I don't typically base my posts on sermons, but the reaction I received from the message I preached yesterday has led me to share some thoughts I presented on July 6 during my Sunday Sermon to the Eastside Congregation. I believe this particular message hit home because everyone experiences setbacks, hurts and disappointments that cause them to ask tough questions. It's comforting to know that we aren't the first generation to ask tough questions and that the Scriptures are actually full of accounts of people of faith confronting God with some very candid inquiries.
Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets of the Old Testament - not minor because of degree of importance of who he was or what he wrote, but minor because of the brevity of the book he authored as opposed to the longer or major prophetic books like Isaiah and Jeremiah. Though is book is brief in length, it is deep in content and definitely major league in the substance of what he pens. Habakkuk began his ministry during a period that was the last great stand for godliness in his generation. The nation was ruled by King Josiah, who after beginning his tenure of service as a boy, discovered the then long-neglected scriptures and led a comprehensive revival in the land that dispensed with false worship and re-established the nation's commitment exclusively to the Lord God Almighty. When Josiah died, the momentum of the revival died with him and the land began to rapidly descend back into wickedness and a total disregard of the Lord. As Habakkuk witnessed this alarming retreat to godlessness and wickedness, he presents the Lord with a series of "why" questions that strike a cord even today with anyone who has a sincere desire and devotion to live for God. See if you can relate to these questions:
•LORD,HOW LONG MUST THE RIGHTEOUS SUFFER?
•LORD,DO YOU EVEN CARE?
•LORD,WILL THE WICKED EVER ANSWER FOR THEIR EVIL DEEDS?
I know I can definitely relate to these questions! They are gripping,honest,and pertinent to the real world and the way it seems to work. I'm not going to attempt to answer these questions point by point as I did in my sermon, because this blog entry would either be too long or not long enough. Nevertheless, I will share some of what Habakkuk's questions tell us about the nature of God.
More than anything, Habakkuk's exchange reminds us that God is open and eager for us to seek a deeper relationship with Him. Do you have a complaint about your present life circumstances? Have you experienced a numbing loss that has caused you to have doubts and uncertainties? Has the daily grind of life spawned a cynical spirit within you and tempted you to think you never see justice for all the evil
in the world? God is ready to hear your complaint. Scripture has many examples of these kinds of questions from people like Abraham, Job and David to name a few. Though the Lord does not always give us the specific "because" answer, he does give us powerful faith-building reminders of His past faithfulness and comforting thoughts of promised strength to prevent us from losing hope.
God also wants us to keep eternity in mind. The Bible is a Book that doesn't merely address the life we presently live, but the life that is to come. This includes the promise of eternal justice, Heaven or Hell. It means an eternal reward for those who know the Lord, and even recompense for those who have suffered greatly for standing firm in faith during great difficulty. Revelation 20 informs us that everyone will give an account for how they have responded to the Lord. There will be no short changing those who have kept the faith and no bypassing those who have rejected the Lord. Everyone will give an account.
We must keep God's love and concern for our troubles in mind. God cares.
He cares so much that He wants to give everyone the maximum opportunity to turn from sin and to turn to Him. 2 Peter 3:8 and 9 states the issue like this:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
In other words, if it seems like God is taking a long time to make things right, take into account that His desire is to give the wicked more time to repent. The righteous in Jesus are in good stead no matter what the situation. It is those who don't know Christ who have cause for worry. God is on top of the situation and is giving more people a chance to "come home!"
So when you find yourself getting tired of running the race and fighting the good fight, remember a few verses to keep your head high and looking for the redemption God has promised will come:
Isaiah 40:31 - "But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles,they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." So...when life feels more like a kick in the gut instead of a pat on the back, look to Lord to gain strength and don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. God can take it and he can take your faith to new heights even as you struggle in this rough and tumble world. Until next time...