I am continuing to share the series from Nancy Leigh DeMoss on living out Psalm 37 on what we should do instead of fretting (see Fret Not). In Filling Your Mind with God’s Word, we talked about Trusting in the Lord, Delighting Yourself in the Lord, and Commiting your way to the Lord. Yesterday in A Calm Heart in a Troubled World, we discussed Being Still before the Lord and Waiting Patiently for Him. Today we’ll be discussing looking ahead and keeping your eye on the finish line from Nancy’s article, Take the Long View.
When you see successful people flaunting their sin, remember that success is temporary according to the psalms. David says, “Don’t be envious of the wicked. They may have some things now that you don’t have. But they’re going to have some things in the long term that you don’t want. And you’re going to have things in the long term that are blessings that the wicked will never, ever, ever experience” (Psalm 37, paraphrased).
Some people are famous for their bad behavior. Instead of being punished for sin, they seem to get more popular. Well, rather than copy their antics or grow discouraged, we need to look at the big picture. We’ve spent a rich few days in Psalm 37. As we bring that series to a close today, I hope that you will continue over the next days in Psalm 37 until these thoughts become part of the warp and woof of your life.
Let me say that by studying God’s Word as I do to prepare to teach, I get more out of it than anybody does listening. If you want to get the most out of God’s Word, you need to do the same thing that I do. And that’s not just listen to someone else teach it, but it’s getting your own Bible. Let God’s Word speak to you. Meditate on it. Memorize it.
I want to just encourage you; these first 11 verses of Psalm 37 are a great passage to memorize. Now, memorize the whole chapter if you can, but it’s a long chapter and at least do the first 11 verses; it gives you the overview.
What have we been learning as we look around and we see evil in this world? We see wrongdoers. And those wrongdoers may be doing things that you’re seeing or hearing about in the nightly news. They may be going on in your own home or in your workplace or in your church.
You say, “There are evildoers at church?” Yes, there are. That’s because there are human beings. And there are people who, rather than centering their lives on Christ, do what they feel like doing and sometimes do sinful, wrong things.
So what do you do? You may be living with a person like that. You may have a grown young adult child who is making foolish choices and making your life miserable. You may have ungodly parents who are sinning against the Lord and making your life difficult.
Psalm 37 tells us what not to do and it tells us what we should do. What not to do is the thing we’re most prone to do and that is we’re not to fret. We’re not to get heated. Don’t get heated.
Now I suppose the reason I keep saying that and the reason this passage speaks so to my heart is that I’m a person who is prone to get heated. Now, I’m not a person who’s prone to throw things when I get angry, but I am prone inside to get what I call hyperventilating, stressed out about things, and anxious. There’s kind of this simmering anger inside at times that, if I don’t deal with it God’s way, can become ways of speaking and ways of acting that are not pleasing to the Lord.
“Fretting leads only to evildoing,” the Scripture says (v. 8 paraphrased). If you fret in response to evildoing, you will become an evildoer. You’ll start acting the way the people act that you’re fretting about.
So he says, “Don’t fret.” (v. 1). Instead, we’re to look up. We are to “trust in the Lord, and do good” (v. 3). Psalm 37 says to “delight yourself in the Lord” and “commit your way to the LORD,” “be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (vv. 4, 5, and 7).
We’ve talked about tethering our lives to the Lord. Look up. He never changes. Connect your heart to Him.
And then I want us to see in this passage a third aspect of responding to evildoers, and that is fret not, look up, and then look ahead. To see this I want to go back to verse 2. We looked at verse 1, “Fret not.” We looked at verses 3-8 about looking up. But we skipped over verse 2, and I want us to come back to that in Psalm 37.
This tells us why we don’t have to fret. And that’s because there’s something coming that we can count on. All wrongs are going to be righted. It’s going to be fixed. It’s going to be changed.
Then verse 2: “For they will soon fade like the grass.”
Who’s “they”? The evildoers, the wrongdoers. “They will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
The point is they are not going to last. Now you say, “Well, they’ve lasted quite a while. It seems like a long time to me. It doesn’t seem like soon they’re fading away.” As we said in the last session, we need God’s sense of timing. God doesn’t work by clocks and calendars the way we do.
We say, “Wow, it’s been three weeks or three months or three years or 33 years.”
And God says, “You live in eternity; 33 years is not a long time.” We need to get God’s perspective. “They will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb” (v. 2).
Look at verse 9. You see this theme running through Psalm 37. “The evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”
So you see this contrast between the future of the evildoers and the future of those who are meek and righteous. What is the psalmist saying? Not only look up, but look ahead. Take the long view. Look at the future. Don’t look at what is just here and now. But look ahead by faith, and God tells you what is going to happen.
The long view is what’s down the road. It’s the opposite of the immediate view. The immediate view is what you can see by sight. It’s what appears to be true. And what appears to be true is that the evildoers are winning and the meek are getting run over. The meek are finishing last and the wrongdoers are finishing out on top of the pile.
That’s the immediate view. But He says, “Don’t look at the immediate view. Take the long view. The long view is what faith sees—not sight but faith.” The long view is that those who are righteous will do well. They will be blessed. They will delight themselves in abundance of peace. They will inherit the land. The long view is that the wicked will be cut off. They will not last forever.
So if there is no God and if the here and now is all there is, then those who assert themselves, those who promote themselves, those who push themselves, those who run over other people, they’re going to be the winners if it’s just all measured in the here and now. And those who are the meek will be the losers.
But there is a God, and this is not all there is. There is an end to the story. And the end is not the same as what we can see here.
So we need to do two things. In Psalm 37 we’re going to walk, do a quick overview of this psalm. We’ll see two things. We need to remind ourselves of the ultimate end of the wicked, and we need to rejoice in the ultimate outcome of the righteous. Remind ourselves of the ultimate end of the wicked and rejoice in the ultimate outcome of the righteous.
Now in order to do this, I’ve gone through and I’ve put an “X” mark in the margin next to every phrase or every verse that tells me about the ultimate end of the wicked. What you’re going to see is that their prosperity is short lived. The wicked seem to prosper, but their prosperity is short lived. It says, “They will soon fade like the grass. . . . In just a little while the wicked will be no more” (vv. 2, 10). They think they’re going to conquer and overcome forever, but their prosperity is short lived and they will experience the consequences of their choices. So I put an “X” next to each place it tells me what’s going to happen to those who are ungodly, those who are wicked.
Verse 2: “They will soon fade . . . and wither like the green herb.”
Verse 9: “Evildoers shall be cut off.”
Verse 10: “In just a little while, the wicked will be no more.”
Verse 13: “The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.”
Verse 15: “Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
Verse 17: “The arms of the wicked shall be broken.”
Verse 20: “The wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”
Verse 22: “Those cursed by [the Lord] shall be cut off.”
Verse 28: “The children of the wicked shall be cut off.”
Verse 36: “He passed away, and behold, he was no more.”
And verse 38: “Transgressors shall be altogether destroyed.”
Now when you look at that list, anybody want to be wicked? Anybody want to be unrighteous?
You see, we look at unrighteousness and ungodliness in this world and in the immediate—in the short term—it seems like they have fun. But take the long view. Look ahead and realize the ultimate end of the wicked is judgment. They will not last. They will be punished. They will experience the consequences of their choices.
And by the way, that should be a sobering reminder to any of us who are making wicked choices or living wicked, ungodly, sinful lives. And by that I don’t mean necessarily that you’re in the midst of an affair or you’ve just murdered somebody.
If your life is not under Christ’s control and you are resisting Christ as Lord in any area of your life, then you are living wickedly and God doesn’t give any hope for your future. This is a sobering passage for those who are living wicked, ungodly lives that are not centered in Christ.
But it is an encouraging passage for those who are being trodden down by the wicked in the here and now to say, “Their day is coming” (verse 13, paraphrased). They will not continue to oppress the godly forever.
Remind yourself of the ultimate end of the wicked. Sooner or later all evil will come to an end, and all evildoers will be stopped. They will be judged. Now, you may not see this fulfilled in your lifetime. But ultimately, it will be true. So keep your eye on the finish line. Remember what’s going to happen. This will help you not to fret, but to trust in the Lord.
And then not only remind yourself of the ultimate end to the wicked but rejoice in the ultimate outcome of the righteous. And next to each of these phrases, I put a little cross in my Bible, a little plus sign, a little cross. Remind yourself—rejoice in the ultimate outcome of the righteous. Look at some of these verses.
Verse 4: “Delight yourself in the Lord.” And what’s the outcome? “He will give you the desires of your heart.
Verse 5: “Trust in him.” And what’s the outcome? “He will act.”
Verse 6: “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”
Verse 9: “Those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.”
Verse 17: “The Lord upholds the righteous.”
Verse 18: “The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever.”
Verse 19: “They are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.”
Verse 22: “Those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land.”
Verse 23: “The steps of the righteous are established by the Lord.”
Verse 24: “Though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.”
Verse 25: “I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”
Verse 26: “His children become a blessing.”
Verse 27: “Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.”
See, if you’re living a righteous life through Christ, you have hope. You have something to look forward to. You may be trodden down now, but look ahead. Look to the finish line.
Verse 28: “[The Lord] will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever.”
Verse 31: “His steps do not slip.”
Verse 33: “The Lord will not abandon him to [the wicked’s] power.”
Verse 34: “He will exalt you to inherit the land.”
Verse 37: “There is a future for the man of peace.”
Now see these results, they’re not here and now; they’re long term. Keep your eyes on the long haul, not only looking up now, but looking ahead.
Then look at verses 39 and 40. What wonderful verses these are to close the passage. “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.”
Now listen to this passage. Which would you rather be in the long haul? The wicked or the godly?
So David says, Don’t be envious of the wicked. They may have some things now that you don’t have. But they’re going to have some things in the long term that you don’t want. And you’re going to have things in the long term that are blessings that the wicked will never, ever, ever experience (Psalm 37, paraphrased).
You see, an eternal perspective—looking ahead—affects the way we view this earthly life. Looking at life from the perspective of the long haul of eternity helps us to face and to endure the hardships and injustices of this life.
I told you in an earlier session that I’ve been meditating in the book of Revelation and hope someday to do a series on the book of Revelation. But I’m just studying it and dwelling on it, meditating on it for myself right now.
I’ve been memorizing in chapter 19 and 20. And this is the part of the Scripture that tells us the end of the story, what we have to look forward to. As the buildup comes to these final chapters, you see that the kings of the earth and the beast and the false prophet conspire together to dethrone God. I mean, it’s like the whole world is in rebellion against God and the planet is writhing in rebellion against God. And the kings of the earth gather together to conquer the Lord, to come against His armies.
Then you have those believers who refuse to bow the knee to Satan. They will not accept the mark of the beast. And those who are righteous in Christ, what happens to them? They’re persecuted. They’re martyred. As you’re reading, coming up to the end of this story, it looks like evil is winning. It looks like Satan is winning. It looks like those who follow Christ have got the short end of the deal. It looks like Satan has triumphed and God is being defeated.
But you have to read the end of the story. And that’s what you get in Revelation chapters 18–22. If I could just summarize what happens there, the beast, the false prophet, Satan, that ancient serpent, the dragon, and all who follow them are thrown into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. They’re thrown into eternal judgment. The wicked are thrown into eternal judgment in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. That’s the end of the story for them.
And what’s the end of the story for those who were persecuted, martyred, tormented, beheaded in some cases for their faith? What’s the end of the story for them? Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw . . . the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God, and who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.” What happened to them? “They came to life and reigned with Christ” (v. 4).
Look ahead. Look to the end of the story. You say, “Why doesn’t God do something about this? All this trouble in the world, all these awful things that are happening in terrorism and violence and immorality; why doesn’t God do something?” God is doing something. God is bringing this world to its consummation where Christ will reign forever and ever. But God is also giving time for unrepentant sinners to repent. God is showing mercy on sinners. He’s giving them time to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” So what do you do in the meantime? The war is on. And the war is getting more intense, not less. What do you do?
- Don’t take matters into your own hands.
- Don’t despair.
- Wait for God to accomplish His eternal purposes.
- Ask God to give you an eternal perspective that will keep you from fretting, keep you from overheating, keep you from getting angry in the midst of that difficult circumstance, in the midst of that battle.
- Then look up.
- Ask God to help you to trust in Him, to delight in Him, to commit your way to Him, to be still before Him, and to wait on Him.
- Then look ahead. Look ahead. Remind yourself of the end of the wicked and rejoice in the outcome of the righteous. Cling to the promises of God. Cling to Him and look ahead.
Fret not, look up, and look ahead.
Oh Lord, thank You for these words of counsel to our souls. I pray that even as You have been speaking to our hearts during these moments, that there would be some who would confess a heart of fretting, a heart of anxiety, anger, trying to control matters and take them in our own hands. Lord, bring us to repentance where we have been fretful instead of trusting. I just pray that as an act of our will—even in these moments—we would look up, we would tether our hearts to You, we would trust in You, we would learn to delight in You, to commit our way to You, to wait patiently for You, to be still before You. And then, Lord, give us grace to look ahead. Thank You that You’ve given us a glimpse of what we can anticipate. And by faith we cling to Your promises. We know that all will be well in that final day, and all is well today because You are on Your throne. So give us eyes of faith and hearts of surrender to trust in You, to do good, to dwell in the land, and to feed on your faithfulness. I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.