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"Green With Envy, Ripe For Trouble"

"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked."

Psalm 73:2-3

Have you ever been envious of someone who seemed to have it better than you? If we are honest we all have at one time or another in life. Its human, but its also dangerous if left unchecked. In Psalm 73 we read the story of Asaph who in verse 2 says he "almost stumbled" which is to say he almost gave up on his faith in God because he was watching the wicked prosper who had no relationship with God, nor any desire whatsoever to walk in obedience to His statutes. Asaph, looked at those around him who were prospering though they were wicked and he became discouraged. He began to think "whats the use of living right and honoring God with my life if everybody else is doing just fine without even thinking about God?"

What Asaph was struggling with was the perception of the lack of problems the wicked seemingly have in this life. All Asaph saw was their prosperity, he saw all the stuff those around him were accumulating, the pleasures of life they seemed to be enjoying. But, what he couldn't see was what was going on inside the wicked's heart and soul, the unrest that lies beneath the surface of perception. He couldn't see the worry and the stress, the sleepless nights and the fear that one day it could all be gone. 

Sadly, Asaph began to suffer himself from comparison which is the thief of joy. In his envy Asaph forgot the old saying, "who you really are is who you are when no one is looking." The Bible tells us man looks at the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart. Envy is always proof our eyes are on the wrong things in life, that we are counting other people's blessings instead of our own.

Envy causes us to take our eyes off God and when that happens, when we become green with envy, and ripe for problems! Fortunately for Asaph he turned his eyes back to God, but not before he dealt honestly with his own feelings. Where many people get tripped up on when it comes to envy is, feelings are real but not necessarily true. Look at the transparency in Asaph's struggle as he writes, "Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning. If I had said, "I will speak thus," Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me" (Psalm 73:12-16). Envy is painful because its self consuming. Asaph was honest about his envy and the pain it was causing him. 

So what happened that turned it around for Asaph? What did he do to get his heart in the right place again? Psalm 73:17 tells us, "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end." Asaph went to church! He went into the sanctuary of God and worshipped. Asaph got his eyes back on the Lord and when he did God put things in their proper perspective with regard to this life and the life to come. Asaph realized the wicked enjoy pleasure for a very limited amount of time. Asaph was reminded that life is eternal and that there is a price to pay for sin, as its wages are always death. The more Asaph focused on God and an eternal perspective the pain and suffering of his current situation became more bearable as he realized it was only temporal and the best for him and all the children of God is still yet to be!

Asaph's perspective changed from looking at God through the lens of suffering to seeing suffering through the lens of God. God puts everything into perspective when we get our eyes off ourselves and on Him. That is why the writer of Hebrews exhorts us, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2).

The best way then to avoid envy is to focus our attention on God, and on His Word, to maintain an eternal perspective about life. Asaph did what I hope you and I would do too when life lets us down and we are disappointed. Asaph didn't seek God less, but instead he sought God more! Asaph didn't pull back and isolate himself from God and others in his pain which is our natural tendency‚Äč. Instead, he reached up and he reached out even more! 

Asaph got with and around God's people, he worshipped and sang praises to God and as he did God put Asaph's pain into its proper place, in the hands of his loving God. God didn't remove Asaph's pain, He simply used it to transform Asaph's life into a life of worship! May God do the same to you and I too as we go through this life and learn to deal with hurt and heartache, loss and sorrow. Look to Jesus and learn how to view suffering through the lens of a telescope instead of a microscope. Keep the big picture in mind today by focusing on our big God, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares about you!

"A sound heart is life to the body, But envy is rottenness to the bones."

Proverbs 14:30


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