Summary: We can make it through tough times because we live by faith, joyfully in Him.
Ray Charles was a pianist, singer, and composer featured in the award-winning biographical film Ray. The film reveals how Ray compensated for his blindness by learning to hear what others could not—a skill that would contribute to his musical talent.
Scene: As a 10-year-old boy, Ray enters his home and trips over a rocking chair. He falls, cries out in pain, and calls to his mother for help. His mother instinctively steps forward, but then stops herself, quietly steps back, and returns to her work. Ray, lying on the floor, continues to cry for his mother’s help.
Believing he is alone, Ray is forced to listen more carefully for help. First he hears men chattering outside and a hen clucking. He stops crying, turns his head, and slowly gets up. He hears more people talking, a cow mooing, and metal clanking. He turns his head in the direction of a kettle of boiling water.
Stretching out his arms, he walks toward a crackling fireplace and feels its heat, pulling back his hand when it comes too close. His mother watches him carefully, concerned with his every move. Ray listens intently as a horse and carriage go by.
He then hears a cheeping grasshopper close by and walks toward it. He bends down and, fumbling a bit, encloses his hands around the grasshopper. Smiling, he picks it up and puts it to his ear. His mother is taken aback and gives a low gasp.
"I hear you, Mama. You’re right there," Ray says.
His mother now has tears streaming down her face. She tells him, "Yes, yes, I am." She kneels in front of Ray and embraces him. (Graham Best, Coquitlam, British Columbia) (Ray Rated PG-13, (Anvil Films & Bristol Bay Productions, 2004. Scene begins at 01:09:27 (DVD ch. 13 Length: 02:35)
Sometimes it seems that God is silent or even absent when we cry out to him from our pain. But let’s not mistake God’s silence for his absence. Ray’s mother revealed her love for him by not responding to his cries for help. She wanted him to grow and learn through his struggle, not simply find comfort.
God can use the painful circumstances of our lives to teach us and to form us, and sometimes the best instruction and guidance comes through silence. But God is always with us, watching our discoveries the growth of our understanding.
The OT prophet Habakkuk lived in a time back in the 7th century B.C. when everything seemed to be falling apart in his world. All around him he observed sin, violence, and injustice. And it seemed that God wasn’t doing anything about it. But we learn that God had his watchful eye on things all the time. In fact, God was planning to use the ungodly nation of Babylon to punish God’s people who had been disobedient to Him.
As Sue said in her sermon last week, Habakkuk took his questions to God. He had to wait for an answer, but God did not ignore him. God’s response was that He was about to unleash judgment on an unprecedented scale, but that the righteous would live by faith. Wealth, violence, and trickery would not save the righteous. They would live only by their faith. It’s a message we need to hear today.
Habakkuk is left shaking in his boots as he contemplates what God is about to do to the country of Judah through the conquests of Babylon. Today, in our second and last message from Habakkuk, we see the prophet’s response in Ch. 3.
If you have your Bibles open, you see that the very first words of Ch. 3 are “a prayer.” This chapter is Habakkuk’s prayer. With all that the prophet heard from God, it would have been easy for him to respond with cynicism, as though “What’s the use?”
I’m sure some of you have felt that way. Everything you touch seems to turn sour. Several people have told us recently that nothing they try seems to work. They lose a job. Their car quits working or they get sick. They get behind in their rent. “I’m beat,” one told us last week. A friend from another church said Friday he tells God, “Lord, I can’t take it anymore.” And I know that some of you have felt like just giving up. But then you remember, “I can’t give up. I want to provide for my family. God wants me to continue.” So you keep trying.
Habakkuk heard God speak and instead of becoming cynical, he enters into worship, and he ends this book with a prayer.
Other passages in the Bible describe difficult times. The writer of Ps. 73 found himself struggling with the circumstances around him until he went into the sanctuary of God to worship. In vv. 16-17, he says, “When I thought about this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went in to the sanctuary of God…” As we read in the article on the back of the bulletin, “Worshiping together helps us keep the challenges of our lives in eternal perspective.” Let’s take a look at Habakkuk’s prayer.