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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Questioning God

Craig Smith - Questioning God

Craig Smith - Questioning God
TOPICS: Seriously God? Wow

Well, hey, as we begin our new series today, as we begin a new year today, I thought I would ask you to ask yourself a question, and the question is this, “What are my questions for God?” What questions do you have for God? You don’t have to yell them out, but how many of us have some questions for God if we’re really honest? Yeah. I know I absolutely had some questions for God. And I think it’s important that we recognize what our questions are. In fact, I would encourage you to take a moment right now, if there’s some that immediately came to mind, even just write those down, jot them down somewhere, and if not today, then maybe sometime later, maybe this afternoon or at some point this week, take some time and write down some of those questions that you have for God.

And the reason I’m asking you to do this is because I think our questions for God are powerful. There’s two reasons I say that. Number one, if we don’t ask the questions we have, we won’t get the answers we need. I really do believe, I’ve seen it time and time again in my own life, in the life of so many people that when we ask the questions we have, even the hard questions, God is faithful in providing answers. I’m not gonna promise the answers are always easy, and I’m not gonna promise they’re always exactly what we were hoping they would be, but I do believe God answers those questions that we need answers to so we can move forward in faith. But if we don’t ask the questions we have, we won’t get those answers we need.

Second reason I say that our questions are so important is because asking God our questions is a way of growing our faith. Let me say that again because it’s so important, and I think a lot of people don’t quite get this. Asking God our questions is a way of growing our faith. And that might seem strange to you because you might have grown up in a faith environment where asking questions was not encouraged. It maybe even been actively discouraged. I got kicked out of my high school Sunday school class for having too many questions. So I know what it’s like to be in an environment like that. But the reality is that asking God our questions is not an obstacle to faith. And most people treat it like that, but it’s actually an opportunity for deeper faith. And I say that in part because the Bible is filled with stories of people who ask God questions, sometimes even asking God very hard questions, and found that asking God those questions led ultimately to a deeper trust in him.

And what I wanna do today and for the next few weeks is I wanna take you to one of those stories in the Bible. I wanna take you to the story of a man who asked God some really hard questions. It’s recorded in the book by the name of the man that the book’s about. His name is Habakkuk. Now, there’s a big debate in Christianity. Is it Habakkuk, or is it Habakkuk, or is it Habakkuk? And some of you’re like, “That matters?” No. It does not matter in the slightest. But the interesting thing is that the name Habakkuk is actually a very interesting name because, in Hebrew, Habakkuk either means he wrestles or he embraces. That’s what it means. It means he wrestles or embraces. And that might sound like a strange combination, right? Like wrestling and embracing, how does those go together?

But one of the things we’re gonna realize as we continue way through this book is that wrestling with God can lead to embracing faith. Wrestling with God can help us to embrace faith if we do it in the right way. And the reality is that often the things that we’re able to embrace tightest are the things that we’ve wrestled with to a certain point. When we haven’t wrestled with it, we don’t really have a very tight grip on it, and therefore it’s hard to hold onto those things when it really becomes necessary that we have them. Sometimes in those moments, they slip away because we haven’t wrestled with them. And so what we’re gonna see is that Habakkuk really helps us to wrestle in the right way, in a way that leads us deeper into faith.

Now, if you wanna find Habakkuk and follow along, you’re gonna find that it’s about here. And I say that because if you’re using a physical Bible…if you’re using a digital, it’s easy, just search for Habakkkuk, H-A-B-A-K-K-U-K. But if you’re using a physical one and you’re like trying to do this, “I’ll just skim until I see it,” you’ll probably miss it. Very short, powerful book, but it’s a very short book. So if you’re gonna use a physical Bible, I recommend you use that little thing we have at the beginning called an index. So you’re gonna find it about halfway through, and this is how it begins. Habakkuk says, “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.” I wanna pause for just a moment there and let’s talk about the word prophecy because I find that a lot of people, maybe you don’t have much experience in church, maybe you’re new to the Bible, or maybe you’re not. Maybe you’ve been coming to church your whole life. What I find is, no matter what your background is in terms of faith, a lot of us misunderstand what prophecy is. And the reason we do that is we tend to think that prophecy is about foretelling the future. And so a prophecy is God foretelling the future. And that does sometimes happen. That often happens in prophecies we find in the Bible. But prophecy isn’t God telling the future.

Here’s what you need to understand about prophecy. A prophet or a prophecy is a message from God, sent to help us trust him in our present circumstances. Let me say that again because it’s really important. A prophecy is a message from God sent to help us trust him in our present circumstances. Now, he might do that by telling us some future things. Sometimes he does it by telling us some things that are going on in the present that we didn’t understand, and sometimes he even gives prophecies that deal with past things. And that seems strange because, again, we think prophecy is about future but it’s not. It’s a message designed to lead us to deeper trust in God. Whatever God tells us, past, present, or future is designed to help us trust him in our present circumstance. And that’s what Habakkuk’s all about.

Now, most of the prophets we find in the Scripture are people who kind of were going about their business, and God suddenly kind of broke into their lives and gave them a message that they were supposed to pass on. But that’s not how it worked for Habakkuk. Habakkuk actually asked God some questions. And the prophecy he received was really an answer to those questions. Let’s take a look at his questions. “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” And can we just be honest with each other? How many of us have ever wanted to ask God that? How many of us actually had the courage to ask it? Not as many hands there. Yeah. “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen, or cry out to you, ‘Violence,’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me. There is strife, and conflict abounds, and therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.” These are Habakkuk’s questions for God. And they’re pretty similar to a lot of the questions that we probably find ourselves asking. They’re kinds of questions that seem like they would apply today, right?

“God, I’m looking around and I’m seeing a bunch of stuff that’s not right. How long are you gonna let it stay wrong?” And let’s be honest, these are intense questions, right? Like these are serious questions. They’re serious enough that like had I been there when Habakkuk started asking these questions, I would have started backing up. I’d been like, “Yeah. I don’t wanna be near him when the lightning inevitably strikes him.” You can’t ask God those kind… He’s in God’s face, right? And it’s really interesting, he doesn’t get lightning. God doesn’t get angry. Actually what God gives are answers. But to understand the answers that we’re gonna see God give, we need to understand a little bit more about the questions themselves because, really, what Habakkuk is asking boils down to this. Habakkuk’s question is, “Hey, how long are you gonna let the corrupt but powerful prey on the innocent but weak?” That’s his big question. How long are you gonna let the corrupt but powerful prey on the innocent but the weak? Because that’s not what’s happening.

Now, it’s important to understand that Habakkuk is asking this question in the context of God’s people. He’s asking this question in the context of the Nation of Israel. He’s not looking at the other nations that don’t know God. He’s saying, “Hey, in the Nation of Israel, this is what’s happening.” And we know that because he says specifically, “Therefore the Law is paralyzed.” And he’s talking about the Law of Moses. He’s talking about the Law of the Old Testament, the instructions that God gave his people when he rescued them from slavery in Egypt, and he said, “As long as you obey this Law, then you’ll stay close to me, and you will stay in a place where you’re gonna experience blessing.” And what Habakkuk’s saying is, “They’re not staying close to you, God. They’re not following your Law. I’ve got a bunch of people around me that claim they’re your people. They claim to be your people, God, but they’re not acting like your people at all. I know you care about the innocent. I know you care about the oppressed. I know you care about the poor. Well, you got a bunch of people in power among your people who don’t care about those things at all. In fact, they’re preying on those people.”

And this is significant, I think, to understand everything that’s gonna happen because what Habakkuk is doing is something that I’ve said multiple times that we need to do. We say this pretty frequently. And that is, before we go to God, one of the things we need to do is we need to spend more time looking in the mirror than out the window. See, often what happens is we get upset with God because we’re looking out the window and go, “Well, look at those people doing. I see people over there doing that, and there’s some terrible things happening there and there.” And what we need to start with is actually looking in the mirror and making sure that we’re in alignment with God. And that’s what Habakkuk’s doing. He’s saying, “Hey, our people are not in alignment with you. Our people are not following you. They’re not acting like your people, God.” And so his question is, “How long are you gonna let that continue before you discipline? How long are you gonna let that continue before you punish those who are pretending to be your people? There’s nothing in their lives that looks like they’re your people.”

These are the questions that Habakkuk asks, and this is the answer that he gets. “Look at the nations and watch, and be utterly amazed,” which sounds like good news, but it’s not quite that good, “For I’m gonna do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” “What is it, God? What are you gonna do?” “I’m raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They’re a feared and dreaded people. They’re a law to themselves, and they promote their own honor. Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk. Their cavalry gallops headlong. Their horseman come from afar. They fly like an eagle swooping to devour. They all come intent on violence. Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand. They mock kings and scoff at rulers. They laugh at fortified cities, by building earthen ramps to capture them, and then they sweep past like the wind and go on. They’re guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

So Habakkuk’s question is basically, “Hey, God, how long are you gonna let your people continue to act like something other than your people?” And God’s response is, “Oh, not long. I’m gonna do something about it. Here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna raise up a terrible people. The Babylonian people, I’m gonna raise them up. They’re gonna rise to power faster than you could imagine, and they’re basically gonna sweep over the earth. They’re gonna conquer the earth, including Israel. They’re gonna destroy the Nation of Israel so fast they’re gonna hardly believe it happened.” And had I been Habakkuk, I’d have been like, “I would like to withdraw my question. Can we start over? Because that’s not what I was looking for.” And it’s interesting, actually, if you go back to verse 1, again, it’s called the prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received, but there’s an interesting Hebrew word being used there for prophecy, and the literal translation would be the burden.

He got an answer from God, but it was not really the answer I think that he was looking for. And it always strikes me funny. I’ve said this before, but people always tell me, “I wanna hear from God directly. Like I know he speaks through his Word. I know he brings people around me. I know the Holy Spirit leads me and guides me, but I would love for God to just speak out loud to me.” And I’m always like, “No, you don’t want that.” It’s rarely what you think it’s gonna be. I think sometimes when God speaks that directly to us, it’s because the message he has for us is hard that we probably would never have heard it if he didn’t do it in such a powerful, supernatural way. It’s kind of his experience here. Habakkuk goes, “How long?” And God says, “Not long at all. This is what I’m gonna do.” And Habakkuk’s like, “Really? Really, God? Wow.” That’s why we called the series that. Kind of a living illustration of that principle, you know, be careful what you ask for. He’s asked for God to deal with these terrible people among his people, and God says, “I’m going to.” It’s gonna be hard.

Now, we could go through this prophecy line by line, and we could point out how it lines up with the rise of the Babylonian empire. The Book of Habakkuk was written probably about 600 BC. About 604 BC, everything that’s described here happened. That’s 604 BC, the Babylonians basically wiped out the known world, took it over, and destroyed what was left with the Nation of Israel, leading ultimately to what we call the Babylonian exile because they scattered the people all over the empire. The bottom line, though, we don’t need to do it line by line because what you need to know is just this description fit the rise of the Babylonian empire perfectly. Habakkuk wrote this in about 600 BC, about 604 BC everything happened that he was predicting. And it’s so specific that there are skeptics today who go, “There’s no way that Habakkuk could have written that before it happened. He’s too detailed, too specific.

This must have happened after it happened. How else could he have known this?” And the answer is because God told him. The God who knows the past, the present, and the future gave him this. Now, remember, why did he give it to him? To help Habakkuk and everyone who held this message trust God in the present. And it doesn’t really feel like that, does it? It doesn’t feel like this is a message that should help anybody trust God. It sounds like the opposite. It sounds like news. It would make it harder to trust God. There’s a key principle that’s going on we need to make sure we understand, and it’s this. One of the things that God’s saying is, “I will always address sin among my people. Don’t worry about this, Habakkuk. You’re worried that I’m not dealing with sin.” Listen, God always, God will always address sin among his people.

Because as the people of God, we have a mission from God. We’re called to extend God’s influence to every corner of creation, and that mission is too important. They’re eternal destinies in the balance. So our mission is so critical. And when we cease to obey God, when we’re living in sin, when we’re kind of ignoring God and stalling about getting back on his program and his mission because we wanna do our own, it has too many consequences. The price is too high, so God says, “I will always address sin among my people.” And the question, of course, is “Yeah, but why is it taken so long? Why haven’t you dealt with it faster?” And the answer is that God is patient. We know from several other places in Scripture that God is patient because he wants everyone to come to repentance. And, in fact, in several of the other books around the Book of Habakkuk, we find other prophets who were doing that. They were calling God’s people to repentance, and God’s giving them an opportunity to turn back before he has to bring destruction.

Make no mistake about it, God will always address sin among his people, but he gives us an opportunity to respond. And one of the ways he does that, by the way, it’s interesting, is he does it by asking us a lot of the same questions that we ask him. I don’t know if you ever thought about that, but God asks us a lot of the same questions we ask him. Like how many of us have ever asked God, “Where are you?” Let’s just be honest with each other. How many of us have asked that? Do you know who first asked that question? It was God. Go back to Genesis the first time that God’s people stopped acting like God’s people. The first time that Adam and Eve rebelled into sin and went away from God, the first question that God put to them was, “Where are you? Why are you running from me instead of towards me?” Long before we asked God, “Where are you?” God was asking us, “Where are you?” How many of us ever asked the question, “Why have you let this happen, God? Why have you done this?” It’s a valid question. But you know who asked the question first? It was God. God said to Eve, “Why have you done this?” How many of us have asked God the question, “How long do I have to wait, God?” And who asked the question first? God. He asked it over and over again. Actually, if you read back through all the pages that come before the Book of Habakkuk, you find God asking his people over and over again, “How long will you disobey me? How long will you live in sin? How long will you live in rebellion against me?” God asks us the same questions, and he does that so that we will come back to repentance.

The problem is that we so often just stall, right? God asks with these questions, we’re like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, but, you know, I’m having fun. Yeah. Yeah. I know. But, you know, I did this thing, and I know it wasn’t right, but nothing really bad happened, so it’s okay if I continue down that road a little while.” We keep stalling. And, in fact, it’s probably worth asking ourselves the question right now, is there a place in your life where you’re stalling? Is there a place in your life where you realize that God is calling you to something or calling you out of something and you’re stalling? And I ask that question because there’s a truth that we see here. God gave the Israelites a period of time to be able to repent, but they kept stalling. Here’s a principle. And I know this is just too cute by half, but I think it’s important to understand it. I want you to remember it. The longer we stall, the harder we fall. The longer we stall, the harder we fall. God may be calling you to something right now and you’re stalling. And you need to understand that there’s a moment in time eventually where God’s patience will give way to discipline. He cares about you too much. And the longer we stall, the harder that fall may be. So, stop stalling. Turn back to God, repent, come out of what you’re stuck in or move forward into what he’s calling you into.

The Israelites didn’t do that, and that’s why God gives such a difficult answer to his question. He says, “God, why are you waiting so long?” And on one level the answer is “Because I’m patient and I’m kind.” But the answer is also, “But I’m not gonna do that forever. What’s at stake here is too high. So I’m gonna bring discipline. I’m gonna do what’s necessary. It’s gonna be hard.” One of the things that’s interesting to me though is that, you know, Habakkuk asked God a really difficult set of questions, and he got back an answer. It wasn’t an easy answer. It certainly wasn’t the answer that he was looking for. And we’re gonna see Habakkuk continue to wrestle with the answer he gets, but I just think it’s interesting that he got the answer because that’s not always the case, right? Anybody here have gotten answers to every question you asked God? No. I don’t see any hands going up. Online, if you do, please let us know. I would love to talk to you.

So why did Habakkuk get answers? It’s especially an interesting question because not everybody in the Bible got answers. Sometimes people ask questions, and they got a very different response. Habakkuk asked really intense questions, and instead of getting anger like we might expect, he got answers, but other people ask questions, and they don’t get answers. They actually get anger. In fact, let me take you to another book that’s built around somebody asking God a bunch of questions. It’s the Book of Job. Job goes through a number of very difficult things, and he ends up asking God some hard questions. And here’s how God responds to Job. Check this out. “And then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. And he said ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man, and I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you understand.'” Do you get just a little bit of sense here that God’s slightly irritated?

It’s interesting, right? I mean, Job goes, “Hey, I got some questions for you, God.” And God’s like, “Oh, really? You have questions for me? That’s fantastic. Before we get to your questions, I have a couple for you. Let’s start with my questions, you ignorant man.” It’s interesting, isn’t it? Job asks questions, he gets anger, Habakkuk asks intense questions, and he gets answers. Why? What’s the difference? This is really interesting. Here’s the difference. Habakkuk was asking better questions. He was asking better questions. And this is the first thing that I think we begin to understand from the Book of Habakkuk, is getting the answers that we need and wrestling with God in a way that moves us forward in faith comes from asking good questions. So what was it about Habakkuk’s questions that made them better than Job’s?

Three things. First, Habakkuk’s questions were knowledge-based. Habakkuk’s questions were knowledge-based. You see it, Job’s weren’t. God basically says, “Why don’t you go ahead and tell me how things were when I started everything because you were there, right? Oh, you weren’t there? Yeah. It’s right. Who is this that obscures my plans with a lack of knowledge?” But Habakkuk doesn’t get that. Habakkuk was asking questions that were actually knowledge-based. And part of the reason I say that is because if you look at Habakkuk’s questions, you look at the things that he’s concerned about, every single one of the things he’s concerned about is drawn directly from other parts of the Old Testament, every single one of the things that Habakkuk’s concerned about, he says, “I’m seeing violence. I’m seeing an injustice. I’m seeing the wicked powerful oppressing the poor righteous. I’m seeing all these things.” These are all things that God consistently talks about throughout his Word, and they’re things that God promises he will deal with among his people. He says, “Yeah, you’re gonna see some of this stuff happen out in the world. We’ll get there eventually, but first, we’re gonna deal with it among my people. I’m not gonna let this stuff persist among those who claim to know me.”

And Habakkuk’s asking questions based on his knowledge of what God says is important to him and what God has promised to do. And that’s really significant because that leads to a very different set of questions. I don’t know about you, but so many of my questions, they’re not based on my knowledge of God’s promises. Do you know what they’re based on? My preferences. Anybody else? A lot of my questions for God are, “Well, God, I was really hoping you’d do that, and I don’t understand why you didn’t do that.” Now, God never promised to do that. But my preferences often kind of replace his promises and that upsets me. It’s like, I hate the fact that life is difficult sometimes.

There’s a preference that I have. I don’t know if anybody else feels this way. If I’m a follower of Jesus, everything should just be easy. Anybody else feel like that? No, that’s not what God promised. It’s just my preference. What God promised, what Jesus promised was, in this life, you will have trouble. I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t like that one.” Now, he said, “But take heart. I’ve overcome the world.” His promise was, “I’ll be with you in the midst of all things.” His promise was that he would bring good out of all things for those who love him or are called to God first. That’s his promise, but a lot of my questions are born out of my preferences, and those aren’t as good of questions. Habakkuk’s questions are rooted in knowledge. They’re knowledge-based. And so think about some of those questions that you have for God and then ask yourself this, “Are my questions for God based on his promises or my preferences?”

One of the things we need to do to wrestle with God in a way that moves us forward in faith is to make sure we’re asking questions that are based on knowledge of his promises and not just our preferences. And you may be going, “Okay, how do I do that?” Well, let me give you two things that will help you grow in knowledge this year, so you can ask better questions so that you can wrestle with God in a way that moves you forward in faith. Here’s two things you can do to grow in knowledge. Number one take in God’s Word. Habakkuk asked questions rooted in Scripture. He knew Scripture. We often don’t know Scripture. We don’t know what the Bible says, and because of that, our questions don’t reflect that knowledge. They just reflect our preferences. So one of the things we’re gonna do is we can take in God’s Word. We can make reading the Bible on a regular basis an important discipline that we practice day in, day out, week in, week out, month after month, year after year, and that will transform our questions. It’ll be questions that are based in knowledge.

Second thing you can do is you can act on God’s Word. The Bible says we’re not supposed to be hearers of the word. We’re supposed to be doers. And when we do what God’s word tells us to do, it’s not just that we’re obeying, we’re actually deepening our understanding. I mean, I’ll give you an example. How many of you have ever heard the phrase, it is better to give than to receive? Yeah. And in a lecture, you’re like. I mean, I remember I was a little kid hearing that going, “No, I don’t think that’s true,” until I started doing it. So I said, “I’m gonna obey that. I’m gonna start giving. I’m gonna start trusting God with my finances. I’m gonna be, you know, looking to help people out and take care of people and give time, talent, treasurer to help them.” And I found that as I did that, actually, that was way better than anything that was being given to me.

See, obeying that principle didn’t just lead to obedience. It also led to a deeper understanding. Now I get it. I’m like, “Yeah. It is. There’s a joy in that that doesn’t come from receiving.” Everything about God’s commandments is that way, that when we act on his commands, we also deepen our understanding. And so that’s one of the first things we do. We take in God’s Word, and we act on God’s Word. That helps us grow in our understanding, and that leads to better questions which allow us to wrestle with God in a way that helps us to embrace a deeper faith.

Second thing that made Habakkuk’s questions better than Job’s is that Habakkuk’s questions were other-centered. If you take a look at it, he’s not asking for himself. He’s not saying, “Bad things happened to me, and I’m really upset with you about it.” He’s saying, “Bad things are happening to other people, people that I know you care deeply about and I care about because I care about things you care about.” He’s deeply other-centered in his questions. And that’s really significant because, listen, the more others-centered our focus, easier it is to see the big picture. And one of the things we’re gonna see over the next couple weeks is that God actually gives Habakkuk a glimpse of some much bigger things that he’s doing, and Habakkuk’s able to see that. He’s able to take it on board. He’s able to wrestle with it and ultimately embrace deeper faith when he hears the bigger picture when he sees it, because he saw it, because his focus wasn’t just what was going on in him. I use this illustration a lot. So often we treat our problems like my hand. My hand’s very small compared to the room. There’s lots of other things going on in the world. But the problem is that when we focus exclusively on our problems, this happens, and I can’t see anything else. The more self-focused we are, the harder it is to see the bigger picture. And when we don’t see the big picture, it becomes impossible to embrace a deeper trust.

And so often what God’s doing is bigger than you think it is. Actually, let me take that back. What God is doing is always bigger than you think it is. What God wants to do in your life is always bigger than you’re asking for. But to be able to see that bigger picture, we’ve gotta be focused on something other than this blinding set of problems that we’re dealing with. Habakkuk’s questions are better because there were other-centered questions. So how do you do that right? How do you grow in other-centeredness? Because maybe you’re hearing that going, “I get that but the reality is I’m selfish. I struggle with self-centeredness.” And by the way, if you are a person who struggles with self-centeredness, there’s a word for you, normal. Because I do too. We all do. The sin that separates us from God is inherently selfish. It’s inherently self-centered. And even if we’ve said yes to faith in Jesus and have been forgiven for our sins, the reality is that that old way of doing things is still an issue we have to deal with on a regular basis. So, listen, if you’re struggling with self-centeredness, it’s normal, but there are some things that we can do to move beyond that as followers of Jesus.

A couple of things you can do to grow in other-centeredness. Number one, start praying for others. It’s the easiest place to start because so often our list of prayers are so self-focused. Look at your list of things that you’re praying for and ask how many of them have anything to do with anybody but yourself. And I’m not saying you have to drop that list, but just add a few other things into the list that don’t have to do with you, that they are really for other people. That’s a powerful thing.

Second thing you can begin to do is you can start serving others. Take an intentional step of going, “I’m gonna act like I care about others by actually caring for others.” And what you’re gonna find happens is you actually do begin to care about others. You find something awakens in you that is other-centered that wasn’t there before. Mission Hills has lots of opportunities to do that. You can go to But there’s lots of other ways to do that in the world, in your neighborhood, at work, just get your eyes off of yourself and start acting in a capacity to serve others, and you’re gonna find that you start feeling a concern for them that gets your eyes off of yourself and opens you up to the big picture.

Third thing that made Habakkuk’s questions better than Job’s, Habakkuk’s questions were faith-filled. They were filled with faith. Habakkuk’s questions were not, “God I’m really struggling with you, and I don’t know if I can believe in you.” What his questions were was, “I trust you. I’m just struggling with why you haven’t done this yet, but I know you’re going to because I know who you are.” His questions are faith-filled. And there’s two reasons I say that. The first one is because he’s persistent. He’s been coming to God over and over, and he keeps coming back to God. We know that because what’s the first thing he says? He says, “How long must I call for help?” He’s been calling for help for a long time. But you know what that shows, you know what that demonstrates. It demonstrates that God was the place that he looked to for help. He didn’t go to God and go, “Hey, God, would you do this? You didn’t do this. Okay. Well, let’s try money. That didn’t work. Well, let’s try this thing over here.” No, he just kept coming back to God.

And here’s an interesting reality about persistence that’s interesting. Persistence demonstrates and deepens faith. Going to God persistently and continuing to ask him the question we haven’t gotten an answer for, it not only demonstrates that our trust is in God that he’s what we’re looking to, but it’s also an exercise that deepens our faith. The more we go to God for help, the more we find that he’s the only one we’re tempted to go to. Persistence demonstrates and deepens faith. And so we see that in Habakkuk’s prayer.

There’s another reason why I say that Habakkuk had a prayer that was filled with faith, and that is the nature of his questions. We’ve already talked about the fact that all the things that he talks about here are drawn directly from God’s Word but actually, a lot of them are drawn directly from an experience of what he had seen God do. In fact, there’s so many words that are connected, there’s so many words that are repeated in his prayer, and also this passage I wanna read you, that a lot of scholars go, “I think Habakkuk actually organized his prayer around this knowledge of something God had done.” And you find that in Exodus chapter 2. When the Israelites have been enslaved and oppressed by the powerful in Egypt, we’re told this. The highlights indicate repeated words, just a handful of them. There’s actually more. “The Israelites groaned in their slavery, and they cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. And God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And so God looked on the Israelites, and he was concerned about them.” There’s so many words repeated in that in Habakkuk’s prayer that most of us think that Habakkuk was actually giving a prayer to God, rooted his experience of what he’d seen God do. And that’s faith. See, faith pays attention to what God has done more than it does what he hasn’t done yet. And that allowed his questions to be better.

How do we ask God questions in faith? That’s actually worth asking ourselves just right now. As you think about the questions you have for God, ask yourself this, “Are my questions for God rooted in faith?” And if the answer is, “I’m not sure,” here’s two things you can do to grow in your faith this year. Number one focus on what God has already done rather than what he hasn’t done yet. See, so often what happens, we focus on what God hasn’t done yet rather than starting with what he already has done. You know, I said at the beginning of this message that I understand what it’s like to wrestle with God. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I understand what it’s like. And I want you to know that I’m not talking historically. I’m talking about right now. I’m wrestling with God in some things right this moment. I shared a while ago that, you know, my dad got diagnosed with cancer 22 years ago, and a few weeks ago, he got diagnosed with another cancer that they said would kill him, but then he got COVID, put him in the hospital. We couldn’t go see him because he was in isolation, and he died yesterday.

Now, I say he died, but the reality is he went to be with Jesus. He’s out of pain, he’s into joy. And that’s awesome, but I’m gonna be honest, it’s hard. There’s wrestling that goes with that. For me, some of the wrestling has been, especially over the last year, I’ve seen a sharp decline, he’s been in pain. We were with him this past week, and, oh, he was clearly in pain, and watching that and asking God, “Why haven’t you just taken him? Why does it have to be so hard?” I’ve wrestled with God, but in the midst of that, I began to remember some things about what God had already done. I began to remember that when he was first diagnosed with cancer, he said that his hope and his prayer was that God would let him see the graduation of his granddaughter. Coletta was pregnant at the time that he got his first diagnosis. And you know what, he lived to see her graduate from high school and college actually. He lived to see his youngest granddaughter he didn’t know anything about at the time graduate from high school and enter college.

When he got this new diagnosis of a new cancer, he said, “Yeah. I’m ready to go, but I’d prefer that the process not be too long.” Like, oh, yeah, God did that. He went in the hospital with COVID. I didn’t think he was gonna come out, but he was released on Christmas Eve. We got to go and be with him. And he had moments of lucidity where we were able to talk to him and share the things that we needed to share with him, and he could say some things he needed to say. It was powerful. And I began to look at that and go, “Yeah, I’ve got some questions, God. I’m struggling, but I see what you’ve already done.” And when you start there, oh, it’s much easier to trust. That’s how we grow our faith.

Second thing we can do to grow our faith, we just take the next step. Sometimes we think of faith growth as this big, massive leap, but it’s not that. As we say all the time here, small steps in the same direction take you places you would have never thought possible. You can grow your faith in this next year by just continuing to take whatever next step it is that God puts in front of you. Now, as you do that, you’re gonna find that you can wrestle with God in a way that actually leads you deeper into a trust. It’ll give you a trust in that you’re gonna desperately need at some point, I promise you. So it’s better to wrestle now than then. Wrestle with him but do it in the right way. And as we are gonna go over the next few weeks, Habakkuk continues to give us a model for what it looks like to wrestle with God in a way that leads to embracing a deeper faith.

So as we wrap up today, let me just ask you to begin that wrestling process with three questions. First one we’ve already asked, “What questions do I have for God?” I really encourage you to write some of those down. And then follow that up with, “What do my questions reveal about my faith?” What do your questions reveal places where you need to take a next step of faith? And that’s the third question, is “What am I doing to move forward in faith?”

Listen, God can be trusted. Some of you know that, some of you are struggling with that. But God can be trusted, and the absolute best proof of his trustworthiness is the fact that he loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus came. He lived a perfect life. He died on the cross to pay the price for your sin, for my sin, and then he rose from the dead, and he offers us forgiveness and salvation by faith, by trust. So it’s interesting where God calls us to put trust in him, and as we do that, we receive a relationship with a God who can be trusted. You may be struggling to trust God today, but I promise you, whatever you need to do to take that next step of trust is worth taking. It’s worth doing because you’re gonna find yourself deeper into a relationship that can carry you through whatever life throws at you. Would you pray with me?

God, thank you for your faithful servant and thank you for this lesson that it’s okay to ask questions, but we wanna ask the right kind of questions. We wanna ask questions that are based on the knowledge of your promises, not just our preferences. We wanna ask questions that are concerned for other people. We wanna ask questions that are filled with faith, that are rooted deeply in faith. Lord, I wanna pray for my friends. I know there are people listening to this that are struggling with you, they’re wrestling with you. And my hope is that it’s good news for them to hear that wrestling with God is a good thing if we do it the right way. And I know there are people who are here, and they’re celebrating because they’ve experienced how trustworthy you are. So, Lord, we just wanna thank you for all of the ways that you have demonstrated your goodness, your love, and your trustworthiness. Help us to hold onto those. Lord, show us what our next step of trusting you more is.

And I know that for some people listening to this, that that next step is the first step, it’s to say yes to a God who loves them so much that he sent his own Son to die, raised him from the dead, and gives them the opportunity to be forgiven and free and in a relationship with him simply by trust. And if that’s you, if you’re listening to that, you’re going, “I’ve never taken that step of trust,” I’m gonna encourage you to do it right now. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. You’re gonna put your trust in him, and you’re gonna do it kind of like this. It’s just a prayer. It’s a conversation. And say it out loud. You can say it in the quietest of your heart, God will hear, but would you say something like this with me right now?

God, I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming to rescue me. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay the price for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead, and I know that you can be trusted. So, Jesus, I’m choosing to trust you. I’m gonna follow you, Jesus, from here on out. I’m yours for now and forever because I trust you. Amen.

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