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Now What?!? - How to wait well.

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How to wait on the Lord well.


Welcome and Intro

Good Morning Bridge Church! I am very excited to be up here this morning. I always find it a blessing to be able to share with you, what God has laid on my heart. Before we get started I’d like us all to pull our phone, bible, scroll maybe… Whatever it is you are using to read God's word this morning and turn to the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk can be found in the OT, towards the end with all the minor prophets, because Habakkuk is a minor prophet! in - insert time to calculator - it’s no longer going to be 2020! And all God’s people said...
But seriously, 2020 has been incredibly difficult. I may have already mentioned it here but I remember being on the treadmill at the gym looking at the news one morning in February of this year and seeing talk of a new respiratory virus and it not registering with me as any type of thing I should concern myself with… now here we are. Millions of us have lost jobs, or jobs haven’t returned to normal hours. Schools closed leaving parents to have to make seemingly impossible choices, marriages have fallen apart. We all ate too much, streamed too much, and worried too much. This isn't to mention the fact that we’ve all been inundated with politics and… just yuck to all of it. We have seen that the injustice issue our country has been dealing with for decades is far from solved, and is really just now beginning to make any kind of headway at all. We dealt with all of this… plus, real death has taken place as a direct result of all that is happening in the world. Once May hit and we all realized as a global community, I think, that this thing wasn’t going away and that this year was not going to get any better, we all started chanting the “let’s be done with 2020” bell. I think we started to wonder if the ship would right itself. But we are here, 2021 is right around the bend and it’s shown no sign of righting itself, we have no plans to wake up on the 1st take a deep breath and move on. That’s a bit overwhelming I think to some of us. We’re all exhausted, we're all fed up and we are all, I think, starting to ask God, well “now what? How much longer is this going to go on?”
Let’s read together: Chapter 1 v2-4 of the book of Habakkuk.
Habakkuk 1:2–4 CSB
How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence and you do not save? Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Oppression and violence are right in front of me. Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates. This is why the law is ineffective and justice never emerges. For the wicked restrict the righteous; therefore, justice comes out perverted.
When reading this it’s hard to not stand up and shout “say it louder for those in the back”. Just looking at this prayer, is it not easy to wonder if maybe Habakkuk is here with us now? And that he prayed this prayer about 15 minutes ago? is this prayer, not the most 2020 thing you could have? Here you have a prophet asking God things like “how long do I have to call for help” and “why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” Have you at any point this year thought that? It’s also hard to not be totally heartbroken at what this prophet is praying. This prayer is not one of wonder or frustration. It’s one of heartbreak. It’s one of anguish.
If we look closer to this prayer, we can see why Habakkuk was under so much emotional strain. Let’s have a look.
V2 Shows that these issues were not new, Habakkuk did not wake up on Monday and say “what gives”, the tone of this prayer and his word choice let us know that these issues were habitual and longstanding, causing great suffering. We can see that the people were subjecting themselves to violence against one another. Further, in V3, we are told of injustice, oppression, and wrongdoing.
If this isn’t bad enough, v4 tells us that there is no hope in the leadership of the time because justice “never emerges” while there may be systems in place to prevent injustice and oppression, the wicked restrict and hold back the righteous, so any “justice” that comes out of leadership is broken and perverted. Not at all fixing the issue at hand.
We know from scripture that the people of Israel had completely abandoned the scriptures and had started to worship other gods that were not the one true God. Because of this, everything was falling apart. The leaders of the time either did not want to or, did not care to remind the people of God what they were doing because they were in the thick of it! Lying, cheating, stealing, and the lot of it with the rest and the best of them!
Does this feel at all familiar?
When reading this, it’s easy to feel a connection with how Habakkuk is feeling. There have been a lot of times I have pondered what’s happening in the world and have been incredibly frustrated and wanted to say, “Hey God, did you see that?” or “If this group would only follow God’s word, this whole thing would be fixed.” I feel like I just wait for God to come and fix what I know is hopelessly broken. This year I feel like I’ve just been waiting for the whole thing to be over. The emotional anguish in v2 almost jumps off the page, Habakkuk was heartbroken at what his people had become. Habakkuk was also desperate for and waiting for true justice that only God could provide.
This brings us to today’s “Big Idea”
Big Idea: Faith is an action, not a passive state of mind.
When things were going down in Israel, Habakkuk didn’t wait idly by. When he woke up and had his first cup of coffee listening to the news he didn’t grimace, say “I have faith, God will work this out” and shrug his shoulders. He took action in the best way he knew how. He prayed!
I remember a few years back being presented with the fact that God was clearly calling us to move out of our apartment in Wilmington. There was a change in the head office of the ownership group, and because of this, the handshake agreement between my wife and I and the property manager had gone away and as a result, our rent went up something crazy like 25%. Not wanting to make a house payment on 790 sq ft, we decided that moving was something God was pushing us towards. I remember thinking “oh, we are stepping out in faith” and that being it. As our deadline approached to have to be out of the apartment, I started to panic. We didn’t know if we were supposed to be actually moving city, should we just find another apartment? We started looking to buy in Wilmington, we actually looked at buying this amazing house really close to Liz’s school the mortgage was cheaper than rent and we were excited maybe about that but we didn’t know what to do. Out of panic and sheer frustration, I decided I was going to take the afternoon and pray about what it was that we were supposed to do. I remember sitting in my office writing questions to God on post-its and sticking them on the walls. I was pacing back and forth pouring out my heart to God. “What do you want me to do?” Instead of leaning back and letting God automatically solve my problems, I took active participation in my faith and I prayed. Looking back it seems so simple, but I just wasn’t thinking clearly I guess. But I eliminated all distractions and I prayed. Habakkuk did the same thing. He noticed that everything was going all wrong so he stopped what he was doing and he - Prayed -
This brings us to our first point this morning. Let's take a look at what comes next God Answers -
Habakkuk 1:5–6 CSB
Look at the nations and observe— be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. Look! I am raising up the Chaldeans, that bitter, impetuous nation that marches across the earth’s open spaces to seize territories not its own.
That was not expected. This passage states that Israel is about to be invaded and goes on to describe just how fierce the Babylonians are saying things like “their horses are faster than leopards” and “all of them come to do violence” and best yet “they laugh at every fortress”
Habakkuk did the right thing, he prayed. Shouldn’t this zip it all up? Shouldn’t God then say. “Yes, I have seen it, I will make it better”. Maybe “Yes, I know, I’ve got a new king in my back pocket” Well, it doesn’t always work like that.
Here is the deal
God answers.
He does. When we pray to God, he is faithful and answers our prayer. But God does not always provide us with the answer we would like. No matter how hard we pray. I remember back to our house situation, we settled on wanting to buy that house in Wilmington we really liked. But decided we needed more prayer. I remember using the time we had on a drive down to the beach to pray. We prayed for like 2 full hours non stop trying to figure out what it was that God wanted us to do. I’ll never forget how during that time of fervent prayer, God changed our hearts from wanting to buy in Wilmington to wanting to be closer to The Bridge. God was faithful in answering us, but he didn’t give us the answer we wanted. He gave us his answer.
In the passage, God does not answer in a way that we would assume Habakkuk would get excited about. After pouring his heart out to God, God lets him know that the Babylonians (Chaldeans) are about to invade and take over. This experience is something that I think we can all resonate with. Often times we experience situations where we have an “ideal” in mind, but after fervent prayer, God has something else in store. Be it the healing of a sick grandparent, the landing of a new job etc… Those situations are hard to understand. But, God did answer, and as we’ll continue to read here. God’s answer is much better than anything we could dream of.
At this point in the story, we have Habakkuk seeing wrong in the world and being a man of faith, offering a prayer of lament to God asking him how much longer he would have to wait and God providing an answer Habakkuk isn’t fond of.
Habakkuk responds, let’s keep reading in v12
Habakkuk 1:12–13 CSB
Are you not from eternity, Lord my God? My Holy One, you will not die. Lord, you appointed them to execute judgment; my Rock, you destined them to punish us. Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. So why do you tolerate those who are treacherous? Why are you silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?
Habakkuk replies with “really God?” Are you not the most powerful God? Are you not holy? If you are so Holy why are you allowing such wickedness to judge your people? Even we are more righteous than them. (v13)
Then to start chapter 2
Habakkuk 2:1 CSB
I will stand at my guard post and station myself on the lookout tower. I will watch to see what he will say to me and what I should reply about my complaint.
Habakkuk then states that he will stand watch and wait for God to reply.
We are going to talk about it later, but I want to mention it now as well. Look at how Habakkuk makes space for himself to listen to God. “I will watch to see what he will say to me” wow.
If you continue to read on in chapter 2 God replies to Habakkuk again and asks him to write all this down.
God goes on to describe that while the destruction is coming, it will be temporary. God tells Habakkuk that although Babylon will “win this one” God will not allow injustice to last forever, God is coming to rescue his people in time. But Habakkuk will have to wait.
Habakkuk 2:2–4 CSB
The Lord answered me: Write down this vision; clearly inscribe it on tablets so one may easily read it. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it testifies about the end and will not lie. Though it delays, wait for it, since it will certainly come and not be late. Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith.
Habakkuk is just going to have to wait.
Notice this, God did not really change his tune at all. He actually goes into further detail about who is going to be destroyed, and how. And because God is merciful and just and full of love for his people chapter 2 ends with God telling Habakkuk that this time of destruction for his people is temporary and that he is going to end evil for all time
But, when Habakkuk makes his final response his tune is changed. He moves from complaining to worshiping!
You see,
Prayer is a change agent
When we, the Christian, think about petitioning God, I think we like to focus on the times where we see God influenced by prayer. Like when Abraham prayed for Sodom to be spared because of the righteous in the city. I think we wrongfully interpret scriptures like
Psalm 37:4 CSB
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
and assume when we pray, we get what we want. But it’s not exactly like that. You see, when we pray, something changes. When we pray, we change.
Habakkuk went from spitting angry and full of woe to being on his knees in worship. His worship psalm I think is summarized perfectly in the end of the book
Habakkuk 3:17–19 CSB
Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though the flocks disappear from the pen and there are no herds in the stalls, yet I will celebrate in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation! The Lord my Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights! For the choir director: on stringed instruments.
In Habakkuk’s time, wealth was measured in food and flocks, so when he is mentioning food not growing and animals disappearing he is saying “if there is nothing to eat, and wealth is gone, I will still celebrate in the Lord”.
What a stark difference Habakkuk goes from angry about the situation Israel was in and how God was going to handle it, to worshiping the Lord and being full of Joy.
That brings us to the next thing i’d like to highlight this morning:
Active Faith produces Joy
We don’t know how long this exchange took from start to finish. It could have been minutes or months, but we do know that by it we received a wonderful example of faith in action. We see prayer, we see room for God to respond to the requester. I mean, Habakkuk literally went to wait upon the city wall for a response. and we see a heart changed from lament to worship and wonder. What faith!
So, at the start of this message, we asked the question. “Now what” so, now what. How do we take this back and forth between our creator and Habakkuk and apply it to now?
I think we should learn from Habakkuk’s example and take action in our faith!
I think this looks really simple too. Let’s break these out.
A really practical way to take action is to
pray without ceasing
Don’t stop praying.
actively listen to God
We need to make time to listen after we pray!
Do what God has called you to do, today
While we are waiting for our reality to change to a better one… we need to.
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