Craig Smith - What Living By Faith Looks Like
Well, hey, if you’re just joining us, thanks for being here. Let me get you caught up real quick. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been working our way through the Book of Habakkuk in the Bible, and Habakkuk, really it’s the story of a man who’s kind of living out his namesake. The word Habakkuk in Hebrew means either he wrestles or he embraces, and we actually see both of those things. We see men wrestle with God in ways a lot of us have often wrestled with God, he’s got questions about God, but he ultimately comes to embrace faith in the very God that he’s wrestled with. And for the last couple of weeks, we’ve really kind of leaned into the wrestling part, the first two chapters of Habakkuk are really about wrestling. And if you didn’t get those messages, I encourage you to go back and listen to them because we find in the first couple chapters of Habakkuk, some really important principles that allow us to wrestle with God in a way that moves us into faith rather than away from it.
But today, we’re really gonna lean into the third chapter, which is really all about the embracing. And what we’re going to see is that Habakkuk answers an important question. And the question is, basically, how do I embrace a God that I don’t fully understand? Because there’s a part of us that feels like I need to understand God and everything he’s doing to be able to really embrace him, right? But let’s be honest, how many of us feel like we really fully understand God? Not seeing a lot of hands. Good, I feel like I’m in good company because I know I don’t, and I’ve got actually some bad news, you’re probably never going to fully understand God. It’s probably never gonna happen. It’s not gonna happen now, partly because we’re sinful, we look at everything through a very selfish me lens, and that’s a very distorted lens, it distorts things. And so we’re not going to understand God entirely just because of our own sin and selfishness. Then there’s the reality that we get fixated on what’s right in front of us, what’s going on around us, and God is dealing with the big picture. And our fixation on the small picture often makes it hard to understand a God who is focused on the big picture.
But even with all that kind of out of the way, the reality is that, you know, God’s really big and we’re really small. And understanding God fully would be like asking an ant to understand a blue whale, it’s just not going to happen. I mean, I don’t want to be insulting, but can I just be honest with you? Like, you have a really small brain. Okay? So do I, and the vastness of who God is and everything he’s about is never gonna be something that we’re able to like put in a nice, neat little package, we’re never gonna fully understand God. So, does that mean we can never fully embrace God? No, not at all. But what’s the key? What’s the secret? How do we embrace a God that we don’t fully understand? Well, what the Bible tells us is the key, and the key is this, that we embrace God by faith, that we embrace God by faith, faith is the key.
If you were with us last week, that’s not a surprise, as Reza showed us in the midst of one of his interactions with God. God actually gives Habakkuk this key, he says that this is how the righteous are supposed to live, the righteous will live by faith. Some translations say by faithfulness, others say by faith, but the bottom line is the same. The bottom line says that our lives…as followers of Jesus, our lives are supposed to be defined by our trust in God. That’s what faith is, it’s trust. And our lives must be defined by that. Faith isn’t just how we get eternal life, it’s also how we do everyday life. Faith isn’t just how we come into a relationship with God, it’s actually how we live out that relationship on a daily basis. Faith is the key. And I realize that asking people to live by faith when we don’t fully understand God and everything he’s doing, might seem like a big ask.
But here’s the reality, we do that all the time. We’re constantly putting our faith in things. We’re constantly trusting things that we don’t fully understand. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but our lives are filled with things that we trust, even though we don’t fully understand them. For instance, I do not understand internal combustion engines, I don’t get engines. I missed that day in junior high, and I don’t feel like I ever really caught up. I don’t understand cars and engines. What I know though is that when I turn the key on my car, apparently that sets off like a controlled explosion going on inside the motor, right? Like, that’s creepy. And then worse yet, I’ve watched a lot of action movies, and what action movies have taught me is that a car can explode at the drop of a hat, right? It’s super easy to get a car to blow up. So, like, every time I sit in my car, I’m like, “How does this not just blow up? I have no idea. I don’t understand it, but I get in my car every day. I turn the key every day, and I start that out. I don’t understand it, but I trust it, I put my faith in it.”
And if you think about your life, you’re gonna find there’s a lot of things that you put your trust in, your faith in, in very significant ways, but honestly, you have no idea how they work, you do not have a good understanding. The reality is we do not have to understand something to be able to trust it. Okay? Understanding is not necessary. What we do have to have is we have to have belief, we have to have a belief that a thing can be trusted in order to trust it. And I’m making an important distinction here. And the distinction is this, belief and faith are not the same thing. Belief and trust are actually two very different things. We don’t always get that because we tend to use the words interchangeably. We will say, I believe, or I trust, or I have faith as though they mean the same thing, but they don’t.
So, here’s the thing. Belief is foundational. It’s where it starts. Belief is foundational, but faith is optional. Believing something can be trusted and actually choosing to trust it. Those are just two different things. Belief is the foundation but faith is optional. Like, I could choose not to act on my belief that my car will not explode when I turn the key. I could choose to walk where I need to go. I could choose to ride the bus. There’s all kinds of things I could do. Faith is optional, but belief isn’t. We all have to have belief. And so the question becomes, like, where do we get the belief that we need to ultimately transition to faith? How do we come to believe that God can be trusted? And then how do we transition that belief into faith? Well, that’s really what we’re gonna see Habakkuk do today.
So, if you want to join me, we’re going to be in Habakkuk chapter 3, starting in verse 1. And chapter 3, verse 1 actually starts with a big overview statement. As you’re making your way there, I’ll just say that Habakkuk 3:1 says, “A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet on shigionoth,” which is a fun word to say. Actually, there’s two important words there. The first one is he calls what he’s about to do a prayer, which is going to be a little surprising because it doesn’t have a lot of what we normally think of having prayers involving. I don’t know about you, but for me, at least, like my natural thought when I think about prayer is prayer is requesting things from God, right? You know, God, would you heal my daughter? God, would you give me wisdom about this thing to do because I don’t know how to do it? God, would you bless this? Would you give me a promotion? Would you allow this to happen?
I think a lot of us tend to think about requesting is an important part of prayer. And it is, don’t get me wrong, requesting of God is an important part of prayer. We know that because when Jesus taught us how to pray when he gave us what we call the Lord’s Prayer, if you look at it, it’s full of requests. He says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He says, “Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil.” Those are all requests. And so requesting things from God is an important part of prayer, but it’s only part of it. There’s another couple parts of prayer that we often overlook.
One important part of prayer we’re going to see today in Habakkuk’s prayer, he is going to model for us, is prayer involves remembering, involves remembering what God has done, involves remembering who God is because that’s one of the places that we begin to find the belief that we can ultimately transition to faith. And so an important part of prayer is actually remembering what God’s done and who he is. And another part of prayer we’re going to see today that we often forget is that prayer involves responding to God. It involves sort of reorganizing our lives, and our thinking, and our actions around what we believe to be true. And we’re going to see Habakkuk do that as well.
We’re going to see really what I call the three Rs of healthy prayer. The three Rs of prayer are requesting, remembering, and responding.And just kind of almost as aside, if you sometimes struggle with prayer, and if maybe you feel like your prayer life isn’t what it’s supposed to be, I’d suggest to you that what I found in my own life is that it’s often because I get a little lopsided, I focus exclusively on one of those elements and miss the other two, okay? And if you want to revitalize your prayer life, or even find some new kind of excitement around prayer, think about the three Rs. And make sure your prayer involves both requesting, and also remembering, and then also responding to God.
And we actually see Habakkuk do that at the very beginning of this prayer. And by the way, I said there was another important word here, and that word is shigionoth. Again, really fun to say. That’s a Hebrew word. And it’s been transliterated, meaning we didn’t translate it into the English equivalent, we kept it in the same sound, we just kind of changed the Hebrew letters and English letters. And the reason we did that is because what shigionoth means is…no idea. That’s why we didn’t translate it because we don’t know what it means. It’s the only time we ever see this word, we don’t have any other words to compare, we don’t have an ancient Hebrew dictionary. And so we don’t have enough context, in this case, to know exactly what it means. The closest we can come is there’s a similar word in the Psalms, one of the Psalms has a similar word at the beginning, not exactly, but it’s close. And in that context is pretty clear that we’re talking about some kind of a musical term. So, that’s probably what this means. It means some kind of a musical term, maybe it’s a style of music, or it’s an instrument that are supposed to be played on.
The bottom line we need to understand is, this isn’t just a prayer, it’s actually worship music. And that’s significant because this isn’t just Habakkuk’s prayer for himself, he’s actually modeling for us and giving us something to kind of follow along with that will allow us to do the same thing that he’s going to do. Okay? It’s going to allow him to make certain requests that we can make, it’s gonna allow him to remember certain things that we can remember. And from that, it’s gonna allow him to begin to respond to God in a way that we can. It’s really it’s worship music. And good worship music has all the same elements of good prayer. It involves requesting of God, and remembering about God, and also responding to God. And so he’s given us this song. So, by the way, I would say that if you really want to revitalize your prayer life and you want to go deeper in prayer, you need to start doing prayers that are musical. Yeah, I’m kidding. You don’t have to do that. But Habakkuk has done that for us, and I’m really grateful because it’s an incredible model that we can follow.
So, he begins this way, he says, “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.” And that’s kind of a little snapshot of what he’s going to do through the rest of the thing. Actually, in that little section, we see all three of the Rs, okay? The first thing he says is he says, “I have heard of your fame.” What’s he doing? He’s remembering. He’s remembering that God’s famous because of what God’s done. And he also responds, he says, “I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.” That’s a statement of his response to God. But he also makes requests, he says, “Repeat them in our day, in our time, make them known, in wrath, remember mercy.” And essentially, what Habakkuk is saying is, “Hey, I have heard about what you’ve done, I remember what you’ve done, the only thing I’m asking you to do, God, is basically do it again.” That’s the bottom line. Habakkuk is asking God to do it again. This is what you’ve done in the past, I’m just asking you to do that again.
So, then he begins to sort of unpack what it is that he’s heard God do in the past. Now, I’m going to read a fairly long section of this, and it’s going to be a section that is poetic, it’s poetry. And I know some of you love poetry. How many of you just love poetry? All right. This is just for you. How many of you are like, “Oh, no, poetry.” Okay. There’s a word for you. If you get to poetry in the Bible, otherwise, you’re like, “I don’t know what to do with this,” and the word is normal. Okay? A lot of people aren’t quite sure what to do with poetry. In fact, actually one of our pastors, pastor Matt Winter’s putting together a little video. So, if you want to subscribe to our YouTube channel, he’s going to go live here in a couple of days, just to give you some hints about thinking about what to do with poetry when you find it in the Bible. But here’s an important thing to understand about poetry. When we find poetry in the Bible, the reason it’s there is because what we’re being told is supposed to engage the heart and not just the head. He’s not looking to just inform our intellect, he’s actually looking to move us forward. And the imagery and the vivid pictures that we find in poetry are designed to stir us up and to move us forward. Okay?
So, that’s the first thing to understand about what’s going on here. You’re gonna see a lot of vivid imagery, but all of it basically goes back to a particular period in Israel’s history. Everything he’s gonna say, every image he’s going to give us is essentially remembering what God did when he released the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. That’s what Habakkuk is doing. He’s remembering that season. So, as I read through it, I’ll kind of point out the things that make that clear. He says, “God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.” And those are geographical locations, and what happens there as he basically marks out, in a rough way, the beginning to the end of their journey from Egypt into the farthest reaches of the Promised Land. He says, “His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise, rays flashed from his hand where his power was hidden. Plague went before him, pestilence followed his steps,” which might seem like a strange description, but he’s remembering how God brought miraculous plagues on the Nation of Egypt to convince them to let their slaves go. “He stood and shook the earth. He looked and made the nations tremble. The ancient mountains crumbled and the age-old hills collapsed, but he marched on forever. I saw the tents of Cushan in distress and the dwellings of Midian in anguish.” Cushan and Midian were tribes, enemy tribes he encountered in their journey into the Promised Land, that by the power of God they were able to defeat.
“Were you angry with the rivers, Lord? Was your wrath against the streams? Did you rage against the sea when you rode your horses and your chariots to victory?” And what he’s talking about there is the different miracles that God did in various bodies of water. He turned the Nile to blood, he parted the Red Sea, he parted the Jordan so they can cross into the Promised Land. He’s remembering those things. “You uncovered your bow, you collect your many arrows, you split the earth with rivers, the mountains saw you arrive, torrents of water swept by, the deep roared and lifted its waves on high. Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows and the lightning of your flashing spear.” He’s remembering when they were in battle to take possession of the promised land, it’s a battle recorded in Joshua chapter 10. There was a moment when the sun and the moon did stand still. The earth stopped rotating for a short period of time. He’s remembering that.
He says, “In wrath, you strode the earth, and in anger, you thrashed the nations. You came out to deliver your people to save your Anointed One. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness.” Probably a reference to Pharaoh. “You stripped him from head to foot. With his own spear, you pierced his head. When his warrior stormed out to scatter us, gloating us about to devour the wretched who were in hiding, you trampled the sea with your horses, churning the great waters.” Probably going back to the Red Sea again when the Israelites ran through the Red Sea that God had parted when they got the other side and the Egyptians were coming after them. And God let the waves crash back in and destroyed this army that thought they’re about to have an easy victory over God’s people.
So, everything that he’s remembering and picturesque language is everything that God did when he was removing his people from slavery and Egypt and taking them into possession of the Promised Land. Now, why does he spend so much time on this? Why all this remembering? Because Habakkuk knows what we have to understand, which is that what God has done in the past, he can be trusted to do again in the future. What God has done in the past, he can be trusted to do again in the future. Not necessarily in the same way but the kinds of things that God has done in the past, he can be trusted to do it again in the future. It’s interesting, there’s a principle in leadership that we sometimes talk about when we think about hiring somebody, or when you’re thinking about dating somebody or continuing to date somebody, there’s a principle and this is the principle, it says the best predictor of future behavior is, you know, it’s past behavior. People go no, it’s what they promised they would do, nope. It’s what I would like to think they would do, nope. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. What people have done in the past is most likely to be what they’re going to do in the future.
By the way, some of you…this is kind of a side note, but some of you are in a dating relationship, in particular, and you have forgotten this principle, and you’re going, “But they’re going to change, so I should stick it out.” Not necessarily. If you want to know what they’re going to look like tomorrow and the next month or next year, what they’re going to be like if you end up getting married to them, chances are pretty good it’s what you’ve already seen of them. Because the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Now, that doesn’t mean people can’t change. People can change, they can and do change, especially when the power of God comes into their lives, and the Holy Spirit begins to change them from the inside out, we can and do change. But in the absence of evidence of change, we should not expect a radical change. And here’s the thing, if that’s true of human beings who can and do change, how much more true is it of a God who can’t and doesn’t change? See, the Bible is really clear, God doesn’t change.
In the Book of James, we’re told that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” God doesn’t change. The Son of God doesn’t change. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. So, if it’s true of human beings that can and do change, that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, how much more confident can we be that what God has done in the past, he can be trusted to do again in the future? That’s why Habakkuk spends so much time looking back on what God has done. Because what God has done in the past, he can be trusted to do in the future.
Now, obviously, the stories that we find Habakkuk remembering are stories we find in the Bible, and that’s a good source of remembering what God has done. But the reality is that many of us who’ve put our faith in Jesus have many, many, many experiences where God has demonstrated his faithfulness, his trustworthiness, over and over and over again. But we have spiritual amnesia. We tend to forget what God has done, and we find ourselves in a position where we’re all waiting for God to move again. And we’re like, “What’s wrong with him?” And so what do we need to do? We need to look back, we need to remember what God has done. And from that, we begin to find the belief that God can be trusted. And so whether it’s the stories of what God’s done that we find throughout the pages of the Bible or in our own lives, we have to remember what God has done. And that’s where we begin to make the movement from belief to faith. That’s what establishes belief.
And then we begin to respond, and here’s how has your Habakkuk begins to respond. He says this, I mean, “I heard everything that we just talked about, and my heart pounded. My lips quivered at the sound, decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled,” which I admit doesn’t sound like great stuff. But actually, what Habakkuk is just saying is that he remembers what God has done. He’s heard all what God has done, and what it did was it created him a sense of awe. That’s his response. Habakkuk responded to what he remembered with awe. And awe is an important word, but it’s a word that we don’t really understand anymore because we use it for all kinds of things that are not really awe-worthy. We’re constantly looking at something and going, “That is awesome.” Like, “That latte is awesome.” Really? That latte makes you quiver. You have a problem. Okay? That’s called an addiction right there. It makes your legs tremble? Yeah. If you drink enough of them, it definitely will. But that’s not what Habakkuk is talking about here. He’s talking about really almost a response of fear, but it’s a respectful fear. It’s a deep respect at the power of the God that he’s thinking about.
Well, I don’t know if you’ve had an experience that’s really created awe in you. Several years ago, I was in Zimbabwe. We’re doing a pastor’s conference, and we had an opportunity to drive through…well, they called it a zoo. But it was not a zoo like our zoos, very, very loose definition of zoo, like the animals are just these big enclosed, you got to drive through, and they let us drive through the lion enclosure. And when we got up to it, they came out and they said, “Hey, when you get in there, don’t get out. Like, don’t get out of your car.” And I was like, “Question. Has that ever happened?” And the guy goes, “Yeah, last week, we had some tourists and one of them got out of the car.” And I was like, “Okay. What happened?” The guy goes, “They ate him.” More questions. Starting with how are you still open, right? Like, that would never fly in America, very different regulation in Zimbabwe, okay?
So, we are like, we are not getting out of the car, and we did not get out of the car. But as we were looking at these lions, one of them kind of nearby started this…I don’t know what it was, it was just this deep rumbling noise that he kind of started, I think it was the…it must have been the prelude to a roar. But it was the lowest sound I’ve ever heard. I don’t know how an animal of that size could make a noise that deep. But it shook the car, it shook my insides a little bit. And then he let loose in this actual roar, and all the other lions in the park started it, and it was awesome. I felt me some awe in that moment. I felt some fear, I felt weak in the knees. That’s what Habakkuk is talking about here. He’s remembering what God has done. His response is awe, and awe is really important when it comes to God. And the reason is because awe is really what fuels the transition from belief into faith.
So, a question I’d like for you to ask yourself is this, what are my sources of awe? What gives you some of that feeling of awe about who God is? For me, one of the things that does it is the stars. I see the stars, and I like to go on YouTube sometimes and look at pictures. One of my favorite things to search is Hubble deep space pictures because what they do is they take a little piece of the night sky that doesn’t really look like has much going on in it. For us, it’s blank, it’s just black. But then they leave the lens open for a long time, and they record the light that’s coming in for thousands of seconds. And then they show those pictures and you can look at them, and they’re stunning. Because what looks like blackness to us, emptiness is actually filled with points of light that we just can’t see. But most of the points of light aren’t stars, they’re actually galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars.
If we could actually see everything that’s out there, the night sky would be just pure light. And I look at those pictures and I see what God’s done even in those spots where I can’t see anything. And I think the same God who did that loved me so much he sent his own Son to die for me. And I feel a little bit of awe. I look at those pictures and I go, the same God who did that knows my name, and he’s counted the hairs on my head, which I know is not that impressive for me. For some of you, it’s more impressive. But the point is that God is my God, that God knows me, that God cares about me. And for me, that is where I begin to find some of this awe. You need to find that place that gives you a sense of awe about who God is because that all fuels the transition from believing to trusting to faith.
And what he’s gonna do next is actually to begin to show us that transition. He is gonna show us what it looks like to live by faith, to have a life that’s characterized by that. And it’s interesting, again, remember, belief and faith are not quite the same thing. And here’s what I think is a very helpful way to think about the difference. Belief recognizes what’s true. Faith reorganizes around that truth. Do you hear me, church? Belief says, okay, that’s a true thing. God is this, God is like that, God has done that. And belief says, God can be trusted. That’s the foundation, right? It recognizes what’s true. Faith, on the other hand, faith reorganizes around that truth. It says, I’m going to change the way I think, I’m going to change the way I act, I’m going to change the way I feel even around that truth. So, belief recognizes what’s true, but faith reorganizes around it.
And what we’re going to see next is that Habakkuk basically gives us three ways to reorganize around what we believe to be true about God. Here’s the first one. He says, “Yet, I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.” Now, practically what he’s talking about is that one of his questions to God was, “God, why haven’t you dealt with the sin of your people? Your people aren’t acting like your people. How long do you let this go on?” And God said, “It’s not going to last much longer. I’m going to send the Babylonians to destroy them.” And Habakkuk is like, “Whoa, hang on a second. That sounds like a worse solution than the problem. The Babylonians are terrible, how can you use them?” And God’s answer to him was, “Don’t worry, I’m going to judge them too.” And so what Habakkuk says now is, “I don’t get that. Like, I don’t understand why you’d use them. I don’t understand what you’re doing. I don’t understand you, God, but,” he says, “I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on them.”
And this is the first key to reorganizing our lives around the belief that God can be trusted. See, living by faith means waiting patiently, even in difficulty. And I know that’s bad news for some people. For some people, you’re like me, and patience it’s just not in the wiring. I’ve told you many times before, I’ll go ahead and tell you again, it has been scientifically proven that I’m one of the least patient people on the planet. I know what it is to struggle with patience. But what we’re told here is that living by faith means waiting patiently, even in difficulty. And the thing about waiting patiently is sometimes I think I’m waiting patiently because I’ve waited two minutes, right? I’m like, “I got to wait more than two minutes, like, okay, two hours, God? Oh, more than two days. Whoa, okay. All right. I can do it. Oh, not two days, two weeks. Oh, okay.” And sometimes even that’s not enough waiting. You know, I’ve shared my youngest daughter is struggling with abdominal issues. And we waited two years to find a solution to that, for God to heal her. Two years, like, that’s tough. But that’s waiting patiently in the midst of difficulty.
And because I think this is maybe the hardest one of the three the Habakkuk is going to give us, let me just lean into this a little bit and say, if waiting patiently is not an easy thing for you, here’s a couple of tips. It’s actually taken from a message we did a couple years ago. If you want to go more in-depth, you can go to the website and search on “waiting well” and they’ll unpack these four principles. But here’s just four quick tips for waiting well. Number one, be careful to be faithful. That when we’re waiting on God, we also need to be faithful to God, we need to be obedient to God, and we need to follow God’s instructions and stay close to him in pursuing righteousness and cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Because when we get away from that, when we rebel, when we walk away into sin, then we’re not where God is when he moves, and so we miss it. So, we need to be careful to stay faithful.
The second thing we can do to stay faithful as we’re waiting well is don’t just wait, watch. See, waiting isn’t just a matter of going, “All right, anytime now.” No, it’s actually a matter of watching. I always think of my kids, you know, they would stick their faces up against the window when my wife told them I was about to come home from a trip, or when Christmastime came and they knew that, you know, my parents, their grandparents were on their way, they’d stick their faces against the window, and they’re watching every car, “Is that them? Is that them?” What that meant was that they never missed a moment, the moment that they started down the street or I started coming home, they were right there able to enjoy every bit of it because they weren’t just waiting, they were watching. And I think we have to do the same thing when we’re waiting for God. We’re constantly going, “Is that it, God? Is that it? Is today the day? Is it there? Is it there?”
The third thing we can do to wait well is we wait on who not what. We remember I’m waiting for God to move, I’m waiting for God to redeem, I’m waiting for God to do what only God can do. I’m not just waiting on the specific things that I’m hoping he’ll do because the reality is you might be disappointed. God might be doing something different than you think. It might be much, much better than you think, but you’ll miss it because if you’re waiting on the what rather than the who, you’re not looking in the right place. We’re waiting on a who not a what.
And the last little tip I’ll give is this. Don’t just wait on God, wait with God. Because we have this idea, I’m waiting for God to show up. Well, God’s already shown up. God is already with you. That’s who Jesus is. If you have faith in Jesus, Jesus is Immanuel, he’s God with us. He’s God with you. You don’t have to wait for God to show up because he’s already there. You’re waiting for the God who’s already with you to move in a particular way that you’re longing for. And that’s a very different experience. Waiting with God is very different than waiting on God. Sometimes we have to rejoice in that reality.
This is the first key. The first key to living by faith is to wait patiently, even in difficulty. And, again, I know that this is just something we’re not wired for. I was in the airport in California recently, and I heard a woman and she was complaining about the flight she was about to take in New York. She said, “It’s like five hours.” She said, “Five hours is too long to be on a plane.” I was like, “You understand you’re going from California to New York. Like, 100 years ago that would have taken five months and there’s a pretty good chance you would have died along the way.” But see, we live in a world that’s no, it’s got to be right now. And so this is a difficult one but it’s a really important one. Living by faith means waiting patiently, even in difficulty.
The second thing that he does to reorganize his life is this. He says, “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, yet I will rejoice in the Lord and be joyful in God my Savior.” Now, what he’s doing is he’s kind of recognizing, he’s almost rehearsing how he’s going to respond to something that’s going to happen. He says, “I know that when the Babylonians come, we’re going to lose a lot of the signs of your blessing, God.” Everything he lists there, the figs on the trees, and the grapes, and the things, and the cattle and all that stuff, those are all promises that God had made of blessing. So, he says, “I know we’re coming into a season where I’m not going to see all the signs of your blessing.” But what does he say? He says, “Even when I don’t see the signs of your blessing, I’m going to rejoice in the Lord. I’ll be joyful in God my Savior.”
In other words, this is really important, living by faith means rejoicing in our relationship with God more than the blessings of God. Let me say that again. Living by faith means rejoicing in our relationship with God more than the blessings of God. And the reality is very often, we don’t actually rejoice in God, we rejoice in the things that God does for us. We’re more interested in the blessings than the blesser, we’re more interested in the gifts than the giver. And that’s not a good place to be because it’s the giver, it’s the blesser who will ultimately lead us into the greatest of all, the blessings. These are all temporary blessings, many of the things that we’re so fixated on, they’re going to come and go in this life. But our relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ will lead us into a time, into eternal life, where the blessings that we begin to experience make all the blessings around us right now look like cheap imitations. But how do we get to that life? A relationship with God. Everything depends on that relationship. And so one of the things we do to live by faith is that we focus more, we rejoice more in that relationship with God than the blessings of God, and certainly more in the relationship with God than the blessings that we think God should have given, and we’re frustrated at him for not bestowing.
The third thing he does to reorganize his life is this. He says, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to tread on the heights.” And let’s be honest, that’s a little bit of a strange thing to say, right? God makes my feet like deer feet. Why would he say that? I don’t know if you’ve had this experience. Sometimes, like, if you’re out on I70, and you look up, you’ll see these just really sheer steep faces. And sometimes on these ridiculously steep faces, you’ll see a goat. It’s just hanging out. It’s like, “What’s going on?” And you look at and you’re like, “How did you get there?” I mean, it looks like a perfectly smooth face, or maybe you’ve seen pictures on the internet of goats like halfway up like the Hoover Dam. Like, how do you do that? Well, the answer is that mountain goats here in Colorado have hooves with these really tiny, sharp edges, that they can wedge into the tiniest little cracks and then stand upon them. And those are the kinds of things that he’s talking about here, the deer he’s talking about in ancient Israel. They’re not like our whitetail deer here, they’re more like our mountain goats, they had these really sharp little hooves, and they could stand up on the tiniest little cracks and work their way up what seemed like featureless sheer cliffs.
And Habakkuk says, “I want to be like that. I want the feet to allow me to get to the heights, to tread on the heights.” And what he means is this. He means that living by faith means learning to stand, standing on even the smallest signs of hope. Because the reality is we often are waiting for the big things we want God to do and we miss out on all the small signs of faithfulness along the way. And Habakkuk says, “I don’t want to be like that. I want to be like that deer, who sees the smallest little crack, the smallest sign of hope of your faithfulness, God, and I want to put my feet into that, and then I want to stand upon it. And then I’m gonna look for that next one, I know it’s coming. And I want to put my feet into that, and I want to stand upon it. I want to get to the heights by learning to stand, even those smallest little signs of hope,” and they’re all around us if we just see them. So living by faith means learning to stand in even the smallest signs of hope.
And if we begin to do that, and if we begin to focus more on our relationship with God rather than the blessings of God and if we learned, as he says here, he says, “Wait patiently, even in difficulty,” what happens is we begin to experience that God is with us and carrying us through those places. And we begin to go, it’s not just knowing that God can be trusted, but I’m actually beginning to experience the peace that comes from trusting him. I mean, bottom line, if you kind of boil it all down, he’s saying that living by faith means recognizing and reorganizing around God’s faithfulness.
So, a couple questions for you. The first one is just this. Where have you seen God’s faithfulness on display? You need to take some time to think through that. Maybe even one of those signs of God’s faithfulness that demonstrate to me that he can be trusted, and maybe even the ones that created me a little bit of a sense of an awe, to fuel that transition. But what are the signs of God’s faithfulness that you can recognize? And then the second question, how do I need to reorganize my life around the truth that he can be trusted? Is it waiting patiently? Is it rejoicing in his relationship with you? Or is it learning to stand up and to rejoice in and take confidence and hope from even those small signs? God can be trusted. Do you believe that? Give me an amen if you believe that. Amen. You can. Believing that and experiencing it are two different things. Living by faith is both recognizing that he can be trusted, but it’s also beginning to reorganize our lives, as Habakkuk shows us how to do here, around that truth that he can be trusted. Would you pray with me?
God, thank you for the myriad of ways, the multitude of ways that you demonstrate that you can be trusted. Lord, forgive us for how blind we are to those signs, how easy it is that we forget the reality of your trustworthiness. Lord, we ask that you’d give us a deep, deep, and abiding belief that you can be trusted. But Lord, beyond that, we asked for power with your Holy Spirit, to not just recognize that you can be trusted, but to begin to reorganize our lives around that trust. Lord, give us strength through your Holy Spirit to do what Habakkuk models for us here so that we can experience the peace that comes from resting in the arms of a God who can be trusted, even when everything around us is confusing, or chaotic, or hard. Teach is not just to recognize but to reorganize around the truth that you are trustworthy. Lord, I know that there are people listening to this message right now who need to take the all-important first step of reorganizing, they need to put their faith in you.
And if that’s you, if you maybe are here and you’re listening to this, and you believe that God can be trusted, maybe you even believe what I talked about the greatest proof of his love and his trustworthiness and is that he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price for your sin. If you believe that, and maybe you believe that Jesus rose from the dead. That’s great, but belief isn’t faith. Maybe it’s time for you to take the next step of reorganizing your life around that belief, which is to take the all-important step of saying to Jesus, I’m going to put my faith in you, I’m going to put my trust in you. I’m gonna reorganize, I’m gonna start following you. That’s how we experience the forgiveness. That’s how we experience the relationship. That’s how we experience the hope and the peace that leads to eternal life. And if you’ve never done that, you can do it right now. I encourage you to take this incredibly important step of reorganizing your life. Just have a conversation with God right now. Say something like this to him, say:
God, I believe that you’re good. I believe that you can be trusted, and I believe that I’m not good. I know I’ve sinned, and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead. Jesus, I’m ready to put my faith in you. I’m going to reorganize my life around your love. I’m going to follow you Jesus from here on out. I receive your forgiveness, and I receive a relationship with you and the promise of eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.