Summary: Habakkuk has provided an example for us. He has showed us how to rest on God’s promises when we are personally devastated and also to rejoice in the Lord and His provision when our circumstances are devastating.
Opening illustration: Tennis superstar Arthur Ashe died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. More than a great athlete, Ashe was a gentleman who inspired and encouraged many with his exemplary behavior on and off the court.
Ashe could have become embittered and self-pitying in the face of his disease, but he maintained a grateful attitude. He explained, "If I asked, ’Why me?’ about my troubles, I would have to ask, ’Why me?’ about my blessings. Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?"
Ashe’s attitude rebukes those of us who often grumble, "Why me? Why is God allowing this to happen?" Even if we’re suffering acutely, we must not forget the mercies God pours into our lives—such things as food, shelter, and friends—blessings that many are deprived of.
And what about spiritual blessings? We can hold the very Word of God in our hands and read it. We have the knowledge of His saving grace, the comfort of His Spirit, and the joyful assurance of life everlasting with Jesus.
Think about God’s blessings and ask, "Why me?" Then your grumbling will give way to praise.
Introduction: Recall that Habakkuk is writing about 18-20 years before Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 BC. Quite possibly he was alive to see that destruction – he may have been killed in the battle, or he may have starved during the siege; he may have lived through it. We don’t know. But we do know that Jeremiah experienced all the terrors of that time. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon surrounded the city and besieged it for two years, starving the people into submission. Eventually the King of Judah and his army tried to escape through a hole in the wall at night, but they were caught and slaughtered. The Babylonian army then entered the city, looting, murdering, plundering, and destroying.
This followed with crop failure and the death of animals would devastate Judah. But Habakkuk affirmed that even in the times of starvation and loss, he would still rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk’s feelings were not controlled by the events around him but by faith in God’s ability to give him strength. When nothing makes sense, and when trouble seems more than you can bear, remember that God gives strength. Take your eyes off your difficulties and look to God.
The very things Habakkuk had complained about—the fig tree wasn’t blossoming, no fruit, no herd in the stalls—were still not there, and yet he was rejoicing. He wasn’t complaining now. What changed his mind? Understand that it is acceptable to acknowledge the difficulty of our situation. However like Habakkuk, focus our attention on God rather than on our circumstances.
In the midst of these challenging current events, we sometimes forget that people in the past have faced similar difficult periods of distress. Throughout our history as a country, perilous times have ben experienced economically and internationally. A visit with the Old Testament prophets will awaken a greater understanding of such times of depression and chaos in society. The children of Israel had a Ph.D. in captivity and bondage.
Remember that circumstances will change but God will not. Put your hope in His ability to save you. He is present with you in even the most difficult of times. Choose to rejoice in the Lord, regardless of the way you feel. Trust that He will enable you to overcome. (I can do all things …)
How do we find consolation in the Lord?
1. REJOICE in the Lord (v. 18a) – Joy again and again …
• The prophet Isaiah 61: 10 reiterates by saying, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God;”
• Paul exhorts the Philippians 4: 4 by telling them to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
Note here three reactions Habakkuk avoids (natural reactions):
(a) He does NOT lash out at God in anger: He does not say, “God, you have no right to destroy your people! You are a faithless God!”
(b) He does NOT pretend that the evil won’t happen. He doesn’t withdraw into a fantasy world, saying, “That’s too terrible to think about. I will close my eyes and think of something else. I’ll sit in front of the TV and get distracted.”
(c) And, note carefully, he does not even say, “Despite all this, I will endure! I will keep a stiff upper lip and stick it out! I will still wait for the Lord! I will remain faithful!”
No. Habakkuk is not the Little Train that could, puffing up the side of the mountain saying, “I think I can, I think I can.” Instead, what does he say? “I will EXULT in the Lord, I will REJOICE in the God of my salvation!”