God is My Strength and Portion Forever

by Mike Ratliff

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:23-26 ESV)

For those who labor in ministries dedicated to rightly dividing the Word of Truth, there will be times in which it seems that no one is “with” them as they were before. This is the period known as “out of season.” However, we are commanded to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). It is imperative that during these “dry seasons” that the worker not labor according to the wrong motives. If he or she ministers with the goal of gaining the approval of people then they have already compromised. Many ministers use numbers as the measuring stick of how they are doing. If the numbers do not look so good then they change the focus of their ministries. I received a plea for prayer today for a mission trip. This plea was a breath of fresh air to one who is continually under siege by the enemy to be discouraged and, therefore, compromise or quit this ministry. The one preparing to go on the mission trip to another country made it very clear that the focus of all he would be doing was for God’s glory alone. Below is the message.

“I am heading out to Mexico this morning. Keep us in your prayers.  Not only for safety, but that God will be glorified in all we do. Many missionaries will tell you how hungry these people are for God’s Word, but we do not see this in our ministry. Many missionaries will come back and tell you about how many professions of faith that were made. I pray that they are real.  They don’t understand that these people will do so just to satisfy you or to get you to leave them alone or just cave in under the pressure of the one seeking a decision.  I suppose when a missionary comes back and tells of all the success it makes people want to support them financially.  After all people like to see and support a successful ministry.  Success in man’s eyes and success in God’s eyes are two different things.  I truly pray that our success in the ministry will be what God wants.  I am just a messenger.  Salvation is all of the Lord.  If a heart is changed it will be by His sovereign grace.  Our success in the ministry depends on God’s sovereign will…not man’s.  I will be in prayer this trip that he will lead me to another man that wants to teach a God centered theology. If I do not find him…I will give God the glory!…if I do find him…I will give God the glory!  Please pray for revival in the hearts of men to which only God can bring about. I want to thank all of you for joining our group.  We need the prayer.  Pray that God will continue to change our hearts.  Sin will destroy us, but by His sovereign grace, we live. To God be the glory!”

As I stated above, reading this was like a breath of fresh air to me. Over the last several weeks, I have been torn between laboring here and with taking care of my elderly parents who are now both in assisted living. My grandson has been ill lately as well. I have been making numerous trips over my weekends to do what I can there. This has taken much time away from being in the Word, fellowshipping with my Christian friends at church, and simply resting in the Lord. I have also been studying Koine Greek and using what I learn in the Bible studies that I post here. During all of this time, the pressure to just give up and let someone else fight the battles has been very strong. Many have turned on this ministry because of my unwillingness to compromise with those seeking to liberalize Christianity. Over the last few weeks I have also noticed that what I teach is not as readily received by very many. This ministry is definitely in an ‘out of season’ period. However, I do recognize the voice that is whining in my ear that it would just be better to quit. I also know that it is a huge error to compromise what I teach in order to be back ‘in season.’ I must be content where God has me.

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. (Psalms 73:1-3 ESV)

Those who labor with giving God’s truth to all who will hear must do so with a strength that is not their own. Their fulfillment from serving God is their portion, not the accolades of ‘men.’ Numbers are a poor measuring rod when it comes to serving in the center of God’s will. He may very well provide great numbers, giving the increase, or He may very well have us labor in obscurity for who knows how long. The key to laboring, as we should, is that it must be for God’s glory alone. He is glorified when we minister to a relatively small number of people as long as we do so in the power of the Holy Spirit according to His will. Those with huge numbers may look like the ones whom God is blessing while we labor in a corner, but God’s ways are not man’s ways. We must not be ‘envious’ of those in the approval of men. Here is Aspah’s description of those adored by the masses.

For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. (Psalms 73:4-15 ESV)

Asaph tells us that he has been faithful in his service to God, but those who are phonies with the accolades of the many, the evil, are the ones prospering. It just isn’t fair! This could very well lead to a minister becoming overcome with despair and discouragement if they allow that whining voice to dominate their thinking.

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. (Psalms 73:16-17 ESV)

This is that moment when God gently opens our hearts and shows us the truth about those glamour boys in their big pulpits and huge book deals from Zondervan. They may very well have huge followings and a lot of money now, but this is the temporal. Eternity awaits us all.

Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. (Psalms 73:18-22 ESV)

Those false teachers who are prospering now will regret their rebellion in God’s timing. We make a huge error when we envy them. Asaph tells us here that when we become embittered about these things that we devolve into brutish attitudes based in ignorance. The following is Charles Spurgeon’s take on Psalm 73:22 for the Christian laborer.

Remember, this is the confession of the man of God; and in telling us his inner life, he writes, “I was brutish and ignorant.” The word “brutish” conveys the extent of his wayward folly. In an earlier verse of the Psalm, the psalmist writes, “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked,” which shows that his ignorant reaction was sinful. He puts himself down as being “brutish,” and in doing so conveys the intensity of his feelings. His attitude and reaction was sinful. He could not excuse it but deserved to be condemned because of its perverseness and willful ignorance. He had been envious of the immediate prosperity of the ungodly, forgetting the ultimate, dreadful end that they faced. Are we any better than him that we should call ourselves wise? Do we profess that we have attained perfection or have been so disciplined that our stubbornness has been removed? This would be pride indeed! If the psalmist was foolish, how foolish are we when we fail to see ourselves! Look back, believer: Think of when you doubted God when He was so faithful to you; think of our foolish outcry of “Not so my Father” when He crossed His hands in affliction to give you the greater blessing; think of the many times when you have red His providences in the dark, misinterpreted His dealings, and groaned, “All these things are against me” when they are in fact working together for your good! Think how often you have chosen sin because of its pleasure, when indeed that pleasure was a root of bitterness to you! Surely if we know our own heart we must plead guilty of the indictment of a sinful folly; and conscious of this “brutishness,” we must learn to say with the psalmist, “You guide me with Your counsel.” – C.H. Spurgeon

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. (Psalms 73:23-28 ESV)

Let us not look with envy at those celebrated “Christian” leaders” who have such huge followings in this life. We must never forget that the preacher who says what men want to hear is not preaching the Word of God. Instead, let us seek to labor in the center of God’s will. Let us obey Him and be content with our portion and the strength we do have, which is His.

Soli Deo Gloria!

21 thoughts on “God is My Strength and Portion Forever

  1. Amen Mike! What an enlightening post…God always has had a remnant, let’s rejoice in that. It does seem like many who profess faith are against us at times, I’ve experienced that even in my own family. It is hard to take at first, but when we see past our own flesh, we understand why things happen the way they do.
    You are such an encouragement to me, I thank God He has blessed me through you, and He continues to do so.

  2. Pingback: God is my strength and portion forever « Defending. Contending.

  3. Good counsel.

    Several years ago, the church I was in – a typical semi-Arminien dispensational place – brought in a new preacher/pastor (each of 4 “senior pastors” had a functional staff role). I was the “lead sled dog” in the men’s ministry. The new pastor wanted to meet with me to discuss this ministry. He asked me, “How can make men’s ministry more successful?” I replied, “First we have to agree that success is NOT large numbers of men coming to big events; it’s making disciples of those sinners God has called into new life in Christ Jesus.” The conversation quickly dwindled into nothing at that point and, over the next couple years, it dawned on me how dangerous it was for my own soul to remain there. Gone now – to a much more biblically solid church, praise be unto God!

    Press on, Mike. Grow not weary in well doing for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.

  4. Oh dear brother!
    I understand where you ‘get to’ at times and also feel at times few are really ‘with’ me even around me where I live- I also feel like giving up – my flesh and spirit grow weary at times. But The Holy Spirit always comforts and encourages me to ‘Sail on and on and on and on”. The Lord is my strength and my portion forever. His joy is my strength too and we have so much to be joyous about!

    A while back before I understood what my blog was really for, I used to almost fret that I had no visitors or comments. One visitor wrote to me and said that he could see the Truth was very clear and prevalent on my simple blog and that that is probably why I had few comments and that most people, even Christians, don’t like it at all. The funny thing was I had never asked on any of my posts why I had so few comments…. :-D It was like the Lord sent him to me to ‘settle’ me and cause me to continue regardless as I have no doubt whatsoever that He led me to start up one in the first place.

    The Lord then took me in hand and showed me, much to my shame that my flesh – my ego was very much in the way and my focus was too much on ‘me’ even though I had not realised this and was not ever my intention, and how also it was important to me, what others thought of what I was writing. Once I saw this for what it was, I was able to continue regardless of how many people visited or commented.

    My ministry was to be for Him, to Him and Him alone. It was for His glory and His joy, and as I learned more and more about Him, was to be given out for others to be ministered to. I have also seen that as I write as the Lord leads, or post a writing form another source, He seems to always bring the person who has need of it. I have seen this not only on my Surrender All blog, but on my other blog called Be a Mary too. This wondrous Saviour never ceases to amaze me this way. It is as you say – not about the numbers…

    Personally, I would be quite mortified on a deep level if I could not have a daily dose of Possessing the Treasure and understand completely that I am being utterly selfish in my saying that. :-D The main thing is to let the Lord lead you in absolutely everything, but I know you already know that! :-D

    The Lord bless you
    Steph

    I have a poem that I would like to share with you here I if I may? I heard it quite recently and it is about Columbus. It is quite fun, but the underlying message is clear – Sail on and on and on and on regardless of what is going on around you….. I guess it could be seen as the ‘running the race’ for sailors..:-)

    Columbus

    by Joaquin Miller

    BEHIND him lay the gray Azores,
    Behind the Gates of Hercules;
    Before him not the ghost of shores,
    Before him only shoreless seas.

    The good mate said: “Now must we pray,
    For lo! the very stars are gone.
    Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?”
    “Why, say, ‘Sail on! sail on! and on!’”

    “My men grow mutinous day by day;
    My men grow ghastly wan and weak.”
    The stout mate thought of home; a spray
    Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.

    “What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
    If we sight naught but seas at dawn?”
    “Why, you shall say at break of day,
    ‘Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!’”

    They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
    Until at last the blanched mate said:
    “Why, now not even God would know
    Should I and all my men fall dead.

    These very winds forget their way,
    For God from these dread seas is gone.
    Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say”—
    He said: “Sail on! sail on! and on!”

    They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
    “This mad sea shows his teeth to-night.
    He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
    With lifted teeth, as if to bite!

    Brave Admiral, say but one good word:
    What shall we do when hope is gone?”
    The words leapt like a leaping sword:
    “Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!”

    Then, pale and worn, he kept his deck,
    And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
    Of all dark nights! And then a speck—
    A light! A light! A light! A light!

    It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
    It grew to be Time’s burst of dawn.
    He gained a world; he gave that world
    Its grandest lesson: “On! sail on!”

  5. Manfred,

    You probably have no idea how much your comment blessed me this morning. It was like I was reviewing my own journey to where God has me now. I was the lead sled dog much of the time as well. I rejoice when I think of how God moved me out of there and away from the treadmill of man-pleasing religiosity. I love your definition of success too Manfred. Thank your for the encouragement brother!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Hi Mike,
    That is a beautiful portion of psalm 73. Thank you for sharing it. I have been thinking a lot about Luke 18:8…will He find faith on the earth? I like to read Matthew Henry’s commentarys and a part of his concerning this verse says, “His eye is on the weakest and most obscure believer.” That gives me such comfort! Don’t we all at times feel that we are put away somewhere, or not being “used” by God? I forget that God rejoices so when I can minister to one person! That one person is very important to HIm.
    I have enjoyed your teachings over the last few weeks, very much. Thank you for mimistering to me.
    Have a blessed day. You are blessed and a blessing!

  7. Steph,

    My dear sister in Christ, thank you so much for this. Yes, God is very good to us. After I wrote this piece last night the enemy fled from me. It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of me as I saw clearly that my being down was the result of oppression by the enemy, but God was allowing it so I could encourage others with His truth of how we must fight this battle and “sail on!’ Thanks for this great poem too. :-)

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. Thanks for the encouragement Diane! Yes, when our perspective is on self then we become vulnerable to the enemy’s wiles. However, when we are lined up with God and His will then we are never concerned about numbers or anyone’s opinion about us, only what God KNOWS about us.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. May God richly bless you today, Mike, as you continue to preach the Truth from His Word. Though it is rejected by many, it will never return completely void. Never let the douts of the enemy have its power over you! Those are the times that we lift you up in prayer, knowing that you are doing the work for God’s glory!

  10. As I read this morning’s devotion from http://www.spurgeon.org/, I thought of you, and all of us who grow weary and get beat down by the enemy. May this be of encouragement to you, and to others as well…

    “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee.”—Psalm 73:23.

    NEVERTHELESS,”—AS if, notwithstanding all the foolishness and ignorance which David had just been confessing to God, not one atom the less was it true and certain that David was saved and accepted, and that the blessing of being constantly in God’s presence was undoubtedly his. Fully conscious of his own lost estate, and of the deceitfulness and vileness of his nature, yet, by a glorious outburst of faith, he sings “nevertheless I am continually with Thee.” Believer, you are forced to enter into Asaph’s confession and acknowledgment, endeavour in like spirit to say “nevertheless, since I belong to Christ I am continually with God!” By this is meant continually upon His mind, He is always thinking of me for my good. Continually before His eye;—the eye of the Lord never sleepeth, but is perpetually watching over my welfare. Continually in His hand, so that none shall be able to pluck me thence. Continually on His heart, worn there as a memorial, even as the high priest bore the names of the twelve tribes upon his heart for ever. Thou always thinkest of me, O God. The bowels of Thy love continually yearn towards me. Thou art always making providence work for my good. Thou hast set me as a signet upon thine arm; thy love is strong as death, many waters cannot quench it; neither can the floods drown it. Surprising grace! Thou seest me in Christ, and though in myself abhorred, Thou beholdest me as wearing Christ’s garments, and washed in His blood, and thus I stand accepted in Thy presence. I am thus continually in Thy favour—”continually with Thee.” Here is comfort for the tried and afflicted soul; vexed with the tempest within—look at the calm without. “Nevertheless”—O say it in thy heart, and take the peace it gives. “Nevertheless I am continually with Thee.”

  11. Psalm 37:7-11 really encourages me when I get discouraged/angry by what I see happening around me.
    For you, Mike…
    Psalm 35:23… “Stir up Thyself, and awake to my right,
    And to my cause, my God and my Lord.”
    Psalm 36:10-11…”O continue Thy lovingkindness to those who know Thee, and Thy righteousness to the upright in heart.”

  12. Thanks for the encouraging post Mike! It’s a great reminder for those of us who are in ministry. It’s all about God, and not about us. How easily we forget this. God bless.

  13. Brother, I am truly rejoicing to see your condition! While reading this post, I immediately thought of a chapter in A. W. Tozer’s book “The Radical Cross”, entitled “The Saint Must Walk Alone”. I hope these portions of the chapter are an encouragement to you.

    “Always remember: You cannot carry a cross in company. Though a man were surrounded by a vast crowd, his cross is his alone and his carrying of it marks him as a man apart. Society has turned against him; otherwise he would have no cross. ‘Then everyone deserted him and fled’ (Mark 14:50).”

    “The truly spiritual man is indeed something of an oddity. He lives not for himself but to promote the interests of Another. He seeks to persuade people to give all to his Lord and asks no portion or share for himself. He delights not to be honored but to see his Savior glorified in the eyes of men. His joy is to see his Lord promoted and himself neglected.”

    “The weakness of so many modern Christians is that they feel too much at home in the world. In their effort to achieve restful ‘adjustment’ to unregenerate society they have lost their pilgrim character and become an essential part of the very moral order against which they are sent to protest. The world recognizes them and accepts them for what they are. And this is the saddest thing that can be said about them. They are not lonely, but neither are they saints.”

    It’s good to see the hand of God upon you, brother!
    The true sheep hear the voice of the Lord, though we may be few! And we are not only blessed by your daily encouragement, but need it greatly! And if you suffer, brother, we all suffer with you and cry aloud to our Lord for your upbuilding with much gratefulness and thanksgiving.

    Keep pressing on,
    Jeffi

  14. I will just add a LARGE AMEN to all comments of encouragement Mike, keep it up bro, I’m with you in the Truth for the long haul!

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