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Posts Tagged ‘strength from God’

We are moving forward in our study of Habakkuk today, looking at the topic of living by faith.

Habakkuk 2:3-4 – “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. . .. but the righteous shall live by his faith.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19 – “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

Before we get to our topic, let’s remember where we’ve been:

  • Habakkuk complained that God was not doing anything about Judah’s sin. God answered that the Babylonians will be his instrument of judgment on Judah.
  • Then Habakkuk objected that the Babylonians are worse sinners than the Judeans. Will they prosper? Will they not be judged? God answered that they will be judged in due time, and this is laid out in some detail.
  • Then last week in chapter 3, Habakkuk prayed for God to bring this about. Seeing in a vision God’s judgment of Egypt at the Red Sea, he says of Babylon in 3:16, “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” (NIV)

Now all of this is the background against which the core message of Habakkuk comes out – what living by faith means. God gives promises to his people. But there is an interval between the promise and the fulfillment. And faith has to do with this in between time, living between promise and fulfillment.

So I want to share with you five things we learn from Habakkuk about what living by faith means; living between promise and fulfillment.

1. It means trusting in God’s promises

Habakkuk 2:4 says it simply – “the righteous shall live by his/her faith.”

Even if God’s promise seems to tarry, we are not to give up, but we are to keep God’s promises before us. We are to faithfully and steadfastly trust in God and his word to us.

Habakkuk lived by his faith. He knew what was coming and it wasn’t good. But he chose not to focus on the bad that was present and that was coming. He chose to stay focused on the promise.

In the same way we are to move forward, even though we don’t see any evidence that God’s promises to us are coming true. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Romans 4:18-21 are some very powerful verses about trusting in God’s promises. Here, Paul talks about the faith of Abraham. “In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Faith is not putting on rose-colored glasses. “Everything is just fine!” “There’s no problems here!” No, faith is seeing how bad things really are, yet still choosing to trust that God will come through for us. Abraham and Sarah really were too old to have a child, but they did anyway because of God’s promise.

2. It means waiting for God to act

Habakkuk was given a promise that God would act to save his people and judge Babylon for its violence and evil. Then the Lord said to him in Habakkuk 2:2, “If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” And this is what he resolves to do in Habakkuk 3:16. “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” (NIV); and for the day when God will deliver Judah.

And while he waited things were really bad. Judah was invaded. The temple and city were to be destroyed. And many would be killed or taken captive to Babylon. This was the reality he was facing presently and for the foreseeable future.

And although we will not find ourselves in just these circumstances, we will have our share of difficult situations as well. And so like Habakkuk we have to learn patient waiting also.

As Peter reminds us, with God a thousand years is as a day (2 Peter 3:8). God’s timing is not ours. But his promise will come. As the Lord says in 2:3 the promise has “it’s appointed time.” And so we must wait for it.

3. Living by faith means praying for God to act

It is not doing nothing; it is not about being passive. It is doing that which counts the most – praying.

This is what Habakkuk did as we see in Habakkuk 3:2. “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” (NIV)

We talked about this last time. God, you have said “it will surely come; it will not delay” (3:2). Bring it to pass even now! Make a name for yourself even in our day! Do great deeds of deliverance and salvation even now!

Through prayer God allows us to be a part of the process of bringing his promises to fulfillment.

4. Living by faith means having joy even while we wait

Habakkuk 3:17-18 are some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Habakkuk is living in very difficult circumstances. God hasn’t acted yet, and there is no sign that the fulfillment is just over the horizon. But he chooses to have joy because he knows God will act.

This is an anticipative joy. You know by faith how the story will end, and thus you can already have a taste of that joy, even while waiting for it.

It is as Jesus said in Matthew 5:12. When you are persecuted and slandered, “rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven.” Rejoice already, knowing how things will end, when God’s promises are fulfilled.

5. Living by faith means receiving strength from God to endure

I am using the NLT here of Habakkuk 3:19, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”

Even though things are bad, and that for the foreseeable future, God gives him strength. In fact, God is his strength. In all of the chaos and suffering of his day God gives him stability – he is surefooted like a deer.

And thus God makes him able to go through the most difficult terrain – climbing through the mountain heights.

And God can be our strength too, so that we can make it through the difficult path we have to walk, waiting for the fulfillment.

What about you?

How are you doing living by faith this morning? How are you doing living in the in-between time; between promise and fulfillment?

Maybe you are looking to God to take care of you and your needs in this life. And maybe things are really hard right now. And you wonder when  God is going to come through for you.

Or perhaps you are looking to the future and the life to come when all of God’s promises are fulfilled. And you  wonder if you can make it to the end so that you can receive these.

Whatever your situation I want to pray for you this morning . . ..

William Higgins

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2 Corinthians 12:7-10 is a passage where Paul has some profound things to say about this theme of strength in weakness. Paul says,

“. . . to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Perhaps it’s my age, now that I’m in my forties, but I’m becoming more aware of my weaknesses. But also a part of this is just becoming more mature, I think. When you’re young, you think you can be and do anything. When you grow older and wiser, you can better evaluate yourself. You  become more aware of your limitations.

There are many preachers today who present a gospel of strength. God doesn’t want you to be weak. God will take away all your weaknesses, that is, if you have enough of or the right kind of “faith.” But this doesn’t match the Scriptures, where we see that it is God who often allows us to be weak. The message today is that God does allow us to be weak, and God wants us to have his strength in the midst of our weakness.

God does often allow us to be weak

Weakness is a part of this fallen, broken world. And God hasn’t rescued us from it yet. That will not happen until the resurrection and the making new of all things. We long for this, but until then, we will continue to struggle with our weaknesses. Here are three examples of this struggle from Scripture:

1. God allowed Paul to be weak

  • Paul suffered much persecution, both physical suffering but perhaps worse being shamed and publicly humiliated. 1 Corinthians 4:10-13 says, “We are weak . . . we [are held in] disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;  when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the earth, the refuse of all things.”
  • Paul’s “thorn” was not taken away. This comes from our text in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 – “So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”  There is lots of speculation about what this is. It was probably a permanent physical disfigurement from persecution. Perhaps damage to his eyes? But in any case a physical disability. God’s answer to Paul’s requests was “No.” In this case God wanted Paul to be weak.
  • His personal presence wasn’t impressive. We like to glorify Paul, but he didn’t make that big of an impression on many. His opponents said in 2 Corinthians 10:10 – “his personal presence is unimpressive.” Paul agrees in I Corinthians 2:3 – “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.”
  • His public speaking was not very good. His opponents said in 2 Corinthians 10:10 “his speech is contemptible.” He could write well, but apparently not speak well. Paul agrees in I Corinthians 2:4, when he says – “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom . . ..”

2. God allowed Timothy to be weak

  • He was apparently introverted. But God called him to a ministry that involved public speaking, and working with people. So Paul encourages him not to give in to a spirit of fear, but to remember that God has given him a spirit of power, and love and self-control – 2 Timothy 1:6-7.
  • He had bodily weakness – in terms of his health. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul speaks of stomach problems and also “frequent illnesses.”

Finally, lest you still doubt, the last example seals it –  3. God allowed Jesus to be weak

  • Jesus became human – it was God’s will for him to take on the weakness of the flesh – Mark 14:38. And we see Jesus struggling with this weakness inGethsemanefacing his death.
  • Jesus became a servant to others – Philippians 2. This is  a position of lowliness and weakness.
  • He was persecuted and shamefully killed. As            2 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Jesus was crucified in weakness.” Was there another way for Jesus? No. Weakness was the path for Jesus.

What we learn from these examples is that God allows us to be weak: to be persecuted, to have illnesses and bad health, to have physical disabilities, to have personality weaknesses, to have lowly circumstances in life, to be poor, to be in difficult situations that we are not gifted to handle. God doesn’t rescue us from all weakness – but. . .

God wants us to rely on his strength in our weakness

Rather than always delivering us he calls us to rely on his strength. Lets look at how this works:

1. Accept God’s grace to help you. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you . . ..” 2 Corinthians 12:9. It is hard to rely on someone else when we are weak – but this is what God calls us to do. We want to be independent, self-sufficient. Sometimes we have pride in that we can do all that we need, that we don’t need anyone else. But in times of weakness we have to accept help – and especially from God.

Our text shows us that God promises help to those who are weak – “my grace is . . . for you” – and so we need to accept this help that God gives.

2. God’s grace is sufficient for your need. “My grace is sufficient for you” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. Here we look at the word sufficient. This is the promise of God to us  – God can take care of us no matter our weakness. Nothing is too difficult for God. If God’s grace was sufficient for Paul, God’s grace will be sufficient for you as well.

3. When you are weak you can be strong in the Lord. “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. We focus especially on the last phrase. When we are weak and we are relying on God’s strength, then we are truly strong, for it is God’s strength working through us – not the strength of our own flesh.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12:10 – “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we accept our weakness in that we know that God has chosen not to take it away, or at least not yet, then we can rely fully on the Lord; then we can be truly strong in the Lord.

4. Bring glory to God through your weakness.  “My grace is sufficient for you” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. If we ask, “Sufficient for what?” The answer is – to bring glory to God. When we are weak and yet we remain faithful to him; when we are weak and yet God does great things through us – this brings great glory to his name – which is what we were created to do.

As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” We are indeed clay vessels, easily shattered and full of weaknesses. But within us is the Spirit, who works through us and does great things that are beyond our strength and so others know it is not us – and give glory to God.

So I encourage you to be strong in the Lord. In the words of Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” In your times of weakness – be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Whatever your circumstances might be – be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

William Higgins

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