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“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73:1-3
What do you want? What’s your vision of the good life? We all daydream about things we think will bring us happiness. Your vision of the good life can take many forms.
Relational: We think people will bring us happiness.
Vocational: We think work will bring us happiness.
Financial: We think money will bring us happiness.
Physical: We think bodily fitness will bring us happiness.
...and the list goes on. People, work, money, and fitness are all good things created by God. However, they are all cursed by God and diminished by sin, and even at their best were never meant to take the role of God in our lives.
In Psalm 73, Asaph was not experiencing the good life. In fact, he felt like the worst people were experiencing the best life. He watched as godless people were thriving physically, financially, and socially. Asaph began doubting everything he’d been taught about God.
We all have moments like Asaph. Here’s the question we all have to consider at some point: Is God the path or the obstacle to the good life?
Wicked people can lead apparently happy lives. Like Asaph, we find ourselves wishing our lives were like their Instagram stories. Their arms are toned and their abs are flat. They take relaxing vacations and enjoy exquisite dinners. Their kids are on the travel team and go to the best schools. From all appearances, they are living their best life now.
If the good life is about personal pleasure and material prosperity, then many people are experiencing the good life. That’s the vision of the good life presented in America’s consumer-driven culture and resonating in our hearts. We are enticed by our own desires to believe that more money, experiences, and pleasures will bring us happiness. It was the same vision enticing Asaph. If the good life is about personal pleasure and material prosperity, then it is natural to see God as an obstacle or at best treat him as a celestial Santa Claus who merely exists to fulfill your material wishes.
Even Paul makes this point, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.” (1 Cor. 15:17). If our goal is to experience as much pleasure and prosperity as possible in this life, then the Christian life is the worst choice we could make. According to Paul, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19).
The Bible serves as corrective lenses when it comes to our vision of the good life. God is not out to rob us of personal pleasure and material prosperity. He is out to convince us those things can never bring us lasting happiness.
Instead, the Bible offers a very different vision of the good life: to live in fellowship with God forever. This is what Asaph ultimately realized,
But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. (vs. 16-17)
As Asaph drew near to God, he realized he was measuring life by the wrong standards. He was reminded that to know God is to know the one who is “good to Israel.” God is not the obstacle to the good life. He is the good life. To know him is to know lasting happiness.
Like Asaph, when we compare ourselves with others we are tempted to believe the good life comes through personal pleasure and material prosperity. God reminds us those things are “slippery” and will be “swept away.” (vs. 18-19). They are fragile and must eventually cease. God and his goodness are eternal.
As Asaph came to realize, “It is good to be near God.” (vs. 28).
The good life is defined by God instead of those around us. Like us and Asaph, Jesus was tempted to create an alternative vision of the good life. While in the wilderness, Christ was tempted to seize power over the world and bypass the cross. (Matthew 4:8-9). Christ resisted because he knew his Father was the good life, not the obstacle to it.
1. Be honest with yourself. What’s your vision of the good life? In what ways do you find yourself enticed to pursue happiness apart from God?
2. Asaph reminds us “it is good to be near God.” Pray to God and ask him to draw near to you. Even more, ask him to help you see the many ways he is good to you.
Father, I want to know your goodness and be near to you. Grant me forgiveness on account of Christ when I pursue worthless things, and grant me the faith to believe “it is good to be near God.” Like Asaph, draw me into your holy place and give me a sanctified outlook on the world by the corrective power of your Holy Spirit.