Gospel Song

When I was out yesterday running a few errands, I heard this great song playing on the Christian radio station (the song was released in 2021), and I’ve heard it before but this time I made a mental note of the title. You can listen to the song on the YouTube link at the bottom of this post (it’s titled Gospel Song by Rhett Walker).

Here are the opening lyrics to the song (from azlyrics.com):

I could listen to my heart
I could listen to the world
I could listen to my problems
But what I think I need to hear
Nice and loud and crystal clear
Is about the One who’s gonna solve them

Isn’t that the truth? Too often we listen to everyone and everything going on around us or inside of us (our own thinking, feelings, emotions) when we just really need to put our focus where it belong–on “the One who’s gonna solve them.” And that would be Jesus.

Another section in the song states:

Let me stop and testify
I was dead and brought to life
By the power of my Savior
But if I’m being real with you
Sometimes I forget it’s true
I could use a reminder

How often in any given day could we use a reminder? I can’t speak for you, but I know enough about myself to know that I need daily reminders. And the song ends with this reminder:

Ain’t nothing like a gospel song
Makes me want to sing it all day long
Something ’bout that amazing grace sound of praise
Makes my troubles not seem so strong
Let me hear a heart set free
Holy Bible to a melody
Turn it up and then play it again, play it again, play it
On and on and on
Ain’t nothing like a gospel song (x2)
Like a gospel song…

A month ago I came across a book at Walmart published in 2019 titled, Everything You Need: 8 Essential Steps to a Life of Confidence in the Promises of God,” by Dr. David Jeremiah, founder of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, CA. In his opening paragraphs in the Prologue to the book, he writes:

People often ask me, “Pastor, what’s going on in the world today? What’s the biggest issue we face? I have many answers, and each contains the same overarching work–pressure.

Family pressure. Time pressure. Financial pressure. Unprecedented pressure to compete and succeed by society’s standards–at work, in school, in our communities, and maybe even in our churches. As Christians, we’re encountering pressures in our society we’ve never faced before. We’re living in unprecedented times, which brings unparalleled tension…. (Quote source and the rest of the prologue is available at this link. The quote source is also found on page IX in the hardcover copy of the book.)

Everything You Need was published in 2019 which was right before the Covid-19 pandemic rocked the entire world starting in March 2020, and it changed the way everyone lives with challenges that are still very much ongoing and not likely to disappear any time soon. It’s a storm unparalleled in it’s reach including worldwide supply chain disruptions and supply shortages taking place today, and adding in Russia’s war in the Ukraine that started in February 2022, we now have the highest rates of inflation since 1981. It brings to mind the story about Jesus calming the storm (one of his many miracles) reported in Matthew 8:23–27, Mark 4:35–41, and Luke 8:22–25. Here is the account from Luke 8:22-25:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Jesus has the power to calm us during the storms as we are going through them, and the power to stop the storm in it’s tracks if that is what he chooses to do. Either way, the “calming” comes from him and it is not something we can fabricate on our own. When he asked his disciples “Where is your faith?” after he rebuked the wind and the raging waters and the storm subsided, he asks us this very same question in the midst of the storms of life that assail us. We need to turn to him and commit the storm to him, whether it ends right away or whether we have to keep going through it. It is his calm that he extends to us when we turn to him for help. It is that “peace that passes all understanding” that he gives us that Paul describes in Philipians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Back to Dr. David Jeremiah’s book, Everything You Need–the scripture text that the book chapters cover are based on 2 Peter 3-11 which states:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If you read the prologue to Dr. Jeremiah’s book (available at this link), it will give you an idea of the topics you will find in each chapter of the book which covers each of the qualities listed above in 2 Peter 1:3-11. For the purposes of this blog post, the focus is on “perseverance,” which is covered in Chapter 6 titled, “Relentless Determination,” in Dr. Jeremiah’s book. He describes perseverance as “a never-give-up attitude, a commitment to move forward when everything is conspiring to hold you back. No matter what happens, you finish the job… [it’s] the ability to go through a severe time” (quote source is found on page 96 of the hardcover edition of Everything You Need). If you want to read more, you can order the book at this link and at other online bookstores.

Several of Jesus’ parables involve the topic of perseverance, and one of the best known parables on perseverance is found in Luke 18:1-8 titled, “The Parable of the Persistent Widow:

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

GotQuestions.org explains the meaning of this parable:

The parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1–8) is part of a series of illustrative lessons Jesus Christ used to teach His disciples about prayer. Luke introduces this lesson as a parable meant to show the disciples “that they should always pray and never give up” (verse 1, NLT).

The parable of the widow and the judge is set in an unnamed town. Over that town presides an unjust judge who has no fear of God and no compassion for the people under his jurisdiction. In the Jewish community, a judge was expected to be impartial, to judge righteously, and to recognize that judgment ultimately belongs to God (Deuteronomy 1:16–17). Thus, the judge in this story is incompetent and unqualified for the job. Justice was not being served.

A needy widow repeatedly comes before the judge to plead her case. According to Jewish law, widows deserve special protection under the justice system (Deuteronomy 10:1824:17–21James 1:27). But this unjust judge ignores her. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up.

Eventually, the judge says to himself, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:4–5, NLT). The widow gets the justice she was seeking. Then Jesus explains His point: if an uncaring, unfit, ungodly judge answers with justice in the end, how much more will a loving and holy Father give what is right to His children?

We do not always get immediate results when we pray. Our definition of swift justice is not the same as the Lord’s definition. The parable of the persistent widow demonstrates that effective prayer requires tenacity and faithfulness. A genuine disciple must learn that prayer never gives up and is based on absolute trust and faith in God. We can fully count on the Lord to answer when, where, and how He chooses. God expects us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking, and praying until the answers come (Matthew 7:7–8). Disciples of Jesus are people of persistent faith.

The parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge is similar to the parable of the persistent neighbor (Luke 11:5–10), another lesson in Jesus’ teachings on prayer. While both parables teach the importance of persistence in prayer, the story of the widow and the judge adds the message of continued faithfulness in prayer.

Jesus presents a final quiz on the matter at the end of the parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge. He asks, “But when the Son of Man returns, how many will He find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:8, NLT). Just as Paul stresses in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, continual devotion to prayer should be a way of life. The Lord wants to know if He will find any faithful prayer warriors left on the earth when He returns. Will we be among God’s people still praying at Christ’s second coming, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10)?

Faithful, never-ceasing, persistent prayer is the permanent calling of every true disciple of Christ who is dedicated to living for the Kingdom of God. Like the persistent widow, we are needy, dependent sinners who trust in our gracious, loving, and merciful God alone to supply what we need. (Quote source here.)

Faithful, never-ceasing, persistent prayer…. Let it rise up from us daily in the middle of the storms in life. And as Rhett Walker’s song reminds us–I could listen to my heart, I could listen to the world, I could listen to my problems. But what I think I need to hear nice and loud and crystal clear…

Is about the One . . .

Who’s gonna . . .

Solve them . . . .

YouTube Video: “Gospel Song” by Rhett Walker:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

The Power of Persistence

I don’t need to tell you that 2020 has been a challenging year so far here in America, and to top off everything else that has already occurred and is still ongoing, a very heated and divisive Presidential Election is only 62 days away.

Three words keep coming to mind when I think about all that has already transpired this year. Those three words have very similar meanings, and they are: (1) resilience (the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back and grow despite life’s downturns); (2) perseverance (continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition); and (3) persistence (the act or fact of stubbornly continuing to do something; the act or fact of continuing to exist longer than usual).

In a word search on Google using these three words, one of the first links I came across was this short devotion published on December 28, 2017 titled, Faith Produces Persistence,” by Rick Warren, founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church, an evangelical megachurch affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention that is the sixth-largest megachurch in the United States (source here). Here is that devotion (note: all three of those words stated above show up in this devotion):

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).

Faith unlocks the promises of God, it shows us the power of God, it turns dreams into reality, and it gives us the power to hold on in tough times.

God doesn’t always take you out of the problem. He stretches your faith by taking you through the problem. He doesn’t always take away the pain. He gives you faith-filled ability to handle the pain. And God doesn’t always take you out of the storm because he wants you to trust him in the midst of the storm.

I remember reading the stories of Corrie ten Boom, a young Dutch Christian who helped many Jews escape the Holocaust before being sent to Nazi concentration camps. After World War II ended, she said that the people who lived through those camps were those who had the deepest faith. Why? Because faith gives you the power to hold on in tough times. It produces persistence.

Study after study has shown that probably the most important characteristic you could teach a child (and that you need in your own life) is resilience. It’s the ability to bounce back. It’s the ability to keep going. Nobody goes through life with an unbroken chain of successes. Everybody has failures and mistakes. We all embarrass ourselves. We all have pain. We all have problems. We all have pressures. The people who make it in life have resilience.

Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to resign as pastor at Saddleback Church? Just about every Monday morning! I say, “God, it’s too big. It’s too many people, too much responsibility. I’m not smart enough. What am I supposed to say to that many people? Get somebody else who can do a better job than this.”

Yet God says, “Keep going.”

Where do you get the resilience to keep going? Faith. It’s believing God could do something at any moment that could change the direction of your life, and you don’t want to miss it, so you keep moving forward. It’s believing that God will give you exactly what you need when you need it as you learn to rely on him to accomplish his purpose in you.

This is the testimony of Paul, a great man of faith: “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT).

What is God’s purpose of adversity in your life?

How has faith helped you persevere through a difficult time in your life?

Faith doesn’t always take you out of the problem. Faith often takes you through the problem. How will this truth shape the way you respond to the problems you face right now? (Quote source here.)

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should “always pray and never give up” in the form of a parable titled, The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” Here is that parable from the NLT:

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

GotQuestion.org states the following regarding this parable:

The parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1–8) is part of a series of illustrative lessons Jesus Christ used to teach His disciples about prayer. Luke introduces this lesson as a parable meant to show the disciples “that they should always pray and never give up” (verse 1, NLT).

The parable of the widow and the judge is set in an unnamed town. Over that town presides an unjust judge who has no fear of God and no compassion for the people under his jurisdiction. In the Jewish community, a judge was expected to be impartial, to judge righteously, and to recognize that judgment ultimately belongs to God (Deuteronomy 1:16–17). Thus, the judge in this story is incompetent and unqualified for the job. Justice was not being served.

A needy widow repeatedly comes before the judge to plead her case. According to Jewish law, widows deserve special protection under the justice system (Deuteronomy 10:1824:17–21James 1:27). But this unjust judge ignores her. Nevertheless, she refuses to give up.

Eventually, the judge says to himself, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!” (Luke 18:4–5, NLT). The widow gets the justice she was seeking. Then Jesus explains His point: if an uncaring, unfit, ungodly judge answers with justice in the end, how much more will a loving and holy Father give what is right to His children?

We do not always get immediate results when we pray. Our definition of swift justice is not the same as the Lord’s definition. The parable of the persistent widow demonstrates that effective prayer requires tenacity and faithfulness. A genuine disciple must learn that prayer never gives up and is based on absolute trust and faith in God. We can fully count on the Lord to answer when, where, and how He chooses. God expects us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking, and praying until the answers come (Matthew 7:7–8). Disciples of Jesus are people of persistent faith.

The parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge is similar to the parable of the persistent neighbor (Luke 11:5–10), another lesson in Jesus’ teachings on prayer. While both parables teach the importance of persistence in prayer, the story of the widow and the judge adds the message of continued faithfulness in prayer.

Jesus presents a final quiz on the matter at the end of the parable of the persistent widow and unjust judge. He asks, “But when the Son of Man returns, how many will He find on the earth who have faith?” (Luke 18:8, NLT). Just as Paul stresses in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, continual devotion to prayer should be a way of life. The Lord wants to know if He will find any faithful prayer warriors left on the earth when He returns. Will we be among God’s people still praying at Christ’s second coming, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10)?

Faithful, never-ceasing, persistent prayer is the permanent calling of every true disciple of Christ who is dedicated to living for the Kingdom of God. Like the persistent widow, we are needy, dependent sinners who trust in our gracious, loving, and merciful God alone to supply what we need. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on June 26, 2020, titled, The Power of Persistent Prayer,” on apastorsview.org by Dr. Jim Denison, co-founder and the CVO of Denison Forum, he writes:

2020 has been a year like no other in living memory.

It started as 1973, with the impeachment proceedings. Then it became 1918 with the coronavirus pandemic. It added 2008 (and maybe 1929) with the recession. Then it added 1968 with racial issues. None of the last three will end any time soon, and we can add the election this fall.

Psychologists distinguish between acute stress, something we experience in the face of immediate but short-term challenges, and chronic stress, which is ongoing and debilitating. Of the two, chronic stress can especially lead to depression and other physical and psychological challenges.

If you’re like me, the chronic nature of our challenges is becoming discouraging and worse. Your congregation probably feels the same way.

In this context, I wanted to share a reminder that has been encouraging me in recent days, one drawn from what is perhaps Jesus’ most misunderstood parable.

A rude neighbor

You know his story in Luke 11 about the persistent neighbor who knocks at a friend’s door at midnight to ask for bread he can serve a guest. The man’s reluctance is understandable: Common homes in Jesus’ day were one room, with one window and a door. The first two-thirds of the room was a dirt floor where the animals slept for the night. The back one-third was a raised wooden platform with a charcoal stove around which the entire family slept. For this man to get up at midnight he must awaken his family and then his animals just to get to the door.

In Jesus’ story, the neighbor gets up despite all this—the rudeness, the inconvenience, the breach of social custom—because of the man’s “impudence.” The Greek word means “shameless refusal to quit.” He simply will not go away until the man gives him what he wants. And so he does.

So Jesus concludes: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (v. 9). The Greek could be translated literally, “ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking.” Practice persistence with God.

A loving father

Now, what does Jesus’ parable mean for us? First, let’s dismiss what it doesn’t mean.

Jesus is not teaching that we can wear God out if we ask for something enough. That God is the man inside the house asleep, but if we come and bang on his door loud enough and long enough, he will give us what we want. Even if he doesn’t want to, if we keep asking, eventually we’ll receive what we want.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard that very theology preached: if you have enough faith, God will give you whatever you ask for. Whether you want to be healed, or be wealthy, or anything at all, just ask in enough faith and it’s yours.

That is absolutely not the point here. Jesus is using a very common rabbinic teaching technique known in the Hebrew as theqal wahomer.” Literally, “from the light to the heavy.” Applied here, the point is this: if a neighbor at midnight would give you what you ask if you ask him, how much more will God answer our requests when we bring them to him.

They must be in his will, for his purposes and glory. This is no guarantee that enough faith will ever obligate God. It is a promise that if this man would hear his neighbor, how much more does God wish to do the same.

Why persistent prayer is so powerful

How does Jesus’ story relate to our need for persistent prayer in these challenging days?

Let’s admit that persistence in prayer is difficult for our fallen culture. Many in our secularized society are convinced that the spiritual is superstitious fiction. To them, praying to God is like praying to Zeus. If it makes you feel better, go ahead. But don’t persist in your prayers as though they make any real difference.

Our materialistic culture is also convinced that the material is what matters. Seeing is believing. You cannot see beyond the immediate, so why would you persist in doing something that doesn’t bring immediate results? If God doesn’t answer your prayer now, why keep praying it?

In the face of such skepticism, why do what Jesus taught us to do? Because persistent prayer positions us to experience God’s best.

Praying to God does not inform him of our need or change his character. Rather, it positions us to receive what his grace intends to give.

Persistent prayer does something else as well: it keeps us connected to God so his Spirit can mold us into the image of Christ. When we pray, the Holy Spirit is able to work in our lives in ways he cannot otherwise. The more we pray, continuing to trust our problems and needs to the Lord, the more he makes us the people he intends us to be and empowers us for the challenges we face.

An invitation from God

Jesus’ story invites us to define our greatest challenge as a pastor in these days. Name it before your Father. Continue to pray about it, knowing that persistent prayer connects you with his power and wisdom. Know that as you knock, the door will be opened, by the grace of God.

I walk in our Dallas neighborhood early each morning. This week, I came across a yard sign that impressed me greatly. It proclaimed: “Hope is alive. Jesus is alive!” The first is true because the second is true.

There is hope for our past because Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8) and then rose from our grave. There is hope for our present because the living Christ is praying for us right now (Romans 8:34). There is hope for our future because Jesus will come for us one day and is building our home in paradise right now (John 14:1–3).

Hope is alive because Jesus is alive. Why do you need to practice persistent prayer to him today?

It is always too soon to give up on God. (Quote source here.)

I’ll end this post with the words that Jesus spoke to his disciples (and that includes his followers today) in Luke 18:1

Always pray . . .

And . . .

Never give up . . . .

YouTube Video: “Good Fight” by Unspoken:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Divine Perspective

Plane View New York CitySometimes when a trial (like long-term unemployment) never seems to end, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is a “bigger picture” going on “out there” in God’s economy beyond our own little world. James 1 does tell us that our trials come to test our faith (and there’s no set time limit on any particular trial) which–if we allow it to–produces perseverance. And verse 4 states: “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” However, there is a much larger picture going on in this world and our own personal trials do not just have an effect on us, although many times it may seem like it. In the broader picture, everything in God’s economy is wrapped up in this one verse, 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And that promise encompasses the entire world.

Four years ago this month I created this blog as an attempt to put into words what it’s like to be long-term unemployed. Of course, at that time I had been unemployed for one year and three months which seemed to me to be Way. Too. Long. In fact, after nine months of sporadic blogging accompanied by a whole lot of frustration at still being unemployed, I gave up on blogging and just wanted to FIND. A. JOB. . . .

Three months later (and now three years ago) I fired this blog back up in July 2011 at which point I had been unemployed for two years and three months. And it just took off from that point . . . and I mean like the wind. This month (July 2014) I’m celebrating four years of blogging on WordPress.com even though those first nine months are lost forever in cyberspace and there was a three-month cooling off period before I started again. Oh, and did I mention that the length of unemployment has now (to date) skyrocketed to five years and three months . . . Sigh . . . .

Who knew? I sure didn’t. However, over the course of these past five plus years living in the land of the unemployed, my view on life has considerably widened. There is something about the daily routine of work and other responsibilities that gets in the way of really “seeing” our world and it stunts our reality. Albert Einstein once stated, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one” (quote source here), and that may be somewhat true in our own small world on how we perceive our own set of circumstances. However, on a broader scale, it simply isn’t true. For example, 9/11 wasn’t “merely an illusion.” Neither were the Nazi Germany death camps that killed more than six million Jewish people and many others during World War II.

This evening I ran across a short devotional in Our Daily Bread that doesn’t actually show up until later in the month (sometimes I have a tendency to peek ahead). It’s titled, Divine Perspective,” written by Poh Fang Chia, and she mentions a devotional passage found in Habakkuk 2:2-14. Here’s what she wrote:

Divine Perspective

For the revelation awaits
an appointed time;
it speaks of the end
and will not prove false.

Though it linger, wait for it,
i
t will certainly come
and will not delay.
~Habakkuk 2:3

Jason took a trip to New York during spring break. One afternoon he and some friends piled into a cab and headed for the Empire State Building. To Jason, the ride on the ground seemed chaotic and dangerous. But when he got to the observation deck of the skyscraper and looked down on the city streets, to his amazement he saw order and design. What a difference a change in perspective made!

Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God (Hab. 2:3).

Those who don’t show any regard for God may seem to prosper at the moment, but God will ultimately right all wrong. God acts sovereignly in all that comes to pass so that everything works toward His good purpose. God’s plan will surely take place and be on schedule (v. 3).

We can’t sort out the whole picture from where we are in life; only God can. So let us continue to live by faith and not by sight. From His perspective, all things are working together for the believer’s good and for His honor.

Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise,
All my times are in Your hand,
All events at Your command. ~Ryland

Our times are in God’s hands;
our souls are in His keeping.

Live by Faith - HabakkukNow I don’t know about you, but “the ride on the ground” over these past five plus years of mine are much as Jason described above–chaotic and sometimes even dangerous. And I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see my total situation from a bird’s eye view looking down on it as an outsider might view it (e.g., the broader picture that is really taking place). However, in Jason’s situation, he was able to get out of the chaos and onto the observation deck high above it where he could look down and see that there was actually order and design to what he had just experienced. In other words, he saw a much larger picture and the chaos he personally experienced was just a tiny part of it.

As the author stated above, “Habakkuk learned a similar lesson. When he looked at life from his earthly vantage point, it seemed that God was indifferent to the evil permeating society (Hab. 1:2-4). But God gave him a divine perspective and showed him that life is more than what it seems. The deeds of men cannot thwart the purposes of God” (Hab. 2:3).

A year ago in June I wrote a blog post on Habakkuk that included all three chapters in the Old Testament book named after him. The blog post is titled, The Problem of Evil–Habakkuk Revisited (available at this link). Habakkuk could see the evil all around him and wondered, just like the rest of us do today, where God was in the midst of all that evil and asking God when justice would finally show up. And God responded by telling him there was something much bigger going on and that it was “awaiting an appointed time” (Hab. 2:3).

As stated in my previous post, in the rest of Chapter 2 God describes the enemy and the end that will come to that enemy. However, what the Lord had revealed to Habakkuk about the enemy was still to take place in the future, and even though he knew what was coming was going to be awful (see Chapter 2 for details), he also knew the ultimate end of that enemy. And Chapter 3 opens up with Habakkuk praising and worshiping the Lord with these words (Hab. 3:2):

“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.”

This brings us back to the subject of our own personal trials. We can’t see the overall picture as we are too close to it, yet God has a much bigger picture in mind that goes way beyond what we are experiencing. Of course, sometimes, just like Habakkuk experienced after God explained to him what was going to happen “at an appointed time,” the answer is disconcerting but ends with the demise of the enemy. We, as believers, are told in Hab. 2:4, See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.” There’s that word again–faith–which brings us back to the reason trials enter our lives in the first place–to test that faith and produce perseverance (see James 1).

The same theme is found in Hebrews 10:36-39:

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,

“In just a little while,
    he who is coming will come
    and will not delay.”

And,

“But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”

But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

We are to live by faith, and trust God for the outcome. And in living by faith we, like Habakkuk at the beginning of Chapter 3, end up praising and worshiping God for who he is, because He is ultimately in control all the time.

While we may only see the chaos . . .

That’s not the whole picture . . . .

For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
    it will certainly come
    and will not delay. ~Habakkuk 2:3

YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” (2009) by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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