It is my birthday weekend! On Friday, I was telling my mom about how much I’ve seen at just 36 years of age. I’ve seen my fair share of riots, natural disasters, mass murders, terrorist attacks, war, and a couple of terrible presidencies; not to mention my own personal problems. Yet, through it all, the Lord blessed me to see another year.
Joy in being Resilient
This week, I shared a couple passages of scripture from both Habakkuk and Hebrews that I am also going to reference in my sermon for this week. I was searching for scripture to explain my joy in having such resilient faith. In the last chapter of Habakkuk, we come across the passage of scripture that I am using for my key verses for today. This passage of scripture in the New King James Version is labeled “A Hymn of Praise”. The final chapter of Habakkuk could also be considered a prayer of Habakkuk or psalm (Hab. 3:1).
Let’s take a quick look at this prayer. We will quickly notice in this prayer, that Habakkuk seemed to revere the Lord as he honored and glorified him at the start of his prayer. He proclaimed, “His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise (Hab. 3:2-6).”
We’ll then see Habakkuk recall the things that the Lord did in the days of Moses and Joshua. He asked, “O Lord, were You displeased with the rivers, Was Your anger against the rivers, Was Your wrath against the sea, That You rode on Your horses, Your chariots of salvation (Hab. 3:8)?” Remember, God parted the Red Sea in the moment of great trouble for Moses and the children of Israel. The Lord also parted the Jordan so that Joshua and the children of Israel could cross it over into the Promised Land (Josh. 3).
So, you may ask, why was Habakkuk recalling these things that the Lord had done for Moses and Joshua? Well, Habakkuk was incredibly burdened by a looming trouble (Hab. 1:1). At the start of this book, we see just how burdened he was. Habakkuk asked God, “How long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble (Hab. 1:2-3)?” Don’t this just sound like something that all of us would ask the Lord?
I want to show you that this man was just like a lot of us in how we question the Lord. Yet, back in the third chapter, you will see something in him that many of us lack. He said to God that his body trembled, lips quivered (couldn’t speak), and that rottenness had entered his bones (he felt that he could not stand up in his great fright) (Hab. 3:16). This man was truly troubled! Have you ever felt so afraid?
Hope through the storm
The trouble that Habakkuk was speaking of was coming in the form of the Babylonian army. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been conquered by the Assyrians. The Babylonian army would soon enter into the land of Judea and conquer Jerusalem. So, a great day of trouble was approaching the southern kingdom of Israel.
Habakkuk knew things could get downright awful. In my key verse, we see him say the fig tree “may not blossom”, nor fruit grow on the vines. He continued on and said, “the land may not produce a crop which could hurt (kill) the cattle life.” In other words, their livelihoods were in great danger and this man feared greatly what that meant for him and his brothers.
I respect the way this man was praying here in this chapter – he was being straightforward with the Lord. How straightforward, how bold, are you when it comes to talking to the Lord? Many of us try to speak to God with big elegant words without ever truly telling God how we feel. Habakkuk told God that he was trembling at the idea of such trouble! Have you ever told the Lord that you were afraid at the thought of trouble?
To finish off his prayer, we see that Habakkuk says that, in all of that trouble, he was still going to rejoice in the Lord. He said, “I will joy in the God of my salvation (deliverance).” All of the trouble that Habakkuk described in his prayer, yet this prophet is saying that he was going to rejoice? This man truly believed he was going to be able to weather the trouble! How? Why?
Let’s try to understand this turnaround in Habakkuk here because this is quite the turnaround, right? At the start of his book, we saw him questioning why God was not listening to him and now, at the end of it, he’s believing that he would make it through. He somehow now possessed the kind of resilient faith that many struggle to understand in our world today. (To be resilient: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.)
Resilient through Christ
You know, God has built us to be resilient. God has built us to be resilient physically (in how we can physically heal), emotionally (in how we can recover emotionally), mentally (in how we can always grow in knowledge and wise), and even spiritually. For us to be resilient spiritually, however, requires God’s only begotten Son. Jesus said that if we are well rooted in Him in our faith, that we will be able to withstand the floods and winds that life can bring (Matt. 7:24).
Some of us have grown to have such resilient faith in that we are capable to endure trouble, trials, and tribulation. So, someone may ask, where does this resilience come from? How are you able to endure all that you have seen and have gone through? For the genuine and true believer, our resilience comes through our faith in Christ – not by anything we do personally! Instead of carrying our burdens around, we cast our burdens on the Lord and He carries them (or deals with them) for us (Matt. 6:25; 11:28)!
Lacking in resilience
Sadly, there are many of us (believers and non-believers) who are very quick to throw in the towel at the first sign of difficulty and trouble, or when the trials and tribulation get too hard. Why is this the case? (This is not to say that these folks do not make it through any of their trials and their tribulations – it’s just to say that there are many folks who will give up in their troubles.)
Why does this happen? Why do we have moments where we lack the resilience to make it? I believe this often happens because of our lack of faith in the intangible. I think I referenced both tangible faith and intangible faith in a recent Sunday school lesson or maybe Bible study we had and I want to bring those words back up in my sermon today.
Tangible Faith than Intangible Faith
We live in a tangible world — a world where we can physically see, feel, touch, and hold – that we can control. Because of this, we all grow to believe in and accept what we can see, feel, touch, and hold. (For ex: every time I hit the power button on my TV control, the TV is going to turn on). Personally, I believe it to be pretty easy to believe in the tangible. Yet, it’s the intangible – the things beyond our control – that gives us the most problems!
You see, this was Habakkuk’s initial issue and the problem that many of us have today — all of the things that are left out of our hands and beyond our control (what other folks do, love life, our friendships, our health, the future). Our world (life) is very complex in that it certainly is tangible but there are a bunch of intangible elements that come with it. The intangible is what drives us in our greatest fears and worries! Habakkuk’s great fear was the idea of what the Babylonian army was going to do and that God did not appear to be concerned!
You see, God Himself, is part of the intangible! We cannot physically see God, touch Him, hold Him; we cannot control Him! Many of us put more faith in the tangible things (like our cars or our phone) than we do the Lord! Though He is not tangible, God left us with His word which we certainly can read, touch, hold, and feel. That same word proclaims to us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). So God has promised that we will see the substance of His blessing even though we do not yet see it – do you believe Him? Have you embraced that intangible promise?
Faith in God will carry you
In that same chapter of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews expresses how we should work to fully embrace having faith in the intangible like others. The writer spoke about the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah and how they embraced a promise they did not physically receive (Heb. 11:4-11). Yet, they embraced a spoken promise from the Lord because God assured them of what He had promised (Heb. 11:13).
All of them were resilient in their lives because they held within themselves a heavenly hope in that intangible promise – (a promise from God). You see, they believed in something and someone who was greater than this, our tangible world. Many of us give up so quickly because we struggle with truly believing in and calling on an intangible God that we can neither see nor control. When we refuse to call on His name, we end up stumbling and falling. Yet, I tell you that we do not have to stay down when we do stumble and fall. God is willing to lift you up and carry you through your troubles!
You must exercise (practice) your faith
The only way you and I can ever fully become resilient spiritually is if we fully embrace our faith in the intangible. In other words, we must strengthen our faith in the intangible to the point that it exceeds our faith in the tangible. I once likened faith in God to exercising and working out – the more you do it, the better shape your faith becomes. Thinking about guys like Hank Aaron and Kobe Bryant – folks who dedicated themselves and embraced a hard work ethic to be resilient in their craft.
This same approach must be taken in our faith as well. We must exercise our faith; we must work out our faith every opportunity we get. You see, we must practice having faith in the intangible constantly so that having faith becomes our first instinct when trouble brews. If we are not diligent in our faith, our faith will soften and weaken just like muscles do when they are not exercised.
James wrote that we should joy in various trials because those trials build up our resilience (Jas. 1:2). Habakkuk was initially upset, fearful, and terrified but, in the end, he also knew that God was with him. He exercised his faith by speaking with God. After speaking with the Lord (Hab. 1:5 – 2:20), he had increased in his faith in the intangible and knew that he would be fine. Amazing how talking to the Lord can simply build you up – we should try that. I tell you, talking to the Lord will strengthen you tenfold in an instance. You will be strengthened to the point to be able endure (withstand) your trouble – this is resilient faith.