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James Merritt - Why? Why Not?

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    James Merritt - Why? Why Not?

Well, good morning, I wanna thank you again for wherever you are for taking time out of what shouldn't be too busy of a day and watching us today. I just wanna welcome you and just thank the Lord that we're at least together virtually, if not physically, to worship the Lord together. When I prepared this sermon, almost 600,000 Americans had contracted COVID-19 and more than 28,000 people had died. So by the time I'm preaching this now, that means that those numbers will be even higher and anywhere you go, America's become a ghost town, and economists are now predicting that unemployment rates may reach the level of the great depression, something we thought we left behind forever. The economy has been stopped dead in its tracks.

The news gets worse every single day. And if you're like me, you struggle with two haunting questions. They're just there. Why does God and why doesn't God? Why? Why not? When I prepared this message, a sweet six-week old baby died of COVID-19. I prayed for the parents of that baby, but you can't help, but ask two questions. Why does God allow a six-week old baby to die of COVID-19 and why doesn't God spare the life of a six-week old baby with COVID-19? And I'm gonna be very honest. Had it been one of my sons at six weeks old, or had it been a grandson of mine at six weeks old, I don't think that, to be honest with you, I could have helped at least on a temporary basis, having what I call one of those, shake your fist in the face of God moments with those two questions.

I would have been asking why and why not? And I get it, all over the world, people are going to sleep every night on tear stained pillows doing just that, shaking their fist in the face of God and they keep asking why and why not? And if you've ever been like me, and I'm being just transparent, there've been times in my life I felt like shaking my fist to the face of God. And, just say, what in the world are you doing? Or why aren't you doing something? I just want you to know if you're there right now, you're not alone. As a matter of fact, there's an entire book of the Bible that is built around a man who did just that, is called Habakkuk.

Now Habakkuk is not a very well-known book. As a matter of fact, if you've not read the Bible at all, don't know much about it. You probably didn't know there was a book in the Bible called Habakkuk. In fact, in all my years, you know what? I've never met anybody that said to me, "My favorite book in the Bible is Habakkuk". I've never met anybody like that. Most people don't even know that it's there. It's really an interesting book. It was written by a Jewish prophet. If you don't know it... Well, I don't even know where the book is. Well, it's in the Old Testament and it's right after the book of Nahum. Still, I don't know where Nahum is, was right before the book of Habakkuk, but listen, it doesn't matter. Habakkuk was a prophet. And the only time he's ever mentioned in the entire Bible is in his own book. But yet his name closes into what this book is about, because the name Habakkuk, and by the way, don't name a child Habakkuk. But the name Habakkuk literally means to embrace or to wrestle.

This is what Habakkuk is doing in this book. Here's what this book is about. This book is about a man who's having a why and a why not moment. He just couldn't get what God is doing. Now let me give you a little quick historical background so you know what's going on. Back in the day, 2,500 years ago, there was a unified nation called Israel. They were one nation. Well, what happened was they were one nation up through the reign of a man named Solomon, King Solomon. But after King Solomon died, they couldn't get along with each other. They had a civil war and they broke up into two kingdoms. The Northern kingdom became Israel. The Southern kingdom became Judah.

Well, down the road, Israel rebelled against God. They forgot God. They turned away from God. And because of that, God allowed people called the Assyrians, a nation called Assyria to take them away from Israel and take them into captivity. Well, what goes around, comes around. Judah is doing exactly the same thing. They're following in exactly the same steps. They have turned away from God. And so God has brought to their doorsteps, this pagan nation called Babylon. And they're about to take them over as well. And Habakkuk doesn't understand why God would allow a pagan nation like Babylon to take over His own people. I mean, he said, look, Lord, we've got our problems. We're not perfect, but we're not like the Babylonians. We're not out-and-out pagans, we're Judah. We've got "in God we trust" on our coins. We sing about you in our songs. We don't do the terrible, horrible things that the Babylonians do.

And so he's looking at his people suffering, the nations on the verge of collapse and he just can't help, but wrestle with this one, big question, if God is good and God is in control, why are these things happening? You're sitting there right now going, yeah, that's what I've been asking. That's exactly what, I understand it. If God is good and He is, and if God is in control, I believe He is, then why are these things happening? So if you're like Habakkuk and the ship of your faith is being overwhelmed by this tsunami of doubt, and your hand is slowly being clenched and raised to God in the shape of a fist, and you've had about all you can take, and you're asking that why and that why not question, you don't understand why God has allowed you to lose your job.

Why is God allowing you or your mother or your father or your brother or your sister or your son or your daughter to get the virus and why did God allow some of them to die? And why doesn't God do something and why doesn't He do it now? Well, you're in for a treat. Habakkuk shows us how to deal with the why and the why not question. He tells us three things. Now the first thing I'm gonna tell you is gonna shock you, but hopefully will make you feel a little bit better. So if you're really upset with God right now, you've got that fist in the face attitude right now, and you're struggling with these two questions, here's the first thing I want you to do, you ready? Honestly contend with God. You heard me, yeah, that's what I'm saying. Honestly contend with God. Habakkuk, he's a prophet, but he is totally ticked off. He's up to here with God, he's had it. He gets right to the point. We're in Habakkuk 1:1, "The prophecy that Habakkuk, the prophet, received".

Now listen to what he says, "How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen"? Is that where you are right now? Hang in there. "Or cry out to you, 'violence', but you do not save"? See, Habakkuk realizes his people are in deep trouble. He says, look, I get it. They've disobeyed God's word. They've disregarded God's law, but he's been praying. He's been doing what you ought to do. He's been crying out to God to do something, but instead of his prayer becoming a solution, it becomes a problem. He's been praying to God day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he's been crying out to God. But now his frustration is a code red. As a matter of fact, this is what makes Habakkuk so different from every other kind of prophet in the Old Testament. Because normally, every prophet in the Old Testament, you know what they spend all their time doing? They confront the people, they face with the people, they contend with the people, they get in the face of the people. They tell them, "You need to get right with God".

Habakkuk, he's not confronting the people. He's confronting God. He is more upset with what God is not doing than he is with what his people is doing. He's a lot more upset with God's seemingly indifference than he is his people's sin. And what he's basically saying to God is, I guess trying to be as respectful as he can, are you deaf? Are you asleep? Have you taken a leave of absence? Are you on vacation? Are you still up there? I have prayed, I've called, I've interceded. I've begged, I've cried out, and all I get is dead silence. You ever had that experience? I have. You've ever had the experience of praying about something I mean for a really long time, and you pray about it with all the faith that you can master and you think to yourself, you know, this is a no brainer, what I'm asking for God. Surely you hear me, surely you're going to answer me. Surely you're going to do what I want.

I mean, this is a no brainer and you get no response. But then you know exactly what Habakkuk was going through because you know prayer can become a very painful memory. You're sitting there going to yell. I prayed for the baby to live, but the baby didn't. I prayed for my marriage to make it, but it failed. I prayed for bad things to get better, but they got worse. And I just got tired of dialing God up on my prayer phone only to hear what I think were these words, "I'm sorry, but this number has been disconnected". I've been where you are, that's where you are. I've been there. This is where Habakkuk was. Listen, Habakkuk has pinpointed the biggest single problem we all have with God. I've had it at times, you may have it right now. I get it, I understand it. This is the biggest single problem we have with God.

Listen to this. Is when we know God can, but He doesn't. We know He can do it, but He doesn't. So God can stop the virus today, but He hasn't. Child abuse, rape, racism, terrorism, God could snap His fingers and stop all evil forever in His tracks, but He doesn't. And so when you wanna just honestly contend with God, when you say, can I just let God have it? Can I just let God know exactly how I feel? You're generally told one of two things, and I'm not gonna tell you to do either one of these, but you're generally told to do one of two things. Sometimes people will say, wait a minute, don't bother God. They'll say something like that. Now, whatever you do, don't question God, you might offend God, you might hurt His feelings. You don't have any right to question God. If you do question God, you just keep it to yourself. Well, maybe this will help you. I totally disagree with that. I just absolutely do not agree with that advice. God expects our questions.

As a matter of fact, Jesus on the cross, asked that question, you remember? He said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? So on the one hand, some people will say, don't bother God. That's not what I'm gonna tell you. But then they'll go to the other extreme and they'll say, "Hey, don't believe God, don't bother God". But then they'll say, "Don't believe God". And they'll say something like this, they'll say, "Look, do you not get it? Does this not finally prove to you that either there is no God, or if there is a God, He's not good enough, or He's not powerful enough to do what He ought to do"? And they'll say things like, "Why would you believe in a God who can, but doesn't? Why do you believe in a God who should but He won't?" and Habakkuk says, I'm gonna do both. I'm going to bother God, but I'm still going to believe God.

So I wanna encourage you to do what Habakkuk did during these days. You're upset with God, tell Him. You need to have a session with God, have it. You need to talk to God, do it. You know why? He already knows anyway, you're not gonna surprise Him. He's not gonna go wow, I didn't know you felt that way. So listen, if you're having a problem with God right now, if you're having these questions right now and you've had it up to here, honestly, contend with God. It's all right. But now, once you do that, you do the second thing. You humbly comprehend God. You humbly comprehend God. Now let me tell you what I mean. When I say comprehend God, I am not implying that you can totally comprehend God, nobody can. There's a lot about God we don't know. There's a lot about God we may never know. But you what, when you read this book, there's a lot about God that we do know. And there's a lot about God that we can't know and we should know.

Now here's what's going on. Habakkuk has said his piece. He has emptied his climb. His bucket is absolutely out of water. He has absolutely let God know everything that's in his heart. He's vented all of his feelings, that's okay. Now he does the best thing he can do. You know what he does? He shuts up and he listens, he listen to what God says to him. Listen, here's what he says to God. "I will stand my watch". He says, "Okay, I've had my say, I will stand my watch. I'm gonna station myself on the ramparts. I will look to see what He will say to me and what answer I'm to give to this complaint". Now listen to what he does. You can read the entire chapter for yourself because when he finally says, okay, I've talked, now it's your turn, you talk, God speaks. And you can read the entire chapter two for yourself. And God answers this complaint forcefully and fully.

But the last thing that God says in this chapter, the last verse of this chapter, it is like a hammer that destroys and shatters every argument and every objection that Habakkuk or you or me or anybody else can ever bring to God whether He's not doing what we want Him to do. Listen to what God says to him. "The Lord is in His Holy temple, let all the earth keep silent before Him". Let all the earth be silent before Him. Who is God? He is a Holy God who is sitting on a holy throne in a holy temple. He's calling the shots. He's seen to it right now that every piece of this puzzle that's going on right now is going to fit right into place. Listen, history is not this raging river, running all over the place, overflowing its banks, headed in no direction whatsoever.

All of history is like a stream. And it's falling between the two banks of God's sovereignty and God's providence and history is headed exactly into the direction that God wants it to go. Because earlier, Habakkuk also said this about God. He said, "Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die". In other words, Habakkuk said, I've gotta admit something about you. You're not some run-of-the-mill dime-a-dozen God. You are the everlasting God, you were here before all of this came into being and you will be here when all of this has passed away. You're not limited by time or space. Look, none of us was around when all this came into being and most of us will never see when it all comes to an end, but God is going to see them both.

So when people say, and they've asked this question, okay, pastor, where is God in all of this right now? I know exactly where God is. He's in His holy temple. He's watching everything. He sees everything. He knows everything. And He doesn't need us telling Him how to handle this. He basically says, just be quiet. You've had your say now just be silent. I know what I'm doing. And what we need to be doing is instead of thinking, we can tell God what He ought to be doing, what we ought to be doing is watch what God is going to do, watch how God is going to handle this and then trust Him for the results. And let me tell you why. There's one thing that never changes. It never has changed and it never will change. It doesn't change whether there's a Pearl Harbor, a great depression, a 9/11 or a COVID-19, doesn't matter. The Lord is in His holy temple and He is in complete control.

Now think about this. If God is eternally wise, then He has a plan that will work that is best. If God is perfectly Holy, then whatever the ultimate outcome of all of this is, it has to be good. It cannot be the wrong thing. It has to be the right thing. So let me just be clear. I'm just like you. I'm in the same boat you're in. I keep asking the same questions you're asking. So you say, what is happening? I don't know. Well, why is this happening? I don't really have the answers. Well, when is it going to end? I wish I knew. But I'll tell you this. I know who is in control, a God who is omniscient and knows everything. A God who is omnipotent, who can do anything. A God who is omnipresent, who is with us right now, feeding all of this into His plan.

So here's what I want you to hear. You can rest in peace if you know that who. You can rest in peace if you know that who, because then if you know that who, guess what you can do? You can let the who take care of the what and the why and the when. And here's the point that Habakkuk learned. Get this down. When you don't understand what God is doing, remember who God is. I don't understand what's going on. I don't understand how this fits into God's plan. I don't understand all the why's this could be happening, but I'll tell you what I do know. I know who God is. He is a Holy God, sitting on a holy throne, in His holy temple, who is eternity present, eternity future and eternity past and He will take care of everything. Now watch what happens. Once you know who He is, once you remember who He is, then after you contend with God and after you begin to comprehend God, then you move to the third stage, you happily commend God, you happily commend God.

Now Habakkuk closes out in his third chapter with a prayer and he begins with these words. And I want you to notice how it comes full circle. A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet, starts out with a prophecy now he goes to a prayer. "On shigionoth, Lord, I've heard of your fame. I stand in all of your deeds, Lord. Repeat them in our day, in our time, make them known. In wrath, remember mercy". One of the best things you can do in the present when things are not going well, go back to the past and remember when things were going well. Quit being frustrated with what God is doing or not doing. Let's remember what God has done, because let me tell you this. Do you like the days we're living in? No, neither do I, but let me tell you this. We wouldn't even be here today if it was not for the grace and the goodness of God.

So when it looks like everything is collapsing and it looks like everything's going to hell in a hand basket, remember these words, he goes on to say, "The ancient mountains crumbled and the age old hills collapsed but He marches on forever". You see that phrase, "He marches on forever"? A more literal translation is this: His ways are eternal. Why did he say that? Because in the middle of these tough times and these dark days, let me tell you what you've got to do or you'll lose your rip in mind. You've got to keep eternity in view. Listen, our earthly life is just a very small piece of God's eternal book puzzle. These days that we're going through right now, they're just a drop in the ocean of time. And one day, this day will pass. But now let's get to the really hard question. But pastor, what if the worst thing that could happen to us happens?

I want you just to think, just get as negative as you can. What is the absolute worst case scenario that we might be facing? Well, Habakkuk is now ready for that because he makes and gives us one of the greatest closing statements in all of the Bible. Listen to what he says. He says, "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vine, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls".

Now, do you know what he's talking about there? You've gotta go back to the economy of Judah to understand exactly what he's describing, because the economy of Judah was based on everything that he just mentioned. That is their whole economy. That is their only way to stay alive. He says, look, figs, grapes, olives, livestock, sheep, goats, and cattle. He's describing total devastation. He's describing the situation where there's nothing for nobody, nothing to eat, nowhere to work, no money to spend, seemingly everything is lost. And let me just be honest with you. We're seeing it right now.

If you live long enough, if we live long enough, we may find one day that our fig trees may not bud either. There may not be any grapes on our vines. We may lose our health. We may lose our spouse. We may lose our retirement. We may lose our job. We may lose a child. If you live long enough, you may live every old friend you've ever had, but if that day comes or when that day comes, I pray we'll come to the same point he came to, when he finally realized, when times are tough and things are hard, God is all you have and God is all you need and God is enough.

So here's what he says, this blesses me. "Yet if everything goes to hell in a hand basket, if I lose it all, yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God, my Savior". Now, if you have a Bible in front of you or you have it on your iPad, highlight. There's two words I want you to put a circle around. In verse 17, the word though, and in verse 18, the word yet. Though, even though all of this may happen, yet. Here's what he says. If the worst thing that could happen to me does happen to me, by God's grace and my faith, they're going to bring out the best things that are in me. Even if I lose everything, even if God does the opposite of everything I would want him to do, you know what I'm going to do? I'm still going to worship God. I'm going to praise God. I'm going to love God. I'm going to serve God. And I'm going to trust God because I will still have Him.

I love what C.S. Lewis said. "He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only". Don't you just love that? Has nothing more than he who has God only. When you make up your mind, you're going to trust God. You're going to worship God, no matter what. And that's what I've done. No matter what how this all turns out, I will worship God. I will trust God because God's the one thing I cannot lose. Watch this, when you make up your mind you're going to do that, here's what God says He'll do for you, now watch this. The Sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer. He enables me to tread on the heights.

Now, got a question. Why does he bring Bambi into the picture? Well, what is Bambi got to do with it? I mean, all this, it seems like he's going on a roll and all of a sudden, he says, "Oh, by the way, let me talk about a deer". Why does he do that? If you're a hunter, you know this. One thing you'll see in mountains, no matter how high you'll go, you'll see deer, because deer know the higher you go, the safer you are. The higher you go, the more you can see everything around you. And listen to me, that's exactly what faith in God will do for you in tough times. Listen. Fear sees the clouds of difficulties, disasters and disappointments. Faith sees the sunshine of the promises, the provision, and the power of the God who is sure, who is steady, who is sovereign. And I've said this to you before, but I'm gonna keep hammering home to you.

These times we're in, they're gonna do two things to you, one of two things. They're gonna take you higher or they're gonna drag you lower. They're gonna draw you closer to God or they're gonna drive you farther away from God. They're gonna make you bitter or they're gonna make you better. But if you will trust God, no matter what, if you'll believe God, no matter what, if you'll serve and love and glorify God, no matter what, God says, here's what I'll do. I'll set your feet like the feet of a deer. I'll enable you to walk above your circumstances. I'll keep you above those clouds of disappointment and discouragement and disillusionment and you'll have your eyes fixed on me.

So I'm just telling you for me. I can advise you, I can't make you. I'm just telling you for me, I made up my mind. My standard of living may very well change, but my standard of life will not, because the way I live my life does not depend on what I have. The way I live my life depends on who has me. So no, I don't always know why. And I don't always know why not, but I know the who that does and that's all that matters. Would you pray with me right now? Can I just be honest and be very straightforward and be very specific with you for a minute? If you're not a believer, if you've never really placed your faith in Jesus Christ, if you've never come to a point in your life where you realize you're a sinner that needs a savior and Jesus is that savior, I can promise you this.

I know one thing, God wants to come out of all this we're going through right now. He wants to drive you to Jesus. He wants you to force you to finally take your eyes off of your cars and your houses and your IRAs and your 401-ks and your retirement and your money in the bank. He wants you to take all your eyes off of that, which is all gonna pass away anyway and put your eyes on the one thing that matters, which is Jesus Christ and a relationship with Him.

And if today you would like to trust Jesus Christ as your Lord and as your savior, could I just help you do that right now? Would you just be willing to pray this prayer with me right now? We had a brother and a sister just among several, last week, who let us know that they had both prayed to receive Christ. It was wonderful. If you say, man, I wanna do that, I can't face this alone. No, you can't and God didn't want you to, but you cannot just face it, you can't just fight it. You can defeat it with Him. Then just pray with me right now. Make the greatest decision of your life. Just in your heart right now say this:

Lord, Jesus, I've never needed you like I need today. I'm a sinner, I need a savior. I can't save myself. I believe you died for my sins. I believe God raised you from the dead. I believe you're alive right now. I believe in that Easter Jesus that we just celebrated, not long ago. So Lord Jesus, come into my heart, save me. I trust you as my Lord. I receive you as my savior. I'll repent and turn away from my sin. I give everything that I am to everything that you are.

Now if you made a decision like that, if you prayed to receive Christ, I want you to do something this minute. Take your cell phone. Here's what I want you to do. I want you to text, "YesJesus," as just one word, "YesJesus," text it right out to 31996, it's that easy. You text yes to Jesus to 31996, just do it right now. Easy-peasy, right, just text it. You'll be taken to where you'll know what to do next. It's just so easy and we want to hear from you. By the way, if you have a prayer request or if you need us to, if there's some way to intercede for you or if you'd say, pastor, I don't need to receive Jesus, but you know what, I've been thinking about this. I need to follow Jesus in baptism.

When we all get back together, I'd like to be baptized as a professional by faith. Or you say, you know what? I was intending on joining the church, but I didn't get a chance, but when I come back, I'd like to do that. Whatever decision you have or if you've got a prayer request, same thing. Just text, "YesJesus" to 31996. Just text us right now. We would love to pray for you. We'd love to hear from you. Do it right now. So I wanna thank you for tuning in. I wanna thank you for watching us and my prayer right now is this: In the name of Jesus, that no matter what else happens in your life, you'll realize you were put here ultimately to glorify God, the Father, to worship and know God, the Son, to live a life filled with God, the Spirit, and may that life be in you today.
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