Life does not usually go as planned. Our long-term plans never seem to play out exactly the way we expect them to, and our short-term goals often change with little or no notice. For example, I never saw preaching as a career path, but God blessed me with an opportunity to find what has been my dream job! We often seek to budget our time and achieve short-term goals by a certain date or time, but emergencies come up and often push those to the backburner. Such is life.
Sometimes, though, nothing goes as planned and life becomes exceedingly difficult. It feels like nothing is going our way, and we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Life can hit us so hard that we even feel like Job did in the midst of tragedy in Job 3:1-6 and 20-26:
At last Job spoke, and he cursed the day of his birth. He said:
“Let the day of my birth be erased,
and the night I was conceived.
Let that day be turned to darkness.
Let it be lost even to God on high,
and let no light shine on it.
Let the darkness and utter gloom claim that day for its own.
Let a black cloud overshadow it,
and let the darkness terrify it.
Let that night be blotted off the calendar,
never again to be counted among the days of the year,
never again to appear among the months…
Oh, why give light to those in misery,
and life to those who are bitter?
They long for death, and it won’t come.
They search for death more eagerly than for hidden treasure.
They’re filled with joy when they finally die,
and rejoice when they find the grave.
Why is life given to those with no future,
those God has surrounded with difficulties?
I cannot eat for sighing;
my groans pour out like water.
What I always feared has happened to me.
What I dreaded has come true.
I have no peace, no quietness.
I have no rest; only trouble comes.”
Even with the knowledge that life will not go according to our plan, how can we, as followers of Christ, “live the good life?” A quick google search will lead us to a myriad of worldly solutions, but the sagest advice concerning the good life comes from the 1st Psalm.
“Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so,
But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the ungodly shall perish”
I believe we can extrapolate four key points from this “introductory” Psalm that will help us be able to enjoy the life we have been blessed with while focusing on the life we long for in eternity.
1) Surround Ourselves with Godly People (v. 1)
The Psalmist makes it abundantly clear in the opening salvo that to be blessed we must surround ourselves with the people of God. While the Bible tells us that our Savior ate with sinners, and we must reach out to people from all walks of life, we rely on fellow-Christians to help us along life’s journey.
2) Surrender to God’s Word (v. 2)
Furthermore, as we follow God’s path for our lives, the Psalmist instructs us to delight in and meditate on his Word. Psalm 25:10 says “The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.” Here in Ellijay, GA our church family is focusing our 2018 efforts on understanding the power of God’s Word in our lives. To be blessed and live the good life, we must learn to read, study, and apply the Scriptures.
3) Serve and Bear Fruit for God (v. 3)
The third verse of Psalm 1 is one of the most well-known verses in the Old Testament. If we surround ourselves with God’s people and surrender to his Word, we will flourish like a tree planted in fertile soil. I sometimes worry, however, that we are content to just stand around and say, “I’m a tree” instead of working hard to bear fruit.
Matthew 7:15-20 tells us:
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So, every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”
To live the good life, we must be serving and producing so that we can make a difference in our world and give God the glory for leading our lives.
4) Learn to be Satisfied (v. 4-6)
This final point is perhaps less explicit in the text, but we are told that if we endure the struggles of this life, we will be found righteous while the ways of the ungodly will perish. To survive, we must learn to be satisfied. In the age of social media, we are often guilty of comparing ourselves to others, or at least the public image that others present. The perfect life does not exist, but if we can learn to be satisfied, we can grab a taste of the good life. Paul makes this point abundantly clear in Philippians 4:10-13:
“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
We all want to blessed and happy – we all want the good life. As Christians, we already have it through the sacrifice of our Lord. By applying the precepts found in the 1st Psalm, we can live this life in preparation for eternity with the Father!