Craig Groeschel - Embracing God in the Valley
Hey I love it when I can tell that there are some people that are excited to be in church and ready to hear from God's word. We are in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk has three chapters. I've got good news for you today, we are not in chapter 1 today. We are not in chapter 2 today. But guess what chapter we're in today? Today we're in chapter 3 in the book of Habakkuk. And if you've been with us hopefully you're expecting to experience something good in chapter 3. This book is so special to me, in fact I've written a new book that just came out on Tuesday of this week. It's called Hope in the Dark, believing God is good when life is not. We are blown away, blown away, blown away, blown away, blown away, we've never had a book fly off like this.
Thank you for sharing on social media, my publishers told me, it came out on Tuesday, it's been out of stock on Amazon since Thursday. You almost can't find it in stores, it's been between the 12th and 18th best selling book of every book in the world on Amazon in the first week. And it's because of you telling people and unfortunately what that tells us is there are so many people that are hurting. But we believe there's good news that God is still good in the hurting. If you're trying to order it, my advise would be just order it because it's out of stock but it's coming in. I'd get in line now because I'm understanding it's gonna be a little while before they can catch up with the demands. So I pray it continues to reach a lot of people.
Let's talk about Habakkuk, if you've previous weeks, let me give you a little bit of the back story of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is a minor prophet in the Old Testament, that lived and prophesied around the year 600 or so B.C., 600 years before the birth of Christ. Habakkuk was different in the way that he ministered. Most prophets would speak to the people on behalf of God. Here is what God would say to you people. But Habakkuk was different, what he did is he spoke to God on behalf of the people. And what he said to God was raw, it was real, and it was full of emotion. Essentially he said God, I don't like what you're doing, I wish you were doing something else. God why don't you seem fair?
Chapter 1 of the book of Habakkuk is all about what so many of us do, Habakkuk finds himself wondering why what he sees with his eyes is so different than what he believes in his heart. Why is it so often we believe that God can do something, we think that He will, and He doesn't? Habakkuk finds himself wondering, God why don't you seem fair? Chapter 2 is all about waiting, waiting. Number one, God where are you, where are you, where are you? God speaks and then says Habakkuk, here's what I'm gonna tell you, I'm about to do something and what I'm gonna do is going to amaze you. You wouldn't even believe it if I told you. If I'm Habakkuk I'm thinking, finally my God heard my prayers, He's gonna come through, something good is going to happen. But God says no, actually, I'm gonna raise up your enemies, the Babylonians, who are even worse than you and your enemies are gonna destroy you. I was confused at first God now I'm even more confused.
In chapter 2 he's waiting on this promise from God to come true. Some of you are in the waiting zone. God when are you gonna hear my prayer? The verse said this, though it linger wait for it. Though it linger wait for it. When it's not God's time, you can't force it. When it is God's time, you can't stop it. Chapter 2 is all about the waiting. Chapter 3, there seems to be a change in tone. If you read all of 1 and all of 2 all the way up to the very last verse in chapter 2, you see this angst, this agony, kinda this disappointment, this wondering. Why God aren't you doing what I want you to do? Some of you may feel that way in your life right now. The end of chapter 2, the very last verse, Habakkuk says this, he says I'm confused, I'm wondering, I'm doubting, and then he says, but the Lord. Somebody say, but the Lord. He says, but the Lord is in His holy Temple. But God is still on the throne. And then he says, let all the earth be silent before Him. It's a little bit like the Psalm that says sometimes you just have to be still and know that He is God. I'm hurting, I'm confused, I don't understand, but the Lord is in His holy Temple.
Then chapter 3 suggests kind of a reset. Verse 1 is a verse that you would likely just read on by but there is a word in verse 1 I want to bring to your attention. Chapter 3, verse 1 says, a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet on shigionoth, everybody say shigionoth. Say it again, I need you guys to help me out, you're kinda quiet today, listen I'm not in a quiet mood. If you're kinda quiet, just don't be quiet. Okay, everybody say shigionoth. You did not just cuss in church I want to ease your fears. Shigionoth, what in the world does shigionoth mean? Let me answer your question, shigionoth is the plural of shigion. Now that we've established that, we can move on. Shigion is actually a word only used one time in all the Bible, it's used in Psalms 7. Shigionoth is also only used one time, it's used in Habakkuk 3:1. These words, we don't know a whole lot about them, but what we do know is they're directions on how to sing a song or a Psalm. It's a musical term that's instructing a congregation of people how you are to sing.
For example, I might say, what I'd like for you to do in this next worship song, is I want you to sing it like a love song to God. I'm telling you how to sing it. Or I might say sing this one with a little bit of a jazz flair. Or sing this one with hip-hop passion. When we do this one, I need somebody to do the Floss. I cant' do the Floss, just pray for me. I'm gonna learn it I can feel it, God is with me all things are possible with God. Shigionoth, somebody say shigionoth. Let me tell you what shigionoth means, it means to sing with strong emotion, with impassioned exuberance, it means wild, passionate singing with rapid changes of rhythm, it means high-spirited praise, vigorous enthusiasm.
One article I read said of the word, it said it's not a whiny, cry in your beer ballad. I like that, if you're in the mood to cry in your beer to a country song, this my friends, is not shigionoth. One article said of shigionoth, and I quote "it is praise punctuated with exclamation marks". Oh that's so good. Where's my help over here on the front row. It's praise, it's praise with exclamation marks. Amy told me last week, she said, she got a text from someone that was talking about how the message impacted their life and it really changed them. And she said Craig, they sent it and it has seven exclamation marks. And then she said, it was so funny, she said, I always count how many. And then she said, technically in formal writing you only need one but when they're talking about your messages, I love to see lots of them.
If you ever want to bless Amy, add an exclamation point or two, in fact I just want to say Amy, I love you with exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point, shigionoth. Okay, so I'm just saying. What I want you to understand about Habakkuk in chapter 3, is he is doing this full-body, all in, exuberant worship to God before God did what he wanted God to do. Did you catch that? Sometimes the most passionate, authentic praise is actually the praise before the provision. It's praise that is simply based on faith. It's praising God not for the what but for the who. It's not for what you have done, it's not for what I think you're gonna do, this is just praise for who you are, for your character, for your nature, for your goodness, for your glory. It's praise for the who, not praise for the what. It's shigionoth, it's praise before anything happens.
In verse 2, we see Habakkuk says this of God, he says Lord, I've heard of your fame, I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord. He says, repeat them, somebody say repeat them. He says, do it again God, repeat them in our day, in our time make them known, in wrath God I know you're coming to judge us, but remember mercy. God do it again, God I've seen you do it before and even before you do it, I'm gonna praise you, believing God, you're gonna do it again. I love the song that we sang today in worship by our good friends at Elevation Church led by Pastor Steven Furtick who actually wrote the lyrics to this song that says, I've seen You move God, come move the mountains. And I believe, I'll see You do it again. You made a way, where there was no way. And I believe, I'll see you do it again. God I've seen you work, I know you can God. Do it again, I'm praising you God, not even for what is going on God, but just who you are, shigionoth. What do you do when life gets difficult?
First week we talked about sometimes you experience the goodness of God, you're kind of on high. Thank you God, you're amazing, I love you God, you answer all my prayers, you're fantastic, God I feel you, and then something happens that's bad. You lose your job, you get bad news, you pray for something and you don't get what you prayed for, you find yourself wanting something and you know God could give it to you easily and He doesn't give it to you. And you experience what Henry Blackaby calls a crisis of belief. God I thought you were gonna do this but I find myself in a different place. So many people when they hit the crisis of belief, they think okay well, I'm just gonna pretend like it's not happening, I'm kinda gonna deny it, and go back into the state of bliss with God. Other people say okay God you're not real, forget you, I'm gonna walk away from you.
What do you do, when what you see with your eyes is different than what you believe in your heart and you find yourself in the valley? What do you do when you're crying out to God, believing that He'll hear your prayer, He'll move in a way that brings relief, or brings blessing, or brings provision and yet God doesn't? Let's talk about two things, the first thing is we're going to remember and embrace the goodness and the faithfulness of our God. We're going to remember, somebody say remember.
Verse 3 says this, Habakkuk says God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and His praise filled the temple. When you hear about these places you may think that means nothing to me but these places were very meaningful to Habakkuk because these were the two places, Teman and Paran, where God took His people for refuge after delivering them from Egyptian bondage. He's saying God I am remembering when we didn't think there was any way, when we thought our people would be in bondage forever. But God, you moved the heart of Pharaoh, God you split open the Red Sea, you caused us to walk through on dry ground. God you destroyed our enemies as they pursued us behind. God I remember when you were faithful, I think back on your goodness, God I know you can do it again. Verses 4, 5, and 6, Habakkuk says of God, His splendor was like the sunrise, rays flashed from His hand, where His power was hidden. Plague went before him, pestilence followed His steps.
What did God do? He stood and shook the earth, He looked and made the nation tremble. He said God I remember your faithfulness. I remember your goodness, I remember your justice, I remember your presence, I remember God when you were glorified through what you did. And if you read forward in verses 7 through 15, this is kind of what Habakkuk does, he's talking back about the justice and the faithfulness of God. Here's what Habakkuk could have done, he could have remembered some of the things the other people of God remembered, perhaps he did. He could have said God I remember when you provided for your people with manna from heaven, with meat from a bird, with water from a rock, I remember. He could have said, I remember when you shut the mouths of hungry lions to deliver Daniel and free him. I remember when you were with the three Hebrew children in the fire and they came out on the other side and they were not burned. I remember God when you raised the dead. God I remember when you spoke life into dry bones and they came to life.
Sometimes when you're in the valley, you just simply have to remember the goodness and the faithfulness of God. I think back sometimes when I'm questioning God and I remember in college when my sin caught up to me. Anybody ever had that happen to you? It's fun for awhile and then it's not. And I felt guilty, I felt afraid, I didn't know what to do, I was lost. And so I thought, you know what? I'm gonna start a Bible study. I was like party guy, wild guy, Bible study. And I remember walking to class the day of the Bible study and thinking, I don't have a Bible. I remember coming out of class and there was a gentlemen from the organization known as the Gideons, who looked at me and said, young man would you like a free... Bible! And he gave me a free Bible! And I started reading the Bible and when I got to Ephesians chapter 2, my life was forever changed and now I recognize that years later, I get to be a part of the church, which has provided more than one-third of a billion Bibles for people around the world. Sometimes you just have to remember the faithfulness of God.
I remember dating, waiting, and the deep desire for mating. Send her Jesus! Now! In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen, amen, amen. I remember going on a date with this girl, she was really nice, but she wasn't really spiritually in the right place. So I ended the date early and she said you are so weird. A few weeks later she came up and she said, you are weird, and I met this girl, she's weird like you. You should be weird together, her name is Amy Fox and today her name is Amy Groeschel. I remember when God hand-delivered my best friend, my prize, and my dessert. Sometimes, the best desserts take longer to cook. I remember when we ran out of money and there wasn't any food and we prayed and that day a refund check came in the mail.
I remember when Catie, my oldest daughter, was a little bitty girl, got poison ivy from head to toe. And the doctor said she's gonna be sick for awhile. And I remember she prayed Jesus make me well and I remember thinking that's such a sweet prayer, you're gonna be sick for a while. And I remember the next day she came in with her Barney panties and nothing else on, ran into our room and said ta-da! And I said, what are you doing naked girl? And she said look at me, Jesus healed me. Sometimes you just have to go back through your life and remember the goodness and the faithfulness of God. What do you do when you're in the valley? You remember the goodness of God. The second thing, let me tell you what you do not do, the second thing you do not do, is you do not just endure when you're in the valley. What is enduring? Enduring is kind of a passive response to something that is happening to you. But we don't just endure, what we do when we're in the valley is we embrace and believe that God is still good. We embrace what He's doing.
If you think about Habakkuk in this situation, he felt like the enemy, the Babylonians were winning. And they were. He looked and he recognized this is bad, and it's about to get worse, but he embraced the situation and with everything in him he still declared, my God is still on the throne! My God has always been good. My God is always faithful. What I love about this is, this is not some sort of state of denial, this isn't just a pretend like it's not true, this is looking the bad news in the face and still declaring, I still trust my God with everything in me, I continue to embrace His goodness. Watch as Habakkuk does this. Power in chapter 3, chapter 1 is wondering, chapter 2 is waiting. Chapter 3, watch as he embraces in verse 16, he says to God, I heard and my heart pounded.
Let me pause there for a moment and just clarify, this is not, the oh my gosh, she's so good looking, she smells so good and I love it when she flips her hair like that, my heart pounded. This is the bad kind, this is I heard really bad news and I'm scared to death. He says, I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound, decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled. God just told me He's gonna raise up the Babylonians and destroy the people that I love. He says, yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us. He says, it's bad, it's gonna get worse, it's gonna be brutal, there's gonna be tremendous suffering. Then he says this, though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.
You might say it this way, though I'm still praying, and I'm not seeing an answer, though we're still believing that we can conceive and we have not conceived, though I'm still asking God for that job, that provision, that blessing, that answer, and I still have not seen it. Though we lost something so valuable to us that we do not understand. I might say it this way, though I've cried my eyes out and prayed with everything in me that you would heal my daughter, though she is not yet healed. Then Habakkuk says this, he says, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. There are dozens of reasons why I might not want to rejoice but this isn't a half-hearted song to God, this is shigionoth, this is full-body, full-soul, everything within me, declaring the praise and the goodness and the glory of God.
Even though I do not see what I want to see. What is he doing? He is wrestling and he's embracing, he's wrestling and he's embracing. This isn't a half-hearted, partial declaration of God. This comes from the depths of his soul, this is a faith that worships when everything is not right. This is a faith that gives God praise when you don't like what you see. This is a cry from the depths of our heart believing in the goodness of God in the middle of pain. This is chapter 3, shigionoth, this is praise before the provision, this is praise with exclamation points. Not for the what, this is for the who. What does Habakkuk mean? It means to wrestle and embrace. The name Habakkuk, it means to wrestle, I don't understand and to embrace.
When my daughter Joy was four years of age, she had an accident on a zip-line, 'cause she was too small to be on it, zip-line went through the air and she went head first into a tree, knocked herself out cold, blood everywhere. Amy was beside herself, I took her to the emergency room, she was passed out in the little car seat, little four year old girl, blood everywhere. They said, what's your daughter's name? I said I don't know, couldn't remember, we call her Jojo, I know she has a formal name, I just can't remember. What's her birthday? Don't know, I promise you I'm her daddy, look at her toes, look at my toes. I'm her daddy. They put her on the operating table and she'd come to but they told me what we need you to do is we need you to hold her down. So I'm looking at my little girl, I'm on top of her, her eyes are meeting my eyes and she just kept saying, daddy no, daddy no, daddy no, daddy no, I don't understand daddy, no daddy no daddy no, I don't understand, daddy I never will forget it, I just want to go outside and play, please daddy will you play with me? Don't let them do this daddy, don't let them do this.
And she wrestled with me and she didn't let go around my neck. I knew as her father, that this is what needed to happen. She did not understand and so she wrestled but she didn't let go. Wrestle and embrace. Wrestle and embrace. Last week, we were singing the song, you may not know the song that we're singing called You Are is a song that our worship pastors actually wrote for my daughter Mandy, for our whole church, but they wrote it for my daughter Mandy. They came over to our house and they played this song on the back porch, I cried all the way through it. Here's some of the lyrics from the song that we sang, and I just want to tell you, you're gonna get the chance to sing it again today. But this time, you're not gonna sing it half-heartedly, this time I believe you're gonna praise with exclamation points. Some of you, you're gonna praise before the provision. You're gonna praise with shigionoth, with everything in you. The song says this, I will lift my hands while I'm waiting, louder than my fears I will sing. May my heart ever be reminded, you are good, you are good.
Last week, Abby, you sat right there and in that song, you knelt down and went to battle with God in a way I wanted last week to come over there and kneel down with you, I didn't want to mess everybody up but it's my church I'm gonna do what I want, okay. I don't know what you're praying for, but I left here and went back in my office and I prayed for you and I cried and I cried and I cried, I didn't know if I could come out and preach again because whatever was inside of you, is what's been inside of me. And I want you to know I prayed for you every day and I want you to know that God knows the cries of your heart. What I love about you, I told Pastor Chris, when she's old enough, hire her. Because I saw I saw you wrestle. But you didn't let go, you embraced. In chapter 1 you don't walk away from God, in chapter 2 you don't quit on God, in chapter 3, even if He doesn't change the circumstances He changes your perspective.
So I didn't want to interrupt everybody last week, but I just wanted to come give you a hug this week. Thanks for making me cry, we're even. Chapter 1 don't quit on God, chapter 2 don't walk away from God. Habakkuk doesn't resolve to make the most of a bad situation it's so much deeper than that. What he does is he looks the truth in the face and he says, this isn't good. He says this is gonna get worse, there's no grapes coming, there's no blossoms coming, there's only judgment coming. But he says the Lord is still in His temple, He's still worthy of praise. And here's what I want you to see, God never does what Habakkuk wants Him to do, this is not a sitcom sermon. There's never the, okay now it's all better! That never happens, but I want you to see the very last verse of this book in chapter 3.
What do you do when you're waiting? The last verse in chapter 3 says this, can you pull the verse up for me? The Sovereign Lord is my strength, Habakkuk says, He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. What does God do? He enables me to tread on the heights, He takes me to a more intimate place, to a place of greater faith. He takes me to a new place. What do I know about God? I know this, I enjoy God on the mountain tops, right? I enjoy Him on the mountain tops. But I get to know Him in the valleys. I love to praise Him for the what, but in the valleys I simply praise Him for who He is. I like to brag on Him on the mountain tops, but I get to know Him intimately in the valley. And when you start to have this perspective of God, you can do kinda like what James said in James chapter 1, he said, I can consider it pure joy, whenever I don't understand, whenever I face trials of many kinds, because I know that these trials, these hardships, they're doing something in me, they develop perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
There's someone here, it's time to praise God even when you don't see it, it's time to praise God even when you don't feel it. It's time to cry out and praise Him, not just for what you see or what you don't but for who He is on shigionoth, from everything inside. What I want you to understand is you can not have chapter 3 type of intimacy without chapter 1 type of wondering and without chapter 2 type of waiting! There's something God does in us, a trust, a faith, a passion. What do you do when you're in the valley? You remember the goodness of God, you embrace Him, you may wrestle. You don't understand, but you don't let go. So Father I ask, that you would do what you can do, God take us to chapter 3, where we embrace you no matter what. All of our churches, as you're praying today, those of you who would say, maybe I'm wondering, maybe I'm in the waiting zone, there's something that's not where I want it to be, I want to continue to embrace God, I don't understand God, I wish you'd do something different but I want to continue to embrace God. If that's you, lift up your hands right now, all of our churches, lift them up high, lift them up high.
Father, I pray in this moment, that we could lift our hands while we're waiting God, that we could praise you even though we're hurting God. Give us the faith to praise you even when we don't see the provision. God not just for the what but for the who, who you are God. Help us God, give us permission, free us to wrestle, to push back, to cry out, to even acknowledge our doubts, but God to never let go, because you will never let go of us and you will never leave us or forsake us.
As you keep praying today at all of our different churches, there are those of you, you're gonna recognize, you don't have what I'm talking about, you don't have an intimacy, a confidence, a strength and assurance with God. What happens? You may be very low right now. I'm convinced sometimes God may even allow us to get low where we have nowhere else to look but up. You're hurting, you're desperate, you feel alone, you feel guilty, you feel ashamed, you feel broken. What do you do? You're here today not by accident, you're here because God cares for you. Maybe you've been waiting on something for a long time. What about this? Maybe God's waiting on you. Maybe He's waiting on you. Maybe He's ready for you to say yes to His grace, to His goodness, to His gift of eternal life through Jesus. Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Son of God, perfect in every way without sin, who was obedient to God's call for Him, died on a cross in our place as the perfect sacrifice, rose again from the dead.
Why? So that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus would be saved, forgiven, transformed. It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what you've done, doesn't matter how dark your life feels, when you call on Jesus He hears your prayer, He forgives your sins, He makes you better than new. At all of our churches there are those of you, it's your time, it's your time. When it's not God's time you can't force it, when it is God's time you can't stop it. You recognize it's your time, you call on Jesus, He will meet you, He will save you, He is here and He's waiting on you all of our churches, those who say yes today, I turn from my sins, I turn toward Jesus, by faith I give my life to Him.
Lift your hands high now all over the place and say yes to Jesus, right over here, praise God for you, and right back over here, over here in this section, back there as well, here in the middle section, my goodness. Right back over here, say yes Jesus, I call on you, sweetheart right here, others of you right here in this section, right back over here, somebody ought to worship God a little more than this. Somebody ought to give God praise, church online, you click right below me. As people are coming to Christ at all of our churches, I need all of you back, all the churches come back. Let's all pray together, everybody pray. Let's do this, stand up, all of our churches, every location, every live church, every network church, stand to your feet right now. At the end of this prayer, guess what? It's time to give God thanks, it's time to give God praise, everybody pray aloud:
Heavenly Father. Forgive me. Of my sins. Change me. Make me new. Jesus be my Savior. The Lord of my life. Fill me with your Spirit. So I can serve you. So I can follow you. So I can make you known. My life is not my own. I give it to you. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine, in Jesus name I pray.