Hymn of Faith
Text: Habakkuk 3:16-19
When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
The book of Habakkuk is a record of running dialogue with God, a series of questions about evil in the world and God’s people. In the first two chapters, the prophet speaks with God about evil and its punishment. In chp 1 he asks God why he tolerates the evil and sin of the Jewish nation. "Hab 1:2 O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!" God tells him that the Chaldeans, the fierce world conquerors, are coming as punishment for just that sin. Habakkuk then questions if the cure is not worse than the disease. Surely he ask God, the Babylonians are far worse in their sin even than the children of Israel.
In chapter 2 God the instructs Habakkuk that once he has used the Chaldeans to sift his people, to separate the faithful from the hypocrite, the true from the false he will also deal with the Babylonians as well. It is in this chapter that God gives to Hab the OT verse most quoted in the NT, chapter 2 verse 4 “Behold, his soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Indeed this is the theme of the book of Habakkuk, "The just shall live by faith."
Finally, in Chapter 3 Habakkuk takes his eyes off himself, his people and the Babylonians and puts them directly on God. It is then that he writes the "Hymn of Faith" that is the theme of our sermon this morning.
Introduction: Three Envelopes
Bro. LeRoy had just been voted in as the new pastor of the largest church in town. The former pastor who was retiring met with him privately and presented him with three numbered envelopes, #1,#2, and #3. "Open these if you run up against a problem you don't think you can solve."
Things went along pretty smoothly, but about a year later things took a downturn and Bro. LeRoy was catching a lot of heat. About at his wit's end, he remembered the envelopes. He went to his drawer and took out the first envelope. The message read, "Blame your the former pastor."
Bro. LeRoy called a business meeting and tactfully laid the blame at the feet of the previous pastor. Satisfied with his comments the majority of the church responded positively. Things began to pick up and the problem was soon behind him.
About a year later, the church was again experiencing a loss of momentum and membership, having learned from his previous experience, Bro. LeRoy quickly opened the second envelope. The message read, "Hold a big revival and then reorganize." This he did, and the church quickly rebounded.
After several consecutive productive years, the church once again fell on difficult times. This time by far the most difficult of all, but Bro. LeRoy wasn't worried he still had one envelope left. He went to his office, closed the door, reached inside his desk drawer got the envelope and with a confidant smile on his face he opened the third envelope.
The message simply said, "Prepare three envelopes."
How do you deal with difficult times? Most of life’s difficult times don’t come with three envelopes. How do you make it through? Here is an even harder question, how do you reconcile God’s love and the harsh realities of life?
Charles Trumann Wesco was an independent Baptist missionary who arrived in the West African nation of Cameroon on October 18,2018 along with his wife and their eight children. They went to serve in the troubled north-western region, near the town of Bamenda. On October 30, local media reported that Wesco had died of bullet wounds to the head.
Wesco had just arrived in northwestern Cameroon and was still in the process of settling in. On October 30, another missionary, Ben David Sinclair, drove Wesco his wife Stephanie and one of their sons, to the market in Bamenda so that they could load up on provisions. But along the way, a bullet shattered the car window, striking Charles Wesco in the head. He was rushed to the hospital in Bamenda, but he did not survive.
How can anyone believe , how can anyone claim to be a Christian when the world is filled with pain suffering and death and even those who are serving God are not protected? And yet that is exactly what we see, time and time again. People like the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk we will look at today, or David, Daniel, Isaiah or the apostles and millions even billions have believed. They have taken the worst blows the world can beat them with and remained faithful, even growing stronger in their faith. Take for example the background of the man Habakkuk that we are looking at today from Habakkuk
Fruit Failed Habakkuk 3:16-17
16 When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. 17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Israel’s Sustenance Gone
Habakkuk sees the future of Israel and he is filled with a terror so great that it makes him physically ill. when he knows that all will fail.
Everything they count on to sustain themselves will be gone when the Babylonians arrive like a plague and destroy their nation's wealth, prosperity and even food supply.
The punishment for Israel’s sin, their apathy and their disregard of God will cost them everything they hold dear, everything they had put their trust, to replace God, in will be gone.
In Our Own Loss
None of us are prophets, we can't see as Habakkuk did, the problems even the catastrophes that are coming our way. I'm glad I can't, it would almost be a double test of faith, once when I saw it coming then again when it finally hit. Yet I don’t have to be a prophet to know that this world is filled with sin and evil, that terrible things do happen to good people. That it wouldn’t take much for any of us to be wiped out financially or have our health fail. I read a story just this past week on my newsfeed from the Washington Post that said in 2018 “About 46 percent of Americans said they did not have enough money to cover a $400 emergency expense. Instead, they would have to put it on a credit card and pay it off over time, borrow from friends or family, or simply not cover it at all.”
Whether I am willing to see it or not, there will always come times in our life when we are left with nothing, no resources, no finances, no way of seeing our way through with what we used to be able to depend upon. How do you deal with that reality of life? How do you prepare for it?
If you know God, if you “walk by faith” as Habakkuk had declared then you will deal with it. Your are already prepared for it by your faith in God and His working in your life even through and sometimes even using the difficulties. That kind of real faith makes all the difference.
The Psalmist said it this way in Psalms 46:1-5 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
Illustration: Fitted down here
A preacher from years ago used to tell this story, when asked the question we are asking this morning. He said, "I have a friend who during the depression lost a job, a fortune, a wife, and a home, but tenaciously held to his faith, the only thing he had left.
One day he stopped to watch some men building a stone church. One of them was chiseling a triangular piece of rock. 'What are you going to do with that?' asked my friend. The workman said, 'Do you see that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this down here so that it will fit up there.'
Tears filled the eyes of the heart-broken man as he walked away. God had spoken to him through the workman to give him hope and strength in the ordeal he was passing through.
Transition: Being fitted down here through adversity is not automatic in depends on doing what Habakkuk did next in verse 18.
Fear Forsaken Habakkuk 3:18
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Joy In The Lord
Habakkuk, despite all that was happening and all that was going to happen say, “I will rejoice”
Now this is not foolhardiness, nor is it a joy based upon wishfulness or some kind of a foolish denial of the facts of life. Habakkuk’s statement, "I will rejoice in the LORD (Jehovah) I will joy in God” shows why this was a true as the harshness and pain he saw coming. It was real, it was true because his joy was based on something more lasting than the oldest fruit orchard in Israel, more protected than any cattle in the stall. His joy was based upon God who never fails and who never quits. His foundation for rejoicing is on the everlasting, loving and faithful God of Israel and in Him there was a joy deeper than the depts of life’s sorrows.
My Joy In What?
What is my joy built upon? What do I rejoice in? Is it the circumstances of life? Is it the absence of difficulties, sorrows or trails? Is it the lack of trouble? Is it the amount of money I have in the bank, my job, or my good health? Are these the things that my joy is built upon? For many of us that is our hope, that is the sum total of my joy, that life will just be okay and I can kind of coast through it with no real difficulties. Yet we all know that is not life, that is not reality. Troubles always come, health fails, money can’t buy happiness it often buys just the opposite. That is the truth and we must find a way of dealing with that reality.
Jesus talked about this in the book of John chapters 14 -16. As the Lord was preparing his disciples for the most difficult time they would ever endure he uses the word joy 7 times. Isn’t that incredible? They were going to see their teacher and friend arrested, mocked, beaten and crucified and Jesus warns them of this but he tells them about joy.
John 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
John 16:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
And not only did he speak of joy for his disciples but also for us today. Look at …
John 17:13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they (that’s you and I) might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Their joy and if I am willing, my joy is a gift given us both from the Lord. That joy was not dependent on anything in this world but upon the eternal and unfailing God of eternity.
Illustration: When Jesus had calmed the storm he then asks the disciples, "Where was your faith?"
He did not ask them why didn’t they have faith, he asks them where their faith was. Where could their faith be found? Their answer should have been, “Our faith is in Thee.”
In the midst our depressions, our quitting, our cynicism, our fear and disappointments I think the Lord is asking us, “Where is your faith? Where is your joy? It not in things out there in things or possessions, they will fail. But your joy should be right here in me.”
Transition: Let’s look at Habakkuk’s final statement, the ending to his hymn of faith.
Faith Fortified Habakkuk 3:19
The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.
Running Stronger, Swifter, Higher
Habakkuk after looking at the coming desolation of Israel, the war, the ruin the loss then looks to his God, he looks to Jehovah declares that that in his God he will find greater strength. Not only strength but he also says. He will make my feet like hinds feet. Hinds are a type of gazelle and it is an animal that when it runs from a predator will often leaps high into the air.
He also says of God He will make me to walk upon my high places. He may have to go through the dark valley but in his God he would run up a mountain to the high and bright places only God could lead him to.
Habakkuk didn't deny the troubles around him, but he would not let the troubles deny the joy of know his God. He understood that God would use the trial to make him stronger, swifter and place him on higher ground.
Look how it was stated by another prophet of God in Isaiah 40:30-31 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Running Away or Through?
How will you deal with the pain, sorrow and difficulties of life, that we all will face? Will the negative things of this world beat us up or lift us up? Will they make us run away or will we find what is needed like Habakkuk and instead of running from them run right through them?
Can we understand that the troubles you may be going through are going to be used by God to make you stronger, swifter and place you higher? Can you see that if you will sing the hymn of faith, the sorrows of this world will bring you closer to Himself?
The way you deal with trouble is also a measurement of your relationship and knowledge of God. If the difficulties rob me of my joy and bring me to bitterness and emptiness it means that I really don't know the God as I should as I need to.
Let me give you the testimonies of a some other followers of God.
Oswald Chambers was a missionary and a chaplain during WWI. He died in Egypt caring for the British troops. Oswald Chambers, "The Christian is hilarious when crushed by difficulties for he knows the situation is ludicrously impossible except to God."
Quote from Nehemiah, the man who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem by telling the people to hold a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. After they had finished and withstood the opposition, the people were told, "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength."
Brother Lawrence was a poor man who became a soldier to be able to eat, He was wounded and then entered a priory in France to work as a cook and later as a the man who repair the other monks sandals. He said this, “I know not how God will dispose of me. I am always happy. All the world suffers; and I, who deserve the severest discipline, feel joys so continual and so great that I can scarce contain them.”
These knew God and in the knowledge of God they found joy and strength and through Him and escape from the pain and suffering of this world. He gave them the ability to leap for joy in the midst of sorrow and to know the peace of walking the high places even in the midst of turmoil.
We began this message with the very recent and tragic death of Charles Wesco. Many of the news stories I read this week ended with a quote from Charles younger brother Timothy Wesco, who is a Republican politician representing the 21st district of Indiana in the state House of Representatives. When he was asked by local reporters about his brother’s death, Timothy said this, “He loved the Lord. He loved people.” And then quoting from the book of Job he added this very short powerful hymn of faith. “The Lord giveth. The Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Can you sing your own hymn of faith this morning? If you could see all the hard times that were coming down the days and years ahead of you, could you rejoice? Would those harsh realities make you stronger, swifter and drive you higher or would they destroy you? The difference for you is the same that made the difference for Habakkuk, Isaiah, Oswald Chambers or the old wounded soldier and cook Bro. Lawrence. The difference is knowing and trusting God. Difficulties even catastrophes are coming but God is always right here. Are you putting your faith in Him today?