Michael Youssef - When God's Plans Differ from Ours in Timing
Everywhere I go, people are praying for revival. Don't stop, don't stop. Some see revival, or actually more accurately a Holy Spirit awakening that is needed because our world has been sliding into moral abyss. They're praying for a revival because they feel that our culture is becoming darker and darker. They pray for revival because they see society moving down a slippery slope of self-destruction. Question: Why hasn't God answered our prayer? Well, recently, I have been meditating in the Scripture about a man who was not only praying for a revival in his time, he was actually demanding a revival from God. Far from answering his prayer for a revival, far from even saying to Habakkuk, "I've heard your prayer for revival," God was planning a calamity.
Listen to me. In times when our prayers go unanswered, or when God delays his answer, or when our pleas with heaven seems to bounce off, like, a leaden sky, or when you receive the answer to prayer that is the opposite of what you're praying for, you can sink deep into discouragement, or you can do what Habakkuk did. He learned to grow in intimacy with God. Habakkuk received a totally different response from God to what he prayed for. But here's what I want you to think. Please think with me. I don't want to do the thinking for you. I want you to think with me, okay? Habakkuk responds to this delay in prayer. Habakkuk responds to this unanswered prayer. It's the most important thing I can share with you today.
Instead of being angry with God, as some do, instead of developing that cold love toward God, instead of stop praying altogether, and this is really the good news, Habakkuk turned his unanswered prayer into an opportunity to grow in his faith, to grow in his trust, to grow in his knowledge of God and intimacy with God. Habakkuk used this opportunity to turn the disappointment into an opportunity for growing and knowing the will of God and aligning his will with God's will. Now, beloved, this is a vitally important lesson. It really is. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this. Don't miss it. What can be more consistent with the Word of God than prayer for revival? What can be more consistent, right? I mean, are you with me? Thank you.
But before I get to that, let me tell you about the very little we know about Habakkuk. I mean, we know so little about this guy, prophet of God, except that he lived during the reign of King Jehoiakim. Now, before you get so underwhelmed by that information, there's a meaning. There's a reason for it that is that's a time immediately before the Babylonians coming in and ransacking Israel and taking people captives into Babylon. Just, that's all you need to know. Three chapters in that book, and basically it's a dialog between Habakkuk and the Lord. It's going back and forth. He's talking to the Lord. In the beginning of his dialog, Habakkuk, he's very condescending. Have you ever seen people condescending in their prayer? Oh, my goodness. I saw a man that was strutting around, said, "Lord, I want you to do it this way, and I want you to do it when I want you to do it".
This was several years ago, and I just sat and wept for that man. It was very condescending. In verse 2 of chapter 1, "How long am I going to wait? I mean, how long are you going to keep me waiting, God? Why don't you do this? Why are you not listening to me"? In fact, Habakkuk was baffled by God's answer. He was baffled, demanding that God must obey him and do what he tells him. Listen to what God said in verse 5 and 6. "Oh, Habakkuk, I'm going to do some things that you would not believe if I told you". "Ooh, goody! He's going to do far more exceedingly abundantly than what I'm asking for". Wrong, wrong, not a chance. It was not what Habakkuk is asking for. God said, "If it is a revival you are praying for, you're gonna have to wait. If it is a certain blessing that you're asking for, you have to wait".
What is God saying? What is God saying? Listen to me. God was going to answer Habakkuk's prayer, but not in the way he's expecting it and not in the time that Habakkuk is demanding it. What is God saying? God is saying, "I heard your prayer. I will respond to your pleas, but not yet, not yet. Right now, I'm raising a pagan and brutal people. I'm raising bloodthirsty people. I'm raising the Babylonians, and they're gonna come, and they will take Israel into exile in Babylon". Please hear me right. I have a hunch, it's just a hunch, that when Habakkuk heard those words from the Lord, he probably said, "What have I done? What have I done? I did not pray that. I didn't pray that my people would be conquered and carried into a foreign land. That is not what I prayed for. How could a merciful God do this to his people? How can a loving God allow wicked people to punish his own people"?
Second chapter, I told you I'm gonna move fast. Second chapter. Habakkuk responds, second complaint. But God said to him, "Oh, by the way, before you forget, I want you to write it down". Verse 2, 2:2. "Write this revelation, write it down, write down the prophecy. I don't want to ever be forgotten, because I have people from the 21st century that need to read this". What is it? "Oh, there is an impending doom". "Oh, God, but why"? "Because my people have been unfaithful to me for over 200 years. And I've been speaking to them by prophet and the prophets and other prophets, because my people have compromised my truth, because my people have become idolaters, because my people need to repent and turn to me once again, and I can't get their attention. I've done everything possible to get their attention. I can't get their attention".
Ah, but there's some good news, some good news in this word the Lord gave Habakkuk, some good news. Not everyone in Israel will be destroyed or carried into exile. Don't miss this, don't miss this. Not everyone. So, in chapter 2, verse 4, and if you have your Bible, have your own Bible, underline it. Underline it until you rip the paper. Just mark it in every way you can. I'm gonna tell you why this is significant. Chapter 2, verse 4, "The righteous will live by faith". Let's say that together. Many of you know this.
This verse, "The righteous shall live by faith," is the verse that ignited the Protestant Reformation. That verse, repeated in Romans, in fact, repeated in the New Testament, ignited the entire Reformation movement in the 1500s. Oh, my God, use it again to ignite a great awakening. May he use it again. Question: What is God saying to the faithful remnant, the faithful remnant? Let me repeat that a third time. The faithful remnant in Israel. Here's what God is saying: "No matter how dark it gets, no matter how severe the pain, no matter how difficult the road ahead, no matter how many challenges you may face, no matter what the future brings, no matter what suffering lies ahead, no matter what the economy does, I am not only in control of history, but I'm the watcher over my faithful people".
God's answer to Habakkuk of old is for us. Here's what God is basically saying: "You are asking the wrong question". You're asking the wrong questions. I have asked, those words have come out of my mouth when I pray. So, I'm not pointing a finger, I'm telling you what I have prayed. "Lord, what are the right questions"? The right question is to ask yourself, not God, yourself, what is God saying to us? What is God teaching us? Here it is. Is there something in my own life that I need to deal with? Is there sin of apathy in my life that I need to repent of? Do I need to grow my faith in my walk with the Lord? Do I need to mature in my knowledge of the Word of God and the character of God and the nature of God? Is there something I need to do?
Instead of blaming God, you need to start praising God. Point the finger at you and praise God. Let's go through the motion like this. Point the finger at you and praise God. He wants us not to pout and point at God, but to point the finger at us. "What am I doing"? He wants us not to feel sorry for ourselves, but to purify ourselves. And that is why chapter 3, I told you I'm going to move through the three chapters.
The last chapter, you see Habakkuk gets it. He really gets it, and the proof is in chapter 3. "Lord, I've heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deed, your deeds. Lord, repeat them in our day, in our time. Make them known. And please, in wrath remember mercy". Beloved, Habakkuk is saying, in effect, "In the past, you did great things. Do them again". Please understand, please understand, it is never wrong to pray for revival. I'm encouraged by people praying for revival. So, the question is, did God want Israel to have a revival? Absolutely. Does God want us to have a revival? Without a question, without a question, without a question.
I want to tell you three things that Habakkuk learned that they stand out, three things: humility, adoration, concentration or focus. Humility, adoration, and concentration. You see, between chapter 1 and chapter 3, Habakkuk did 180 degrees. He did a 180-degree turn. He really did. Between chapter 1 and chapter 3, don't miss it, don't miss it, because something drastic happened in the life of God's man, Habakkuk, between chapter 1 and chapter 3. He started by saying, "God, where are you? Why are you not answering me? Why are you not answering my prayer? How long am I going to keep on waiting"?
What happened? Something wonderful happened, and I pray to God would happen to all of us. I know, I pray to God that will happen to me. He learned to shift his mind from all of the problems and focused on the glory of God. Can I get an amen? He took his eyes, because what happened, Habakkuk was looking at God through the wrong end of the telescope. Have you ever done that? Have you ever done that? He was looking, he turned the telescope around, and he was looking at the wrong end. And God said, "Turn it the right way. You're looking at the wrong end of the telescope".
You see, what do you see when you look at the wrong end of the telescope to God? You're going to see God to be unfair, unjust, uncaring. Once you take your eyes off of who's in and who's out, once you take your eyes off who is doing what and who is not doing what, once you fix your eyes squarely on the righteousness and the majesty of God, once you focus on the glory of God, everything else faded away into insignificance. How we approach God, I'm gonna repeat this, how we approach God will determine the effectiveness of our prayer. I'm gonna repeat this. How we approach God will determine the effectiveness of our prayer.
So, that's humility, not entitlement, that God responds to. Secondly, adoration. The second feature of the effective prayer of Habakkuk that he learned is adoration. Adoration is the expression of our love for the Lord in prayer. Let me ask you this. How many times have you just spent time in the presence of God, asking for not a blessed thing, asking nothing, just pouring your love on him, pouring your love on him? Don't raise your hand. Throughout chapter 3, I cannot help but feel the emotion of adoration and awe of Habakkuk that was not in the early part. Adoration of God's righteousness, God's power, God's past deliverance, God's glory, and what God has done for his people, adoration and awe of God's past deeds, adoration and awe of his glory and everlasting nature, adoration and awe of his power that eclipses the sun and the moon.
There can be no effective prayer without understanding who God really is. It's not just someone you go to every time you need something. And what it means to pray to him, to pray to the God of the universe, my beloved friends, listen to me. To enter into the very heart of God is to open your heart to him and pour out your love for him and recognize his worth, his worth. In fact, the word "worship" comes from "worth-ship" in the Latin. We're showing God his worth. What is he worth to you? When we delight ourselves in the Lord, we become overwhelmed.
Humility, adoration, and thirdly, focus or concentration, concentration and focus on what God loves, on what God loves. Habakkuk was asking God to send a revival and questioning why he's not doing this. But in reality, God is saying, "Habakkuk, for 200 years, I've been pleading with my people". Read Hosea, read Isaiah, read Jeremiah, read the prophets, again and again and again pleading with his people to repent and turn to him, but they would not. They stubbornly refused; and, therefore, they will not receive a revival, but judgment. Oh, my goodness, that like a knife in my heart. I don't want judgment, do you? No, none of us do. Habakkuk didn't want judgment. He wants a revival. I do, too. I want a revival, not judgment.
What's revival? Well, revival means to make something alive. Revive something is to make it alive after being dead. When the spiritually dead become alive through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone, that is a true revival, and that's what happened here. Once Habakkuk took his eyes off of the spiritual problem that plaguing the nation, that he thought a revival can come and take care of this and solve the problems, whether it be our economic problems, or our social problems, our moral problems, and he focused on the glory of God, he saw. Even the Babylonian exile could be God's plan for a revival, because revival happened after the exile. Remember with Nehemiah and Ezra, and a revival came in Israel?
History has shown us again and again. Study history; before the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, the church was dark and dead. In fact, those were called the Dark Ages. And when God raised Martin Luther, and he started reading the Scripture, and he read Habakkuk 2:4, "The righteous shall live by faith," God put in motion and ignited the revival that started in the reformation, and it took us from the Dark Ages to civilization. Oh, but not before a whole lot of pain. I wish it wasn't, but it was a lot of pain. Wanting a revival to solve our nation's moral troubles is very different from wanting a revival for the glory of God. Can you see the difference?
Some of you probably say, "Well, what difference does it make"? Yes, it does make a whole lot of difference. You see, our motives, it makes a difference. Do you want to see Jesus glorified? Do you want to see Jesus glorified? Do you want to see the glory of God? Or do you just want to solve some of the problems we have? Bad as they are, you see, when God is glorified, the problem will take care of itself. So, don't put the cart before the horse. It's the glory of God. It's the glory of God. It's the glory of God, not our moral problems. Habakkuk's last word says, "Look, if things are so bad that there's no food, there's no..." I mean, that's their economy, basically. The agriculture economy, naming all the trees and all the sheep and the animals, and the economy. He said, "Even though it's collapsing, I'm still gonna trust you. I'm still gonna trust you, because you said the righteous shall live by faith". Let me hear you say it.