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Habakkuk: Hope for the Suffering

Waiting with Hope  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:44
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Season of preparation… season of getting ready.
Who’d ready for Christmas?
Christmas is coming, but even more importantly, Jesus is coming.
Now one of those is good news… We are excited to think that Jesus is coming back… our world is in such a mess. How we long for that to be.
But Christmas???? We just finished Thanksgiving and here the pastor is making us think of Christmas? Can’t we just slow down? I have so much to do in the next month. I don’t know how I will get everything done...
Then there are others who don’t feel like celebrating so much this year. Lost loved ones, financial difficulties… Some of you are thinking of your current health issues… or a broken relationship, maybe with a spouse or one of your kids or grandkids that’s just breaking your heart… those are just the personal problems.
Then there’s the problems in our world, the senseless violence, random mass shootings, suicides, kids struggling in schools, we could go on and on with all that is wrong in our world.
At times, it seems like our world is spinning out of control and another holiday just might be the last thing we need.
In the face of all this we are left to ask…

How will we get through this?

To that question I want to introduce you to a man named Habakkuk on this first Sunday of Advent because for people like you and Habakkuk, struggling with all that’s going on… Advent is exactly what you need.
His version of the same question might be found in Hab 3:17
Habakkuk 3:17 NIV
17 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,

How will we get through this?

How are we going to get through this??? he asks.
Habakkuk, one of what we refer to as a minor prophet, ministered in Judah between 639 and 597 BC… during the rule of Josiah.
Just to catch you up on what’s happening at the end of the OT. Israel has divided in civil war between the northern and southern tribes. The 10 northern tribes rebelled against God and were eventually conquered by the Assyrians in 721.
The southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin would become known simply as Judah over time.
Like the other Minor Prophets, we find him having a conversation with God. God isn’t just telling him what’s what. He actually engages the Lord.
Habakkuk was troubled by the sins he saw in Judah despite there being a religious revival. God showed him what he was about to do… how he was going to use the Babylonians to punish his people.
In this give and take between Habakkuk and God. Habakkuk presenting his struggles and questions to God - then hearing God’s responses - we learn a lot more about God and his heart than if God just spoke from on high as to his judgement.

Habakkuk’s Complaint (Habakkuk 1:2–4; 12–17)

Let’s avoid the temptation to skip to desert though… let’s get the all the fixings… like we did on Thursday… let’s not miss out on the sweet potatoes or the GB Casserole or the sausage dressing. Let’s go slow and get all we can from Habakkuk.
Starting with his complaint.
Habakkuk 1:2–3 NIV
2 How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 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.

Is God listening?

I cry out to you but do you hear me?
Habakkuk knows God should be listening because what he is experiencing is wrong.
We want Good Endings
We have an idea how things ought to work out.
How TWD was supposed to end… Rick and Mashone come back… but nothing… folks just eating dinner like it was thanksgiving… I was like UGH - then they cut away to Rick putting messages in bottles and throwing them in the river his wife Mashone still looking for him… It wasn’t the happy ending I wanted, but it was enough to satisfy...
That’s what we want in suffering… sure the pain may not end, but help us makes sense of the things that don’t make sense.
That’s what Habakkuk gets at in his next questions for God
Habakkuk 1:13 NIV
13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

How is this fair?

Faced with the Babylonians, cruel and treacherous people having victory over the people of God… Hab asks… how is this fair?
Habakkuk gets at a question that many of us have wondered about from time to time. It’s what philosophers have described as the Problem of Evil… It goes something like this.
If God is real and good, how is there evil in the world. Why is there suffering if God is so Good, why doesn’t he stop it?
People have a problem with God… a lot of folks disbelieve because of all the wrong in the world. I’ve heard is said… when it comes to God preventing evil and suffering;

If he’s good, he would. If he could, he should. Since he doesn’t, that means he isn’t.

But is that really the case? Is there any other explanation as to what God is doing?
This isn’t the only place we see a faithful man struggling with his faith in the face of hardship. Over the course of the next few weeks we are going to see this hardship presented in different ways, but today we see the face of suffering.

Suffering is one of God’s most common tools to drive us into a deeper faith.

I recently read the story of ALAN GARDNER… an English missionary who was shipwrecked on a remote island off the coast of South America in route to start a new mission on that continent. They tried to stick it out and wait for somebody to come and rescue them, but no one came, and finally, they died of starvation. Several months later, when the 'rescuers' finally found them, they discovered the body of Gardner with his personal journal underneath. The last thing inscribed in it was Psalm 34:10, "Those that seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Underneath that verse was this final phrase, “I am overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness of God.”
He knew what Habakkuk would learn and we will discover today. He knew about a power that can actually strengthen you in times of tragedy… but even more, it can inspire you with a real supernatural strength every moment in your life. With this power, you can live beyond yourself.
This power is called… HOPE. Nothing on earth is more powerful and effective than hope. Nothing compares to how it can transform a person or a situation.
I’ve told you before about
There is a legendary experiment conducted at Johns Hopkins university in which a researcher was trying to determine how long a rat could swim. If you just threw the rats in the water, they could only last 10 minutes before… But if he took them out 2–3 times during those first 10 minutes and put them back in, the rats could swim for more than 60 hours. Changing no factor except the introduction of hope gave the rats the ability to swim more than 100x longer than without it!
Habakkuk has much to learn, and fortunately he takes the right posture.
That's important
Habakkuk 2:1 NIV
1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
It’s important because when we have questions often we see our lack of understanding as ultimate knowledge… because this that I’m experiencing doesn’t make sense, it must be wrong.
But Hab doesn't do that, he says… you‘ve heard my complaints, now I’ll wait for you to answer. Not like a prideful waiting, but a watchful waiting.
Hab is humble
The posture of our questions before God is vitally important.

God’s Answer

Habakkuk 1:5 NIV
5 “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
God says, just you watch. The word translated here as Nations us also in the OT used to refer to rebels, enemies. Paul in the NT quoting this same passage speaks to not gentiles but to those in the nation of Israel who are opposed to God.
So when you read this God is saying you watch… I’m going to do something amazing in my people… something you wouldn’t believe if you didn't see it for yourself.
Habakkuk 2:14 NIV
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
The whole earth will witness the glory of God.
You get the idea that something big is happening
Habakkuk 2:4 NLT
4 “Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.
God says I know who I’m dealing with in these Babylonians.
God knows the reality of your hardship. He’s not surprised. Don’t think God isn’t aware.
God has a plan for handling the Babylonians which he goes on to explain… but stop worrying about them… you worry about your own relationship with me.
God says... you righteous ones will live by faith.
Faith in God… who:
Habakkuk 2:20 NIV
20 The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
Finally God says… I’m still in charge here. All things are subject to me, so let’s keep things in order.
God says yes I’m in charge, and yes I’m doing something.
But let’s be honest, often times we don’t like what God is doing, or allowing to be done in our world.
So here’s the question that both we and Habakkuk needs to answer:

Is it possible for a good God to allow something painful when he could stop it?

Jack Ryan… going past a person in need in order to stop the virus from being spread throughout the hospital
Mom taking her daughter to the hospital having to hold her still while she gets shots
It is possible for a good person to allow something painful to happen if they know something better will come out of it.
Couldn’t that be what God is doing right now in our world… in your life? Trying to bring something better out of your situation?
Even if you can’t see it happening… This is exactly what it means to live by faith.
2 Cor 5:6-7
2 Corinthians 5:6–7 ESV
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.
In order to live with that sort of approach takes faith.
Faith trusts the purposes of an all powerful, all knowing God to do what’s best for those he loves.
Faith gives hope… and
Hope in the future leads Habakkuk… and us… to prayer in the present

Life-Giving Hope (Habakkuk 3)

Habakkuk 3:1–2 NIV
1 A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet. On shigionoth. 2 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.
Habakkuk 3:4 NIV
4 His splendor was like the sunrise; rays flashed from his hand, where his power was hidden.
Appearing at Mt Sinai
Habakkuk 3:5 NIV
5 Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps.
Deliverance of Exodus
Habakkuk 3:10 NIV
10 the mountains saw you and writhed. Torrents of water swept by; the deep roared and lifted its waves on high.
Splitting the Sea
Habakkuk 3:11 NIV
11 Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear.
Meeting with Joshua
Habakkuk 3:13 NLT
13 You went out to rescue your chosen people, to save your anointed ones. You crushed the heads of the wicked and stripped their bones from head to toe.
Defeat of Pharoah
Habakkuk, like every other faithful Jew, was steeped in the history of his people; how time and again, God had provided.
Developing an Exodus perspective a deliverance mindset helped Habakkuk in three ways:
First, They were not - and none of us are - innocent people suffering. Scripture is clear that none of us are innocent.
Now let me be clear. I’m not talking about particular suffering. BY that I mean that your accident wasn’t the result of you lying on your taxes 3 years ago and it’s not because of things you did when you were a kid, or what you said to your spouse.
No bad things happen because we are in a world filled with sin. Our world is broken, and as part of the world, we too are broken.
We deserve punishment, yet today I had great coffee.. I had a warm house.. I experienced God’s blessing… so it’s not so much that Bad things happen to good people, but even more - Good things happen to bad people
But not seeing themselves as a victim is important. It’s not just happening to you.. .but we are all a part of the brokenness.
Second thing that Habakkuk’s Exodus mindset does for him: It keeps him focused on who their God is… His God is NOT short on power.
Thirdly, God has doesn’t give up on us.
Now with this Exodus mindset… Habakkuk determines how he is going to live in spite of his circumstances…
Habakkuk 3:16 (NLT)
16 I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us.
He dreads what’s coming, but he will wait quietly on the Lord’s deliverance… what does that mean for us?

Hope can live with grief

First it means that Hope can exist alongside grief (16)
We don’t have to have it all together… we can feel… It’s OK.
Habakkuk 3:17–18 NIV
17 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, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Hope is a choice

I will
Habakkuk 3:19 (NIV)
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

Hope grows from the depths of faith

Advent is God’s invitation for the suffering to hope

We have even more reason for confidence than Habakkuk, because ultimately the Exodus was a picture of what Jesus would do for us.
I don’t know what trials, worries, fears, you are facing during this season of life.
I don’t know what your Dr. said, but you heard it loud and clear.
I don’t know what the relationships in your life are like.
I don’t know the shape of your finances.
I do know our culture is becoming less and less open to the ideas of the followers of Jesus and many of you feel like you have to bite your tongue from time to time.
I also know you have reason to have hope.
Jesus died that you might have new life, to make you a part of His Kingdom. He has given you his spirit to enable you to have the power of HOPE living inside of you, to enable you to develop a deep faith in the midst of great difficulties.
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