Success: In California, the state university system has ‘de-recognized’ InterVarsity on its 23 campuses. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State is beheading journalists and religious minorities and spreading terror throughout the region and the world. Why do the wicked seem to succeed while the faithful are oppressed? Why does obedience seem foolish?
Vain: When Asaph saw the success of the wicked—“they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek … violence covers them as a garment … they scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression”—he questioned whether continuing to trust God was worth it: “In vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” In other words, “Why am I the fool who seeks God, obeys his commands, and sings his praises, when he rewards the wicked, not the righteous?”
Perspective: Then, however, he entered God’s presence, where his perspective was changed. He realized that his definition of ‘success’ was limited by time and circumstance, but that God was not limited by anything. He understood that, even if the wicked seem to success in the short run, they do not succeed in the long run. Then he sung, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Prayer: Lord, Sometimes it seems foolish to trust you at your Word. When your opponents seem to succeed as your people struggle, it seems vain to give sacrificially, to not recant our faith, to reserve sex for marriage, to withhold our tongue from slander, or to do anything countercultural in obedience to you. In these times, though, when we are tempted to forsake you and desire to live apart from you, draw us into your presence to remember that there is nothing—not money, power, sex, or even physical freedom—that we desire more than we desire you. You are the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. Amen.
To hear an interview with “Brother Victor” (pseudonymn for security purposes), who is on the ground in the Middle East and trusting in Christ in the midst of uncertain peril, listen here.