s why I believe Joseph, I’m reading through the Old Testament right now, Joseph is the perfect example, isn’t he? I mean, here’s a righteous, young man and he does good, he gets bad; he does good, he gets more bad; he does more good, he does get more and more bad.
Open Genesis 37 and read it to chapter 50 and here’s a guy who does what’s right and so they sell him into slavery. Here’s a guy that, when he’s a slave, he does everything right so he rises to the head of Potiphar’s household and Potiphar’s wife says, “Hey, man, I want to sleep with you.” And he’s righteous and runs away, and she lies and he ends up in prison.
He’s in prison, he does what’s right, and two people forget him. Why? Because God had a bigger plan. For twelve to fourteen years, Joseph does right, Joseph does right, Joseph does right, circumstances go bad, bad, worse, really bad. But there’s a little phrase when you read through that.
Every time something bad happens, this little phrase is after Joseph: “And the Lord was with Joseph.” And the Lord is with you.
And when you focus on Scripture, you get perspective. So, by the end of his life, Joseph can see it through the eternal lens, he’s got the big picture. And his brothers are shaking in their boots and they’re thinking, “Oh, Dad’s died, now Joseph is going to take revenge.”
And I can see Joseph crossing his arms, in fact, it says, “He weeps.” And he turns to his brothers and says, “Guys, you still don’t get it, do you? You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.” A la, “You guys did it for the wrong motives, the wrong reason,” but God had a plan and He was going to take the whole nation of Israel and put them in the incubator of Egypt, in this lush land, to multiply, to fulfill His promises, and He allowed this evil to happen to Joseph to fulfill that.
God has a Joseph plan for you. Don’t bail out. You want the big picture? Focus on God’s attributes, number one; two, focus on Scripture; and three, get around God’s people. You pour out your heart to God, one of the reasons I shared with the elders, and the biggest areas I’ve struggled with with injustice. It has been my small group or the elders that I’ve been able to bounce that off of and get their perspective.
And as they talked, it was really interesting, they’ve got all their ups and downs, like we do, but they’ve been around a while. That’s why we call them “elders.” The word means “older.” And they talked about some of the biggest hits they’ve taken but now, in the rearview mirror, is, “You know what? God has just used that. God has just used that. God has just used that.”
So, you’re struggling with a raw deal, and you want God to really help you. One, pour out your heart. Two, consider carefully the choices you make. It’s dangerous ground. Three, get the big picture. Get the eternal perspective. And four, reaffirm your relationship with God.
Ultimately, God’s presence, Him, that’s why the series, Experiencing God. Ultimately, the final analysis, God’s presence is your only sure source of security and joy both now and forever. See, the fact of the matter is is I live with the reality and you live with the reality, I’m glad I have a great wife. We have plenty of ups and downs and I’ve shared more than I probably should.
But I can get hit by a milk truck tomorrow and Theresa raises our kids alone or she gets hit by a milk truck tomorrow and I raise our kids alone. I love getting to be a part of this church. There are a lot of good things in my life but none of them have the power to be consistent day in, day out and come through for me. And the moment I begin to trust in them, they become an idol.
And what he’s saying here is, reaffirm your relationship with God. Turn the raw deal over to God. Verse 27, realize that people who have done wicked, evil things, verse 27, God’s big, justice will happen, they’ll get their due. “But as for me…” let the nearness of God be your good.
Make cultivating a relationship with Him your good. Make a choice. He said, “I have made the Lord God my refuge.” Make a choice today before you leave to take the raw deal, give it to God, and then say, “God, I want you to work it for good, I’ll stay in the game plan, and I want to walk with You.”
And the day will come when you will tell of His deeds, when you will say, “This terrible thing happened in my life and lo and behold, what a marvelous thing God did through it.”