Fret and Envy
Do you, as do I, enjoy keeping up with the news?
There are of course some happy news items that make it across the TV or radio waves or in print.
For instance, there was the story recently about a man running a marathon in China who noticed a stray dog running with him part of the race. The runner, Dion Leonard, was so attracted to the dog, he decided to adopt her.
Unfortunately, as Dion worked to raise the money needed for the adoption, the dog went missing, but to make a long story short, the dog, who was named Gobi, was found. She and Dion are now best buds.
Here is news just reported, that actually happened a year ago, at the start of last school year in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Sean Maehrer was about to start high school. His parents were very concerned about Sean being bullied because he has Down Syndrome. On social media, Sean’s mother expressed the concerns about bullying.
It just so happened that a few biker gang type people read the concerns. Some of those people shared the concerns with other biker gang types. On the first day of school, many biker gang members showed up at - roared up to - Sean’s house and surrounded him.
Fortunately, they were not the bad kind of biker gang types. The ones who showed up were those dedicated to helping others. They presented Sean own helmet before escorting him to school.
The message was clear. Nobody better mess with Sean. That message was affirmed a few weeks later when the biker gang members showed up - roared up - for one of his soccer games.
There are good things in the news. There are, however, many, many more bad things reported.
How many times have we heard the past few months about attacks on guards at our various state prison facilities?
We have people leading various countries of the world who seem to have destruction as their main goals. I am thinking of nations like North Korea where Kim Jong-un is threatening other countries around his. He is also threatening the United States.
There are so many people engaged in terrorism. I am thinking, as I often do, about ISIS, their aim not only widespread terror, but terror against individuals, including kidnappings and beheadings and slavery.
Human trafficking exists everywhere, including in our own city.
There is much bad news all around us. News that seems to more easily grab our attention than do the good, heart-warming stories. The result can be anxiety, great concern, even fear about what is going on in the world.
Isn’t it interesting that the Bible, including way back in the Book of Psalms, addresses that very issue? It is interesting that even back then, there were evil people around. Even back then it was easy to let evil people negatively affect moods. Even back then, God, through the Psalmist David, gave instructions about what to do instead of being anxious, overly concerned, or fearful.
Let’s talk about that today, centering our thoughts on Psalm 37, beginning with what is taught in the first six verses. We will then consider how the next few verses repeat what is taught in the first six. I suspect the repetition is by design to make sure those who read Psalm 37, including us today, get what is on David’s mind. We will then think about how the same teachings are found yet again in the Psalm. David must have really wanted us to understand what was on his mind from God. We will finish with a challenge.
Psalm 37, beginning with verses 1 through 6.
The first words are these. “Fret not yourself because of the wicked. Be not envious of wrongdoers.”
I wonder if David wrote those words as much to himself as he did to others. David himself had many enemies around. That happened even within his own family. Plus, there were leaders in some neighboring kingdoms who were evil.
The family member against him at one time was able to prosper in support for his cause to overthrow his father. He maintained that prosperity until he was killed. The other kings around him, at least at times, seemed to prosper more than David or have peace more than him.
Other kings, at times, lived more easily and had more money and power than did David. At least at one time, his rebellious son had more prosperity than did David. When thinking about evil people prospering, modern day drug cartel leaders came to my mind. Cartel leaders are very evil, both in what they supply around the world and how they enforce their territories. The result for them is huge amounts of money, with which they buy the nicest houses and the most expensive cars and people to do whatever it is the cartel leaders want them to do in enforcing their territories and running the drugs.
David saw evil people prospering. We can see that, too. For David and for us, there was and is a danger of falling to fret and envy - to great worry, which is what is meant by fretting, and to wishing we who are good could have it as easy as those who are bad, that referred to by envy.
Fret and envy are possibilities, which, I read, are actually their own punishments. Punishments for those who have either of them. That is true. Fretting can lead to grumpiness or health problems. Stomach pains, for instance. Envy can make us and keep us unhappy about what we do have.
Fret and envy are possibilities as we hear all the bad news being reported, but listen to David. He wrote to fret not and to be not envious.
Why. As just mentioned, fret and envy are detrimental to us, but here is what David taught in verse 2. “For the wicked [including those who are rich because of their evil] will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
The wicked may be flourishing now, but they will fade and wither like grass and herbs. That is the prediction God had David write in Psalm 37.
Which is the complete opposite of what will happen to those who are righteous. Another place in the Psalms, David wrote that a righteous person is like a tree planted by streams of water. Its leaves do not wither. It puts out fruit each season.
Would you rather be a long-lasting tree, or a blade of grass or a sprig of some kind of herb? The differences are major.
Assuming we want to be like healthy trees, let’s do what David wrote in the first part of Psalm 37. “Fret not because of the wicked and do not be envious of wrongdoers.” Despite the news, fret not and envy not because all the evil people who make the news, some of whom seem to be doing so well, will fade and wither.
Avoid fret and envy. That is what is taught. How can we accomplish that. There are a number of ways listed in the next few verses.
Verse 3. “Trust in the LORD, and do good
Trust in God. Know He will help us when we are righteous. Do good. Conform to Him - to God’s ways, His wants, His desires, His will.
Of course, being good requires knowing what God wants, which includes mainly Bible study, but also prayer for understanding the Bible.
Listen to the reward. Trust in God and do good, and “you will dwell in the land and enjoy security.” That means the righteous will be taken care of. Maybe not in luxury, but what is needed will be provided. That is a promise for all who are righteous.
Verse 4. “Take delight in the LORD.”
That refers to being happy to be with Him. It extends to not grumbling about what you do not have compared to those who are evil, but being happy with what He gives you, which is everything we need now and Heaven late.r
Take delight in - be happy with - the LORD. Do that, and “He will give you the desires of your heart.” That again is not a promise of luxury, but rather the satisfaction of knowing, loving, and living for God. It is the joy of following His will and way.
Verse 5. “Commit your way to the LORD,” and again, “trust in Him.”
Commit your way to the LORD. Determine to live according to His teachings, which again requires Bible study and prayer.
The reward? He “will act.” That alludes to Him keeping you, not in the ways of the world, but in His ways. Verse 6, vindicating you. Clearing you of anything bad you have done in the past or are tempted to do now or in the future. The LORD will “vindicate” you. He will make you right if you commit your way to Him.
* * * * *
Again, there is a lot of bad news that we hear or read if we try to keep up with what is going on in the world, including our own city and towns. All the bad news stories threaten to cause us to fret and be envious. But we are to not allow that to happen. And we are taught how we can avoid having that happen. Teaching that is found in the first six verses of Psalm 37. Teaching that is repeated in the next few verses of Psalm 37.
Verse 7. That verse begins with yet another suggestion about how to avoid fret and envy. It is to “be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.” That means to wait on Him for the help that is needed. To wait rather than turning ourselves to evil in an attempt to prosper, doing so quickly.
Be still before the LORD. Wait for Him. But then the repeat. “Fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices.” How? Again a repeat. “Let Him have His way.”
how can that be accomplished? as already discussed, it can be accomplished by trusting God, taking delight in Him, committing our way to Him, being still before Him, waiting patiently for Him. verse 8 adds this. “Refrain from anger and forsake wrath.”
Anger is a quick flame of fury, acting before thinking. Wrath is a deep-seated, long-lasting madness.
Both anger and wrath can very easily be the results of fret and envy. To avoid all those things, trusting and delighting and committing and being still and waiting will be required. And we do need to avoid anger and wrath. We need to do that as part of not fretting. As verse 8 continues, we need to not fret because fretting tends only to evil.
Then another section of repeats. Good reminders of why we should not fret or envy.
Verse 9. “The wicked shall be cut off.” That was mentioned before. But “those who wait for the LORD [those who refuse to do wicked things, choosing instead to wait for the LORD] shall possess the land.”
Verses 10 and 11. “In a little while the wicked will be no more.” That, too, has already been predicted. But “the meek shall possess the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.” At least spiritual abundance.
* * * * *
Now, all of what has been said in this message - all that David wrote in Psalm 37 - is by no means meant to lessen the seriousness of the acts of wicked, evil people. There is great suffering that comes from them. Words used later in the Psalm include the description of the arms and swords and bows of evil people attacking their victims. Later in the Psalm, David referred to the wicked being overbearing.
To be a victim of any evil deed is a horrible thing. We see that in the faces of people in refugee camps around the world. We see it in the living conditions around the drug cartel leaders. We see it in the faces of the victims of drug trafficking. We see it in the faces of victims of human trafficking and other crimes even in Lincoln.
The acts of those who are evil people, including those who prosper at the expense of their victims, do hurt people. To be a victim - very fortunately I have not faced that personally - but to be a victim of evil people is a horrible experience.
A very easy thing to wish for is to have the end of the wicked come sooner than later, but still the call is to not fret, and certainly do not envy those who prosper because of their evil. Instead, seek and do the will and way of God. Wait for His blessings of good, spiritual rewards. In fact, that is the only way to survive until the days of the wicked are over.
In some of the rest of the Psalm, there are more repetitions of the teachings about evil people. I will mention those repetitions quickly, with little discussion, just as a reminder that God must really want His people to get these teachings. That must have been why God had David repeat himself yet again.
Verse 18. “The LORD knows the days of the blameless.” The blameless are the good people. What a wonderful thought that He knows those who are good. It will not feel good when we suffer, but God does know us. That is a promise.
Those who are blameless will go on, but not so those who are evil. Verse 20. “The wicked perish.” That is a repeat from earlier in the Psalm.
Verse 27. “Depart from evil.” Turn away from it. Walk away from it. Do not fret or be envious about it. Depart from evil and “do good.”
Verse 34. “Wait for the LORD, and keep to His way,” which, like the other teachings in this Psalm, will bring reward. God will “exalt those who wait on Him.” He will allow His people to “look on the destruction of the wicked.”
Isn’t that an interesting idea? We will be able to look on the destruction of the wicked, the implication being that such looking will be happy looking. That is an interesting idea since we should not want anyone to be lost, but maybe this is simply the concept that those who are good will know that right will ultimately win. That God’s judgment will be right.
Verse 37. “There is a good future for the man of peace, even [verse 38] as the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.”
Verse 40 ends the Psalm with a wonderful promise. Fret not and be not envious, accomplishing both those things by relying totally on the ways of God, and “the LORD will help and deliver.” Those who obey the teachings of Psalm 37 - those who thereby take refuge in the LORD - will be delivered from the wicked and be saved because they take refuge in Him.
* * * * *
January 8, 1992. President George H.W. Bush - Bush I - was in Japan, attending a banquet hosted by the Prime Minister of Japan. During the meal, the president collapsed.
When that happened, it was overnight here in Nebraska, but when the 5:30 a.m. news came on the radio the next morning, it was the first news item.
Not much was known yet, except that the president had collapsed. You know what I did? I jumped out of bed and went right to the TV to catch the latest details about what had happened and what was happening, including was the president alive or dead and if he was alive, was he alright? I also wanted details about what might happen because of the crisis in Japan. it is a scary thing having your president collapse. I wanted to be informed.
If you remember the incident, it was as simple as the president becoming ill with a case of stomach flu and fainting. that was of course very embarrassing for him, but there was nothing to it more serious than that.
It was later that I thought, much to my chagrin, that my first reaction had been to go to the TV to watch the news instead of going to the Lord to pray for the president and our nation.
I have tried to do better since then. Will you join me in that? Let’s pray. Let’s pray even now when we hear bad things on the news. Let’s pray that we will not fret or envy. Let’s pray that we will trust in God, do good, delight in the LORD, commit our ways to Him, be still before Him, and wait patiently for Him. Let’s pray to be able to avoid anger and wrath at all times about everything.
The closing song for today is one that reminds us that, as God was available to help David in Old Testament times, He is available to help us now, and in the future. The hymn is O God, Our Help in Ages Past.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth receive her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Though our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home!
Lord, help us to not fret about what goes on around us. Help us to not be envious when evil people seem to prosper. Keep us focused on You and the victory You promise Your people. May that be our goal this day and every day. Amen.