We are living by faith. I can say this about all people today regardless of our religious preferences, our acceptance or denial of the existence of God, and without knowing anyone’s understanding of God’s Word. All people are living by faith. The question is, “What do you have faith in? In whom are you placing your faith today?” Are you living by faith in yourself? Are you a survivor — placing your confidence in your ability to survive the pitfalls, challenges, and trials of everyday life? Are you a good moral person — confident in your ability to do the “right” thing even when the pressure to take a short cut presses in on you? Are you a self-made man or woman? Do you look at what you have “achieved” in this life and stand in amazement at your brilliance, ingenuity, and passionate determination? Are you connected – having powerful and influential friends that you can call upon for most any need that you could ever have in life? Are you the captain of your own soul? Are you the master of your own fate? The 18th century English poet, William Ernest Henley, expressed this kind of unconquerable confidence when he wrote his famous poem, Invictus. Henley writes,
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul. (William Ernest Henley)
Throughout history there have been legions in every generation who claimed to be the captain’s of their own soul, the makers of their own destiny. They had faith in nothing, nor anyone, but themselves. One of the most well known spokesmen for this resistance to God was the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the man who proclaimed, “God is dead.” Nietzsche saw no value in placing faith in God. His passion in life was to eradicate faith in everything except himself. He once wrote,
The strong individual…has the strength to recognize–and to live with the recognition–that the world is valueless in itself and that all values are human ones. He creates himself by fashioning his own values; he has the pride to live by the values he wills. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Nietzsche’s descendants are still with us. Just last weekend there was a gathering at the Mall in Washington, a place where I once gathered with my sons, some of the men of this church, and one million other men from across the country for the purpose of crying out to God in prayer. The gathering this past weekend was for a different purpose. Those who gathered in Washington labeled their day at the Mall – “The Godless Americans March on Washington.” An article from Sunday’s Washington Times reported on the event by saying,
Thousands of nonbelievers converged on the Mall yesterday to demand equal rights under the Constitution and separation between politics and the pulpit during the first-ever Godless Americans March on Washington. The roughly 2,000 demonstrators from around the nation – self-proclaimed atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and secular humanists – toted cardboard signs that read, “One Nation Under the Constitution,” “Religion Kills” and “God is a Fairytale.” (Denise Barnes, Nonbelievers March on Mall, The Washington Times, November 3, 2002)
We are all living by faith. We may have faith in God, but then again we may have placed our faith in someone or something else. When we are sick and the news is grim we may place our faith in the best doctor we can find. When the market dips, and then dips some more, we may place our faith in our financial planner to help us navigate the perils of poverty. Rather than trusting in the protective hand of God to preserve our lives, we may be trusting in the military might of our nation. We may have faith in our mate, our husband or wife. We may have faith in science to eventually eradicate all of the ills that plague us in society. We may have faith that if we do the “right” things that everything will work out. We all have faith, but what are you putting your faith in today?
There are many churchgoers today who say that their faith rests in God and yet there isn’t enough evidence to convict them in a court of law. When the sun is shining and the birds are singing, when their team wins and their bottom line is booming, then they proclaim the glories of God. He is so good! When the tide turns, oh when the tide turns?well then our shaky faith in God is exposed for what it truly is?empty words with no foundation. When hard times hit we fuss and fume; we shrink back and our faith swivels up like a raisin in the sun.
We can’t believe God only in the good times. We can’t praise Him when the getting is good and question Him when the tide turns. Pastor Spurgeon once said,
I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much. – C. H. Spurgeon
Biblical faith is something altogether different than being a fair weather fan. God calls us to live by faith in every situation, in every condition. We are to live like the little boy who was sleeping one night when his house caught on fire. The young boy woke up and when he smelled the smoke he remembered what his parents had told him to do if they ever had a fire and they couldn’t get to him. He climbed out the window and up onto the roof. In just a couple of minutes the boy heard his father calling out from the ground below. The father cried out to the son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flames, smoke, and darkness. You can only imagine how afraid the little boy was with the flames rising from his room. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy cried as he yelled to his dad, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.” Knowing his father’s love the boy jumped into the swirl of smoke and into his daddies arms. Faith jumps even when our eyes can’t see the ground. Faith hears the Father’s voice calling us from destruction and responds in faith.
As we continue our study of Habakkuk, God makes plain to us that His ways are not always understood by us. As a matter of fact, God made very clear to us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His ways are not our ways and neither does He think like we think. As we move into chapter 2 of Habakkuk it is God’s turn to speak. If you will remember Habakkuk has gotten brutally honest with God and asked some tough questions about how God could use the ruthless Babylonians to discipline His chosen people? Today we are going to spend our time on four little verses because we find in these verses the heart of our faith. Read along with me as we learn about God’s response to the prophet.
2 Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 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. 4 “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright- but the righteous will live by his faith- 5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples. (Habakkuk 2:2-5 NIV)
In the very first verse of our study for this morning we see that God told Habakkuk to write down the revelation and to make it clear so that everyone would be able to understand it. The Hebrew word used here means, “to make plain, distinct, to make clear, or to declare.” The same word is used in Deuteronomy 1:5 where we are told that Moses began to “expound” upon the Law given to him by God.
What was Habakkuk to make plain for the people? He was to let them know that God was getting ready to discipline them by bringing the Babylonians in to wreak havoc on the nation. Habakkuk was to let his countrymen know that the Babylonians weren’t coming in on their own; God Himself was sending them. Habakkuk was also to let them know that God would judge the Babylonians for their sin, just as He was getting ready to judge the Israelites for their sin.
In verse 3, God tells Habakkuk that the revelation is for an appointed time. All throughout Scripture you find that God has His time and His plan. The judgment of God will come, but it will come at the time that God has set for it. God doesn’t want Habakkuk or the people to think that the hand of discipline will not come just because it hasn’t happened yet. God tells Habakkuk,
3 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 NIV)
“Waiting” was as big of a problem for those in Habakkuk’s day as it is for us today. We, as people, are not wired to wait, we want action and we want it now. If something is going to happen, then let it happen. We don’t like crock-pots, we like microwaves. We don’t like country roads, we like expressways. We like the drive thru, one-hour photo development, and instant oatmeal. We don’t like to wait and yet over and over again in Scripture God calls us to wait, to patiently wait in faith. The Hebrew word that is used here means, “to wait.” Plain and simple. You can’t expound upon it. No need to try and decipher it. Whether you read it in Hebrew, English, Vietnamese, Spanish, or Swahili – the word means, “wait.” You can’t get around it.
In the face of urgency we are called to wait upon the Lord. In the wake of destruction we are called to wait upon the Lord. In the light of impending doom we are called to wait upon the Lord. When the masses begin to move to their own cadence and call, we are called to wait in expectation of the Lord. Waiting upon the Lord is not the same as inactivity. In waiting for the Lord we prepare by seeking Him with all of our heart, digging into His Word, listening for His lead, and being ready to move when He moves.
During Isaiah’s ministry judgment was coming to Judah and Israel and it was going to be a hard thing for the people to understand because their understanding of being God’s “chosen” people was different than God’s purpose for choosing them. “Chosen,” in their minds, meant they could get away with most anything. Many would fall away during the Day of Judgment, but Isaiah says that regardless of what happens, he will wait on the Lord. Turn with me to Isaiah 8 and let’s read this powerful testimony of faith.
13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, 14 and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. 15 Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.” 16 Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him. (Isaiah 8:13-17 NIV)
This isn’t the only place in God’s Word that those who live by faith are found waiting on the Lord. Again in Isaiah, we read about the importance of waiting upon the Lord.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 65:4 NIV)
The Psalmist chronicled the mighty miracles that God brought about in delivering the Hebrew slaves from Egypt and how easily they forgot God once they were freed. The Psalmist makes it clear that there are consequences for not waiting on the Lord. Read along with me in Psalm 106.
7 When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. 8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. 9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. 10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. 11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived. 12 Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. 13 But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. 14 In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. 15 So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them. (Psalm 106:7-15 NIV)
Whether we are talking about the situations present in Moses’ day, Habakkuk’s day, or our day – we must wait upon the Lord! Every generation in every time faces situations of uncertainty. When we rush to judgment and act without waiting upon the Lord and His timing we are certain to bring disaster upon ourselves.
The remainder of our study this morning needs to focus on verse 4 of God’s response to Habakkuk. Let’s read together from Habakkuk 2:4-5.
4 “See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright- but the righteous will live by his faith- 5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.
There are two kinds of people described by God in verse 4. First, there are those that are “lifted up” and their desires, their heart, is not right within them. To be “puffed up” is to be arrogant, conceited, and full of one’s self. They have no need for God, they trust only in themselves and as a result their desires are not right.
Every person here this morning knows this mindset because at one time or another, maybe even now, we have lived this philosophy of life. The Bible clearly teaches that we were sinners from birth. It is not that we “do” sinful things – we are sinners. From the moment we were born we were busy declaring our independence from God as we sought to live life on our own terms. Michael Horton, in his book, “Putting Amazing Back Into Grace,” writes,
Humans have always been sinful, have always been prone to shaking their fist in God’s face – and that includes you and me. The Genesis account teaches us that since the Fall there never has been an era somewhere in the past known as the ‘good ol’ days.’ (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, pg. 53)
There were no good ol’ days where people were basically “good.” Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God every one of their offspring have been a chip off the ol’ block. We are born to be wild. We are rebels without a cause from the moment of birth. The hardness of our hearts, the rebellious attitudes of our soul, and our determination to get what we want above all else has come about as a result of the Fall. Michael Horton says that we can see the effects of the Fall upon every area of life. He writes,
Our fall was complete. Every area of human life was affected and nothing created by God was left untouched. Consequently, the stain of sin corrupts us physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, morally, and spiritually. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we are all brute savages who always carry out every possible evil; it does mean that each one of us is capable of doing so. Further, it means that there is no hope for human beings to recover themselves or to make amends. God demands perfection of the qualities with which he endowed us, and we are corrupted in every chamber. No part of us can rescue or heal the rest of us. (Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, pg. 54)
We are inherently, innately, sinners from birth and there is absolutely nothing that we can do to change our nature and orientation. Asking us to change our nature, apart from being transformed by Almighty God, is like asking a fish to fly like an eagle or asking a lion to become a vegetarian. It just ain’t happening!
There is a second group of people described by God in verse 4. God says, “the righteous will live by his faith.” Those who are rightly related to God live for the desires of God and not their own desires. The righteous trusts in God even when there is no evidence for God’s presence present. This kind of person knows that God is at work regardless of the circumstances or situations of life.
Hudson Taylor carried the Gospel to China, but for many years he was labeled as a failure because of his lack of productivity in seeing people come to know Christ. Hudson Taylor continued to be obedient to God even though he wasn’t seeing results. During an especially trying time in the work of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor wrote to his wife, “We have twenty-five cents-and all the promises of God!
“The righteous will live by his faith.” Those who have come to Father out of their desperation, with full knowledge of their helpless state before His holy presence are given a new nature, a new purpose, and a new hope for this life. This verse, found in Habakkuk, has been the source of renewal and reformation through the ages.
Martin Luther was a monk who sought God’s approval by doing all of the right things. When Martin sinned he acted as quickly as possible to repent of his sin and seek God’s forgiveness. When Martin discovered this verse the Lord showed Martin that it was Christ’s righteousness and not his goodness that set him in right standing before God.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans and Galatians about the importance of living by faith. Paul writes,
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV)
10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11 NIV)
In the book of Hebrews, the author once again used the words the Lord had given to Habakkuk to impress upon his readers the importance of living by faith. Listen to these powerful words in Hebrews 10.
37For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. 38 But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:38 NIV)
As I was studying the phrase, “The righteous will live by his faith,” this past week I was a little confused. Does God call us to live by “our” faith? Is it really “our” faith that makes the difference? I called Dr. Darnell and ran the question by him. David said, “The phrase in Hebrew is really ambiguous. The righteous are called to live by their faith, but where does their faith come from and what is the object of their faith? The righteous believe God and He supplies them with faith to believe. What do they believe? In whom do they trust? The object of their faith is God. So God is the source of our faith and He is the object of our faith. The bottom line is that He is the beginning of our faith, the source of our faith and He is the one in whom we trust in any and all situations in life. What a mighty God we serve! The great Bible teacher, Oswald Chambers, once wrote,
It is a great thing to be a believer, but easy to misunderstand what the New Testament means by it. It is not that we believe Jesus Christ can do things, or that we believe in a plan of salvation. It is that we believe him; whatever happens we will hang on to the fact that he is true. If we say, “I am going to believe he will put things right,” we shall lose our confidence when we see things go wrong. (Oswald Chambers)
Won’t you believe Him this morning? Regardless of what may come, regardless of how far you have fallen, and regardless of what your friends, family, and heart may tell you about your ability to make it – won’t you respond to what God has already done for you in giving His Son as payment for your sin? Won’t you hear this powerful call to renounce faith in all others, to confess your hopelessness apart from Christ, and surrender your heart to the Lord this morning?